Are Google Ads the Root of All Evil?

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Piccadilly Circus
Advertising = Tacky? Photo by the Killer Biscuit.

Glaukôpis has been wrest­ling with the prob­lem of whether she should put advert­ising on her site. Inkycircus has declared Google Ads the new black. I removed them from most of my site because I was not happy with them.

Glaukôpis asks if put­ting ads on her site is selling out. Yes says one of her com­menters. I think this is prob­ably a non-problem, unless you’re snob­bish – and some people are. Originally Classics or most aca­demic research was what someone did if they had a private income. It’s fairly recently that being paid to research has been a pos­sib­il­ity to the masses and with top-up fees and stu­dent loans that may be draw­ing to a close soon in the UK. There’s a dis­taste for com­mer­ci­al­ity because it’s not what the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion did. Glaukôpis asks if it’s selling out and if you change what you write to get bet­ter adverts then yes it is.

My own exper­i­ence is that Google Ads wasn’t usu­ally a suit­able solu­tion. Sometimes I write about arte­facts and the adverts that came up were for unproven­anced antiquit­ies. Not all of this would have been pur­chased by deal­ers from crim­in­als. For example a study of Apulian vases has shown that at least 5% were reas­on­ably likely not to be illi­cit, but there is a prob­lem in fuel­ling the sales of illi­cit mater­ial. So I blocked these ads. What then happened is that I got more ads from other deal­ers with unproven­anced arte­facts who weren’t will­ing to pay as much to advert­ise as the people I blocked. I blocked these and got another set of dubi­ous ads. When you block enough of these you get to cheaper and less rel­ev­ant adverts. In the end I was get­ting sub 1% click­through rates on cheap ads.

Faced with rising band­width bills I’ve moved to WordPress​.com because private host­ing was simply too expens­ive and I thought the adverts Google placed on my site were unsuit­able. On the other hand I’m not against Google ads on other sites. On Blogographos they’re per­fectly fine, and else­where they work, but if you’re going to blog about things that you dis­like as well as like then the adverts are going to be dire. If I blog about MRSA then I really don’t want adverts by quacks push­ing inef­fect­ive or dan­ger­ous treat­ments on site.

You can’t blame Google for the scam adverts, it’s a largely auto­mated sys­tem, but it is up to the blog owner to decide if they’re happy being asso­ci­ated with the adverts that appear on a site.