Are Google Ads the Root of All Evil?

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.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

7 Responses

  1. Ioannis says:

    I had to remove my Google ads after I found out that some of the ads were about selling prop­erty on Northern Cyprus (which is illegal!). The irony was that at that time I had just pos­ted a peti­tion against illegal excav­a­tions on the north­ern part of the island. You can find the whole story at a post over samarkeolog: http://​samarkeolog​.blog​spot​.com/​2​0​0​6​/​0​4​/​m​e​d​i​t​e​r​r​a​n​e​a​n​-​a​r​c​h​a​e​o​l​o​g​y​-​n​o​r​t​h​e​r​n​.​h​tml

  2. I too removed my google ads for the same sort of reas­ons Ioannis did… I find them faintly obnox­ious on other sites but cer­tainly don’t fault a blog­ger for try­ing to make a little $$.

  3. Alun says:

    In a per­fect world they would be use­ful, like affil­i­ate links can be. A lot of the books I write about could be linked to the Amazon page where info like the cur­rent price, other reviews and if there’s a cheap second hand copy would be use­ful. If you’re doing that then it seems reas­on­able that the blog­ger should make some money from sales.

    I think done well then Google Ads can be dis­creet and some­times use­ful. It is also good that Google have made them access­ible to small site, but like Ioannis shows not everything that comes out of Google is good.

    I sup­pose the answer with adverts you don’t like is to click on them ignore the site it links to.

  4. Glaukopis says:

    Yeah, Google ads are really nice in the­ory, but there’s only so much keywords can tell you. It can’t pick up on the tone of a post or the intent or the pos­i­tion of the author, only tell you what some­thing is about.

    Anyway, I have no idea if I actu­ally write enough about things I know to be Bad to get the Bad google ads, so I’m giv­ing them a spin. The moment I hit some­thing like that, they’re off. I think the Amazon ads speak more to what I want to show anyway.

  5. SilverThorn says:

    This is why I wanted WordPress as my host, I have no need, care, or desire for googleads, actu­ally I detest any ad because they get in the way and dis­tract me from why I really an there: to read the blog, not scour the inter­net for other things.

  6. J says:

    I’m pretty good a tun­ing out noise, which is all advert­ising, or at least 90% of it. How can you stay sane if you can’t block it out?

    In spite of what adsense says, I think the pro­gram works for web­mas­ters who cater their con­tent to the ads. Seems like a lot of trouble, unless you have an entire team of drones cre­at­ing con­tent for you, and doing it for free or darn near. I can’t see google ads, or any, being an asset to any site unless the site’s pur­pose is purely comercial.

  7. Alun says:

    How can you stay sane if you can’t block it out?
    You’re mak­ing an assump­tion there aren’t you? 😉

    I was once going to write a cri­tique of Creationist advert­ising, with a Google ad block in the middle of the text to provide examples. Alas I never got round to it. It would have been inter­est­ing simply to see if it had any notice­able effect on clicks-thru.

    I have to agree with SilverThorn, hav­ing a host where I’m not pay­ing the bills is a relief. The only reason I have ads on any site is to pay the excess­ive part of host­ing bills when I burst band­width lim­its. There are lim­its to using the .com ver­sion of WordPress — I’d find Flash inserts to be very use­ful — but the bene­fits far out­weigh the drawbacks.

    I cer­tainly hope Γλαυκῶπις has the best of luck with them and that they help sup­port her studies.