Experiments With Google's Contextual Advertising
from the let's-see-how-this-works... dept
When Google first announced their contextual advertising program that would let content sites post text ads that (supposedly) matched the content of the page, I thought it was a great idea. If it worked, it was a really powerful solution. Text ads weren’t intrusive or annoying like flashing, bleeping, popping ads that were gaining in popularity. More importantly, if the ads were really relevant, then they could actually (gasp!) be useful to surfers, instead of just annoying. Plus, with the simplicity of signing up for Google’s adwords program, and their absolute dominance of the search market, they already had the basic critical mass to become a full-fledged ad network. However, I started to have doubts. First, there were a number of “ifs” in my initial assumptions. The biggest one concerning whether or not the ads would really be that relevant. Furthermore, I began to agree with others who pointed out different search modes: browsing and searching. When people are “searching” they’re looking for something that will answer their questions – and thus, are willing to click through on ads that might be relevant. When it comes to browsing, people aren’t looking to go elsewhere, but are content with the content they’re seeing at the time. Thus, on content pages, people are generally browsing, and ads would have much lower click-throughs. The end result of these lower click-throughs could lead to annoyed advertisers, who start pulling their ads from content sites. At least that’s the theory. A number of people argued with me about this both on the site and via email, and I finally decided that the easiest way to settle the argument is with some empirical evidence. From the advertiser side, I’ve been running experiments for a few months, and haven’t been that impressed. The clickthrough rates from content sites are running between 10 and 20% the rate of clickthroughs on search sites. However, the question remained as to how well they worked for content publishers. So, we’re now starting an experiment with Google ads on Techdirt. We’ve placed the ads out of the way (beneath all the content), to keep them from interfering with the reason you’re (hopefully) at this site. However, we are interested in your feedback, both good and bad. Either feel free to respond to this post, or send us email at firstname.lastname@example.org. My initial reaction is that Google seems to think this site is all about anti-spam software and/or ambulance chasing lawyers. I’m not sure if this says more about Google’s algorithm or Techdirt.