A few weeks ago I grumbled in a newsletter about the lousy ads I was getting on one of my sites, which were bringing a whopping 4.8 cents per click. I said “I may try Bing ads instead if Google doesn’t get me better [ads] soon.”
A reader I’ll leave nameless replied,
So, when I go to the mugshot website you make four cents each time I just CLICK on an ad? That I all have to do? I could go there and click on every available ad and you would make 4 cents for each click? And then I could go out, enter again, do it all over and you would make more money? Or do the limit it to a certain number per person? Hey, I would be quite happy to spend some time each day (on the days I think about it) happily clicking on the ads on your site(s) if it would give you extra cash. Does it do the same on Jumbo Joke, Groxx et al? I just never before paid any attention to how money was made by sites.
Not Like That
It is one of the primary ways web sites make money, yes, but I definitely don’t want you to go clicking on ads for the sole purpose of making me a few cents here and there: that’s stealing — someone has to pay for those clicks.
Advertisers expect people to click on the ad if they’re interested in the product or service offered. If you see an ad on any of my sites, or any other site, that interests you, then by all means support that site by clicking the ad to see what that advertiser has to offer.
But clicking on ads when you don’t have interest has a name in the industry: “click fraud” — they defraud the advertiser out of cash for no positive return on their investment. There are sophisticated methods for detecting click fraud, and while you (almost certainly!) won’t end up in jail, you won’t help the site, either — and you could hurt it. When click fraud is detected, the clicks are discounted (ignored).
A Lose-Lose Scenario
It can really hurt the advertiser, too — and that’s sometimes what the perpetrators are hoping for. What’s one way to hurt a competitor? Click on his ads to cost him a good chunk of profits without giving them any business. It can be enough sometimes to push a competitor out of business, so this is serious stuff. Like using spam (a way to get “advertising” for free by stealing the resources to send it), it’s an unfair and unethical way to get ahead online.
It doesn’t always work anyway: not all ads are “pay per click.” Some pay only on some action (e.g., you fill out a form so a salesman will call), others pay only on a sale. So just clicking may not do anything for the site. And other ads are paid by the “impression” — just showing it may earn the site a fraction of a cent whether you click it or not.
Bottom line: it really isn’t worth it to try to outsmart the system to create a false reward for the site (or a false cost to a competitor), so again the advice is: only click if you’re actually interested.
They’re Watching You
One of the positives of online advertising is that it’s more “targeted” toward what you want. If you visit home improvement sites, which indicates an interest in fixing up your home, you’ll probably be pitched on home improvement-related products and services, and that’s great: you may find something you’d like that you wouldn’t otherwise have learned about. A company in a small niche who might not be able to afford advertising on TV found you, and you found them — a win-win scenario.
Some people resent online ads, thinking they get in the way of what they want out of a visit to a web site. Some ads are intrusive, popping up windows, flashing in your face, etc., and I understand that: those irritate me, too, and my business philosophy is to treat others the way I want to be treated, so I don’t allow those kinds of ads on my sites.
But some people fight all ads with “ad-blocking” software, and that’s really sad: the trade-off for a site being free is usually that there are ads there to pay the costs of running the site (and, hopefully, some sort of living for the owner). You come and take the entertainment or information, but don’t even give the ads a chance to offer you something of interest, so the site owner gets nothing.
Some web site owners call that stealing, too; I simply call it unfair. But the bottom line is, that’s why so many web sites fail, going under so you can’t get the information or entertainment anymore, and that’s a lose-lose scenario.
So, do you see the balance here? Some want to click ad after ad solely to support the site, others want to block ads. Both are wrong ways to do things. If you don’t like flashy or pop-up ads on sites, punish the owner by not going back. If they treat you well by being respectful of your eyeballs, then at least glance at the ads once in awhile as you visit and see if the site’s advertisers are offering something that you’re interested in — and if so, then should you click on the ad for more information.
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Things did improve — briefly. But even then, there were still not enough clicks to actually pay for my assistant to research and write up the mug shot posts, let alone bring in profit. And then Google shut the ads off on the entire site, saying that showing mugshots of criminals was “hurtful” to the criminals. So indeed, I gave up on the site, even though it got huge traffic.
Later, I removed the ads on this site, too, in favor of reader support via the button in the sidebar. Not a lot of readers use it, but a few want to ensure the site stays online. -rc
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