Adnonsense (3)

Google is in a bit of a bind. On the plus side it can be credited with:

  • opening up access to the web with Google search,
  • providing advertisers an effective channel for their web marketing through its AdWords scheme, and
  • giving legitimate publishers, large and small, the opportunity to generate income from serving up those ads through its AdSense scheme.

Ranged against this positive record is the fact that its AdSense scheme is responsible for phenomenal pollution of the web.

First, AdSense ads are everywhere.

Up to the plate has stepped AdBlock Plus which effectively kills ads on web pages so you can experience the web as clean as it was 10 years ago. But are we also in a bit of a bind here? Will AdBlock Plus also kill the internet economy? Nick Carr thinks:

There’s no evidence that Adblock Plus or similar products are about to go viral. In fact, there’s no evidence that the masses view online ads as a nuisance.

but if he’s wrong about that, he points out that:

Since nearly the entire internet economy relies on advertising of one form or another, the widespread use of ad blockers could well devastate many businesses, from giants like Google and Yahoo! to scores of tiny startups.

He rehearses the reasons for and against using AdBlock Plus more fully in a later post, asking what would Jesus do? and pointing to Mark Evans who speaks for many web publishers when he calls Adblock Plus an evil predator.

If you believe in Web 2.0 and/or if you believe in the concept of free, Adblock is pure evil.

So the jury’s still out on that one.

However, the AdSense scheme is also responsible for a huge explosion of “made for Adsense” (MFA) sites – sites with no value of their own that post content optimised purely to drive ad traffic.

Initially most such sites were splogs (spam blogs) and the like – gibberish generated by machines usually from content scraped from others’ sites. But a new industry has grown of businesses that employ inexpensive “authors” to write original (to Google’s algorithmic eyes) but inevitably inane articles based on others’ content. This phenomenon is explored fully by Danny Bradbury in the Guardian article Word Farms of the Web.

Not only are these sites devoid of value; they also provide a poor return for the advertisers. From Ben Edelman, an expert investigator of spyware affiliate networks:

If I were Google, I wouldn’t have a difficult time deciding what to do here. This content is not useful. The world would be better off if these pages didn’t exist … The issue is where the money comes from – how it is that reasonably well-respected advertisers end up paying for this stuff?

Google can surely fix this – but will it?