The Vulgarities of web ads – Why Internet Marketing/Advertising still sucks in 2007

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. I’m probably going to be launching a few new blogs in the next few months and I want them to start paying for themselves and from seeing what is out there in terms of revenue generation, I’m frankly appalled at the advertising offerings. Google might dominate contextual advertising and all online advertising (Yahoo! and MSN, what’s the story like?) but god almighty they are the ugliest blots on the web landscape, more like boils than interesting notices and they aren’t very contextual in reality either. I’m sure I’ll offend many people with my views on this but I really have issues with ads on blogs and especially on personal blogs and now I’m listing them 🙂

My blog seems to rank well for everything but I got so sick of crowds approaching me to advertise on my blog that I stuck up an “Advertise here” page, which if people read, they’ll realise is me taking money off people and not giving them anything in return if I feel like it. While I don’t have ads, what I do have is a notice that appears above a blog post if the person has not visted my blog before. Just the once it will suggest that if they like what they see, why not subscribe. This is done by a wordpress plugin called “What would Seth Godin do.”

If you want to make money online you need some kind of revenue stream and unfortunately the easiest and laziest route to that is Google Adwords but in my view it also seems to be a route which encourages people more and more to start being “creative” with ad placements. Google used to be a lot stricter in their rules but obviously as the net population got used to the ads and started to ignore them, Google allowed more camoflaging techniques to creep in so they got better clickthru rates. I guess in their views deceptive does not equate to evil. I wonder do the 1000s that work on the Adword systems think they making the world actually better and take pride that people are being conned with the system they are working on? It’s a damned shame as the idea for these ads was supposedly to provide relevant information but why would you need to allow ads to wrap themselves into the genuine content so much if they were really relevant? I’d much prefer standard less profitable ads that I can choose on my commercial site and which look nice besides something obviously designed by an engineer of the Dilbert ilk.

Personal blog and business blogs/websites:

More and more I’m seeing personal blogs infected with Google ads. I agree with Robert Sweetnam on a lot of this. Why on earth if you have a dayjob and earn a living would you impose spam on your readers? To pay for the hosting? Hosting is cheap nowadays. My blog is a place for me to unleash and extract oddities from my brain and stick them on the web. If a friend called over for a cup of tea, I wouldn’t subject them to a charge to use the bathroom, or free usage in return for listening to an ad while they use the bathroom. Yet people do this on their personal blogs. I don’t expect them to have to see ads on my front door so I can pay my rent. If people come along and read my blog, great, I don’t think pushing ads on them is at all polite. True, there are plugins out there that remove Google ads for regular visitors but that still tells new people to the site they are not as welcome as others. I’d like people to feel welcome from day one. Welcome mat on door, come in and say hello and please do come back. Would you come back to a restaurant if the only started being nice if you came back a few more times?

And then there’s these “Get Firefox or fuck off my my site, oh and I make a dollar if you download it from me” ads doing the rounds. That’s telling people if they don’t wear the proper attire they’re not welcome to hear what you have to say. Your loss not theirs. Lovely.

In relation to businesses, why kind of message does it send out if you have your company reception full of advertising, why would you put ads on your own website either? I noticed that the IIA actually run ads on their website. That’s a shame.


Text Link Ads

Text link ads are designed to fool people into clicking links to gain website owners at the expense of making fools of their readers. I’ve seen some blogs that jam them in areas where you think they are navigational links. That’s complete deceptive and totally dishonest and is an awful way to treat visitors to your site and potential subscribers. It’s a total “fuck you” to them. Google doesn’t like them either because these are rigging the DNA of Google search which are links. You are being paid to change the rankings of sites by linking to them. It’s plain bribery. Google suggests adding nofollow and they’ll be happy but it still means you are running a switch and bait scam on visitors to your blog. That’s just bad manners. What impression are you giving to people by cheating them? And Google is well guilty here too. Look at these ads, for the general web user they are not going to realise these are ads before they click them.

Sneaky Google Ads

Content rewriters/link injectors

We’re slowly moving down the rankings gettting to the more sinister advertising that I’ve seen around. These ads are scripts or plugins that you write and they’ll rewrite your blog post or webpage and add links to words in your text and these links either go to ads or else cause popup ads right there on the page but these “links” are structured to look like proper links. They not only add tonnes of links to a single blog post and make it uglier but they also piss off people with useless popups, all for the sake of a few cents. This is just spyware on a page in my view and is pretty much an assault on a website visitor. Here’s an example of this:

Spyware like Ads

Pay Per Post and their ilk

Because there just isn’t enough ways to be dishonest and deceptive are there? These are the boyos who pay you to write nice things about products in order to boost the Google rankings of products as well as astroturf the net and making it look like there are a lot of people out there who love such and such a product. There has been a hell of a lot said about these guys but I find it very disappointing that people use this service to make a quick buck without thinking of the consequences. This is OUR web that is being polluted by these gangsters. This is the web version of perjury in my opinion.

So what am I going to go with?

Jeremiah Owyang says we have to get used to advertising and get over ourselves if we think it can go away. Funnily enough, if Google gets search to work much better than it is, advertising will surely decrease since the search results will always get us what we want. For me and for the blogs over the next few months, what I’ll go for is plain sidebar ads but as well as that I’m going have sponsorship for the blogs too. It’ll be way more work to get sponsorship but I think I’d rather have happy subscribers and well-treated new visitors than try any sleight of hand tricks for short term gain while losing long term readers.

You can of course just block ads on blogs but I don’t like that idea either since it just turns into an arms race and the spam arms race ain’t going well, is it?

38 Responses to “The Vulgarities of web ads – Why Internet Marketing/Advertising still sucks in 2007”

  1. Brian Greene says:

    @damienmulley the iia website has run ads since 1997 when i installed awsd script. just now u see em.

  2. Damien says:

    Only in the past week did I look at their website.

  3. Brian Greene says:

    you never looked at the IIA site before 2007?
    the last incarnation had brightwater & cheetamail adverts. in the main.

    its just that you were more alarmed about this on twitter mirco blog
    “Jesus Christ, the IIA “new” website is running ads. How absolutely crass.” 08:10 PM September 21, 2007

    10 years of ads, nothing new here.

  4. Barry says:

    Good post Damien, something which I agree on as well. With Link Brokers, you can look at it as gaining quality traffic for your site, or hoodwinking the Search Engine into giving you more importance because you have a link from some Super High Traffic PR7+ website.

    From a Advertiser point of view, high traffic sites are a good place to use creative ads which may interest the reader eg. –

    But on personal blogs, especially low content / traffic blogs, I think it’s offputting.

  5. Damien says:

    Exactly what point are you trying to make Brian? That I should have been shocked before now at a site I never looked at or are you saying since they ran ads before I am not allowed to be shocked that they still run ads?

  6. dahamsta says:

    I’ve expressed my utter befuddlement at Michele’s use of ads on his blog several times, and each time I do I get the impression he thinks everyone else is insane not to. His company doesn’t have any spare capacity? 🙂


  7. Google AdSense doesn’t have to be horrible, if it’s done well, and it’s worth remembering that it DOES pay for a lot of the Internet. I simply would not be able to afford to operate some of my sites without it.

    I agree that those things that turn random words into popup adlinks are horrible, and PayPerPost is just plain immoral.

    TextLinkAds make me uncomfortable; they are effectively a method of fooling Google, and I suspect they’ll be cracked down upon soon enough.

    I wouldn’t use ads on my blog, but then I don’t have many visitors and its hosting is supplemented by my money-making sites; if it was costing me a fair bit a month I might re-think.

    Have you considered just using declared affiliate links; Amazon and so on?

  8. Niall says:

    Funny you should post about this today. I put google ads up on my site a few weeks ago but took them down today as they were annoying me more than anybody else i’d imagine.

    Obviously, it’s up to the owner of the blog what they want to do. In my case, running a music blog, those ads were totally irrelevant and pissed me off big time.

    I am however leaving an ad for eMusic up (because I think it’s a great service) and a adstrip as I feel anyone who wants to pay for an ad on the site at least it’ll be relevant and music-orientated.

  9. Michele says:

    @Dahamsta – I don’t get your last line. What do you mean??

    @Mulley – IIA’s site has been running ads for ages. They were in the middle of the main page as far as I recall. They also take ads in all their email newsletters.

  10. Grandad says:

    I dislike advertising on blogs, and in particular, the pop-ups.

    Having said that, I advertise using Google and TLA. I keep Google as unobtrusive as possible [so get a poor return on it] and the TLA ads are all on old posts so are rarely seen.

    Why do I do it? So far, Google have paid for the hosting, and TLA has made enough for a three week holiday in France next year.

  11. manuel says:

    The Advertise Here section is very funny….

  12. Tom Doyle says:

    I don’t really see why you think it’s so bad for someone to be making a few extra quid from their personal blog. It’s not as if you are forcing someone to click on an ad and send them somewhere they dont want to go.

    I do agree that some ads can be quite obtrusive, such as pop-ups, text links etc. – but I wouldn’t go as far as to say offensive or rude.

    Your analargy of a friend knocking on your door doesn’t make sense.

    I’d have to beg the question, many strangers knock on your door asking to use your bathroom?

    Because looking at your stats, on average, 80% of your visitors are strangers.

    You let them in, they take all the information that you’ve spent time creating and they’ll probably never return again.

    Why not make money from these strangers??

    You’re not sending them somewhere they don’t want to go and it’s not they’re money, so it’s not like asking them to pay to use your loo.

    At the end of the day, your blog is sitting there, it can make you an extra few bob, for you doing something you like to do. Why not get a “free” holiday from it, just like grandad??

    I think getting something for nothing is more sensical than worrying about offening people (you don’t know) with a small amount of advertisements.

  13. I haven’t tried to run ads since my “unsupported language” experience on An tImeall. (Google can’t put context-sensitive advertising on a site if it doesn’t understand the language it’s in!)

    Having said that, you can expect to see ads appear on most of my sites in the next few weeks. I believe in the power of new media and its low-cost, scalable distribution, but it’s got to pay the rent just like old media.

    So the main reason I will serve ads is not for the money they will earn me, but the expertise I will gain by doing so. That’s worth more to my business bottom-line than Google revenues.

    I suspect that’s Michele’s main motivation as well, although I do like his car which Google pays for. 😉 And have you ever seen third party ads diluting the marketing on You won’t see any on either.

    In fairness to IIA, it’s an association, not a company. If third party ads helps them keep my membership fee down then I’m all in favour. And who knows, I may someday want to buy a space on their page?

    Damien, you raise some important points. I’m pleased to see you moving in this direction yourself. I don’t agree with your concerns about advertising on “personal blogs”. You may regard as a personal blog, but I use it as a business resource! I’d be happy to know that you were making money from ads on your site, although if it took 10 years I can’t guarantee that I’d ever notice your ads, not to mind click on them! I have an ad-blocker built in my brain!

  14. Damien says:

    @TomDoyle I actually find it more of a hypocrisy to impose ads on people because they are “strangers”. Seeing the Internet and people who randomly find this site as being subpar or of a lower class of person because they are not regulars is a terrible and negative way of behaving online. I’d like to hope that people see me treating everyone as equal and if they like my site, they’ll return or leave a comment on the blog, by email or on the Meebo window.

    The value in what I write on my blog is first the value I get from exorcising various demons and ideas from my head and logically structuring them on a page. That others can get use and find use out of what I string together is an extra bonus. Some that come here might never return but I must say I do get regular enough comments on old blog posts and a comment to me is worth much more than stinging someone with something ugly and irrelevant. I guess it’s seeing people in different ways. I don’t see people who come to my blog as commodities but as potential contacts.

    So you’d charge a “stranger” to use your toilet? Do you rent out rooms in your home by the hour or the day if they are mostly idle anyway? Do you walk around dressed like a formula 1 driver with logos all over you?

    @Conn I’m reminded of this from Yeats:

    “But fumble in a greasy till
    And add the halfpence to the pence
    And pray to shivering prayer, until
    You have dried the marrow from the bone.”

    If you welcome ads on the IIA website because it would knock pennies off your membership fee, why don’t you just not renew your fee? I assume you think it is already value for money but you want it to be even more value for money, surely there are better ways of reducing your fee than that?

    I’d rather close than do what others are doing and becoming the Ryanair of blogs, disrupting smooth journeys around a blog with annoying advertisments for things we don’t want. No thanks, I don’t want a damned scratchcard. is a personal endeavour, if people see it as a business resource fine, great, but if you have ads then there is no doubt they will influence your writing style, not the other way around. The minute you log into your Google account to check the balance is the minute you have handed over some of your freedom of expression.

    How exactly will you gain expertise by running ads on your sites?

  15. To be honest, I’d prefer to see ads on a blog where the money was going to the blogger than, say, ads on a blog where the money was going to Automattic ( sneakily puts ads on blog posts when infrequent users visit them). If people want to use it as a way to fund their hosting, I don’t see a problem with that.

  16. […] Damien has a fairly thorough rant about online advertising. Covers just about everything, from the ugliness of Google Ads to the deception of Pay Per Post (that’s these guys). […]

  17. Tom Doyle says:

    First off, I wouldn’t let a stranger into my house and again Damien, you’re making it out that these people are actually paying to click on these ads.

    They’re not – it doesn’t cost them a cent to click on an ad.

    You are offering them other related content (if using google adsense) that they may be interested in. At no stage are you forcing them to do something they don’t want to.

    If the ads are good enough (i agree they’re not always), you could even be giving them quality information.

    There’d be no point in me being dressed up like a Formula 1 driver, simply because I, nor my house, are in contact with that many people on a daily basis.

    Your blog however, has on average over 700 unique visitors a day.

    Most personal bogs use unobtrusive ads and make money.

    So if I was in contact with that many people on a daily basis and all I had to do was put a small logo on my t-shirt to get thousands of euros or a free holiday, yep I’d do it. Who’s going to be offended by it???

    Also – Since your website is using the default wordpress template, it’s unlikely the visitors are here because they like the design.

    It’s most likely because of the content. And if they really like the content but can’t stand the ads, they’ll go find an alternative way of viewing the site, such as a feedreader or google homepages for example.

    Oh and on the “hypocrisy” bit – no-one said anything about delivering different content for regular and unique visitors, but if you are afraid of offending your friends, that mightened be a bad idea at all.

    I just fail to see any valid reasons in your argument – you keep harping on about how charging your visitors is wrong – but you’re failing to see the fact that you are NOT charging them anything.

  18. Tom: Most personal blogs don’t use ads at all (except sometimes those imposed by the blog host). Now, granted, most blogs with ~1000 subscribers DO use ads, but they certainly don’t have to, and I can see how some people might find having them off-putting.

  19. Tom Doyle says:

    The minute you log into your Google account to check the balance is the minute you have handed over some of your freedom of expression

    Damien, really, how may of what you would class as your favourite bloggers, that have a proper day job, do you see writing content to get a better return on from their google adwords account???

    Bloggers that have a proper day job, write for the love of writing or voicing their opinion, it has nothing to do with generating a revenue. Cmon man, seriously, how many good blogs do you read, that have google adsense? Are they writing the content for Google adsense????

  20. Tom Doyle says:

    @ Robert – I don’t agree with you at all there. The majority of the personal blogs I read have Google adsense on them.

    I tend to read blogs of people whom I respect their opinion in the industry I work in. Hence, most of them know how they can make a few extra bob from their little hobby.

  21. I don’t actually see that having AdSense ads prejudices your writing, because Google doesn’t generally give a damn about content, and exercises no editorial control. If an article is highly offensive, no ads may appear, but that’s about as bad as it gets.

    Obviously if someone is deliberately using high-value keywords, they’re just a splog, but I don’t think most people who have advertising do that.

    Now, people participating in PayPerPost, at least without mentioning clearly on the post that they’re being bribed, should be lined up and shot. I have similar issues with TextLinkAds; lying to the search engines for money is ultimately equivalent to lying to users for money.

  22. Damien says:

    They’re not – it doesn’t cost them a cent to click on an ad.

    Again with measuring people with dollars and cents. If they see an ad, I’ve cost them time, if they have to go around an ad to read the content they want to get at, it cost them time. If they click on an ad and went somewhere else when they thought it was a navigational link, they I have conned them and cost them time and lost a potential regular reader.

    I just fail to see any valid reasons in your argument – you keep harping on about how charging your visitors is wrong

    So you endorse google ads?
    You endorse text link ads?
    You endorse Pay Per Post?

  23. Damien says:

    Bloggers that have a proper day job, write for the love of writing or voicing their opinion, it has nothing to do with generating a revenue. Cmon man, seriously, how many good blogs do you read, that have google adsense? Are they writing the content for Google adsense????

    Most bloggers I read and have high regard for, don’t have ads on their blogs. That way they are totally free to write without worrying about their Google revenue. I only wish some Irish bloggers did the same. It is obvious that some have written posts just get to get certain traffic and direct that traffic to click on Google ads. Some have even gone as far as rewriting headlines.

    People who don’t believe that ad revenue, small or large will influence your thinking and writing is quite naive or else willfully ignorant. I’d suggest reading some basic Wikipedia articles on the ethics of journalism. See more here.

  24. Grandad says:

    As an ‘outsider’ to all the pros and cons of advertising, I can only state my personal opinion.

    As I said before, I don’t like advertising in any shape or form, be it on blogs or TV.

    I write a blog for the fun of it. It is a rambling blog, and is not focused on any niche. Therefore the concept of targeting ad revenue is out the window. I never know from day to day what the subject will be and nor does Google [I hope?].

    I’m on a low income, and the idea of getting the blog to pay for itself seemed a good one at the time. I abhor the ads that appear in the middle of text blocks, and I don’t like having to scroll past ads to get to the content. I stuck my ads in the footer, and in older archived posts. Similarly, by the time TLA have sold a slot on one of my posts, it will be on an archived post.

    I have never had any complaints. No one has even mentioned my ads. Between them they generate a considerable income, without inconveniencing anyone.

    As a matter of interest, how many people here wear clothing or footwear with logos emblazoned across them? And you actually pay for the privilege of wearing them????? Advertising is ubiquitous. So you might as well make a few bob if you can.

  25. […] Thanks for visiting! Sean Damien had a brilliant post about adverts on his blog today, read it here! I aggree with the majority of his points and it made me consider why I want ad’s on my blog! […]

  26. My run-in with blog advertising…

    Yesterday, Damien Mulley posted about the ethics of having advertising on your personal blog. It provoked a fair bit of discussion, mostly in defence of ads.Now, I have no issue with people having the odd normal ad on their blog…….

  27. […] blog yesterday (as I do quite regularly) when I spotted an article that he had posted on The Vulgarities of Web Ads. I agree with a lot of what he says in terms of how some of the advertising options available to […]

  28. Cormac says:

    “This is just spyware on a page in my view and is pretty much an assault on a website visitor.” – It’s adware. not spyware.

  29. Cormac says:

    I have been considering removing adsense from my blog for quite a while. I”m not earning enough from it to merit having it taking up space on my blog. Once I revamp my site I will more than likely permanently drop them

  30. Michele says:

    Most tech-savvy readers of my blogs are reading them using an RSS reader, so they don’t even see the ads. To suggest that I write to boost my adsense earnings is laughable.

  31. steve white says:

    damien what about the blogging advertisment groups you see like mesagge space or the democratic ads network on dailykos?

  32. I can’t see how those would be significantly different to conventional Ad networks.

  33. Liam says:

    While it’s hard to disagree with you on some level Damien, it’s a bit simplistic an analysis of advertising.

    The very same ads are seen differently by different people depending on their usage of the web. To some they are relevant useful links, to others they are deceptive diversions to unwanted places, to others they are a visual vulgarity and hindrance to reading the content they’re trying to read, and for others, and many I suspect reading this, ad blindness has already set in like it did across the board earlier with banner blindness.

    Google are so much better than the Yahoo and MSN ads because they have mastered relevance but since they now allow so many levels of arbitrage I personally rarely find their ads as useful at locating desired content as they first were.

    “The minute you log into your Google account to check the balance is the minute you have handed over some of your freedom of expression.” Maybe. For some people. But is that really any different than logging into Stat Counter or FeedBurner to check your visitors or subscribers? I could believe somebody really doesn’t give a damn about what they write or the freedom of that expression if they just wrote it without checking on the traffic and maybe tailoring their writing to increase their traffic?

    To be honest I believe many people (not me) do write whatever they want regardless of their traffic or their ads. And rewriting headlines is something people might do to increase their traffic rather than their ad revenue.

    Even defining a personal blog is not so simple – many tech bloggers write personal blogs that are ultimately, however disguised, a part of their business branding. If they help them network – and what blog doesn’t – then are they not surrendering a complete freedom of expression once they benefit from that networking?

    I call Irish KC a personal blog, because it is – but it’s also clearly commerical – and it has the most vulgar positioning of AdSense that you can have – because that pays the highest dividend. But then I don’t have a day job; my blogs and the income from them is how I make my living – in so much as I do make a living. But I make 5 times as much from selling paintings through the site, and much the same through webwork. And to be honest sticking garish paintings for sale in the middle of content about Irish events listings in an American city can be fairly considered a crude and ugly form of advertising to many visitors.

    I don’t run Google’s ads on American Hell because as an image based site relevance was tougher to get, and the low click-throughs and low rates for the ads it would attract only served to lower rates on Irish KC once Smart Pricing kicked in.

    You asked about gaining expertise by running ads – that’s the sole reason I run ads on – unlike IrishKC not for the revenue but as a permanent test ground. I don’t even have to change content because Google change their methods so often and there’s no better environment to observe the impact than on a live site.

    On the analogy front I’m with Grandad in that if somebody wants to look at my splendid self in its physicality I don’t bombard them with the ads of labels in that I turn plastic bags and t-shirts inside out.

    And just as soon as I get a day job or sell a few more paintings I plan to drop the in your face ads from Irish KC.

    Directs ads and sponsorship is the obvious way to go to maintain relevance, but one person’s ugly is another person’s oil painting. If ya know what I mean.

  34. […] I’ve been keeping an eye on the various discussions on using Ads on Blogs, Advertising on personal blogs – right or wrong?, and Adverts – Only for the web illiterate, both originating from The Vulgarities of Web Ads. […]

  35. simon says:

    Personnally a blog is what you wanted it to be. You find it unfriendly that people have adds. I find it unfriendly people who use generic designs that say nothing about their personality leaving me with a cold feeling. I would prefare everyone personalised their design but many like yourself don’t. And that is your choice. If people don’t read my blog because I have adds then sod them. They are obviously not interested enough in what I or CK have to say to ignore them. Same to with the design of sites.

    If people are that fickle I don’t care.

  36. I don’t see why everyone has to personalise their design. Realistically, most people are not good designers, and would end up with a horrifying mess.

    I use a default MovableType design, and have no plans to do my own. Anything I could do would be far uglier than their one.

  37. […] my site using a feedreader or email. Thanks for visiting – Damien.I wrote a blog post recently on advertising/Internet marketing and my thoughts on how vulgar and useless some ads can be. Cheap, intrusive and sneaky ads that […]

  38. oyun says:

    with a cold feeling. I would prefare everyone personalised their design but many like yourself don’t. And that is your choice. If people don’t read my blog because I have adds then sod them. They are obviously not interested enough in what I or CK have to say to ignore them. Same to with the design of sites.

    If people are that fickle I don’t care.