Bill Long 10/31/07
Will the Money be Jingling in Your Pocket?
About 19 months ago I decided to take this web site off the Willamette University server (where I had been teaching since 2003) and put it under my own name (drbilllong.com) so that I could begin to run "Google Ads" on the side of the pages. The way these ads "works" is pretty simple. People who read my pages can "click" on the ads; I get money, ranging from a few cents to about a dollar per click, based on the contract that the company placing he ad has with Google; the businesses are supposed to get more business. In this way, everyone is supposed to be happy. It is the quintessential "win-win" situation, where the rising tide of commerce lifts your yacht as well as my dinghy.
There are two "keys," I have learned, that determine how much money you make with your google ads. First, the ads have to "connect" skillfully to the content of your pages and, second, you have to place the ads in a visible enough place on the page so that people will be willing to "click" on it.* The first is
[*I have been wondering, ever since the advent of these "win-win" ads whether the generation to come in America will stop saying, "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" and say, "I'll click on you if you click on me."
a decision made by the company, while the second is my decision. I can determine where I want to place the ads on my page. Thus, I have read studies and been shown diagrams on "ad placement strategy." One of my friends, who makes considerably more money than I in Google ads, spends a good deal of his time studying how to coax more money out of skillful ad placements. I am sure that you even can attend seminars on it. Studies have shown that you make most money when the ads are placed right where the content ought to be--i.e., in the middle of the page. So, do you do it? Most people do. But there is where I said that I, whom some think am prostituting myself by placing ads on my site at all, would not budge. My ads go unobtrusively on the side of the page, or they don't appear at all. My page is about content, I have argued--and I will sacrifice revenues before putting ads in the center of the page. Before you congratulate me, however, read on....
So, I determine the placement of ads on my page, but Google determines the content of the ads. I can object if I don't want certain ads on my pages. For example, if I wanted to prohibit them from advertising "Hooters Casino" and "Hooters Hotel Las Vegas," on my humorous spoof entitled "Visiting Hooters," I could probably have told them to "pull" the ads. But I didn't. Frankly, I don't spend much time reading the ads because I know I am not supposed to click on them myself. And I don't.
Looking at Some Google Ads
A friend mentioned to me the other day, however, that he got a kick out of reading the ads on my page, and he wondered how Google made the decision to place the particular ads on a particular page. I mentioned to him that there is this thing called a "Google Crawler" (it sounds rather menacing, doesn't it?), that is supposed to read every word on my page, digest it all, isolate key words and then connect it to the vast data bank of ads on "almost any subject" which they have. When I first read about this crawler, I wondered if I should ask Google if it could sit in on my classes and help my students thus make sense of my presentations.
At my friend's encouragement, I decided to check out some Google ads on my pages, to see how well they "fit" with the content of my essays. After all, in gloves as well as ads, fit is everything. So I decided to look at the 12 ads placed on a recent and popular essay of mine, entitled "Senator Craig's Stall." I visited this soon-to-be-named National Historic Site when I was in Minneapolis recently. Well, the essay is humorous. Let's see some of the ads--at least in this iteration (the ads change a little every time you call up the essay).
Ads for My Sen. Larry Craig Essay
1. Minneapolis Airport--Expedia.com is advertising on my site to help people make arrangements to go in and out of Minneapolis. I suppose my reference to "Minneapolis Airport" in the essay triggered that one.
7. The Fawssit--Brings portable, accessible bathing to anyone in a wheelchair. I, certainly, am no opponent of bringing bathing comfort to those who are wheelchair-bound, but I doubt strongly if my comments on the restroom in Minneapolis are that closely tied to wheelchair bathing to pique any interest.
10. "Toilet Partition Hardware." Jacknob.com, which I am sure that a few people have heard of, is advertising over 2,400 items for toilet partitions--on my site. I suppose, in fact, that Larry Craig wished he had some of those partition items three months ago, but I can't imagine anyone reading my essay doing so because s/he is breathlessly interested in high or low partitions between stalls...
One More Ad
Well, I was amused by the Google Ads, but then, while I was laughing I realized that the joke was really on me. No one will click on those ads because the web crawler, unlike my beloved former students, doesn't pick up on humor. I decided to give the Ads one more chance, and so I picked a legitimate academic area in which I work--words. I selected my essay at random--on the word imbricate. Here are my opening two sentences of the essay:
"The simplest way to explain imbricate and imbrication is to create a mental picture of overlapping roof tiles. These tiles are said to be 'imbricated.'"
Very nice, I thought, when I wrote it. You get a clear picture of what I am talking about. So, what does Google do? Well, the first Ad is for "Tile Roof Leads." If I clicked on that ad I could get a local roofing job lead today. They even tell me that they drive customers to me. So, the crawler took my metaphorical description literally. It took my example to clarify as an indication that I was wanting to advertise some kind of roofing service. Now it was dawning on me why my friend Ross makes so much more money than I in his Google Ads. At least he is smart about it--he doesn't use metaphorical language on his site.
Well, I was bowed but not beaten, or bloodied but not bowed or however the cliche goes, and so I read on. Here is Ad # 2--
"Chicago tile roof...experienced tile roofing contractor."
Then, the fourth ad was for "Interlock Metal Roofing." I wonder how the "metal" got in there. But as I read down the list of ads, they were all for roofs. Some were companies not far from me (in Portland); others were halfway around the world (Asian Roof Tiles). There were "Indian Stones & Slates" as well as Clay Roof Tiles. At least Google doesn't appear to discriminate by way of location or national origin in its ads.
I am sure you have your own humorous example of the way Google tries to "connect" my page with the "ads." I can't tell you to click on any of the ads, so I am not going to do that. But I think that it is time for readers to give some kind of message to Google. If Charles Sheldon could ask the question exactly 100 years ago in his famous book--What would Jesus do?--I ask you now...in view of what I have described, what can YOU do?
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long