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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Beware Of Google’s Top Blue Ads


Google, the company that launched the number one search engine and a whole host of new services like Gmail, Google Desktop, Google Earth, and the all new Google Checkout, attracts its users with its great yet free products. Google makes money, and lots of it at that, mostly through targeted advertising. Its advertising model, called Adsense, is proven to be beneficial to both advertisers and users alike and has generated much relevant traffic for Adsense advertisers. However, something about the ads’ format has been causing some eyebrows to rise since they result in accidental click to ads and this in turn raises some questions as to how the accidental clicks affect the advertisers.

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When searching in Google for certain keywords or key phrases targeted ads from sponsors appear on the top of the search engine results page (SERP). The targeted ads are clearly set apart from the ordinary search results by its blue background and the label Sponsored Links found on the top right corner of the blue area. They are so labeled so that users not interested in the advertisers’ products or services will not mistakenly click on the ads. However according to an article called Accidentally Clicking on Google’s Top Blue Ads, users still do routinely click on the links by mistake. This usually happens when users click on the blue space on the right of the links themselves. The blue space supposed by many to be a non-clickable area, is actually clickable and would lead the user to the advertiser’s site whose link is nearest to the left of the mouse click.

The accidental clicking of ads has actually been a problem noticed as early as November of last year and has lead to the coining of a new word – Accidense. In November 27th of last year TDavid wrote an article entitled "Accidense?". In his article he noticed that some Google ads had more white space that was clickable compared to others. Because of the larger clickable white space of some ads the chance for users of clicking on certain ads by accident is greater. People soon picked up on the word and started calling the accidental clicking on Google’s AdSense ads, Accidense. Note then that accidense is a phenomenon that happens not only on Google’s SERPs but in any of its service – like Gmail – or any website that has AdSense ads in them.

Effect on Google Users

Accidense is a source of irritation to Google users who have no intention of viewing the ads. Of course in comparison to pop-up ads the irritation AdSense ads bring pale in comparison. However, accidense still retracts from user experience and is mostly unproductive for the user. There may be occasions though wherein the accidental click brings users to advertising sites they are actually interested in. This should happen quite often since AdSense ads are targeted ads so that the chance of the user being interested in its contents is much higher than a user accidentally clicking on the usual static ads. But that would only be the case if the user sticks around long enough to know what the ad is actually about before hitting the back button. And since Internet users, especially search engine users, are usually extremely goal driven then the probability that the user will hit the back button even before the advertisers’ ad has fully loaded is greater than the chance that the user will stick around to find out what he had stumbled on accidentally.

Effect on Google AdSense Affiliates and Advertisers

Accidense may be a nuisance to users but is of greater to concern to advertisers. AdSense is a pay per click advertising program, which means that advertisers have to pay for each click their ads generate whether it was accidental or deliberate. Accidental clicks therefore automatically generate profit for both Google and its affiliate website carrying the ad but most often than not doesn’t translate to profit for the advertisers. People are therefore asking how much accidense really affects advertisers.

Commercial advertisers would do well to track just how much their AdSense campaign is benefiting them not only by the amount of clicks they receive. As pointed out in an article on clicks, “Clicks are not a failsafe method of proving anything. Clicks can be automated. Clicks can be fraudulent.”, and in accidense’ case clicks can be accidental. If clicks are therefore not reliable factor in determining the effectiveness of an ad campaign in a pay per click program, what then would be a good measure of the clicks’ actual productivity? As Scoble pondered in his tech blog advertisers ought to track their ads effectiveness by the amount of time the browser stays on their page. A constant stream of very short term visits – meaning a few seconds – could indicate that accidense is giving them illegitimate traffic and that they could be paying Google more than the ads are actually worth. On the other hand, it could also mean that their website just isn’t appealing enough and needs much improvement. It would also help advertisers track which keywords or key phrases generate more effective or genuine interest in their site and so could remove irrelevant keywords and thus lessen the illegitimate traffic and the expense of paying for the clicks that traffic brings.

Accidental Clicks on your Own Ads

Another issue of concern to advertisers is accidental clicks on their own ads. This is a serious issue since Google terminates AdSense accounts when they have determined that the advertiser clicks on their own ads. This is done to prevent fraud of course. However, accidense does happen and advertisers do click on their own ads especially while working on their AdSense page. When this happens it is best to relax and just let it go if it happens only a few times. Google will most probably not terminate an account for a few clicks. However, if you want to be on the safe side you can email Google and inform them the clicks were accidental. Preventing this form of accidense by making sure that no AdSense ads run in your browser, however, makes more sense than simply trying to avoid clicking on the ads themselves. Here’s a good article on how to Protect Yourself From Clicking Your Ads Accidentally.

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