Has AdSense Gone Too Far?

I watched the movie Titanic with Leo and Kate on Friday night. It’s a good movie and afterwards I was interested to learn more about the tragedy so I Googled up some answers. As I progressed through page after page something started to bother me. I had trouble finding the real content because there was Google AdSense in all the most prominent places on EVERY site I visited. It wasn’t until I hit the “clean” Wikipedia entry on the Titanic that I finally got some valuable information.

Google has to be commended for providing one of the best ways to monetize a website. It’s so good because even the most average Webmaster can easily cut and paste some code to start earning some cash from their web property. Even sites that have a clear purpose and real content still apply some AdSense here and there for the “extra cash” that can be earned. Afterall you would rather someone clicked AdSense ads on your site when they exit so you get your 20 cents.

The problem is that when a webmaster gets a taste for the money suddenly their eyes start to sparkle and you hear that “cha-ching” noise. The possibility dawns – I can make real money on the Internet – and suddenly the motivation behind building the website goes from one of indulging in a hobby to making money. More and more AdSense blocks appear on sites and it becomes harder to find the real content.

Theoretically of course you would think that the AdSense ads themselves should have the content I’m looking for. For me personally I long ago caught “AdSense blindness” unless it’s a very specific Google search. Any AdSense on websites I ignore, just the way I ignored banners in their heyday. Plus most AdSense ads are for products or services relating to my keyword -rarely does an AdSense ad actually provide the best free content about a topic, afterall, the AdWords buyer is usually there to make sales.

Now we are faced with a situation where AdSense is proliferating at an outstanding rate and thousands of webmasters build sites specifically to earn money. Many of these site owners realize that content is still important, so they work hard to locate original content for their sites, but it’s still contrived content – just enough to get some reasonable Google rankings so the traffic starts to trickle in and the AdSense clicks increase. It’s not content created from a genuine interest in the subject. Compare this to a webmaster who hasn’t discovered AdSense yet and builds a site to provide the best content. Money doesn’t come into the motivation equation at all in this case.

But does that matter? Does the quality of our Internet increase or decrease if everyone who publishes a website does it, at least partially, to make money?

If we go back to the days before AdSense people were trying to make money. They did it much the same as they do now – with affiliate programs and CPM banner campaigns – AdSense just added another, very effective monetization method. Perhaps my argument is moot – money will always be part of the motivation.

AdSense made it all too easy. When your average hobbyist can actually see that $5 a day come in there is an immediate impact on their motivation. The taste of the money is so much more tangible because the results are quick and easy. It’s because banner ads and affiliate marketing are generally harder for novices to have significant success with that they don’t spark the same far-reaching penetration that AdSense does.

Maybe Google AdSense will begin to perform poorly for advertisers and “blindness” may become a problem like it did for banners. However I don’t think the impact will ever be significant. The average net user does not see text as advertising and I don’t see that characteristic changing. This means finding the real answer to our questions may become harder and harder as more site owners drown their content with AdSense to make money. I find that quite ironic considering Google came about as a better alternative to finding answers to questions.

Yaro Starak

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  • AdSense is evil, and it’s just getting worse…

  • “Cha-ching!” indeed. The other day I came across a website where they actually *integrated* Adsense with their menu links (menu links looked like Adsense ads, and were all mixed up with Adsense banners), so that a user might just *accidentally* click an Adsense ad instead of a menu item. Cha-ching!

    …and then you have some Adwords advertisers wondering why they’re getting so many clicks and no conversions. Go figure.

    On the ‘hobbyist vs. “netrepreneur”‘ thing, I guess a hobbyist might be more “pure” content-wise than someone profit-driven (in a philosophical sense); but that doesn’t necessarily mean the content is going to be more valuable.

    Money is motivating, and motivation can be good if it drives a good webmaster/blogger to keep coming up with valuable content. Adsense does that.

    At the same time, the ease in which money can be made with Adsense certainly has encouraged more splogs, more spam websites, and even more useless junk sites all over the place.

    Should we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Hell no, that baby is making me money. Should Google take better steps to save us from the onslaught of sleazy, lazy, netizens bent on gaming the Adsense system for all it’s worth? Oh yes.

    They have a slight conflict of interests, of course, with Adwords being Google’s main paycheck. But your points are well taken, and they’re going to have to balance that conflict of interests with another business interest, which is avoiding marginalization.

    Bookmarked this blog, so I’ll probably be back to talk too much again. Lucky you.

    Take care,

  • i dont think that it is adsense’s fault, i belive it is the webmaster of that site, they are the ones placing what ads where…

  • $5 a day Yaro. There’s a whole global AdSense tribe out there raking in $5,000 a week. Often they have hundreds if not thousands of crappy auto generated sites that are full of borrowed, scaped, or stolen content. Many get top rankings too with the site announcing methods used.

    It’s not all bad news though. If you belong to ceratain forums you’ll see that Google is on a mission to close down as many of these poor quality sites as it can and quite a number of black and grey hatters are concerned about it. Many have already lost big parts of their publishing empires.

    I dobt the problem will ever dissapear, but I do believe it’ll get a bit better over time. Even the big earners will be forced to go down the road of cleaner, more content rich sites in the end. What will probably happen is that they cannot build new sites faster than the old ones getting banned (as they can at the moment!) so better quality, baan proof sites will eventually rule the vitual roost.


  • “So what if I was to convince a bunch of kids to take the Firefox source code and ideas from the GreaseMonkey and Platypus plugins and produce a version of FireFox that automatically removes all AdSense ads from Web pages and reformats the page so that there would be no empty white areas (where the Ads are removed from) … What would that do to Google’s ad-suported business model? I think it could do a lot of damage to Google’s model as most users hate having their view of the Web cluttered with mostly useless ads.”

    More such what-if analysis regarding Google’s Strategy can be found in the last post on my blog. You may want to skip to the section titled ” The Problem with Google’s Strategy.”


  • Nick

    While I’m sure that google and the like are cracking down on lousy sites that have lousy content, there is another (perhaps more highly motivated) group working JUST as hard and JUST as fast to change their web sites for maximum monitization.

    I also think that those of us “in the community” are more aware of this type of thing, where as a regular user would be more likely to read through the ads, find a useful tidbit, and move on.

    But I do agree with you that it is a growing problem, and the problem gets trickier as time goes on with books like “The Adsense Code” coming out. But I do think that if we got past banner ads and pop-ups, then we will get past this too…

  • Apparently having AdSense now counts negatively towards search rankings. I think publishers should check out other alternatives. Adsense ads have reached saturation… I no longer even read the adsense text.

  • “Apparently having AdSense now counts negatively towards search rankings”

    Absolute rubbish.

    It does not. At all (at least for Google). Personally I am one of the webmasters that found AdSense to be an effective way of earning some extra cash on the side, and I am now intending on making a good amount from it (currently up to around $10/day). However these days, traffic isn’t all that matters.

    One of my websites Myweblog.com gets over 2,000 unique hits a day, and it generates a mear $1/$2, thats it. However one of my other sites CarAdvice.com.au generates barely 200 hits a day and it generates a good $7/day due to the better keywords – and its been running for not even ONE MONTH!. You can check that siteout for your self, you will notice a good deal of ads located in the posts and around the site, but you will also notice the content is there, and I work a great deal to provide it.

    Furthermore the content is not there to sell ads, the ads are there to accompany the content, and I mean why not! Why wouldn’t you want to make real money from your blogs? I know from looking at my site that a good deal of the “text” ads are very relevant, its only the image ads that pose a problem by showing completely useless ads (dating sites) on the site.

  • Well, this topic’s generated a hornet’s nest!

    Anyway, I know of a site (naming no names) that has an Adsense click through rate of over 90%. The site also provides good, unique content under the ‘fold’.
    It’s going to take a long time (around 2 years I think) until search engines can determine the difference between sites that are designed for Adsense clicks, and real sites which offer Adsense as part of their offering. In the mean time, webmasters who have large Adsense ads above their main site copy simply aren’t thinking longer term.

  • If google removed adsense out of their search results, the overall quality of their service would go up. And it’s their own fault for allowing these crappy scraper sites to run adsense in the first place. If it works, you have to expect people to write crappy scraper adsense sites.

    Really, Google needs to have some basic quality checks in place. Like actually have a person check out the sites wvery so often. It’s easy to tell at a glance if a site has quality content, or is just auto generated rubbish.

  • >> Really, Google needs to have some basic quality checks in place. Like actually have a person check out the sites wvery so often. It’s easy to tell at a glance if a site has quality content, or is just auto generated rubbish.

  • Sorry, only a portion of the above post went through. Here’s the rest in response to a quote from Harvey above:

    Actually Harvey, they do – That is having real humans that look at suspect sites. It is real people that ban and delist such sites, not automated programs.

    In fact, there are folks in the AdSense game that also get personal emails from Google warning them about sites that are borderline too.

    So, as I said in my original post, it’s not quite as bleak as it sounds as the SE’s are currently on a mission to weed out bad sites.

    Personally, my pet hate is email SPAM, and I’d sooner have to click a few sites to find one that’s relative to my search than dig through all the crappy mail that gets shoved into my inboxes on a daily basis, but hey, that’s another topic!


  • I think it would help if Google would now allow webmasters to post adsense on websites which havent been approved

    Currently once you have ONE site approved you are free to post ads everywhere you want! this is a bad method.

  • Atleast with Adsense the ads are geared towards being relevant, professional looking, and do not contain scripts that open up a thousand boxes for you to close. If you ask me, Adsense cleaned up the advertising on the internet a lot after the linkfarms and bannerfarms got popular. Mr. Starak, you yourself do the same thing, ADVERTISE. While reading your post, I noticed your big ORANGE ad to the right, for the GObig Network I believe.
    So, you speak of this big bad giant, and how people who use it are wrong and how easy it is to make money from adsense. Have you used Adsense? It is not easy to make money from, with an honestly built website. Remember, people have to click the ads for you to make money. And people don’t like to do that. It doesn’t matter what form of advertising you use, the matter is you are still advertising. Without it, there wouldn’t be an internet to get all of our wonderful information from. So please, stop crying wolf, and just let people do what they want with thier ads. We have a business to run.

  • Jay

    Google didn’t come up with Adsense idea. It was Overture’s (now Yahoo search) idea and they jumped on it.

  • I see you also have the Google Analytics on your site as well. Hmm…

  • Uhhh, Denali, Adsense is easy to make money with; depending on the kinds of contextual ads your site is getting.

    There are site topics that are going to attract the right kinds of people to the right kinds of ads, and then there are topics that draw people who aren’t looking to buy much — or at least, not much having to do with your site’s topic. For instance, political sites tend to suck for Adsense.

    I don’t think Yaro’s crying wolf, but Google isn’t particularly stupid, either. Being associated with splogs, spammers and general internet sleaze isn’t something they’re going to want.

  • We have to agree that not only do we all need advertising from time to time, it is the only way to provide free content – otherwise, one would need paid subscription, for instance, LexisNexis.

    Is it true that some website owners have bad content? Well, what’s new here? For the longest time, bad companies have produced bad products – I am a big believer in market forces. While they make some money in the short run, eventually people are smart enough to gravitate to good sites by saving them in their favorites.

  • CG

    The world is a dynamic place, and ditto with the life online. Like the economy, things are the way they are. There will be thieves and policemen. Over here, in the cyberspace, the policemen is the economy, AKA us.

    Agree with Sonny. Totally.

  • The biggest is problem is that publishers make the ads stand out more than the content. I do have ads on my site but I make sure to keep them all on the right sidebar.

    It annoys me when I read other sites and the ads are mixed in with the main content. It ruins the whole experience.

    Great article!

  • Yaro’s Thoughts about Adsense (Abuse)……

    Over at the EJ Blog, Yaro has made a good post about Adsense and how he is seeing more and more sites with Adsense on.  It’s a an interesting read and some of the comments are also somewhat interesting – good to see people arguing about somethin….

  • Well we certainly have touched upon a topic everyone has an opinion about.

    I think a lot of people care about this topic because they are AdSense earners (I am one), but also don’t like the scraper sites and have been impacted (negatively) by AdSense obstructing their ability to find the content they really want online.

    I wasn’t crying wolf with this piece, which I thought was pretty clear since I provided points arguing against my own points – more a case of devil’s advocate I’d say.

    Like many people have commented, this sort of situation is self policing. If AdWords stops bringing in results then AdSense won’t pay so well and another advertising medium will take it’s place as the monetization method of choice (and I definitely wasn’t arguing against monetization or advertising).

    That may take a while to happen though because the average net surfer doesn’t know what AdSense is – but that will change over time. I don’t expect the blindness factor though to have as big an impact on text links as it has had on banners, so the click through rates will probably always make AdWords a viable method for most niches.

  • Paul

    There is no problem with publishing a content/information site with the intention of making money if the content is useful. The problem comes when a webmaster publishes keyword-rich junk that they don’t really even want people to read or benefit from because they’d rather just have people click on an Adsense link. A lot of Web pages today are written for the SEs and not a thought is given to whether a real human being would ever want to read it.

    Another troubling trend even on many legit sites is the attempt to fool users into clicking Adsense links by making them look like navigation or articles on the site.

    Too many webmasters are trying to build wealth on the twin pillars of SEO and fooling users into clicking Adsense links.

  • I think Adsense is the most unobtrusive form of internet advertising. Adsense in the middle of a page is nothing as bad as some big media sites, with their scrolling ads that hide the content and follow your mouse. How about those “your computer has a virus” ads. I know a lot of people who get worried and click those ads and end up with a bunch of spyware on their computer. Readers of this blog, probably wouldn’t fall for it, but I would say the majority of the population of non-savy computer users don’t know better. Also Adsense is fairly easy to turn off if you don’t like the ads.

  • […] TechDirt writes about it, Scott Karp says that Google is killing Internet’s economics of content, Dave Winer thinks it is changing the world in a right direction, while Yaro says that AdSense has gone too far. […]

  • Google must be doing something towards it too make adSense little bit sensible.
    When money thing comes people don’t think too much what actually are they presenting other than generating as much revenue as possible

  • LOL
    agree 125%, I see adsense ads on almost EVERY single page, evil google… and its kinda getting annoying

  • raj

    Yaro, you’re very right. But the way I look at it, you wouldn’t expect a print magazine not to publish advertising. On the flipside, if a magazine is full of crap content, it’s not going to last long. Or is it?

    I’m not going to mention names, but there are print mag equivalents to splogs, and the populace laps them up, making their profits fatter. Literary junk food.

    I think that regardless of the type of ads, there’s nothing wrong with ads, provided that webmasters/ bloggers remember that it’s the content that really matters.

    That said, my 10 or so currently active blogs barely pull in $2/d, but mainly because I can’t humanly post regularly to all of them. In fact, I make more money writing articles for other people’s blogs, in a given month. This is after 1 year of “problogging”. I’m doing something wrong, but I haven’t figured out all of the reasons. (Just some.)

  • The Internet has fallen to commercialism, just like every other stream of media out there. There is no way of escaping it. If there is a dollar to be made, someone will try to make it…me included. 🙂

  • That’s a Very Good Question…

    Yaro Starak of Entrepreneur’s Journey asks the question of whether or not Google’s Adsense has gone too far:
    Google has to be commended for providing one of the best ways to monetize a website. It’s so good because even the most average ……

  • This is what I’ve been thinking about alot the last six months. Most all our income is generated via Adsense, and it’s our only income these days. I think Google Adsense blindness is going be hitting us hard in the future. I’ll be linking to this permalink Yaro.

    -Terry Zulit

  • Lessons learnt – go to Wikipedia first and if you can’t find the information there, move to other areas.

    It is unfortunate that the web has become top heavy with redundant and unfortunate web distractions – creating a proverbial ‘needle in the haystack’ situation. But then again, as Yaro mentioned, that is why we have the search engine in the first place.

    And although commercialisation of the web is generally to the detriment of all those who look for genuine content, if it wasn’t there, would these same ‘genuine’ content providers have the wherewithal to continue functioning?

    I’m just thankful there is the open-source modus operandi growing in parallel with other money-focused strategies…

    At the end of the day, how many have you have thought to yourself -‘Now the internet, that’s where all the money is to be made in coming years!’. Just seems there are too many fingers in the pie…

  • […] Entrepreneur’s JourneyHas AdSense Gone Too Far? (695 words) “When a webmaster gets a taste for the money suddenly their eyes start to sparkle and… the motivation behind building the website goes from one of indulging in a hobby to making money.”Favorite: What Is The 80/20 Rule And Why It Will Change Your Life […]

  • No, don’t go to Wikipedia first, a lot of the content there is just plain false. Use a real encyclopedia.

    Where have people seen evidence of Google removing sites from Adsense for quality of content issues? I’ve only seen fraud-clickers get kicked out, not scrapers and teh like.

  • Jon

    Yes, AdSense has gone too far and is ruining the Internet and if I didn’t make so much money from it I’d probably start a revolt 🙂

  • Good point & good post Yaro. I agree. The internet is spiralling into an abyss of purpose built adsense sites ruining the effectiveness of a search engine in the first place. It still gets google money though.

    Admittedly, I signed up for AdSense yesterday :p

  • Nice post Yaro, I think it is absolutely true what has happened to the internet due to adsense. I have seen many websites that use it and most of the service websites use it as well ( by service website i mean sites that provide something for money) I like how yaro points out the flaws in this. The business that sign up for adword might also consider this because it doesnt provide 100% exposure. But from my point of view, I think adsense is okay – till now. I have recently employed this technique in my “flagship blog.” If anybody is interested in reading more about online money making, search yaro’s blog or get a gist of it with my latest article. Thank you Yaro for writing a great post like always. Please continue with this trend, i look forward to read more of them. Good luck, JafarK

  • […] Has AdSense Gone Too Far? Entrepreneur s Journey – by Yaro Starak money online by starting your own successful Internet business Many have already lost big parts of their publishing empires. Yaro s Thoughts about Adsense (Abuse) Over at the EJ Blog […]

  • ron

    Brilliant post yaro. I myself was wondering about the future of adsense. The quality of information is becoming a big issue on the internet. To tell you the truth even i was a victim once! I made sites for adsense , not visitors but then quickly realized my foolishness.

  • Hey Yaro!
    I actually stumbled on your blog yesterday. First I must commend you, for the first rate job you are doing. I am a newbie and looking to make my first dollar online, that’s why I’ve subscribed to your newsletter and hope to learn as much as I can as fast as I can in as little time as possible (Hey! Now that’s really atomic.)
    But I must tell you that your generalised criticism of Adsense is quite off the mark.
    The truth is that there are good sites with good content, which infact are purely content driven, but they still add adsense to offer variety and richer content to their visitors.
    However, most importantly, the bottomline of all online ventures is the CASH! So telling a site owner with rich content and potential for making hundreds of dollars not to do so is in my opinion even against what you preach in your blog.

    Finally, Folks, take my tip, If you can make money from it legitimately, please do so. Advert is Advert, no matter the form, no matter the site…… see you soon. Looking forward to learning from you Yaro.

  • Adsense hasn’t ruined the Internet. People have. A knife can be used to cut vegetables. It can be used to murder someone. Who do you blame?

  • Hehehe, my opinion is Google adsense make all that blog owner/ blogger easily earn money. It’s not that easy, require creativity, ‘SENSE’ of art and tricky. Several ways to get the earnings and TRAFFIC (It’s a must), be active on forum, backlink , link exchange, PPC, flat advertising, buy traffic, surf for traffic etc. And most important is be always update and make interesting your web/ blog. Good luck and nice topic bro! Thank you. – Yossi Fadhli from Indonesia, http://www.yossifadhli.com

  • it is a very good info in this post…..keep it up…

  • Good post Yaro,

    I decided to remove all of my Adsense in my blog because the tiny money i earned compared with the risk of getting banned. Anyway my traffic isn’t that much..

  • “cha-ching” (cacing) means “worm” in Bahasa Indonesia. Ha3… Earning money from adsense is like the speed of worm crawling… so slow. It crawls so hard into your pocket. By the way, you might probably have seen the same adsense ads over and over from this site to that site. The possibility of clicks become so low. How can one click an ad for a second time if it has been clicked before?

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