Now Honestly, Do You Click On Ads?

by Matthew Russell

It's rumored that there are organizations out there that are raking in the big bucks -- allegedly through the use of ads -- but I have a natural inclination to think that it's all just a big lie. Personally, I've become almost completely desensitized to any and all ads and have been for as long as I can remember. It's maybe only once a month or so that I might click on something, and even then, I never buy. Not once in my entire life have I made an immediate purchase that's been the result of clicking on an ad.

But granted, I understand that if every person in the world only clicked on one ad once a month, then there would still be this great surge of clicks, and even if only a fraction on those people made a purchase, then there'd still be this great pot of pennies that accrues at the end of the rainbow...but in spite of that, my intuition leads me to believe that the whole money making scheme just can't be true. Even the clever ways of targeting people based on previous interest and geographical location can only go so far. I can see how the search engines could accumulate some money given the amount of traffic they carry, but those would seem to be the exceptions to the rule, and it couldn't be that much money, right? It almost doesn't seem like it could even be worth their trouble.

Do you know of any success stories that are more than myths and that would indicate otherwise? Is there anyone out there who is able to feed their family solely via the use of ads? You don't have to give away your secret or even divulge your identity -- but at least acknowledge your existence.

Have you or anyone you know made a single dollar through the use of ads?


2005-11-03 07:14:11
personalized ads
I have been wondering about click statistics too. But some bloggers seem to make money with Google Ads and it is hard to believe that Google's total revenue is generated by lies. May be, we just belong to a minority and there are a lot of people who click on ads. May be Google is even using click statistics for page ranking. When you think about it for a moment it would make a lot of sense. I'm actually more and more concerned about Google's monopoly on the market that most people seem to ignore and effects Google's personalized ads can have. (Google Print and the Society ( )
2005-11-03 07:29:00
yes, in very specific circumstances
I occasionally use Google to research products I'm interested in buying. Google is very good at presenting targetted small text ads under those circumstances, and I sometimes click on them and occasionally end up buying from them.

I never click on banner ads, and I rarely even see the Google ads when I'm doing other kinds of searches.

While the frequency of my purchasing this way is low, the fact that those targetted ads appear when I am already looking to buy something makes them very valuable to the advertiser and lucrative for Google.

Of course, this is not really addressing the point you are making, that simply flooding the world with ads can't be very effective, and I share your bewilderment that anyone can make money doing it.

2005-11-03 08:09:37
I routinely click on the Google AdSense ads that are on sites where I want to support the site owner. Usually this is hobby or other "non profit" sites where I know that the few cents that my click will provide will help to offset the hosting costs and such.

Do I click commercial ads on commercial sites? Never.

2005-11-03 09:29:34
No, I don't. Never have, don't understand it. I use PithHelmet which blocks just about 99% of all ads anyway. I don't thank the advertiser or the host for the unbelieveable visual mess the webspace has become as a result of all these ad formats - it's impossible to read, the page layouts have become horrifying, there's blinking and looping garbage everywhere. I don't think any of it is advancing humanity so I don't click EVER.
2005-11-03 10:28:53
Believe it.
As someone who works for a company that makes millions per year on advertising clicks, I promise you, it's true. Your audience here is self-selecting. People who read O'Reilly network articles are not clicking on ads. But for every person who reads this and clicks an ad once per year, there are thousands of novice web-users who click ads hundreds of times per year.

Why do they click? Sometimes it's because they are tricked and confused. Sure, it happens in the underbelly of the ad-network world.

Sometimes they don't know where else to go. They want to buy the latest hot paperback novel. You go to Amazon, because you have an account, you know where you like to shop, etc. These users go to their default (probably determined by the homepage that came with their computer) search engine, type the name of the novel, get an ad saying "Buy Novel Here - Great Prices", and click on it. Usually, they do in fact get a fine price on the novel they want, delivered to their door, and it's a win-win all around.

And sometimes the targeting works, and a user who didn't know they were interested in something learns about it through an ad. This even happens to us power-users sometimes. I'll learn about a new tech site, a new blog, a new service company. Even if I don't buy now, they may have scored mind-share just by showing my their brand, billboard-style.

But yeah, to answer the question, I *never* click on ads myself. I almost never notice them, I just focus on content. I get nearly all my news from RSS feeds, and usually ignore the ads that are now appearing in those. But remember, we're not the target audience, except in highly-targeted (and therefore more lucrative) environments like the ads you are currently ignoring on this page. ;-)

2005-11-03 12:02:12
Of course, we also tell ourselves as an audience that we're not affected by TV advertising. But the numbers there don't lie, the more money spent of advertising, the higher the return.

Though I'll grant you understanding by analogy leaves a lot to be desired, particularly because TV ads have a less personally measurable effect (as in, you KNOW if you click on a web ad that you're being guided by the ad, whereas the TV is much more subtle; you find yourself picking up the Axe Body Spray, but surely not because of a clever marketing blitz that told you it would get you laid, you're too smart for that, at least that's what I tell myself...). Nevertheless, the numbers in marketing don't lie. It IS profitable, otherwise they stop doing it. Google gets a kicker from me because they've developed themselves as an apparently trustworthy company (this is how I end up in pyramid schemes...) and so when I want to buy something, or simply compare prices the easiest thing to do is a Google search.

So, yes, I'll click Google ads once in a while. And I think they do work, despite what reason may lead you to believe. There's tons of money in advertising, and they pay a lot to get you the ads (fifty cent newspapers, relatively cheap TV, billboards). I think the web is an effective medium for these ads to be communicated. Remember it's not always a reasonable world, and you my think your way into a corner, because I bet your first poster knows plenty of people making tons of dough to keep posting web ads, if he's not one of them himself.


2005-11-03 14:23:41
There was an interview with a Nigerian scammer in the Los Angeles Times recently. He said that out of 500 scam mails, he’d get about 7 replies, and that in each of these cases, there would be about 70% odds of getting money from the victim.

That means each scam spam mail has a 1% success rate.

Can you believe that? I can’t either. But it’s true. It’s the reality reported by a real scammer.

Not to say banner ads are shady, but apparently, a lot of people really aren’t very discriminating or distrustful. So who’s to say that advertising online doesn’t, likewise, work?

2005-11-03 14:28:35
I will sometimes click on an ad if it looks interesting. I may or may not eventually buy something from that particular company. In any case, I probably won't buy right away.

I usually click on Google ads only during the course of a Google search and only if the first page of results doesn't look very promising.

I'm learning that some ads are not likely to be effective at all. I recently set up a site as a domain & hosting reseller. I have a Google AdWords account. I have close to 2,000 impressions so far, many in the top 8 positions. I have zero clicks. I think that in a situation like that, where there are lots of companies that will rank high in Google's search results, ads are not likely to be effective.

2005-11-04 06:21:57
If I'm researching competitors to my company on Google, it's always worth clicking through their adwords rather than natural listings; cost them a couple of dollars...