|A Modern Etiquette for Adsense|
Or: keeping respectable in the race for money
| 10:58 am on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)|
Ethics are not morals, nor are morals ethics. In this I discuss neither, I discuss etiquette, those possibly hitherto unwritten rules which dictate the proper behaviour of a professional webmaster in dealing with the allure of Google’s flagship Adsense programme. There are many who will undoubtedly read no further and decide that such concepts are unworthy of consideration provided actions remain within the law. However, it should not be lightly overlooked that civilisation is built upon civility; as William of Wykeham put it “Manners maketh man”. I do not profess to be any expert in the subject and this post should be regarded as no more than a discussion of the best practice I have observed elsewhere.
Common usage has it that the server upon which your files are held is the web host, and the person providing the files to the public the web master. I suggest that is the wrong way around, as the person providing the files is hosting the visit of guests into his domain, whilst the server delivering the files is perhaps like a master butler overseeing the smooth operation of the visit. The subtle distinction becomes a major change in perspective in terms of etiquette. I suspect none of us would knowingly keep our guests waiting for a long period, speak to them in languages they do not understand nor direct them towards a locked and bolted door and yet it is not uncommon to have to await large file downloads, encounter non-standard filetypes or to follow dead internal or external links.
Adsense itself may be likened to an introduction of one person to another, in which you are a mediator but no part of the subsequent conversation. As a casual acquaintance or friend-of-a-friend, were you to enter my house and I were to immediately accost you with pleas for you to meet John Businessman, a man with a sincere wish to sell you something, I suspect that most of you would be both disinclined to meet Mr. Businessman nor consider attending any further functions I might host. Does that not bear similarities to webpages which, whilst they may have content, place Adsense above and more prominently visible than the purported reason for the visit?
A more serious social faux pas would be to misrepresent your reasons for an invitation. Were you to be sent an invitation to come for afternoon tea so I might show some slides of my holiday in Vienna, only to arrive and find nothing but salesmen pushing Austrian holidays, whilst you may chat to one of the salesman out of frustration you would not be best inclined to make a purchase, and you would certainly not come and visit me again, whatever I promised.
As a good host, whilst one may have ulterior motives for attracting visitors, it is proper etiquette to provide a good welcome and live up to all the expectations of your visitor before suggesting anything else. Google’s heat map strongly suggests that immediately below your title should be placed your major Adsense block. Good etiquette undoubtedly dictates that the premise for the page must precede any other motive such as advertising. Placing a large rectangle at the bottom of the page, alongside links to other pages or other information on your website, provides the visitor with nothing but the utmost politeness as you are offering not just more of your pages but also the pick of external advertisers. You may disagree, but to me it seems so much better etiquette than providing only one option, the advertisements, at the top of the page, unless the dedicated reader scrolls down and past the adverts.
Blending is a topic which sits somewhere between morality, business sense and etiquette. Numerous posters have argued both for and against blending based upon various reasons. From my perspective advertisements are clearly advertisements whether they are blended or not. It may not always be clear that they are paid advertisements, but it will be apparent to the majority of people that these are links to other services or products. On that basis I am happy to dismiss the argument that such blending is misleading and suggest that blending advertisements is a more subtle and user-friendly approach than high-contrast distracting boxes on the screen.
Social climbers (or ‘networkers’) devote an amazing amount of time to making contacts within higher social (or business) circles. In just the same way, some webmasters persistently attempt to enter more competitive markets for a shot at higher paying keywords. It is perhaps worthy of note that social climbers frequently become unstuck not because of a lack of contacts at a high enough level, but because they lack the ground-up foundations to justify such a standing. The webmaster who tackles highly paying keywords six-months into using Adsense will invariably fall foul of the same deficiency.
In summary, and at the end of possibly too much rambling, I would like to leave you with this suggested golden rule: “Treat your website visitors like an honoured guest, do what you can for them before you consider what they can do for you”
| 11:07 am on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)|
Do other media than the world wide web follow your -undoubtly good- rules?
Even a DVD you buy has very unfriendly ways of forcing you to see warnings you should not copy it (now you bought it!, why do they annoy -you- with that?)
So while I'm fully convinced you;re very frinedly to your visitors and -don;t get me wrong- I'm all in favor of being friendly to them and giving them what they expect. I do not mind forcing soem *GOOD* ads on them and that's why I'm rather upset by Google forcing me to serve obvious scams, "pretend to be free" stuff and pure and simple MFAs.
I'd like Adsense to improve it's advertiser's quality dramatically but don;t mind forcing a *good* ad on a visitor.
| 1:19 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|Treat your website visitors like an honored guest. Do what you can for them before you consider what they can do for you. |
Okay, Vince, I visited your site. Now wax my truck for me, will ya?
| 1:52 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|Good etiquette undoubtedly dictates that the premise for the page must precede any other motive such as advertising. |
Not sure where this is officially stated or noted, but I think the main reason many of us grappled with the idea of adding Adsense to our pages -- was due to the fact that we didn't want to disrupt the user experience.
However, as in all forms of information and content giving, the provider (the publisher) has to eventually make money.
| 3:32 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|were you to enter my house and I were to immediately accost you with pleas for you to meet John Businessman, a man with a sincere wish to sell you something, I suspect that most of you would be both disinclined to meet Mr. Businessman nor consider attending any further functions I might host. |
Not sure that I agree with this analogy. For me, a closer analogy might be that my website is a library of free information which I have given up time and money to research, compile and index and then invited everyone to come and take avantage of it.
On the way into "their" free library, visitors to my site pass John Businessman who says: "Oh, before you drop in there to get your free information, would you be interested in following me down this corridor where I have something related that you might very well be interested in?" Visitors may choose to decline and walk on by (which requires less than one spin of the mouse wheel) or else, if the offer is relevant, they may pursue it.
No harm in that I don't think.
| 3:43 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)|
Just to play devil's advocate (or angel's advocate as the case may be)-
|Do other media than the world wide web follow your -undoubtly good- rules? |
Do we really want to replicate these other media? Certainly not TV, with it's lowest common denominator mindset and in your face barrage of advertising. Newspapers, maybe, but I don't see too many big blocks of ads on the front page of the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal. Magazines are perhaps the best analogy to the web media- wide range of interests, niches and approaches. Yes, most have advertising prominently displayed, but even they will have lots of pages of ad-free content.
| 4:20 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)|
While I agree with your general premise, that we should be trying to offer our users good content and not shove the advertising in their face, I don't agree with your analogy.
My only website that comes close to hosting someone in my home is my personal website.
My community sites are more like a festival or faire. You come fore the events and the information, but there is also a commercial aspect. There are vendor's booths with people selling things. People coming to the faire expect it, and many even look forward to it.
Other sites that deal with specific product areas are more like a magazine. In many fields, people buy the magazines almost as much for the ads as for the content. You find out about something new in the market from the ads just as often as you do from the editorial content.
In none of these casesdo I consider it appropriate to do things like fill the entire space above the fold with ads, nor do I consider it inappropriate to place the ads prominantly.