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Doesn't blending ads with website mean to deceive users?
openmind

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 4:30 pm on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

On most websites I see Google ads "nicely" blended in with the content to the point that is difficult to tell both apart. I'm sure that this has been discussed at length here on WebmasterWorld so could you please point me to appropriate threads? I mean, if you blend your ads with your contents it is obvious that you do so get more ads clicked. But if you get more ads clicked you lose more website users or don't you? How many of your website users return to your site after clicking Adsense ads? Also, if you make your ads look like content, doesn't this mean you are "deceiving" your visitors? After all, they came to your website for the content, not for the ads.

 

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 4:52 pm on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't think there's one pat answer for every situation. I've tried both ways, and I've found my click rate actually improved when I set the ads apart in some way, either with a line or box or shading. I guess there's blending and there's too much blending (where the ads can be mistaken for navigation, or where there are images too close to the ads) but where the EXACT line is drawn, I don't know. So I prefer to walk on the conservative side, and not do too much blending.

Maybe what needs to happen is that Google needs to define the word 'blend' better. Making ads 'blend' in with the content of your site, to the extent that you use the same color schemes, etc - well, that's just to be expected. But blending so much that you can't tell the ads from the content - that seems to be a no-no. Sorta.

europeforvisitors



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 5:15 pm on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm sure that this has been discussed at length here on WebmasterWorld so could you please point me to appropriate threads?

The forum have been dozens of threads on this topic. Scroll back far enough or do a Google search, and you should be able to find them easily.

Whether or not blending is "deceptive" (as it obviously is in at least some cases), it's likely to be a riskier practice in the future. Why? Two reasons:

- Placement reports for AdSense advertisers, which were introduced recently. These reports let advertisers see where their traffic is coming from and how it's converting. Sites that generate a lot of clicks but few conversions are likely to end up in advertisers' unlimited domain filters.

- Site-targeted contextual ads, which will be coming soon, and which will let advertisers choose the sites where their ads appear before they spend any money. Sites that look shady to advertisers will be at an even greater disadvantage when this new feature is implemented.

SnowDevil

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 9:40 pm on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't necessarily think that ad blending is about trying to deceive the users. Sure sometimes it may create ambiguity, and deceiving the users into clicking ads is, I'm sure, the intent of many web publishers.

Personally though, I see ad blending as a way to get past ad blindness syndrome. If the users aren't immediately subconsciously dismissing your ads as "non-content" and therefore ignoring them, then they have a chance to read the ads and perhaps click on them.

I can remember a bunch of times when, whilst on a website with ads in various non-blended positions, I thought about the concept of ad blindness and forced myself to look at the ads and occasionally there was actually something there of interest to me. If I hadn't deliberately made myself look at the ad, I never would have seen it and clicked on it. So blend ads not to deceive, but to highlight, that's what I do anyway.

AndrewT

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 10:01 pm on Aug 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Its a fine line to be sure. On the one side I don't want ads sticking out in a garish fashion but, on the other, I don't want them to blend in too much - that said, I am starting to move away from blending them quite as much as I have in the past as several reviews of my site came back saying that they did not even see a couple of them.

What I cannot respect (its a personal opinion only) is when I see sites that place, for example, link blocks so close to a menu that you really have to concentrate to click a menu item and not an add. When I see a site that is doing this I leave as I think the key point is that the content should be the primary focus (am I being old school here).

Personally, I am willing to take a hit in earnings rather than try to ram ads down people's throats or trick them - after all, if I don't show respect for my readers its a bit of a poor show in my book.

I would like to earn more than I do, certainly, but first and foremost I would like for readers to enjoy the site and want to come back feeling that the ads are there to support the site rather than the site being there to support the adds.

There is one question that, I feel, distinguishes between the two schools of thinking - and that is this:

If you could no longer serve any ads at all or make any money from your site, would you still maintain it? Personally, I would (though the server costs without ads would probably cost me my marriage lol).

potentialgeek

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 2:27 am on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Much depends on the layout of the web page. Many if not most MFAs are designed by webmasters who are incapable of building elegantly designed pages and it creates confusion.

Due to the performance monitoring services Google is adding to advertisers, it could become much more difficult to profit from deception. MFAs won't worry about getting banned by Google, but by the advertisers.

Losing big accounts will be bad news if not devastating. The remaining accounts will be MFAs (arbitrageurs) and big companies with large budgets (who don't bother to monitor stats or check dodgy sites). Since Google still hasn't dealt with the arbits very well, it might not be a big problem.

Wouldn't it be fun if Google automatically emailed you every time your site was blacklisted?

"At 9:15 a.m. this morning, one advertiser banned you. Your total bans this week are 45. The Google Optimization Advisor(TM) recommends you adjust your blending soon. If you fail to do this, we will automatically put thick black/white/neon lines around your ads. If that doesn't work, we'll make them flash."

p/g

martinibuster

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 4:30 am on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Also, if you make your ads look like content, doesn't this mean you are "deceiving" your visitors?

AdSense ads are content.
A page is made of units of content. Navigation is a content unit. Everything on your page consists of content units. AdSense ads are also units of content. You fit that unit into your page in a way that the message within the ads complements and works with the rest of the content on the page. There is no deception. The ads are very clear what they are offering.

zett

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 6:26 am on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

ALL of the uses of blending that I have seen were apparently ONLY implemented to deceive users. Those who use blended ads know EXACTLY why they use it - they want to trick users into clicking on something they would otherwise not click. In this way, blending confuses users and gives an overall bad usability to visitors.

To say that everything on a web page is "content", is, sorry, nonsense.

Side note: I am not surprised to read such statements here. There seems to be a deep rooted interest in defending shady tactics, be it MFAs ("it's just some sort of content"), Parked Domains ("it's just direct navigation traffic") or Blending ("it's just to overcome ad blindness").

Anyway, a useful classification for screen elements comes from Jacob Nielsen:

- Operating system & browser controls
- Welcome & site identity
- Navigation
- Content of interest
- Advertising & sponsorship
- Self promotional
- Filler
- Unused

In his book "Homepage Usability" (somewhat aged by now) he breaks down the screen real estate used by these elements for 50 homepages. Even today, the book is interesting to read, even if technology has moved on and most of the homepages reviewed do not look like in 2001.

Again, I think if "Advertising & sponsorship" is blended with "Content of interest", this WILL mean utter confusion for the visitors. Which is evil.

Hobbs

WebmasterWorld Senior Member hobbs us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 7:59 am on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

On blending you need to get from a to b

a) Inserting an iframe of 'content' that you have minimal control over on your pages in the first place is a compromise, get in touch with your greed/long term/short term/objectives and make your own decision about having ads in the first place, once you decide you need to monetize, it's a sliding control, more money means less visitors sticking to your site and clicking into the unknown and sometimes untrusted.

b) Now that you've sorted it out with yourself beyond any doubt, look into Google's message and again decide for yourself on the level of blending you want to achieve:
(greed/user experience)

Google talks about a balance between 2 contradicting terms in their extremities:

- Advertisers Converting: Sending them only interested visitors
- Publisher's Monetizing: Generating the most impressions and clicks for the financial benefit of Google and publishers
(sending advertisers maximum number of visitors and clicks)

According to Google, the most successful publishers are those that convert best for advertisers, but that's not how it always works for neither Google, nor it's algo, or its advertisers or its publishers are perfect, the code is trying to emulate flawed humans and is doing a good job at it by the way.

The balance lies between the above 2 objectives and you will find Google strongly pushing for each depending on which page you read, again it's a decision you have to make yourself, I personally think long term success lies away from extremities, make your own mind.

And please, ads are not content, as much as prostitution is not a public service, we do it for the money, embrace the horror or drop network ads and only sell to direct advertisers if you need full control.

Matt Probert

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 10:13 am on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Also, if you make your ads look like content, doesn't this mean you are "deceiving" your visitors? After all, they came to your website for the content, not for the ads.

I guess by "content" you mean the primary information of the web page, the article or whatever.

Yes I agree with you. Blending is quite simply a trick to deceive readers into clicking adverts in order to make a quick buck. With so many advertisers it really doesn't matter to those of this mentatlity if one gets blacklisted by a few advertisers, there are millions more mugs willing to buy Adwords. And the quick buck today keeps being made.

Why else do you think Google is so keen to encourage blending? From Google's perspective, so what if your site closes soon after, they have still made money and there are millions more web sites clammering to show adsense which can take your place.

Matt

europeforvisitors



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 3:05 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ads are content? According to the explanation on the front page of Google's AdSense site, "AdSense for content automatically crawls the content of your pages and delivers ads." If the ads are content and Google is crawling them before they appear, it must be using an algorithm designed by Doc Brown, the Christopher Lloyd character in BACK TO THE FUTURE. :-)

pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 3:20 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

AdSense ads are content.
A page is made of units of content. Navigation is a content unit. Everything on your page consists of content units. AdSense ads are also units of content. You fit that unit into your page in a way that the message within the ads complements and works with the rest of the content on the page. There is no deception. The ads are very clear what they are offering.

MB, I understand where you are coming from but...

I firmly believe that the blending of ads is deceptive, whether or not it is a content unit or not. I've seen blending that was so precise that I clicked on the damn links! And, I'd be willing to bet that a good percentage of click throughs are due to people clicking on a "well blended" content unit.

I've never liked them and personally I feel they are "very deceptive". People scan, they don't see those "Sponsored by" taglines, especially when they are "blended" in with the navigation. From my perspective, they are blended to "trick" users into clicking them, bottom line. It doesn't matter what happens after that, as long they click and you get credit for the click.

Its a flawed advertising model in my mind. But, that's just me. ;)

There is no other reason to blend other than to "trick a click".

martinibuster

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 3:34 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've seen blending that was so precise that I clicked on the damn links!

Nope, nope, and nope. That's not what I'm talking about. When I say fit your AdSense into your site as another unit of content, I am NOT saying to camoflauge it so the user does not know what they are clicking.

The mistake the OP and others in this thread are making is to confuse the word blend with camouflage. Those are two different concepts. In the context of confusing those two words, I can understand why some may think Google is encouraging deception. However Google is not. Google actively discourages webmasters from camouflaging Ads. Remember: Blending is NOT camouflaging. Google's guidelines do not promote ccamouflage and the big mistake in this thread is confusing camouflage with integrating AdSense units into a site in a way that it is harmonious with the rest of the site.

camouflaging your AdSense ads will cause SmartPricing to kick in. Causing users to click on an ad without knowing they are clicking an ad will cause clicks that pay little to nothing. In the end, camoflauging your ads will result in less income. There's a disincentive to that, and I don't promote that- and neither does Google.

I guess by "content" you mean the primary information of the web page...

;) No guessing required, my statement is quite clear and doesn't need to be expanded to mean anything more than what I stated. However I'll restate it in longer form so it's crystal clear:

Blending is about integrating your site content with the content within your AdSense ads, including the colors. Your page is made up of units of content. Images are units of content. Your navigation is a unit of content. Your Amazon affiliate banners are a unit of content. Streaming video is a unit of content. If it can seen or heard by a site visitor, it's a unit of content. Your AdSense ads, as an element of your web page, are also a unit of content.

The whole point of AdSense, what's sets it apart is it's contextual aspect. So if you're on a web page discussing astronomy you're going to have AdSense content leading your site visitors to telescopes for sale.

You can sign up for a telescope affiliate program too, and INTEGRATE text links at the bottom of your articles, "Buy telescopes here." It's quite effective to blend those in. Or you can integrate/blend (but not camouflage) AdSense ads.

[edited by: martinibuster at 4:13 pm (utc) on Aug. 17, 2007]

europeforvisitors



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 3:41 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

MB: Good job on the "blending vs. camouflage" distinction. It would be helpful if Google could explain that difference every time it encourages people to blend ads, since many publishers obviously haven't grasped it.

pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 3:47 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

MB, thanks for the clarification.

But... :)

Blending - To combine or mix so that the constituent parts are indistinguishable from one another.

Camouflage - Concealment by disguise or protective coloring.

Those two words are synonymous of one another when it comes to blending AdSense.

I do truly understand where you are coming from and I guess I'm one of those who has this all confused. But, I've seen way to many blended AdSense Units that I would consider Camouflaged.

Trick-a-Click

martinibuster

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 3:53 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Blending - blend or harmonize; "This flavor will blend with those in your dish"; "This sofa won't go with the chairs"

Hobbs

WebmasterWorld Senior Member hobbs us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 4:04 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

We are not discussing against the TOS practices like placing link units too close to navigation or ads too close to images, we are discussing blending as Google outlines it:

The moment you remove the ad frame, color the ad text, background and links to match those of your page (blend), you entered the camouflage territory, nothing wrong with that except calling it by any other name.

Blending is Camouflage
The difference in what you say is in intent of the publisher, the end result is the same, ads that resemble content, if that's not camouflage just apply the duck test (pun intended).

pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 4:07 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

CamoSense

And please, that's a Capital C and a Capital S. Pascal Casing.

Webwork, I got that one too!

loudspeaker

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 5:33 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

My AdSense rep once sent a "helpful suggestion" on improving the site click-through rate which essentially boiled down to removing borders, making ad links the same color as our site links, splitting ads in smaller units and... inserting a borderless link unit in the middle of a column where I have internal site links. If it's not deceptive, I don't know what is.

I respect Google (a lot) for being the search engine with the clearest and most obvious delineation between sponsored results and organic results (they have a different background for the top sponsored links and a vertical bar for the side module). And they don't hesitate to pat themselves on the back for that. But frankly, I feel a bit insulted when they want me to do something with my site they themselves would never do. I think that carries an implicit message: "nobody cares about your reputation, anyway, you little nobody - so let's just get you some clicks, shall we?". May be I am being extra-sensitive.

The Contractor

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 6:57 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Anyone ever polled those that are "Smart Priced" down to pennies per click to see if they blended their ads.

My gut tells me you will run into trouble sooner or later when the only thing above the fold is "blended" ads masquerading as content/navigation. The trouble may come with being smart priced to extinction or booted from the program.

DamonHD

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 12:26 am on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ads are content?

Black is white, good is bad; four legs good, two legs better!

Puh-leaase!

I blend, but let us not start confusing original content with the supporting ads UNLESS we live to scam our readers.

Puh-lease!

Rgds

Damon

martinibuster

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 12:47 am on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ads are content?

If the eye sees it on the web page and ears can hear it, then it's content that a web visitor will either absorb or overlook. Photos are blocks of content. Streaming videos are blocks of content. Amazon affiliate banners along the top of the page are blocks of content.

No one is confusing original content with ads. Re-read what I wrote, then take a moment to read the more detailed explanation that I followed up with. Until then, don't let your knee jerk just yet because it doesn't take much mental effort to understand the concept of dividing a page into blocks, which is my point. Your counter-argument would be more comprehensible if you could articulate it better than Puh-lease.

incrediBILL

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 2:21 am on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ads are content?

Yes they are, did you miss the memo?

The phone book "Yellow Pages" are the ultimate example of ads as content.

In certain sites the ads can be very important content actually leading the visitor to exactly what they want.

Take for instance a plumber directory site, which is more important:

1. the list of plumbers on your page or,
2. the plumbers in the AdSense ads?

Take a classified ad site, which is more important:

1. the classified ads placed by members or,
2. the ads for similar products in the sidebar

Take a travel site like EFVs, which is more important:

1. his content about transportation or,
2. the ads about deals on that transportation

The answer is obvious: which is more important is the one that solves the need of the visitor to your site best, whether it's your page content or the ad they clicked.

callivert

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 3:35 am on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

If blended adsense ads are this wicked, affiliate links must be the work of the Devil.

Side note: I am not surprised to read such statements here. There seems to be a deep rooted interest in defending shady tactics, be it MFAs ("it's just some sort of content"), Parked Domains ("it's just direct navigation traffic") or Blending ("it's just to overcome ad blindness").

Side side note:
If you're not a part of the internet economy, all this emphasis on inducing surfers to spend money must seem rather distasteful. But I guess that's why we're hanging around at the webmasterworld adsense forum and not wikipedia.

Hobbs

WebmasterWorld Senior Member hobbs us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 11:57 am on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I thought this was a discussion about blending.

See_It_Now

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 12:32 pm on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

To me 'blending' would be an attempt to overcome banner blindness - to get the visitor to actually see and consider the ads. I have no problem with this. If Google is presenting good ads to your page then you might be doing your visitors a service by drawing their attention to them.

Camouflage is attempting to trick people and is not ethical.

europeforvisitors



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 5:22 pm on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

To me 'blending' would be an attempt to overcome banner blindness - to get the visitor to actually see and consider the ads.

I don't see how making ads less visible is going to overcome "banner blindness." What it will do, if used in an exploitative way, is fool clueless users into thinking that ads are part of the navigation scheme. Even if only a few percent of users are confused enough to click on an ad by mistake, that's enough to make the difference between a little bit of revenue and a whole lot more revenue--at least until Smart Pricing or advertisers' reaction to Placement Reports have a negative effect on EPC.

By "in an exploitative way," I mean obviously cynical practices such as using three blended AdSense units "above the fold" so that users click on ads in an attempt to find the information they were looking for when they arrived on the page.

incrediBILL

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 6:39 pm on Aug 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

All good blending does is not set off the users alarms that you're overtly trying to sell them something. There's nothing unethical about having the ads be the same color and font as the rest of your page. However, when you try to design it into the page as part of your actual content, such as a list of articles or site navigation that I've seen done so well it even fooled me until I saw the "Ads by Google" - that's a problem.

Google does yell at people for doing that and about the only thing they require is you put "Sponsored Links" above the ads and they're fine.

dlcmh

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 8:33 am on Aug 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

Any thoughts on this layout? (Think typical Wordpress site)

Header (logo, site name)

Left Sidebar (180px wide)
- Navigation
- Merchant affiliate banners

Content Area (550px wide, sandwiched between both sidebars)
- Article title
- 336 x 280 blended Adsense
- Article (would need you to press Page Down once to see this assuming your monitor is at 1024 x 768)

Right Sidebar (180px wide)
- Wordpress (not Google) search box
- Amazon Omakase tower ad

The 336 x 280 block (which happens to be the only Adsense unit on the page) used to be placed at the end of the article and saw dismal click-throughs.

With this new layout, as you can imagine, CTR is through the roof. I've only implemented it for a week, so haven't seen Smart Pricing kick in yet.

Thanks in advance for any opinion.

tomcatuk

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3423941 posted 10:03 am on Aug 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

If the user has to page down to get to the article, and Adsense is visible first, I would say you've created an MFA site. I tend to turn away right away from sites like that (experts exchange for instance)

This 31 message thread spans 2 pages: 31 ( [1] 2 > >
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