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On one hand I like the Adsense model: Google handles your advertising as the aggregator, delivery system, billing system, etc. Not bad. They take their cut and all you do is post up some code. They also do a pretty good job of delivering relevant website links. (And, no, let's not turn this into an overview of Adsense, please.)
On the other hand . . . is the overuse of Adsense on many MANY directory websites going to eventually do some harm "to the industry"? Visitor: "Egads! I thought it was a directory!"
However . . . the other day I was visiting a few directory websites where I say only 1 or 2 Adsense boxes, sinle ads or 2 ads, and - to my eyes - it worked rather nicely. Focused ads. Likely the highest paying. Pages that didn't scream THIS IS ADVERTISING! Instead, the pages whispered "We're a helpful resource and there's some advertising to help pay the bills."
Is too much of a good thing a bad thing?
Are you a fan of "Adsense IS my directory!"? I somewhat doubt anyone will step up to sing those praises . . . whilst it's pretty clear the number of adherents are legion. Still . . . come out, come out whereever you are . . . and pray tell: Since "featuring Adsense" has your experience of running a directory changed?
Has the revenue from "featuring" (lots of well place, conspicuous ads) allowed you do do a better job of making the directory part of the directory 'a better thing'? I can see how that might happen.
You all have seen them: Directories that are heavy on "featuring" (to put it mildly) Adsense, with YahooSM perhaps soon to follow. Little more than AdSense above the fold, like so many other MFA websites.
Is it really any different than "Directories" that put nothing but paid "featured" listings above the fold?
One distinction might be targeting: Depending on the directory and it's SEO or AdsenseOptimization the targeting of the ads "to the website taxonomy at the given level" might not be all that good. So, you click through looking for british-blue-widget-engineering-services and, instead of find that you find Adsense ads for "funny widgets" or the like.
Then again, paid listings above the fold can sometimes be "run of site" - in which case they aren't really spot on as one drills deeper into the directories taxonomy in search of particular information.
Paid listings inserted by the directory webmaster above the fold that are specific, relevant and responsive to visitor expectations at that level of the directory taxonomy are a good thing in my book.
Visitor expectations is a big factor.
Have you ever drilled down into a so-called directory only to find no real listings, a big Adsense block, and some barely related and disorganized (intentionally discombobulated?) "content" below the fold - whose only real purpose/utility is to serve MediaBot?
The "Big Adsense Block" and the "Run of Website Featured Ads" model is prevalent. It has its "working elements" and its dysfunctional elements.
As I stated, above, big block ads might even be a good thing - from a certain POV - if the advertising revenue enables the directory webmaster to devote more resources to improving the substance, quality and operation of the directory itself. And there's the other constant: Is the directory and the directory clickthroughs driving outbound traffic that converts/benefits the advertiser? Or, as always, is the outbound click-event more about the link being the most convenient or available point of escape from an otherwise useless webpage?
But, then again, actions - such as improving on the listings and their display - might detract from people clicking on the Adsense ads . . and who would want that to happen? I guess that's an argument against improving the directory, at least to some people, right? ;-P
[edited by: Webwork at 6:14 pm (utc) on Oct. 8, 2006]
Regardless of a site's focus, given decent overall value to the visitor, a few well-targeted ads shouldn't offend many people. Usually the ads are easy enough to ignore. We're getting used to seeing them on all kinds of sites. These days it's hard to find a site for a TV station or major newspaper that doesn't have some advertising on it.
No visitor to my site has ever even mentioned the AdSense (or YPN) ads. One reason is that they're targeted; and as long as they are, they can provide us with more opportunities to learn about the subject at hand. (There are a few specialized automotive magazines that I subscribe to mainly because of the ads, so I can keep up-to-date with what's new in a segment of the industry.) Another reason my site's visitors don't complain about the ads is that they make up a very small percentage of a page's content.