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Opinion on Off Topic Ads



1:36 am on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

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

I get many calls and emails a week from all sorts of people wanting to discuss running ad campaigns on my site but most of them are off topic and I try to keep everything on the site very much on target to the topic.

Most of them I turn down but my wife has started chiming in "TAKE THE MONEY! TAKE THE MONEY!" and I keep chanting "OFF TOPIC ADS ARE A CREDIBILITY ISSUE!" which obviously is longer, less profitable and less catchy than her chant "TAKE THE MONEY!".

The question then is when do you cave in and accept off topic ads? Ever? Never?

I've been very hesitant to take the plunge but the pressure is building with 16 calls on my answering machine waiting for an an answer as well as dozens of emails.

Has anyone taken the plunge and let off topic ads run and what was the outcome?

Any serious repercussions?

I'd love some feedback on this issue as I'm being torn between greed and relevance.


1:51 am on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

How off topic is off topic?

We found as soon as we started running banners for advertisers that were not exactly "on topic" that not only would the clickthrough on throse banners remain at pretty much zero, the clickthrough on other far more relevant banners also dropped. Users just tuned out totally.

I guess it depends to an extent on your stock of adverts - and the balance betwen on and off topic advertisers. If you've got say two dozen very on topic advertisers and want to drop in one or two purple pill merchants, then you're probably not going to do too much harm, but I'd suggest being leery of adding too many in, and as you do, keep an eye on the performance of the other on topic adverts.

Manage the off topics ones so they are shown less frequently and interspersed with a lot of better on topic adverts.

My 2 cents


2:19 am on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Pretend your site is a TV show. The ad you're considering comes on the air. Would it make you (or your typical visitor) angry or offended? If so, don't use it. If not, use it.

You get car commercials in shows that aren't about cars, restaurant commericals on non-food channels... advertising usually is off-topic.

An example: I've noticed that VH1 has been running diaper and make-up ads during shows about heavy metal! That seems odd to me. But who knows. Maybe young mothers are the main fans of heavy metal shows these days. I have no babies, but I don't care if I see a diaper commercial. People mostly tune out advertising anyway.


1:11 pm on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Oooh, is there a hormonal change when you give birth that makes you start liking Dido ;)


3:32 pm on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

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

How off topic is off topic?

Very off topic - one is a media agency that just wants to snag a spot on my site to shovel whatever customers ads in the spot that has inventory they need to deplete so it could be anything. The fact that I wouldn't have much say in the content means it would be much like running FastClick :)

I have been sampling the concept on a single page that gets about 50K impressions a month and the CTR is a miserable 0.50% which is much less than AdSense and other ads I'm running. Obviously these ads have no direct bearing on how someone else's ads would perform, but I think it's kind of a decent indicator people aren't interested in any old junk like "CLICK ON THE COCKROACH".


6:02 pm on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

It's nice to see someone asking this question. I feel like there's so much discussion about how to add just any old ads to a site to make money. And not so much discussion about how to do this with integrity.

Right now I only show banner ads that are related to the topic of my site. I know I could be making much more if I started showing other kinds of ads but I worry about the "credibility" issue. I don't want my visitors to start going somewhere else out of annoyance with other kinds of ads.

But on the other hand, along with the banners, I also show Google AdSense ads. Mostly they happen to be on-topic but sometimes that are definitely off-topic.

I don't feel so bad about this because they are text ads and I feel that are more subtle and less "in your face."

To sort of come to a balance between the two, I'm considering adding AdBrite text ads into the mix. AdBrite allows people to buy text links just by clicking a link right on your site. You can approve or reject anyone you want. And if you want, AdBrite will sell the text links for you. I think you can still accept or reject whoever you want. Or at least, you can tell them that you don't want ads that might be "risque."

I think this will be a nice thing to add because even though the ads may be off-topic, they will still be text links and therefore more subtle.


6:05 pm on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I also wanted to suggest one other idea...

This may or may not work depending on what kind of site you have.

My site is a large community where around 1/3 of the people who visit are registered members and 2/3 are not members.

For site like this, you could show the off-topic ads only to non-members. And the on-topic ads to both. Then all someone needs to do to NOT see the off-topic ads is to register for the site.

Or maybe do this but have a small subscription fee. Subscribers don't see ads but non-subcribers do.


6:56 pm on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm obviously nowhere near the same 'level' as some of you guys, but this is a strong issue with me as well. On my forum I've told my users that I'm basically putting up whatever will make me money, because a forum is for information, no beauty (at least that's my take on it), but on the website itself, I don't think think my users would tolerate ads for toilet cleaner and dating services, haha.

So basically I had to 'cut a deal' with my users on this issue. On the other hand, the money from the forum ads has allowed me to lease a really nice ded. server to replace the one we've been crippling for a year, and so they like that. :)



7:32 pm on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yeah, it's hard. Because if you choose to sell your own ads and you go to the trouble of making sure that are all on-topic, then you (a) expend more time and effort than just joining some program that shows ads for your and (b) you make less money.

It's a bit of a losing proposition. But it's better than potentially losing your valuable visitors.


10:24 pm on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

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

I'm not talking about just joining some ad program.

a) I sell my own ads already, lots of them, on topic only sponsored links

b) I run adsense, also on topic

c) I have addiliate programs, also on topic

One offer I just turned down out of principal that wanted me to beat all my visitors senseless with pop-unders which I loathe, so I sent them packing.

Then we have people calling wanting to run a "national ad campaign" which has nothing to do with my topic. Maybe I'll find out tomorrow what kind of money they're talking about as $.10 CPC won't get my attention but $1 CPC or a nice hefty CPM fee *MIGHT* turn me into a full blown prostitute for a limited time only.


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