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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Misleading, Excessive & Potentially Dangerous Blog Ads

misleading ad
A very misleading ad that shouldn't be allowed on Adsense...
I've been on an extensive "ad hunt" lately.

Full disclosure: I have ads running on this blog. No big reveal; you can clearly see them. Google Adsense has paid me roughly once a year since I started this blog (shows how little I make) and I get the occasional payment from my affiliate program for the Craftsy, Creativebug and CreativeLive promos. (On that front, I've recently made some decisions about Creativebug that have led me to change my ad focus for it slightly.)

That is, however, the extent of it. From the beginning, I've tried to keep the location of those ads as unobtrusive as possible. The ones running along the sidebar are not in your face and the ones within each post essentially act as dividers for my typically lengthy dissertations.

I suspect that regular readers probably don't even pay any attention to the affiliate ads that break up each of my blog posts, like this one.

Check out Craftsy's latest promos...
[affiliate link]

All in all, I believe this blog has been considerate of visitors in keeping intrusive ads to a minimum. If you're a blogger, are you doing your part to ensure a pleasant experience? If you're a reader, please do tell us what irks you about online ads.

Misleading Ads

About a month ago, I found out that Adsense was offering up a new (new to me; its actually been around since 2015) ad type called matched content. First and foremost, it's pretty much the same thing as any "related posts" widget that you might already have, as I do. The idea is to keep readers around for as long as possible by drawing their attention to similar content that might be on one's blog.

Which is an excellent idea, in and of itself.

However, the immediate result (seen below here) wasn't necessarily attractive. In fact, this example even shows an oddball repeated link that I can't account for, given that I obviously have sufficient posts to fill this unit.

Google Adsense Matched Content Ad Type
Google Adsense's matched content ad unit...

I tried it out briefly, only running it on my three most popular posts. When I went back to one of them (my original Wave Purse Organizer tutorial) after a week or so to see what was up, this was the ad unit that was showing...

Google Adsense Matched Content Ad Type
Sample of Google Adsense matched content ad unit running on my blog...

Excuse me, but none of those links are to my blog! You'd think that at least one of my own posts would have been a better candidate as matched content than any of the above, wouldn't you? After snooping around, it became clear that all instances of that ad unit were actively promoting outside sources about 98% of the time.

Potentially long story short, even though my related posts widget (shown below) will only appear when an individual blog post is selected, it's not getting replaced by Google Adsense's matched content ad unit any time soon.

My existing related posts widget...

The odd thing is, the main reason that I didn't slap this up all over the place from the start is that I knew this ad unit would eventually end up serving up actual ads. (Duh, why else would Adsense develop it?) I'm not a fan of ad links intermingling with content links. Just my personal opinion, but quite often, those are set up to be intentionally and deliberately misleading. Not to say that this one is — although in my examples above, they don't seem to differentiate between external and internal content — but there are definitely ad types that rely on you being unsure that they are ads.

For example, you can find this AdChoices ad unit on a well-known sewing blog. I've actually chopped it down considerably; the actual list is at least three times as long.

The first time I visited this particular blog, a variation of the above was placed within the body of the blog post that I was reading. I clicked on one of the links, and it took me to who knows where... because quite often these links are not as helpful as one presumes they might be.

Then I left.

There are variations of mixed use ad units that identify what is "ad" and what is "content". To me, if that distinction isn't crystal clear to your visitors, you're obviously trying to fool them into clicking. At best, that's not nice. At worst, the practice might end up harming your reader's computer (more on that later).

Consider this tidbit of info from MarketingCharts.com:

Blog excerpt from MarketingCharts.com...

Guess how most people feel when they've been "tricked"?

Watch live classes for FREE at CreativeLive!
[affiliate link]

But it's a free world/internet, so individuals tend to do as they please in terms of plastering ads on their own turf.

Excessive Ads

By the same token, I'm free to do my browsing elsewhere if I'm confronted by so much advertising that my head spins. (Or quite literally, the "loading page" icon spins... and spins... and spins....) Here's an example.

blog page with too much advertising


The above was taken from an unidentified sewing blog and what you see here filled up my whole screen. It's actually not necessary for me to worry about mentioning the blog's name, since the ads are doing a fine job of hiding any identifying content.

Let me say for the record that there's nothing wrong with running a few ads. No reasonable person will boycott your blog just because you have ads on it. (Most of us incur some costs in creating and sharing our blogging adventures, so by all means recoup some of those!) There are even online experts who say that ads are part of an overall professional look, so feel no guilt if you have them. But as with all things in life, don't overdo it!

We get that some people do this "blogging thing" for a living and need to make money. BUT... how much of that money should come from the advertising? There should be a limit as to how many ads one wants to cram onto the screen. Having visitors run screaming for the hills in frustration — or having pages that take forever to load — surely can't be a wise business objective.

Then there's the proliferation of ads that require you to interact with them.

Have your ears been assailed by autoplaying video ads lately? Clicking on them in a panic doesn't work as quickly as you might like. (Or at all; I've read that some ads have fake mute/pause buttons!) Do what I do and set your Volume Mixer to mute your browser. You'll have to turn it back on when you visit specific sites where you do want to hear the content, but you're guaranteed of silence in the meantime.

use Volume Mixer to mute your browser
My Volume Mixer muting CNN Breaking News on my browser ...

Almost as bad are the ads and overlays that partially cover up the screen or content and require you to hunt down and then click — very carefully — on an "x" or a [close] icon to make it go away, like this:

ads that cover content

Advertising that you need to engage with to make it go away so you can see what's underneath...

Sometimes it's a challenge just to find the icon that will close the offending object. Again, the reason for the difficulty is the hope that you'll "miss" and instead click on the ad.

By the way, a close cousin to these ads are the "subscribe" notices that open up as soon as you land on some blogs. (I just got here and you're already hitting me up to subscribe?) Some people — like me — are just commitment-phobes when it comes to subscribing to blogs. I may actually visit on a regular basis, but getting smacked by that "in your face" invite every time is super annoying.

Whatever the case, I really don't understand why people choose to do business that way; i.e., betting that the percent who "don't mind" is higher than the percent who are actually pissed off.

Potentially Dangerous Ads

Scroll back up and take another look at that screen full of ads. Note the appearance of two "start download" ads.

The graphic at the top of this post (shown here again, below right; the big "x" is my creation) was an actual ad that appeared as I was drafting this very post. It was the first time that I had seen it and it really bothered me for the fact that it didn't seem very explicit about what exactly one would be downloading by clicking on it.

misleading ad
Never click on this type of ad!
I wanted to check it out, but couldn't click on it for two reasons. First, it's against Adsense policy to click on one's own ads and, second, one should never click on these types of ads!

What I did was copy out the extremely long hyperlink to a text file to sift out the URL embedded inside. Turned out to be emailaccountlogin.co — just like it says at the bottom; it's apparently an extension designed for Google Chrome that allows you to sign into your various web mail services more "easily".

Whoa, that's a winner of an idea... O_O

I decided that I don't want this ad appearing on my blog, so I added the domain to my Adsense blocked list. After confirming that my settings were blocking all ads for downloadable utilities, I've also begun to block any ad that features an ambiguous "START DOWNLOAD" as the primary graphic. (Hence, the "ad hunt" that I mentioned at the top of this post... which is likely to be an on-going task.)

Like this one:

This one probably qualifies as spyware... 

First of all, you should always read an ad carefully. "Start merging you files"? If they can't even write proper ad copy, you probably shouldn't trust it. (Virtually all of these ads that look more or less similar will take you to a page where you will be prompted to install a toolbar that might be difficult to remove.)

Oh and look here:

Ditto with this one!

Wow — that ad designer is actually getting a lot of work! ;-)

Note that the content of a blog post plays a major role in triggering the types of ads that appear on your page. If you have the word "download" in your text several times, it will likely cause your Adsense feed to run one of these ads. (So if you see one on this page as you read this, that's why... just don't click on it.)

As an FYI, I also don't run ads from various "sensitive" categories that Adsense allows by default. All of this may be overkill (and yes, it will reduce my overall Adsense earnings), but let's just say that I'd like to reduce the chances of people clicking on something and then finding malware on their systems. And I know that people who visit my little corner of the web will also visit other corners, so they may never remember where they picked up any unfortunate bits of code, but it's the principle. We all need to do our part to reduce the danger and lunacy.

Speaking of malware, remember when I covered similar ground in my posts about unscrupulous crafting websites? While handbagspurses.info doesn't exist anymore, unfortunately 4crafter.com and isewfree.com are still out there.

So again, as a blogger, do you care how the advertising on your blog is being received by your readers? Have you ever opened up the various tabs on your Adsense account to see how you can review and block adverts that appear on your site?

And as a reader, have you been sufficiently frustrated by ads that you never return to a blog or website in question? Here's your chance to tell 'em what you think!


  1. I hate the ads that cover content on the web page and like you I hate the popup subscription box the minute I enter the website. The sew so easy website is one that is extremely frustrating for me as there are so many ads that it slows the page down a lot, enough so that I have almost quit going to their site but do like the content.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean. Some sites have to be really good with their content to keep their audience. For me, it's super frustrating when AllFreeSewing's ads make their site difficult to navigate, but I do come back. Regarding your point about not liking ads that cover content, this must be the biggest coincidence of all... Crafty's auto-updating ad units are having a bit of a hiccup today. At one point, the sidebar ad was the wrong size and extended out on top of this post!

  2. I think the ads that cover content are like mosquitos on a warm, humid evening. Pesky....and after not too long, enough to make you head for shelter. I like the site "SewCanShe", but after switching to Mozilla, I almost can't bear to go there anymore because of the ads. However--I put one of the posts into the "print friendly" website and ended up with a much nicer, ad-free version.

    I don't hate all ads, but I do ignore 98% of them. I really can't think of a time when I have clicked on an ad from a blog. But I WILL search out recommendations and don't even need a separate link for them. ~Krista

  3. Thank you for being so considerate of your readers! Using ads that cover the content, is a great way to get me to exit and move onto another site - not exactly what was intended.

    1. I am extremely grateful for any readers that I get. To send them running away for the sake of more ad revenue would be self-defeating and silly. Thanks for joining in on the discussion!

  4. all very confusing but I do ignore the ads, wonder why they pick on certain blogs and not others as I say beyond me!

  5. If I don't like the number or positioning of ads on a blog, I rarely go back, unless the content is what I'm after and can't get elsewhere. In the main, most ads don't bother me, however, I don't like the ones that cover text or video ads. I'm with you on the popup subscribe boxes when they cover text. Again, unless the content is compelling, I'm our of there.

    I've limited my Google Adsense ads to the maximum allowed. I would have like to restrict a couple of more categories, but I can live with them. I do run the matched content and haven't had any problems, but they are in my sidebar. There are always 13 links - 3 external and the rest always to my blog.

  6. Hate ads on blogs and other websites, especially the pop up ones! If they make it difficult for me to read their blog then bye bye I won't be back. I have never clicked on an ad on a blog either. I know people want to earn a little money, but how much can they earn if most people won't click on an ad to purchase something? To me it's not worth the headache of adding ads to my blog. I know the minute I would advertise on my blog I would lose a percentage of followers. I have had followers tell me they won't follow or return to a blog that is loaded with ads. I ignore the ads on the blogs I do like, but if they go too crazy with ads, I stop visiting too. It's just annoying! Do you blog because you want to write and share something of your hobby or do you want to make money? If you want to only make money, then sell your products on a website. Lots of businesses have their website to sell stuff wit a blog secondary and the blogs usually aren't much. Every business on Earth must have a Facebook page too, which is all about selling their products. I don't get why people would "like" a place that sells toilet plungers , for example.

    1. LOL...

      Money makes the world go around and ads are one of the primary ways for that to happen, particularly online. While you may not personally click on ads, I can attest to the fact that enough people do. Whenever I'm featured in AllFreeSewing's newsletter, for example, I usually get a big jump in Adsense revenue. And while I posted about all the "bad ads" that appear that one should be wary of, there are also ads for perfectly legitimate businesses that are in context with a blog's content. (I recall seeing an ad for a major fabric company offering a discount just yesterday as I was editing a post... if it wasn't my own ad and I was looking for fabric, I definitely would have clicked on it.)

      Adding ads to an established blog or website has always been iffy; most online experts actually recommend that one should go that route as early as possible, to avoid any sort of venting or "input" from established followers. I hope that your statement about followers telling you that they won't follow anymore is a paraphrasing of sorts (and depends on what is meant by "loaded with ads"), but I think that if someone were to tell me that, I wouldn't react very well. As I said in my post, it's a free world. I can do what I please with my blog and readers are also free to do as they please in terms of where they get their content. I'm not sure I would welcome someone's insight if it were offered in such a way as to say "run ads and I won't come back".

      I guess what I'm saying is that there is a happy medium that we can all live with and should probably strive for, instead of running a blog/site that's more ad than content or insisting that you have to be without ads, period.


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