Is contextual advertising helping or hurting the web? It basically started with Google Adsense even though the concept wasn't new. It had never been done on the scale that Google did it. Now we have Yahoo Publisher. MSN is building their version. We have Konterra and a whole lot of other companies scrambling to cash in on the contextual ad craze.
Initially contextual advertising seems like a good idea. Ads based on the content of your website that might benefit your readers or visitors. Ads that are related to the content you produce that will also help you make a little money for your efforts.
However greed ruins all good things. Now there are probably millions of webpages online that are built for the sole purpose of cashing in on contextual advertising. I'm not talking about people who continue to blog the way they always have or continue to maintain a website full of valuable information that just add contextual advertising to boost their revenue a little.
I'm talking about websites full of scraped content, total spam content, or no content at all that are capitalizing on contextual advertising revenue. They are putting tons of webpages up that have no real value for content to the point that now as you search the web doing research on almost any topic you can think of, you have to sift through all the garbage to find it.
I wrote an article for a client recently. The topic they asked me to research and write about was "Mancoon Cats." Take a moment from this article and go try to search for that phrase. I bet you can't find a page about it within 30 minutes. I'm talking about a page that has real content.
Of course the real name for this cat is a "Maine Coon" Cat, but many people call it by the first name above and it happens to be a popular search phrase. But all you can get on that term is pages full of garbage that link to other pages full of garbage in a complete circle-jerk.
All of those pages contain contextual advertising, mostly Google AdSense though. The theory to make money with contextual advertising is counterintuitive. While most of us build websites and create blogs that people will visit and bookmark to return to, a contextual advertising guru does just the opposite.
To make money with contextual advertising you want your content to be bad. Yes, you want it to be bad. You do not want the user to like what you have on the webpage or find what they are looking for in hopes that after not finding it, they will either do another search in your embedded Google search box or they will click one of the contextual ads on the page in hopes of finding what they came there to find.
The defenders of this type of website say they are "just another way for users to search and find what they are looking for." What a crock. If that page never existed, the user would have clicked to a relevant website in the first place.
The fact that you can easily find these garbage pages proves that Google and the others know they exist and are doing absolutely nothing to curb it even though it goes against their ToS. As long as Google and the others make money, they do not seem to care that the content on the web is becoming half garbage.
I'm not even counting the ones that are registering tons of domain names, then un-registering them before the 5 day grace period is up [discussed here and here]. I am including the monetized parked domains. Many will object to that association and say parked domains are legitimate. However if you registered a domain name with the sole purpose of parking it and letting Google monetize it for you, then you are adding to the garbage.
Temporarily parking a domain name while a website is being built is excusable. Never planning to build the website and registering tons of domain names for the sole purpose of parking and monetizing them adds no value to the web.
It's perfectly legal. There is no crime being committed while doing it. But to claim it is anything other than adding to the garbage on the web is just being in denial.
It also makes it more difficult for those who do wish to add value to the web to find decent domain names. But I don't blame the ones parking the domains or doing domain name kiting for that shortage. For that lays squarely on ICANN's shoulders. If they allowed the creation of more commercially viable TLDs, then there would be no shortage of good domain names.
However, that would not get rid of the contextual advertising disease that has infected the web. Google, Yahoo, and the others need to clean up their act and start policing the websites that use contextual advertising to make sure they are actually putting up content and not just googlespam.
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