I want to look briefly at a specific aspect of one of the web’s greatest commercial success stories, Google. AdWords is the name for the pay per click service offered by Google to advertisers for the sponsored links that appear beside the queries entered into their search engine. Google explain their advertising system this way: “Concerned about costs? Don’t worry – AdWords puts you in complete control of your spending. Set your budget. There’s no minimum spending requirement – the amount you pay for AdWords is up to you. You can, for instance, set a daily budget of five dollars and a maximum cost of ten cents for each click on your ad. Avoid guesswork. We provide keyword traffic and cost estimates so you can make informed decisions about choosing keywords and maximizing your budget. (Estimate keyword costs) Pay only for results. You’re charged only if someone clicks your ad, not when your ad is displayed.”
So what Google does is match searches with relevant advertising. Now it is the advertiser who initially decides what keywords are relevant to their product, but Google helps them with this since they offer a search for effective AdWords function. While the advertisers determine how much they are prepared to pay both per click and in total, the more people click on an ad the less Google charges per click (their search engine dominance is based on ‘ relevance’ AKA ‘popularity’ and they are obsessed with preserving this). A simple mathematical formula is used to work out a Google AdWords rating but I won’t bore you by actually going through it here; suffice to say that the most effective ads are charged at lower rates and shown the most often. So to use AdWords successfully an advertiser has to write good copy and bid high enough on click payments to be displayed.
Where Google led others have followed, and a similar but less effective system operates on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Until last spring I had a number of profiles on MySpace most of which mentioned my passion for communism (anti-Bolshevik of course!), but the data miners didn’t seem to know the difference between real communism and fake communist tendencies that are now historically discredited – therefore when I was on MySpace I was often subjected to adverts with the following headlines: “School trips to Russia”, “All types of Russian Visas”, “Trotsky T-Shirts & Books” and even “Russian Beauties Seek Dating And Marriage”. Since like Bordiga and many others I view what happened in Russia under the Bolsheviks as a capitalist and not a communist revolution, these ads were of little interest to me and had been poorly targeted. Naturally the data miners are constantly attempting to refine their ad placement but since they never got me to click on anything, they were unable to learn much about what pushed my buttons, and I’d say the same is true for many readers of my blogs – a number of those from outside the UK wondered why after visiting my old MySpace pages they had been bombarded with ads for products associated with people they’ve never heard of; these were invariably British micro-celebrities such as Abi Titmuss who’d been lampooned – often just in passing – in my blogs or the accompanying comments.
That said, the data miners expect a certain failure rate, so the fact that they’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful at targeting ads at me and my blog readers isn’t statistically significant to them, but it does demonstrate that despite the hype their techniques are often too crude to work. What I haven’t worked out, but maybe someone else has, is when it would be more damaging to the click thru advertising industry for me to click on an ad that doesn’t interest me rather than ignoring it. Is there a way of driving up costs for advertisers by clicking thru to their product but not buying it that will discourage them from using click thru? Since this must vary from web service to web service, we clearly need specific equations to work out how to do click thru ad busting on specific sites such as Google and Bebo.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/ – you know it makes (no) sense!
Tags: Abi Timuss, ad busting, advertising, AdWords, Amadeo Bordiga, Bebo, capitalism, click thru, click thru ad busting, communism, dating and marriage, Google, micro-celebrities, MySpace, pay per click, Russian beauties, Trotsky