You know them. Those ads, often text-based, that appear in the sidebars, headers, footers, between posts, in posts, and all over blogs. The ads use an algorithm to evaluate the keyword content and publish ads related to the keywords. We all know how fallible those attempts are, don’t we? When it comes to WTF Blog Design Clutter, the distracting ad that pulls us from the content to the ad with a “WTF is that doing here” thought can ruin your blog reading experience.
A friend of mine shared the story of her husband’s struggle to recover from a stroke on her blog. There were laughter and tears in her stories, but also distractions. Her husband’s nickname is Joe and the ads in the sidebar showed horrible ads for Joe Cool, Joe Blow, Easy Joe, and other obnoxious things including cigarettes and light porn. Totally inappropriate. So many people complained, she took down the ads.
While online advertisers are working overtime to figure out profiling techniques, aiming as much related contextual ads at the blog’s visitors, a lot of the ads are totally unrelated, often insulting or demeaning.
On one work-at-home parent blog I was distracted by three ads for intimate personal products. I was so stunned by their inclusion, I hunted through the page to find why. I noticed an aside joke within the blog post about hemorrhoids – a funny aside not the subject of the post nor representative of the blog post’s topic. That word must have triggered these keyword sensitive ads. I spent more time wondering why than reading and enjoying the post.
Text ads are ugly. Text link ads are worse. They lie. They tell the reader this is a link but when they click through, they find an ad rather than helpful information.
Link pop-up ads and link previews are horrible as they break concentration and the flow of reading and cause all kinds of problems for visually impaired readers. Because so many of these are opt-out rather than opt-in, the reader has to go to the ad site and get it turned off for their usage across the web. This is a serious time waster because if they clear out their cookies cache or change IP addresses, they have to do it again if the ad service loses track of who they are and their IP address. Imagine being constantly scanned by an ad service on every site you visit that has these ads. “Hmmm, are they on the list? Should we show them the ads or not?” That’s a lot of bandwidth wasted for something most people don’t want. I’m not comfortable with that. Are you?
In an attempt to make ads more familiar and “pretty” to resemble traditional magazine and television advertising, text ads are being replaced with Flash ads. These blink, flash, and move around, causing a lot of distraction, and frequent frustration, especially for those on slow and low bandwidth. Many use flash blocking add-ons to their browser so they aren’t exposed to these irritants.
I’m of two minds on blog ads. I love junk mail. I enjoy magazines with pretty ads and pictures. I love studying the ways companies promote their products and the gimmicks they come up with to set trends and fads. I used to own an advertising and printing company. I love studying advertising. It’s fascinating. So I wouldn’t mind ads, if ads are useful and interesting.
I hate most blog ads because they are ugly, poorly placed, distracting, deceptive, and…okay, just ugly.
Ads links are often found under deceptive titles in the sidebar such as Sponsors, We Recommend, or the really irritating “Resources.” These are ADS not sponsors, not recommendations, and certainly not resources. These are out and out lies to fool visitors into clicking, thus making money.
Ads are ads. Make them interesting. Make them obvious. Make them be incentives of their own right. Don’t try to hide them or fool us. You will get burned. Your blog readers are really savvy. They can spot insincere and fakes in a minute. Don’t give them the chance to turn against you.
Are your ads distracting readers? If they are attracting readers to click through, great. If not, are they turning visitors away?
WTF Blog Design Clutter Articles Series
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.