Addicted to novelty since 2001

When Search Engines Disagree

A few weeks back I wondered if I was evil for adding Google AdSense ads to Flowers for Al and Don. Well, I had no cause for concern. Despite that page receiving 4,838 views since November 5, there’s been one click. Worth three cents. Yes, my evilness has netted me three cents (American, so that’s 3.53283 cents Canadian).

What’s the problem? Here’s my theory. Google AdSense evaluates your page’s content, and then displays the ads most appropriate to that page. For example, this entry about Rolling Stone magazine (that also mentions the band) has ads offering the band’s music. I assumed that Google would check out the Flowers page and display, you know, ads for flower companies. Instead, it’s offering ads for AIDS charities and donating your car. These are noble causes, but nobody is hitting that page searching for noble causes. They’re looking for flowers.

Clearly Google isn’t sending people to this page–it must be other search engines. Other search engines have concluded, rightfully, that this is a page about flowers. Google thinks it’s a page about charities. Technically, it’s a page about both things (though you’d think ‘flowers’ in the URL, in most of the linkage and 57 occurrences of the word on the page might tip the scales) I doubt that Google has an appeal process for this sort of thing–it would be untenably gameable (not a word, but it should be). At this rate, I’ll be sending Lambda Legal their cut of my AdSense revenue sometime in 2783.

5 Responses to “When Search Engines Disagree”

  1. Lincoln


    Google doesn’t think it’s a page about charities. RTFFAQ, my friend. :-)

    From Google:
    Why am I getting PSAs?
    There can be many reasons why a website may display less targeted ads or public service ads. Below is a list of the most common issues.

    I think, looking through the relevant points, the one that’s getting you nada in terms of advertising is:

    Your page may contain sensitive content for which relevant paying ads will not be displayed.
    Our system has certain filters in place to protect our advertisers from advertising on pages that could be construed as potentially negative, non-family safe or even offensive. Although the nature of your content may not fit into any of these categories, at times the emphasis of some sensitive subject matters on a page can flag our servers to deliver public service ads to a page.

    So, right or wrong, Google’s filters apparently feel that the content is too sensitive to place advertisements on FFAAD.


  2. Lincoln


    Forget the domain name — just put on your Google tinfoil hat instead.

    That was the only thing that made any sense to me because as you said, contextually, you’ve got the goods. Perhaps your keywords need to be “gay flowers,” as opposed to just flowers — you do show up fifth in those search results, and there are scads of advertisers in AdWords for that term.

    Interestingly, this brings up a point that has come up in a business development idea I’m working on for someone in Toronto, along the lines of your original post: marketing to the gay and lesbian community. One discussion I had about targeting the gay community for wedding services in TO, now that (thankfully) gay marriage is legal, revolved around doing so without appearing opportunistic.

    Food for thought, anyways.



  3. Andrea

    I tried Googling for “gay marriage adsense”. I discovered very few hits. There were several discussion forums in which posters commented that Google replaces “gay marriage” Adsense with PSAs. I also found a few threads where people claimed that Focus on the Family had been targeting Adsense ads on gay-related sites. Due to protest, Google quit offering Adsense for gay-related sites. Not sure how true this is.

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