Google AdNonSense

Everybody’s putting Google ads on their sites these days – and writing about it – so I’m hardly original. But seeing some of how it works, and wondering about the rest, has made me take sharper notice of ads on other sites.

Google analyzes the text of each page its ads are placed on, so as to place ads suited to those pages. I know that my site is tricky; each of my articles tends to bounce around several different topics, and the search engines were already confused – people arrive at my site via the unlikeliest searches. For example, my page about bras is consistently among the most-visited on my site. People arrive there via many different search terms, but most probably weren’t looking for a discourse on the difficulty of fitting bras and a rant about visible bra straps. Google has sensibly placed there ads for sites where you can actually buy bras, so perhaps in the end some of these people find what they’re looking for (and I get money when they click through – yay!).

Some of the other Google placements are odd. The Google algorithm doesn’t seem to be good at distinguishing words used in different ways or contexts. An article about the Supreme Court’s ruling on the words “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance had two Google ads at the bottom. One was for a Christian history site titled “Fighting for ‘Under God'” , which links to an inarguably appropriate site. But the ad listed above that in the Google box was for an offer on Pledge, a brand of furniture polish.

My article on the education of Muslim students in Italy initially came up with three links for Scientology and one for some other religious thinker. Ugh. I do not care to have my site support Scientology, a money-making scheme disguised as a religion by its inventor (who was a science-fiction author – shouldn’t that tell us something?).

Fortunately, Google allows me to filter out URLs I don’t like, so my site will not display ads linking to those sites. It appears, however, that keeping the Scientologists off my pages will be a daily task – they use many different domain names, I’ve axed five or six already. I’m filtering other things as well; apparently all sorts of loonies pay for their sites to come up when the word “Muslim” is searched. Interestingly, one of the links was to a Muslim dating service (I didn’t filter out that one).

My article on The Great Global Conspiracy predictably turns up ads for the Zapruder film, two political sites, and “American Civil Religion – Search our Database of 101,000 Essays for American Civil Religion”. This latter links to essays.com, a site selling essays and term papers, whose disclaimer disingenuously says: “The papers contained within our web site are for research purposes only! You may not turn in our papers as your own work! You must cite our website as your source! Turning in a paper from our web site as your own is plagerism and is illegal!”

Ethical questions aside, would you want to turn in a paper from a site which can’t even spell “plagiarism” correctly?

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