I paid for ad's through HotScripts, and this was a solid source of leads. This mixture, along with a fast, secure, easy to use site and great word of mouth lead to an annual growth rate of around 30%, ending up in 2011 with a monthly income of just over $5000. Not bad for what started out as a side-project. I took none of this for granted, and worked by butt off every day.
It's key to note from 2007 to 2011 a great consolidation was taking place, with Google eating, for me at least, 90% of all search traffic.
Then the spammers hit. My site was targeted with millions of low quality links, which lead to a Google penalty in 2012. I lost 90% of my traffic and along with it, 90% of my revenue.
4 years on and I've never actually recovered from my penalty, with traffic being manually limited to under 30 clicks on any particular day.
I've done my best to advertise, with Google capturing the lions share. Unfortunately I too have very little luck with this channel, with only 1 $4 conversion after hundreds spent.
The real kicker here, and my reason for posting, is the difference between what was my organic traffic then, and my ad traffic now, is nowhere near the same in terms of quality and obviously, conversions.
I guess my point is the current situation, basically 2 companies controlling so much traffic, seems, well, bad for small business in this country. I value what they bring to the table and fully understand why they're so popular. But is things keep on this way where does that lead the guys like me? Is this just the way it has to be? Is the dream of the open Internet already dead?
It wasn't till we realised we had 10,000+ spammy links pointed at our site that we wondered whether we had been the victim of some malicious attack. We couldn't recover the penalty to the site no matter how hard we worked and have had to rebuild at a new domain as a result.
For small businesses like us, is it really possible for a competitor to just destroy our online credibility like that or am I just paranoid?
What I'm wondering is how easy it is really to get to top at some more obscure search term by just using nasty black hat tactics. I'm also wondering if this is actually the easiest way to get top of search results. If that is the case than it's really alarming IMHO.
SEO is a big industry and taking down competitors is a part of being the top N results.
I've forked out a lot (for us) on adwords and the return has been negligible to say the least.
Does this mean that the democratizing power of the internet has been swallowed up for small, lean companies like us who cant afford a mega adwords budget?
For a criminal-justice-system analogy, it's similar in concept (though not in extremity) to SWATting. And I don't think we want governments to wash their hands of that and say "not our fault our system is abusable that way, it's all on you to do something about it after the fact".
The credit rating agencies could establish reasonably secure channels directly to consumers (passwords would be a start, dedicated tokens would be best), and require explicit authorization through the secure channel for new lines of credit. No account system is perfect, but it'd be a hell of a lot harder to break than "prove your knowledge of full name, address, DOB, and SSN" which are shared and stored all over the place, and bound to leak.
The financial industry or the government (probably at the financial industry's behest) could sign/distribute cryptographic identities along with plastic ones. Opening a new account could require a signature from a signed certificate.
Banks could send prompts to your smartphone asking you to approve/reject ACH and even credit card transactions, ala Venmo. Or you could sign them from a device you control, as with Bitcoin. (Instead, when we get cryptographic signing for payments at all, we get cards which sign all transactions presented to them by devices the consumer doesn't control, without verifying the cardholder's intent except through the merchant's terminal, whose UI could be lying. And we're still stuck with shared secrets for online payments).
A lot is possible, the financial industry has simply chosen to put consumers (and itself) through the hassle and expense of cleaning up after fraud because it's cheaper than a serious attempt at an authentication system.
Google does something much like this - but without regulation or clear appeal process.
If Google's approach is encouraging or enabling fraud, I'd like to see to it they're the ones who are motivated to change their approach. Making them legally responsible for the actions of their algorithms, preferably with penalties steep enough that even they can't ignore the resulting fines, might not be a bad start.
If the police simply refused to respond until you'd done the full investigation yourself and handed in the proof, and then the only thing they'd do was acknowledge "yup, that guy stole your wallet, we won't assume he legitimately possesses that wallet anymore but we also won't do anything to get it back or prosecute him", then you'd have an analogy.
Also, have you tried reporting a minor crime in a major city recently? Me: "My (nice road racing) bike was stolen. Here's the video tape from the security camera showing the crime and the thief's face." Cops: "That's nice for you. Come back in a week and see if your bike is in our shed if you like. Cheerio".
I spend an average of 10-15 hours/week disavowing bad links our competitors build. I've automated most of it now so it's going faster, but it's out of control.
Their latest update of the Penguin algorithm states it is more "granular" and also stated it will really only penalize the pages that have the bad links pointing to it, rather than the whole site.
Small steps, I know but at least they are doing something it seems.
2) Email Google directly. It is sometimes difficult to find a way to email, but once you do they'll take care of it.
So a easy way to game that was to set up "link farms" that pointed to each other, but not really offering anything worthwhile except a bunch of words people were likely to search for.
Why "in this country"? Isn't it a problem for the entrepreneurs in the rest of the world too?
Few people in Russia use Google for Russian language searches, this is because Google is not as good at declining Russian nouns and conjugating Russian verbs. Yandex gives more results of a higher quality for certain searches.
That has no bearing on whether Chinese businesses care. Obviously there are tons of Chinese businesses that sell outside China, including retail businesses, and their customers DO use Google.
Same for the Russian case.
So a reasonable explanation is that Russians are increasingly using Google's apps: gmail, google calendar, the google now launcher; which probably has something to do with the fact that these apps come preinstalled on their phones. Not necessarily that they prefer Google for searching for Russian-language websites.
This is not true, Google has >20% share in Russia iirc
Are you saying competitors maliciously sabotaged your ranking? Or that you bought SEO services from an unscrupulous company?
I have seen the consequences of paying for SEO. They spam your site URL on random web forums. If you pay for SEO, you are very likely paying people to use bots and sweatshops to spam your site url via low quality garbage links dumped on Twitter, on web site hosts, in comment sections and forums. A lot of this traffic originates from criminal botnets. Seriously, don't do it.
As an example I just pulled out of our filter, here's what you're really paying for when you pay for SEO: https://twitter.com/karenhall191
Unfortunately, as a web hosting provider (neocities.org), I have to deal with some of the fallout from this. Google's business model creates this problem, but they provide little support and few tools to help us deal with it (reporting API please?), and we're largely forced to go it alone.
Because they tell us:
>How does one determine their site is "punished"?
Because it suddenly falls behind in results?
Without a real way to understand what's actually going on, you're just shooting at the darkness. It feels more like worshiping a cargo cult than doing something actually productive.
That's no more a reason to doubt spam links' effect than to doubt any other suspected metric, as all as "shooting in the darkness".
What are you gonna do, lie down and have the site end up as low as it can get? Sometimes you do need to fight in the dark, and gauge any changes you make from the reaction you get.
"I'm never going to say to myself "welp, our pagerank went down, time to use Google's weird tool to clean up the negative SEO attack again."" -- is not really an option.
So I've never done any "SEO" work on the site outside of Google's own recommendations with regard to site content, ease of use, etc.
In other words no link building, keyword stuffed pages, etc.
I'm still in the dark all these years later, but my best guess is:
a. I had a blog and forum that, like most of that time (2012's), has occasional spam posts.
b. Those posts would often, but not always, be referenced by the spam links pointing to my site.
c. I had very high rank in Google for several years leading up to the penalty.
Because of this I don't think it was a necessarily a competitor, but rather spammers trying to leech off of that high ranking.
At most, the dream of ad-funded websites might be dead. (I wish!)
This dream created a lot of value by providing free services to Web users. But it also created a lot of harm by enticing those users into closed gardens full of surveillance, which service providers created to gather data to drive ad revenue. I think on net the harm is much greater; we'd have a much more open Internet today if people had gotten used to paying a few dollars a year for ad-free webmail, IM, social networking, search engine access, etc.
What you are wishing for is a world in which access to things like Google Search which we take utterly for granted now are forced to become paid services. What are the implications of that, particularly for the world's poorest?
hmmm so Google will stop being a de facto monopoly while ad networks crumble? Maybe free and/or open search will start flourishing again because finally there is incentive to write readable HTML for all crawlers instead of only returning scannable results when they detect the (highly peculiar) GoogleBot.
Maybe we'll get search engines again that do proper ranking (I hear actual pagerank was not a bad idea), or ones that do a proper AND-search of your keywords instead of trying second-guess you. Maybe they'll even return more than the top 1000 results. Search engines aren't that hard if you don't try to be as big as Google immediately and they just try to be good at that things they're good for.
Walled silos of user-supplied data will fall apart because it's no longer a viable strategy to special-case GoogleBot access to get your locked data appear in the results any way.
Google can no longer afford to arbitrarily overlook tactics which are against their TOS, as long as the player is big enough.
All the while, small business can still advertise if they want, easily enough by making a deal with other businesses (perhaps through a middle-man) and self-hosting the banner, click-through link to the other. Maybe some self-hosted analytics. And because in this hypothetical dream-world the craziness of these huge 3rd party ad-networks is gone, this will actually work, it'll pay, people will click.
Ads will therefore become much less shady as they are currently perceived (like, merely deceitful, not as a proper possible danger to your computer, your data and identity). Hopefully this will change the public idea of what ads can and should be in such a way that these ridiculous 3rd party ad networks with their "accidental" malicious code and ubiquitous tracking will never get a foothold again.
There might also be some downsides, though.
(The world's poorest people are a really bad target audience for ads - they have very little discretionary income!)
Meanwhile, the cost of Internet access for the poorest people is at least an order of magnitude bigger, maybe two orders of magnitude (since the cost to Google probably is much less than $1). Also, poor people's main or only Internet access is often via smartphones, and mobile data costs much more per GB than landline ISPs.
On the margin, some people who can afford Internet access today would not be able to also afford (as many) paid services. I'm willing to pay this price, in exchange for everyone who could afford access and services (including most of the poor people who can do so now) getting much better and more varied service and much less surveillance. Also, a paid model would enable people who publish blogs and other sites, and various services.
Finally, if you treat Internet or Web access and services as very important and maybe a human right, then governments should provide it or subsidize access or regulate prices. Absent that, for-profit corporations paid by users would be much better than the same corporations paid by advertisers.
"If your content is fresh and linked to from reputable sites, we'll promote you in the search results... for free."
Facebook is purely pay-for-play. Paying for boosted posts is the only way to cut through the noise (unless your content goes organically viral, which only has a 24 hr shelf life).
Some evolution images and stories: http://searchengineland.com/evolution-google-serps-three-key...
It is still "free" but takes a lot of work to get there, and it is worth less than it used to be. Lots of SEO's have gone the way of paid.
The only customers I've gained through web marketing have been organic, coming through bona fide referrals on other sites. The "hit rate" on that has been pretty good, suggesting that the blame can't lie entirely with my crappy sites...
Find your kinds of customers and tailor a landing page with stuff that they want, instead of having the site explain everything like a users manual.
Ex: Calls centers do not care at all about the other uses for your product, so for ads for "call center phone systems" don't show them any of that.
You can leave the existimg content there, it will help with SEO and people that want to look deeper. Just make sure the first few pages from ads are exactly what they're looking for and nothing else. They will read more into it if they're interested.
The big thing you're running into is bounce rates because most visitors spend 30 seconds or less deciding if your product is what they want. If you can't convince them "yes, it's perfect" in three sentences most will leave. The easiest and surprisingly effective way to do this is to make the title of the page huge and make it match their search query exactly.
Your sales site should focus on uses, not features. Nobody cares about anything technical so take off the stuff about being built in Node etc... The people looking to buy this don't even know what that is. Too many words they don't know is scary, maybe this isn't what they're looking for.
Dumb down everything so that moronic managers will forward a link to your site to the guys that actually know wtf you're talking about :)
The intentionally deep technical content of the site may be motivated by reasoning backward to your thought process:
Usually it's the technical guys, tasked with researching and finding a product that fits the requirements, who find the site and forward the link to their managers. The managers have no idea what any of it means, but "it looks like good stuff", so "contact them and find out more".
This has been my experience. Of course, that may be a reflection of the self-selecting group of prospects that the site does reach, so your observations are entirely valid!
Now, I understand what's happening. I haven't loaded up the <h1> tags and stuff. I'm appealing to the people who might be looking for something like this. It's very different from selling umbrellas, but we are forced to fit the same mold.
I think the general conclusion is sound: Having such a dominant company that suffers no ill consequences of its mistakes is bad for small business.
You need to have the most appealing intros or people will simply hit X on the tab and move on to someone that does. In short, make absolutely sure it's abundantly clear to a five year old that they've reached the right place within ten seconds or people will go somewhere else.
Also, everyone will be 1/10 qs for study skills. The keyword is far too broad for more than 1% of your ads to be targeted properly. Unless you have thousands of negative keywords I wouldn't go near that one. Google wants ads to be relevant so users will continue to click them. You will be punished severely every time your ad shows up and it's not what the user was looking for
Once management and IT know about the problem there's usually already a shortlist of software to check out and management makes the final decision.
Indeed it is probably self selection of our markets to a large extent :) but it worked for us. In my current and last company new tools and hardware have been exclusively pushed from below. If management doesn't know there's a problem they won't change anything, and most managers hate being told about problems without solutions in hand
There is a market segment of relative laypeople who do not know what this product is, yet could benefit from it nevertheless. However, it is very small and does not represent the most desired customer base. Imagine selling an industrial control mechanism used in water treatment plants. You probably aren't looking to target the product page to people who don't already work in one.
By the same token, a successful ad campaign in this case would be one that effectively targets the search terms used by people that by and large already know what they are looking for, and steering them in my direction.
On the other hand, you both have a point. I am probably underestimating the number of managers looking at the site who, despite working in the VoIP service provider industry, find this all to be Greek. And it's probably equally true that I am reasoning backward from a self-selecting group of customers--the ones to whom I do manage to sell. In other words, survivorship bias, where the survivors are those not spooked by my esoteric content.
So, fair points!
It is always a harsh return to a sad web experience when I have to use someone else computer who don't know about ad blockers. Almost unbearable, to the point that I first grant them the magic of ublock orgin before anything else. They thank me profusely and never go back to the ad riddled experience of the web.
However, there were plenty of clicks. I've just never had a single sale, and only a very small handful of low-quality enquiries, despite lots of traffic.
Never, ever have I heard, "Saw your ad on Google".
Re: article. The screencast (that's how that's called, right?) shows 'this visitor scrolls different' and claims that is how a mobile user scrolls. But that is also how a trackpad (laptop) user who skims through the content scrolls. Basically, its how one 'scans'. Scanning is useful to determine if content is interesting.
Anyway. Its also possible we are talking bots here. Is this possibly the effect of Ad Nauseam ?
Nevertheless, some proceeds in the latter sphere must eventually be realised from the former, by means however diffuse...
This is why tracking is so important. @Parent what is a conversion to you? Maybe you should add something light that the user can do that gives you a sense of their interest other than a purchase.
My organic traffic behaves about as I expect; they often fill out the contact form and we end up having a productive chat. Paid ad traffic, however, unfailingly bounces.
I don't see sales to be my problem, but rather marketing. I'm content with the ease with which prospects are persuaded to buy when they come through the door, but there are just far too few opportunities to have those conversations.
However, I ran 2-day flash-sale and it went unexpectedly good. I never thought devs and tech-savvy people visit websites like that.
Speaking for myself, I have an almost visceral negative reaction with ads. I would (and do) pay dumb amounts of money for a service if that means I'm not served ads.
People love talking about how much they hate ads, and how, no, they're not cheap, they would totally pay for content.
Let's be honest - internet users are cheap. They want stuff for free. And if site A starts charging, they will jump ship to site B, until eventually it's a race to the bottom.
Ads seems to be the only model that works (thus far).
Many attempts have been made to monetise things (a la micropayments).
I believe Google did something before, where you paid cents, or fractions of a cent to authors for article views. This was back in 2012:
And recently Mozilla's Brendan Eich is doing Brave, with bitcoin micropayments. I'd love to see it gain traction, but I don't see it going mainstream.
Look, I know some ad networks go too far - but IMHO, Google/FB ads are hardly that intrusive. (I personally hate pop-up/pop-under ads, and auto-playing videos)
(Disclaimer: I work for Google, but not in ads - above opinions are purely my own).
Most articles/videos on sites like HN fall into this category - I wouldn't have paid to read this article for example. To me, this comment thread is worth much more than the article itself and I don't see anybody here upset that they aren't getting paid to comment.
I guess that means that I would probably pay a subscription fee to a site like HN but that I wouldn't generally pay for the content itself, which does seem a little backwards. Still, that's what's valuable to me. Does anybody else feel this way or am I weird?
For some reason comments are often more interesting than the articles themselves, and people never think of monetizing their comments. Somehow karma is enough of a reward.
If I had to watch an ad for 30 seconds or pay $0.25, the proceeds of which would be distributed to commentators by proportion of karma they earned in the comment section ... I probably wouldn't bother.
It doesn't make much sense to me how I arrive at these utility valuations though.
I'll readily buy the ad-free version if it's any good, and I have the track record to prove it.
I've completely given up trying to control the torrent of spammy apps (games) on my son's IPad. His next device will be an Android.
There's some really valuable info on the net: medical research, good product recommendations, educational materials regarding hobbies and work, etc. I wouldn't mind paying for them(and i do buy some books), but most of these are free, or availble via places like sci-hub.
As for the rest, which is basically enterntainment - i can't imagine no good free alternatives for those - hey, there are many blogs from people who aren't professional writers who offer much better content than the pro media.
I wish there was a search engine focused on the best of those - i feel it would improve the internet by so much.
Let's be honest - many websites are after monetizing whatever they can. They want content cheap to produce. And if readers don't want to buy it, they'll sell your attention and your privacy to advertisers, until eventually it's a race to the bottom."
So.. to me, the opposite holds true. If lets say I was interested in reviews on some technical product I wanted to buy - I would definitely prefer to have a lengthy article that goes over all the details rather than a comment thread which might detail one tiny slice of their experience with the product. So maybe if enough people comment, I can waste some time reading them all and cobble together a larger slice in my head, but again, its tedious, its just easier to go to a single source that has already done it.
Maybe what we really need is better curation than the current voting model.
There are 3 problems with this statement.
1) There is a lot of free content, easily found, and content gets more rapidly out of date nowadays. Paid content must deal with this (newsworthy, in depth competition).
2) Your view is US centric; the vast majority (read: not all) of internet users from other countries generally have less money to spend.
3) The cost of loss of privacy is indirect, therefore hidden, and US companies generally get away with it. This is why data mining is currently profitable.
In order to solve #3 shit must first hit the fan, to increase awareness. #1 is solved by collectively putting the high quality content behind paywall. #2 can in theory be solved by globalisation in long-term. Short-term, dynamic price makes sense, but it makes #1 & #3 worse.
Let me quote the rest of your statement:
> [...] They want stuff for free. And if site A starts charging, they will jump ship to site B, until eventually it's a race to the bottom.
Agreed, except for example for (local) newspapers who also provide online access as part of their sub. Global newspapers have more competition. Especially given the widespread English language.
> Ads seems to be the only model that works (thus far).
For Google, yes. For privacy, no. In apps on an unrooted Android device, yes. On recent iOS and desktops, no (the latter 2 due to ad blockers).
Also, streaming media such as Spotify proves a subscription in a new market (not newspapers) can work. Netflix proves it for video.
> And recently Mozilla's Brendan Eich is doing Brave, with bitcoin micropayments. I'd love to see it gain traction, but I don't see it going mainstream.
Not yet a final, stable non developer version released AFAIK. Also, Eich is no longer part of Mozilla.
1. There is a lot of free content - yeah, the internet is full of free content, but much of is click-bait garbage, or re-posted a billion times. Let's be honest - true, honest-to-goodness original journalism costs money. Good writing costs money. Investigating journalism costs money. Getting people to actually go out into the real world, and interview people, or write about stuff costs money. Who's going to pay for that?
Pick up an article from the New Statesman, or The Economist, or The New York Times - compare that to the offal you get on Buzzfeed, or one of the billion other click-bait sites.
When all those actual journalists go out of business - you'll get everybody coming out of the woodwork complaining that they can't get news, or it's all just PR puff-pieces from companies, or sound-bites from political spokespersons. And people on the internet will whine that <insert random politician> is corrupt and only got elected because nobody could be bothered reporting on politics. Or that everything they read is beholden to corporate or political interests.
2. Your view is US centric - I'm not from the US, so I'm not really sure how to respond to this. Or are you just assuming, because you're not from the US, and it's convenient to erect a strawman?
Or are you saying there's poor people on the internet? Sure, I'm certain there are. In fact, there's poor people without access to access to computers, or the internet either. I suspect those people probably don't care (yet) to read articles from The Economist, or New Statesman either.
I'm specifically addressing people who access these sites, and still want to access them by blocking ads, or circumventing their anti-ad-block. So please don't erect some strawman, or turn this into a "Oh, but I'm poor! Please, give me free stuff!" plea. Poor people have do have problems and deserve compassion - but being able to get free articles from Forbes, or Wired probably isn't their main concern.
3. Cost of privacy is indirect - I see this as market forces. As in, if people don't want to do a normal "I pay a dollar, you give me a newspaper to read", then newspapers need to find other ways to monetise. I do have issues about that - but I certainly don't see either side as particularly clean in this fight.
That said on the matter of independent (read no advertising) investigative journalism publishing online the number of available spots are limited and the first to move will seize the better place on the market. Look at how mediapart.fr established itself in France and how many stories they get out compared to the other newspapers. They are a success established on initial funding giving no power to the funder and now entirely paid by the readers.
Lesson here is there are people willing to pay and support a truly independent online newspaper, the demand is here and the old newspaper who are dependent on ads and controlled by who has the most shares are not fulfilling it.
Investigative journalism is in its death throes, and it's not because of lack of money. It's because of lack of interest from audiences.
Nowadays, journalism is all about who breaks the story first. This is why people are saying (only half-jokingly) that we live in a "post-facto" world: investigating leads and verifying facts take a lot of time, during which your rivals might publish the story and get all the eyeballs and therefore ad money. And if they get the facts wrong, or the entire story ends up being incorrect? No one really cares, because by then everyone has moved on to the next thing that is demanding their attention.
>>Pick up an article from the New Statesman, or The Economist, or The New York Times - compare that to the offal you get on Buzzfeed, or one of the billion other click-bait sites.
Buzzfeed is known for clickbaits, but it has some honest-to-god excellent long-form articles. Here is an example: https://www.buzzfeed.com/suzannecope/up-in-the-air-with-caro...
From what i gather so far, they're doing a wonderful job and expanding rapidly without losing money. I think there's plenty room for initiatives like that in specific niches as well.
My impression of NYT and The Economist and such is that while they're trying, they're still way too tethered to an older model which, among other things, requires more money for (relatively) more crap. And while on behalf of good journalism I lament the period of turmoil as they fight their fight but eventually disappear, I think it's necessary for more targeted, leaner journalism to take over.
How do you explain the success of vice?
But the actual point you were arguing was: Is it legitimate to block ads and/or circumvent paywalls? What about the poor? or non-Americans?
The latter two aren't actually new situations for publishers – they have actually always operated in 0-marginal-cost environments, and have therefore developed strategies to capture any "consumer surplus" they can get. For those cases, there has always been country-specific pricing as well as discount schemes. Most common are probably student discounts, but you can also do price discrimination by making people jump through hoops to get discounts, essentially trading time for money. That's the principle behind supermarket coupons.
Regarding your technical scenarios: You're trying to do some legalistic hair-splitting, in a discussion that isn't even about legality but morality. I hope we'll get to the point where people realise the importance of professional, traditional print outlets, and see that they can obviously not continue to exist without our willingness to spend some money. I'm rather pessimistic on the former ("yeah I browse the NYT on the loo but it's not worth anything and 15 years ago they were wrong about Iraq WMD and I rather read bloggers from all sides of the spectrum and do the synthesis myself and even learn about Pizzagate and no I don't have a problem with run-on sentences").
The media still has to do its part, as well. I regularly do a shallow read of 10 to 15 publications. I'll happily spend 200$ per year for the privilege, but I haven't found anyone willing to take my money. I'm not going to pay that amount for a single publication as my parents have done over decades.
I'm spending 10$/mo on music now. Before, I had bought maybe two CDs in my entire life. But so far, publishing is blocking "streaming" to protect "CD sales".
It would be interesting to try an ad-blocking program that has an exception: if this article has been written by the journalist who did all the work(or something close to that) , he can show me ads.
Let's do a run down of my monthly online spend.
Hulu premium: $11.99
HBO now (or is it HBO go?): ~$12.99
Sling TV: ~$50
Google play (includes YouTube red): ~$13
Amazon prime (also used for the Amazon TV shows): ~$9
A random Twitch show that I patronize: $6.66
Wikipedia: I donate $10/year, so let's say $1.
So, roughly, ~$125/month.
I use Tumblr heavily and the ads piss me off, but the moment they offer a premium ad-free option they can shut up and take my money.
This way, it provides site owners with an incentive to remove their advertisements when they see they could be earning a higher amount from user donations. Also, users are more likely to donate, because their donations are encouraging site owners to drop their advertisements, and their payments only go to those that share their vision, and remove advertising.
Web users are not cheap. They expect stuff to be free because this is what the web has been designed to: sharing knowledge for free between people. But truth is it is not free, we are paying through privacy invasion and the reason for both of these is google. Google provides whatever you want with no immediate price to pay, though we actually pay in the end, and you can compete with google especially since google has established dominance.
The reason I say we pay in the end is not obvious but self-evident when you think of it, google gathers personal profiling data, exploits it to sell ads paid by advertisers, advertisers include the price of advertising in the product, we buy the product thus paying for the content in the end. The trick is we may have bought the product anyways though now we pay a bit more to pay the advertising costs. That's how we pay google to provide us with seemingly gratis stuff.
> Ads seems to be the only model that works (thus far).
You're starting with a bad assumption. There is a model that worked for years even before this assumption became rampant: do not expect revenue by having a website or webpage that is not an online shop. example: www.debian.org
Then if your content is good enough your audience will pay for you to make more, see the dice tower getting its funding on kickstarter , or the webcomics with patreon, and so on. The point being, there are models that work to get a revenue from publishing online outside of ads, but you need a sizeable audience first.
Ad networks have not "gone too far" -- the whole system is broken, with malware entering 3rd party ad exchanges and fake users browsing fake publisher sites to steal ad revenue (https://whiteops.com/methbot). Google facilitates and profits from all of this.
Don't be distracted by intrusiveness, however bad and block-worthy. Tracking required by ads whether intrusive or not is the higher priority. It enriches a few and loots user data, if not exposing them to malware then abusing them with retargeting, online to offline breaches, and the like. Third party ads and tracking form a system that is stiffing publishers year over year, leading to eventual ruin.
Brave is 3-6x faster than Chrome on Android and not just by blocking ads: blocking trackers is required and those scripts and the "programmatic waterfall" or "header bidder wrappers" or other such junk are to blame.
TMZ Brave Shield results: https://twitter.com/BrendanEich/status/820166880778256384
Brave vs. Chrome on Android: https://twitter.com/BrendanEich/status/820082887194120193
The problems with ad networks are too big to go on for very long. Poor user experience, Ad fraud, malware, the indiscriminate gathering and selling of user information. It's just a matter of time 'till everyone has a adblocker.
The ad networks are just waiting for premium content (eg ESPN) to go programmatic. The cable networks who own that content are slowly wearing down. Once those floodgates open there will be a whole new arms race.
You can't say that micropayments doesn't work when ads ARE micropayments. They're just micropayments with a particular set of properties.
The only question remaining is which of those properties are necessary. Is it actually necessary that your nickel causes an ad to be displayed, or is it just easier and the way we've organized things so far?
So, no, it is by no means a micropayment. And even if I were charged for overage, and I were over my monthly limit, I wouldn't be charged at a rate of $1 for 20 MB.
Not having readership is one thing - but people who still want your content, but refuse to pay, or view the ads, well that's another.
I respect people who don't view sites like say, the NYT, or WSJ or The Economist etc. because those sites show ads. Or that won't buy the hardcopy magazines because there is ad space.
What I can't respect is people still trying to view those sites and defeat their anti-ad-blocks.
Or who complain about how link-baity the articles on HN are, or why there are fluff pieces here - but don't think, hey, good content costs money
I suppose if those sites went the way of intrusive, pop-under/pop-over ads, I might chance my tune - but on the whole, I've found the text/small image ads so far on them a reasonable exchange.
It has become so much of an issue that my advice on which antivirus to install has shifted from xxx to uBlock Origin. It's just basic computer hygiene, and I would really like if content creator would move away from ad network based advertising.
Now ad-blocking gets more and more mainstream - and many sites (especially news sites apparently) start to panic, pleading users to disable their ad-blockers or putting up ad-blocker-blockers...
You claim that you would "never consider paying for a news site", because it'll just get re-posted somewhere else.
I urge you to think and reflect on what you've just claimed.
Investigative journalism costs money. Going out and interviewing people, or taking photographs costs money. Digging through old archives, or filing Freedom of Information requests to your local government body costs money.
If everybody stops doing that - what exactly are you going to re-post? Kim Kardashian's selfie feed? Cute photos of cats?
WSJ and NYT do journalism - you may not agree with everything they write, but let's be honest, they do real, honest-to-goodness journalistic work. I have a lot of respect for their craft - they're what keeps companies and politicians honest as well, so I see them as essentially to a functional democracy.
Or let's put it closer to home - we techies complain that a lot of news content is just PR puff-pieces from hardware/software companies.
Well, sites like IDW, Anandtech, Phoronix, Engadget, Artstechnica - they do actual reporting, they go out and buy components and test them etc. That costs money.
By your argument, you refuse to pay because somebody will just re-post it - yeah, but somebody has to do the original work. So you are basically spiting the hand that feeds you
An issue is that for a high quality investigative story, say the Boston Globe's story about how the catholic church covered up abuse by priests for years, is that although it is expensive to produce, and interesting, it is difficult for me to quantify how I should value it. I'm neither from Boston, nor catholic, so in a sense that story is completely irrelevant to me. It's going to be the same with most stories, i.e. they're highly likely to be irrelevant to an individual.
The bigger issue is that the conclusion to your argument is that we should be obliged to pay for investigative journalism. I would argue that if society as a whole benefits from something, but an individual doesn't, then it should be the government's responsibility to support it. The BBC seems to work well, and maybe something like that could work on a state-level in the US.
Sure, the BBC (British) or ABC (Australia) model seems to work well - but there's been funding spats in the past.
It's not that hard to imagine a world where the Prime Minister thinks "These silly ivory-tower journalists are just using their rag to rail on me! Why the heck am I signing off on more funding. Cutbacks!".
That and there's many countries where I'd rather an independent journalistic service.
Things change, and it's perfectly normal that this can cause turmoil and turn winners into losers (and vice versa) until everything stabilizes again... for a while.
It runs a local DNS cache that blacklists ad domains (so basically how uBlock Origin works but utilizing DNS instead of just dropping the elements on the page).
There are a few sites I've had to whitelist but in general I don't even think about it running anymore, but all devices on my local newtork are ad free.
Before I installed Privacy Badger, my experience was usually ads for stuff I really didn't care about, unrelated to the subject of the website. Then I start searching for something, find what I want to buy and buy it. Then for months I get ads everywhere for the product I just bought. Never for example for accessories.
Of course, ads have to be as obnoxious as possible. Not just being there if you want to give them some attention, no they have to destroy your reading experience.
I once gave a news site a nice donation. By sheer coincidence right after that they changed the layout to the point I stopped visiting. Of course, my donation could easily be seen as a reward for the articles I read there before, but it didn't feel right.
The few times I've clicked on ads were for odd geek products (SBC). A few times I found a website / company that indeed taught me something about a brand / product / idea ... but in retrospect a webpage ad is way too superficial for me to know that in advance, and doesn't trigger curiosity much (offseted by the browsing experience penalties).
Either there are enough highly susceptible people to offset the ad-immune crowd, or marketing works in much more sophisticated ways than we realize.
I like to think I fall into the same category, where ads don't prompt me to spend money I wasn't going to spend before, but I think all else being equal I stick to brands I've heard of (via ads).
Early on I was fond of both brands, but later, if you offered pepsi half the price I'd still pick out a can of coke.
Now I don't drink anything but water so ..
I'm still subject to influence, because I have eyes, but it's mostly negatively, advertising is a cheap trick void of information to me. I can't buy something because a handsome male pretended to use it in a video.
Even those with informations are often lying to put a spin on their product. Health products with a new molecule. Green vehicles. etc
Plus if you know a bit about production you know brands are often using the same materials with a few superficially differenciating details; so in the end.. same product.
I still have a technical mind, and it's my main mode of functionning. Influence can still be there but I'd bet 10$ it's barely significant.
I don't really understand your point but I'm not educated in the subject either so ..
Since it is inconsequential to you, you don't care or notice the impact.
Do they think
- "meh it's all bs ..."
- "hmm I'd like that! can't wait to go to the mall and get one"
- "oh I didn't know this, it could help me <there>"
I recall feeling 3) once in my life, it surprised me because that was my first deep positive reaction to an ad. Even though I've seen similar products all my life.
Does marketing count on negative bias in their theory ? "he may dislike the add but we have a foot in the door now, he'll buy our shit later"
The topic is that the traffic the ads bought were bots or click farms.
If the % is high, then there is a case to be made that most of the clicks are from abroad VPNing into the US.
There are companies out there that provide paid anonymous, reliable (not hacked) proxy servers that run on consumer internet connections though, and those would be very hard to detect as vpn / proxy connections.
Another way is through capabilities where you have a computer that identifies itself as a macOS device but has the TCP/IP stack of a windows device – that's a proxy ! I would recommend the source code of p0f or the book silence on the wire to learn more about the topic.
Bangladesh didn't make the cut. :-)
I don't know if big companies get special treatment, but as a small startup, these ad networks just don't seem to work at all.
Sometimes I feel that the reason why big companies advertise through Facebook/LinkedIn/Google is not to promote themselves, but rather, to bleed small competitors out of business by inflating the CPC/cost of acquisition for their industry.
Facebook on the other hand... Probably spend $2000 trying all sorts of things over the years and I'm not sure if there's a single new customer that can be attributed to it.
Big companies' ad campaigns do have their weaknesses. Their keywords can be poached by small competitors. Well-known brands invite comparisons, e.g. "HipUpStart.io is a better $BIG_BOX_BRAND."
Bounce rates that high mean something is extremely wrong with your site or the keywords you're advertising for. I've purposely setup some bogus ads to use as controls and I still only get around 85% bounce rate. If your site is interesting enough people will sometimes stick around even if they reach you randomly.
Niche products tend to do better with advertising, less competition.
Basically if it's a complete failure you're doing it wrong. Whether you can get a positive ROI is a different story
Though your point is well taken, we need to find a better approach. People are sensitive about the topic.
There is reason companies spend ~$70 billion on Adwords annually. So because Adwords/FB didn't work for you doesn't mean their traffic is 90% useless. And dont get me wrong, I completely acknowledge there is junk traffic on the networks, but filtering this to a minimum is part of getting advertising right. So to get 90% useless traffic, it means you set up campaigns without proper targeting or content, not Adwords/FB is 90% useless.
It was an abject failure, and a chief contributor to the downfall of the company.
I'm no expert but I don't think the incentives were aligned properly there. Here's a Reddit thread that says it better than I can:
Maybe work with an agency next time?
Most savvy people I know managing search for a living would but run something Google put together without quite a few changes.
Some of this comes from lack of understanding the business as well as someone on an account or in house, some is lack of experience since you often can have people barely out of school working on this stuff. Even when I had veteran teams there were still tweaks needed.
Things like keywords that didn't make sense, poor targeting settings, etc. were not uncommon. I know they've made big efforts to improve here, but they still have a long way to go.
I used to have a team account team constantly approach myself and my boss and say I could be doing account management better. My boss started to question my credibility as Google people must be the best at Google.... so I offered them to set up their own separate campaigns rather than mess with mine. The results were atrocious. They do what the manual says to do vs what actuly works. To get the best out of Adwords you need to twist the system to suit your agenda, not Googles. Seriously get an independent professional in to manage Adwords. Try a few if you dont have experienced PPC marketing people in the office as there are many snake oil salesmen in this area. Also watch out for agencies that pitch you with their experienced guy but then put the junior in charge of running the account. Always ask to interview the person that will be hands on with the account and having direct contact to them. Adwords type platforms can be awesome when used well but you can't just throw money at it and expect results.
Did you not test your ads to grasp the conversion rate before spending the money?
On the whole, IMHO, the business people weren't being entirely foolish, or foolhardy with our money - ultimately advertising costs a lot, and some adwords are expensive, and there aren't that many choices if you trying to get leads from a specific type of user.
1M is a pretty big ad-spend for even a medium sized company. If it was a total failure than the leadership had absolutely no clue what was going on. The CEO is to blame.
If you're trying to get 'customer acquisition' then there's no reason that ads could not have been tested - you should have been able to resolve the unknown one for under $50K.
Granted - every situation is different and I understand it's not always so clean - but still - 1M is a lot especially if it affected the company. Sounds really bad.
You'd be surprised how a lot of marketing budget is wasted.
Especially in brand advertising, where there is no directly measurable ROI.
Toothpaste, paper towels, cars, cereal - they spend gazillions on those brands.
But think of this: most 'ad spend' is spent on completely commoditized products - I'll guarantee you the 'no name' toothpaste is as good as 'Crest' or whatever.
Our economy is made up of huge 'soft monopolies'.
The grocery stores, pharmacy chains, 'big brands' like P&G - they are all systematically slow, barriers to entry are surprisingly high (you can make toothpaste easily, but you cannot build a brand easily). Car companies, entertainment channels. Banks.
Talk to some of the front line marketing people buying ads. They are often clueless. They have no idea often if the money is well spent or not. But the have a 'budget' and 'have to spend' it across various channels. They know they need to 'go social' so they buy ads from 'known brands' like Facebook and Google.
Now - the other source of more profitable ads are simply things where you can reasonably get conversions online. Anything for your household that you can buy at Ebay, Amazon etc., i.e. consumer goods.
And then the scammy stuff.
Some of the above complaints about the value of ads have merit - that said - they may not be making products that are amenable to online ads.
While it's very hard to measure the effect of ads trying to create this loyalty, it doesn't mean that it's not worth it.
I've discovered that for myself where I saw ads on Facebook that I didn't click, but later saw a product in store and tried it out. If you just follow conversions, you'd say that the Facebook ad was worthless, whereas it actually influenced my buying decision.
I'd argue that most money on ads is well spent, but to be effective, you must have a huge budget. People need to see your ad multiple times, so that they'll be familiar with a product. If you don't have that budget, it'll be very hard to use ads effectively. But that's no fault of FB or Google, that's just psychology.
The real issue is that neither of these claims constitute data. Only large scale research tracking traffic across many websites would let us come to meaningful conclusions and that sort of research is something I haven't seen yet . . . which is likely why we are stuck with all these he said she said stories about how social media is a useless moneysink or a veritable gold mine depending on who you ask
I could easily make a shitty ad and send it to a blog post I just wrote that 99.999999999% of the world doesn't care about, and find 100% bounce rate and burn through $10,000 in a few days.
I work with Adwords for a living (part of it, anyway) and can assure OP that if 90% of this traffic was useless, I'd be out of a job. I use heatmaps and other CRO tools and regularly watch my funnel go from an ad > a form generated on a website.
But if I then see that traffic behave about 90% like garbage relative than organic visitors -- that puts me at two orders of magnitude off, which is quite insane.
My main point is the CPM versus CPC audience-mix.
at least one similarity to Poker, Daytrading, Daily Fantasy Sports
so with a more objective criticism, "the full story", new projects might nix these kind of ad campaigns from the budget and Facebook and Google will get one tenth of the revenue?
Ironic because you pointed out the similarity after deciding to write about the dissimilarities.
It was all profitable. Ad agencies are borderline scammers - they measure traffic and clicks as performance, which makes you to spend more money to increase "performance" and pay more agency fees.
Sometimes I burned $15000 before first conversion, but ROI was always positive in the end.
People launching ads without any experience, redirecting people to homepage and loosing money are the same kind of people trying trade stock market and loosing money, creating their own amateur e-commerce shop and loosing money getting zero customers, hiring high-school nephew for company website etc etc. You need experience, and before that - knowledge.
First, manage your ads in-house. Agencies have no reason to work for your conversions, that's not their business model.
Second, don't treat ads like "we'll slap users with our ad and see what happens". Prepare user flow, conversion funnel, dedicated landing pages, drip campaigns, remarketing etc.
Adwords and Facebook are fully-fledged promotion channels and they have to be treated as such. It's a craft which consultants make huge money from - because they know how to bring profits.
A percent of media model isn't perfect, but if a client isn't seeing results, the relationship won't last long, and word gets around.
Now, there are scammy agencies out there, but it is hardly the norm. I loved stealing business from them because it was shooting fish in a barrel with all the problems on those accounts.
Be careful about making such broad, and highly inaccurate statements... They really don't help paint you in the best light.
What paints me in good light is my results and my results only. Also, I'm a cool, likable guy :)
I had my share of dealing with agencies and nothing beats knowledge of business goals, internal processes and clientbase and reports honesty while working in-house.
Many agencies exist because it's cheaper to outsource. Just like Indian coders - but quality of work is often questionable.
I stand by my words and refuse all agency work - still, I have many recruiters regularly saying "hi" on LinkedIn.
Next, I experimented with very low budgets for my own websites.
After that, small business for family friend. It all went surprisingly well and wasn't that hard, really. You just need to be very data-driven and methodical.
Game changer for me was NGO and Adwords grant (https://www.google.com/grants/), which gives you $10 000 per month. You can experiment without fear, trying everything you read or thought about.
When you optimize campaigns and grant limitations are starting being annoying, that's when you are ready for the real big work.