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November 15, 2005



I click on them when I'm actually out hunting services, but usually I click them off of the google search results instead of on people's pages.

Tyler Goldberg

I usually peruse them along with the top search results and will only follow through with a click after looking at the domain name and brief description to see if it appears promising. I'd say it is about 50/50 in terms of crap or credence.


Stephen Howard-Sarin

I'll raise my hand: 1 experienced technology professional (OK, tech-media professional) who clicks on Google ads. And yeah, I know they are ads when I move my finger.

Here are my common scenarios:

1) I'm searching for a specific company or commercial service, but I don't know the URL. Often, the company I want purchased a keyword ad based on a variation of their name. That link is therefore in the most convenient location, so I click on it. (I scan the organic listings first, but not every firm is a winner at SEO.)

2) I want to buy a specific thing, but I don't have a clue about the best vendors. This is especially true for gifts. Real example: I bought a kid-sized Louisville Slugger baseball bat the other day for my nephew; the ads were more relevant than the organic listings.

3) I want information, and a marketer can provide that information. This is especially true for product and services information. Real examples: Calif. nanny laws and air conditioner decibel ratings. In these cases, I clicked on ads to inform a future purchase or decision, and I was happy to get the information from someone with an economic interest in getting to know me.



Like the previous posters, I find Google ads to be very useful when I'm searching for a specific product but don't know who sells it online. Just this week I searched for Thanksgiving dinner placecards and found an ad from a party supply store in California that had what I was looking for.

This leads me to my main point of posting: rather than try to measure click fraud or ad usefulness by asking your audience if they are clicking on the ads, you should ask if anyone in your audience is an advertiser and have they seen their traffic and sales grow from Google directed customers. I assume that if click fraud were such a problem, its the advertisers themselves that would be leaving by now due to no discernable increase in Google directed sales at their sites. That advertisers seem to love coming back tells me they are seeing genuine click throughs and sales.


To Ray's point, I tested Google's Adwords (using a very low budget) to derive traffic to a general interest site. I used a very focused band of keywords and I can attest to how fast I chewed through the daily budget. It definitely works because the site in question was providing an online diagnostic service that is neither revenue generating nor one that lends itself to casual curiosity. I checked the clickers' behavior against the site's page view records using the server logs and I do believe with a high degree of confidence that the clicks appeared to be genuine.

I think there is an ever increasing value being placed on sponsored links because people associate this with someone who is serious about offering their specific wares. I do think that higher search placement as a proxy for relevance has been yielding less desirable results especially when it comes to finding sites providing services of a commercial nature.

Jack Miller

Me Too!

I may go for weeks without clicking on a Google ad but then, just like a few nights ago, I was looking for a specific answer and product and I must have clicked on 20 ad links. The good and bad news is that after learning all I could, I went to a specialty store and made my purchase there.

The key point is that Google can serves thousands of ads for almost nothing and millions for next to nothing. One good sessesion of clicks more than pays for weeks of non-click sessions.


I follow a slight variation on the previously mentioned themes. I will search for something specific, usually a product or peice of software that I am convinced has to exist. I will vary the search terms slightly trying to narrow it down to teh right pages. If after a few passes I see the same add continue to show up, even if it sounds slightly off based on the description I will click on it, since I figure they are "all around" what I am trying to find.

Rick Stratton

I click on them.

I click on them in search but not when they are on a website (like John Battelle's site).

Many times when I am looking for specific piece of software or a web software service.

I searched for a specific font and clicked on an ad for

Travel, I click on travel related ads.


I took an informal poll from my IM list today. Sent 'out' to 150 people. 148 people said they have never clicked on a google ad. 2 said they didn't think they had but couldn't be sure. This ranges from professionals and execs to those just starting out their careers. I have alwas wondered who clicked on those ads. It is kind of like the old tootsie roll commercials? how many people really click on google ads? the world may never know.


I found Google's
adsense extremely helpful. I'm
clicking it often
when I'm searching services
and information - not once
I found the
ads more helpful
then the non-ads


I know about Google's clicks both from a buyer's perspective as well as a seller's perspective. I click on links to learn about products and then click on Google ads when I want to look at alternative vendors for the product.

On the seller side, my company bought many many Google adwords and we consistently received qualified leads.

Sam S. Park

Yup, me too. If I have an idea of a specific product that I'm looking to buy, I tend to browse through the ads to do a comparative shopping. My final decision isn't purely based on prices, instead I like to look at the services involved with the vendors (i.e. shipping and handling charges, location - for sales tax purposes, reliability, etc.) Who needs to goto the mall anymore, and who'd want to bother with the holiday shopping rush? As a typical male, I tend to do my research before purchasing items, usually online. So I like my actual purchasing part to be quick and harmless. It appears that for those who know what they want, they'll find the Google ads fairly useful.


I click on them. Just this weekend I was looking for a container for my daughter to use when dipping tapered candles, so that she won't need our glass flower vase. I searched candle stick making equipment, and clicked on several of the ads that appeared looking for the vendor that supplied the best product. The search items were more related to articles on what you needed, or how to make tapers.


i also click on google's adsense links every once in a while.
the main reason for that is that i'm rather an impulsive buyer than searching for a specific product. and since google's ads are so well keyed i occasionally do find some interesting links on my favourite web sites, which in return makes me even pay a bit of attention to the ads displayed.
so, yes, some people even do click without explicitly searching for a product.


As the former CEO of a large travel company that spent millions on offline advertising before shifting a large portion of our spend online, I would argue that Google (and its online bretheren) are the most transparent and measurable advertising yet created. Is there fraud - yes? However, from the person spending $50 to the company spending $50 MM it is easy to back your way from spend to sales and then determine your cost of customer acquisition. Try that with a newspaper - impossible. The reason marketing spend is shifting online is precisely because it is a measurably lower cost channel (although admittedly one has to approximate the cost of offline acquisition in order to make the comparison). However, with online invetory selling out and online rates increasing, there will be an equilibrium reached where advertisers determine that it is now more economical to spend the marginal dollar on another channel (direct marketing, radio, tv, crm).

The bigger question about online advertising is how the cost per aqcuistion is measured. Today, Google has convinced the big advertisers (Expedia, Travelocity, etc) to apply a 30 day look-back to sales suggesting that the customer who clicked through may not purchase on the initial visit but if they purchase within 30 days you should give Google "credit" for the purpose of calculating their cost of acquistion. However, if you click through on a link while looking for a Chicago hotel - choose not to purchase - but then return directly to Expedia 20 days later and purchase a plane ticket to London - should you really give Google credit for that sale? Most marketers are beginning to conclude "no" which then drives down their return measurements and lowers their future willingness to pay.


In a strange way, the worse Google's search results are, the more likely users are to click on the ads. The only reason I ever do is simply because the ad results are closer to what I'm searching it a product, company/other URL, etc. I'll scan the search results briefly, but often the ads that are served up are more targeted.


The key reason I click on sponsored links is that the bidding system favors companies with larger marketing budgets. The fact that the advertisers are sufficiently confident of the attractiveness of their products / services to bid high enhances their credibility.


NY Times had an interesting article concerning Google & "click fraud" with charter airlines (maybe 3-5 months ago) - the only people who were clicking on their ads were competitors. Sometimes, for fun, I just click on a Google sponsor here and there and wonder if I just cost them $1.00 for nothing.

Then I wonder about the masses - a mess of "click fraud" must go on but what the hell do I know - I couldn't figure out the pet rocks, tyco beanie babies, CMGI, $750,000 house with all that liability and expenses and now, Google. I just shake my head and walk the dog!

Andrew GJ Fung

I click on them when I'm reading an article or blog entry that has a very specific topic, and AdSense provides a topic or product that's related. I do know they're ads, btw.

In a sense, it's like having a constantly updating Google Search sidebar. The better it is at identifying what (semantically) I'm reading about and finding what's related on the web, the more useful it is to me. After all, it saves me a trip to the Google home page (or toolbar) and typing in search terms.

Carolyn M.

I was worried about click fraud my self, as I bid on terms in the $4-$6 range. Just signed up with Clickfacts,, free clickfraud monitoring. Not sure of their quality (just signed up) but I figured people may want to know.


We often click on Google ads. We live in the middle of nowhere, so we are often searching for stuff, like wind chime candles, aleppo pepper, ultraviolet purifier bulbs, that aren't stocked out here. A simple search often gets pages of stuff. The ads are often short cuts to the seller sites, as opposed to the info only sites.

We also rent a cottage on Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park (Google it for a great vacation), and we get about 2/3 of our customers from Google. Some find us via search, but most come via our 5 to 8 cent advertisement.

I seriously doubt that anyone buys celery via Google ads, but there are a lot of obscure markets for a lot of obscure things that Google enables. Very few people ever bought or sold anything via Thomas's Directory of Manufacturers, but it made a lot of sense for a small machine shop to put in an ad.

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