A reader recently asked a question that neither I nor anyone I know can answer: Who, exactly, clicks on Google sponsored ads? This question is posed in greater detail on webvapors.com, with one suggested answer being that the folks who are clicking on ads are the ones who don't realize they are ads and that, when they do, there will be hell to pay (or at least lawsuits to fight, when Google's revenue collapses). This seems one possible answer, as does the idea that at least some of the clickers are hired guns or bots (i.e., clickfraud). And then, true, some folks swear by the sponsored ads as a means of finding small, focused retailers, so there is definitely some real value there.
But this whole issue reminds me of 1999, when no one could say exactly why company after company was shelling out for massive portal deals when the price could not be justified on the basis of ROI. The answer--"because we have to be there or our competitors will"--was accepted at the time, but seemed a bit hollow after the collapse.
So all of you honest clickers out there, please weigh in and help solve this mystery. I realize it's now out-of-fashion, but I still worry about click-fraud--specifically the possibility that someone will suddenly prove that it accounts for larger percentage of clicks than everyone thinks. I realize that the demonstrable ROI should rein in excitement, but I've heard that argument before as well. And back in those days, we didn't learn that ROIs had gone to hell until it was too late.