March 10, 2012

Why are Google ads so inept?

I don't know if you see the same Google ads as I do, but the ads Google chooses to run on my blog when I look at are hilariously abysmal. For example:
Racial discrimination 
Find Racial discrimination Near You. See Actual Customer Reviews!

I'm not making this up. 

Let's try an experiment with another keyword phrase: 

poison oak

For all I know, Google will now put an ad on my website reading "Find Poison oak Near You." Let's try some other guaranteed moneymakers:

dry rot
negative cash flow


I first put Google ads on my website many years ago, and I made more money back then, even though my readership was much smaller. I recall a few weeks into running Google ads, there was an for a documentary on evolution that was so popular with my readership that I earned $10 from just that ad in one day. I figured, wow, Google will of course learn from this mutually profitable venture what kinds of things my readership is interested in, and that will begin a positive feedback loop that will make the ads Google chooses to run on my website ever more relevant to my highly distinctive and hard-to-reach audience. 

Was I ever mistaken. As far as I can tell, after all these years, Google has never learned anything about what ads appeal to my readers and what don't. Or maybe nobody in the whole world has anything to advertise that appeals to my readers.


rightsaidfred said...

Sounds like the application of some inept bureaucratic rules, thus giving us ads for interracial dating on sites that disapprove of such.

Looks like they are leaving some low hanging fruit for the next ad men.

Lawful Neutral said...

Nobody wants your readers for customers, Steve. Our money just isn't good enough for them.

W Baker said...

I was offered "beautiful Chinese women" and where I might find my "Muslim soul"!

I think Page and Brin have a special algorithm for you, Steve. Doesn't anyone at temple know some Jews, who might know some Jews in San Fran who might know either one of them - and get this fixed?

International Jew said...

Once, while reading something about Palestinians, I saw an ad for "meet single Palestinian girls". The URL was something like and if you substituted other nationalities into that URL (it even worked with "antarctican") it took you to a page on that theme.

Chicago said...

I've seen websites hostile to Muslims and their continued immigration with side ads touting some date-a-Muslim girl service, the last thing on anybody's mind it would seem. Yeah, sign up now so you too can get involved in the exciting world of honor killings.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you see the same Google ads as I do

Sorry, Steve, I run AdBlock Plus and I never see a single ad on your pages.

Anonymous said...

"find racial discrimination near you" ought to work just fine

robert61 said...

Google Ads are shockingly clueless. Is there some legal reason why they are so unintelligently chosen? Nowhere is it more striking than on your site, where I'll read a post excoriating immigration policy and see ads for Russian brides and green cards.

Anonymous said...

Whatever algorithms Google is using, they are probably optimized for the vast majority of websites that use Google ads -- i.e., mindless fluff. Big websites that have serious intellectual content tend to handle ads themselves, and the little sites, like you, just aren't a big enough market for Google to make the effort to do it right.

The test for this hypothesis would be to look at other blogs with other sorts of serious content and see if Google ads does a better job there. It would be interesting to know whether, for example, Google ads serves up more appropriate ads on the blogs of multicultural whiners. Or political sites that have nothing to do with race and ethnicity. Or that deal with physics. Anyone what to take this up?

Anonymous said...

Disparate impact keeps on giving.

Matthew said...

I've mentioned my search for certain products on Facebook, or made references to using certain items that would seem dead ringers for well-placed ads ("Booze? Hey, try this vodka!" "Musicals? Hey, there's this great show playing near you!"). Nothing comes of it. Obviously they're making their money from somewhere, just not from us. Perhaps our contrarian nature, as demonstrated from reading iSteve, makes us hard to predict.

Anonymous said...

I must confess I've never seen any ads on your blog. I use firefox with adblockplus. It's like tivo for the internet.

I think that the reason your ad revenues have gone down, and the reason that google hasn't bothered to improve their adsense algorithms are that lots more people use ad filtering software, and the people who click on ads now are so stupid and/or impulsive that it's not worth the effort to improve.

I have however, donated to you, so there's that.

Lucille said...

I remember reading a right leaning site, Brussels Journal, and seeing ads for Muslim dating services.

Anonymous said...

Begging the question. Look it up.

not a hacker said...

The only ads that could appeal to me would be discount tee times.

genius VC said...

Attn disruptive Web 2.0 game-changers, the Antarctica domain is back on the market

Marlowe said...

One can purchase racial discrimination? Truly, the free market provides everything. The whole Internet phenomenon was predicted more than 35 years ago on the BBC - "That's not an argument."

Anonymous said...

Adblock Plus.
PrivacyChoice TrackerBlock
etc, etc.

Except for the CamelCase, excellent addons for a crisp and clean web experience.

rob said...

Google ads are terrible, but at least they aren't as repetitive as Facebook ads. When google announced quarterly(?) or yearly(?) earnings last month, they underperformed by quite a bit. They cited low advertising revenues as the cause. I've never even met someone who bought something through a Google or FB ad, or at least no one who would admit to it.

I think that's why google changed the privacy policy. They couldn't figure out how to use the info they accumulated as well as that bastion of the IT revolution, Target.

Simon in London said...

Here are some ads I see on the left if I scroll down far enough:

"Law Training
UK University By Distance Learning. Browse And Apply Online Now!

Fast Track Probate - UK
Jersey Channel Islands Call Parslows - 01534 630530

2013 Boundary Review
Constituencies are changing. Have your say on our report, Autumn 2013

Freeman & Co Solicitors
Mr Loophole's Firm of Solicitors Specialising in Criminal Law

Sexy Iranian Women Photos
Find your Iranian Soul Mate Today! Browse photos, send Flirts & more."

Anonymous said...

What is the readership?

American, late 20s, spends all day on the Internet...

What's so outstanding about the readership?

Anonymous said...

Try the search "Crack Cocaine". You will find it near you, sez Google!

Anonymous said...

Google Ads are shockingly clueless. Is there some legal reason why they are so unintelligently chosen? Nowhere is it more striking than on your site, where I'll read a post excoriating immigration policy and see ads for Russian brides and green cards.

Au contraire, iSteve fans are the PERFECT target for mail-order-bride ads. They covet those submissive Russian and Malaysian girls. (Hey, what are the odds you'll draw another Catherine Kieu, anyway?) "Immigration restriction for thee, not for me."

Thomas O. Meehan said...

I get oddly inappropriate ads too. It seems that the algorithm is triggered by proper names in blog text. I tested this once by asking commenters to use the words, Jaguar, Glenfiddich and Rolex, irrespective of context. It actually worked!

I just resent the down market nature of my ads, cheap-jack schools, credit help etc. I blog at Google BogSpot and wish I could solicit adds by companies I actually like. Perhaps I should just start putting their names in my posts sans context.

anony-mouse said...

Shouldn't the assumption be that if someone is obsessed about members of group 'X' that they may very well be attracted to members of group 'X'?

theo the kraut said...

Muslim marriage ads on sites critical of Islam are the norm, happens in other countries, too. Else, I run a website for nerds that's being served ads for baby care etc... Ad quality improved, though, after adding a facebook "I like it" button prominently above the fold. People don't need to comment as here, presently, a click is enough.

Ceterum censeo, you should try an adsense leaderboard right on top--ads below the fold tend to get ignored. Else, try also having a FB page. Just some blurb pointing here and announcements of new posts.

Steve Sailer said...

I thought I did have a Facebook page with just links to my blog posts... Did it stop working? It drives me crazy when I go through all the trouble of setting up something so that it works so that I can ignore it, and then it stops working for some random reason. Paypal is like that, always breaking down.

Steve Sailer said...

I'm not going to put Google ads in a prominent position unless they improve the quality of their ads by making them intelligently build upon what works with my readership. I don't want to assault my readers with the semi-random gibberish that Google puts up now.

Google's business model apparently is that their ads are totally driven by keywords, with no learning.

theo the kraut said...

> thought I did have a Facebook page
There are some, but possibly not set up by you; there are no updates about new posts, there's no way to comment. Maybe some progressives will discover you and spam your page with rage? Wonderful!! Google will think your page is interesting lots of people.

> I'm not going to put Google ads
> in a prominent position unless
> they improve the quality of
> their ads
I understand your sentiment, but not being recompensed for your work is no fun. How about asking your readers? blogger should have a handy poll form on offer. I think most wouldn't mind, I certainly wouldn't. If you get an ok, try it for a month--and make it both text and rich media, so we guys can click on the colourful Filipino marriage ads. Hey, maybe some kids will be named Steve. If the increase is negligible, drop it.

I just checked the NYT; ads for Gucci bags top right and left... Makes you cringe, but if they do, don't be to proud to learn from the enemy, something's gotta pay the bills and you deserve it more than them.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Steve, I run AdBlock Plus and I never see a single ad on your pages.

Why do people who run adblock always feel the need to mention it? No one cares.

Mike said...

I live an work in Africa.

I get ads for dating latin and asian women.

Can't for the life of me figure that one out. Happens on other sites too.

Svigor said...


I tried NoScript a few years back and hated it. I prefer YesScript, its opposite; instead of having to tinker with the entire Internet, as I did with NoScript, I just add the sites that I don't want using JavaScript (usually pages that automatically refresh every nanosecond, like DrudgeReport).

Svigor said...

Shouldn't the assumption be that if someone is obsessed about members of group 'X' that they may very well be attracted to members of group 'X'?

If you're a homosexual, yes, that's the assumption.

Default User said...

For those running Adblock you can disable it on a site-by-site basis. I disable it for iSteve (and many other sites I am happy to support), that way Steve gets some revenue from ads.

To do this, click on the ADB icon and select disable on [] (or whatever website you are on). The Google ads on iSteve while perhaps not useful are certainly not intrusive.

Alcalde Jaime Miguel Curleo said...

Browser hacks like ad-stopping are a subtle form of SWPL competition. As if the outgroup gives a crap... Remember the Slate article scolding people for not upgrading from Internet Explorer 5?

Anonymous said...

I believe that readers will soon see different ads and -- for those who use Google a lot -- those ads should be more relevant.

I haven't read carefully, but I believe the new Google privacy policy means that Google will aggregate what it knows about you from all your points of contact with Google to serve up ads on any Google property, including Blogger.

I'm not sure it's fair to laugh at Google's current ads though. It's just trying to match written topic to ad category, which works great when people are reading about travel but lousy for general interest news. Google can't know that I'm looking for new trousers because I'm reading your piece on dingos. What would be the right ad for that? Adopt a dingo today?

Anyway, barring injunction against the new policy, that should be changing. General ads should be over and targeted ads should arrive, which should make you some more money and bring readers more relevant ads.

Anonymous said...

Well, this could be happening in the future in So Orange County. Almost every high school now in south orange County is over 20 percent hispanic and both Saddelback and Capistrano Valley I would say are worst than Huntington Beach district which only has about three schools more than over 20 percent for one minority and in Huntington Beach school the hispanics and asians are closer in numbers while in most south county schools they are far apart/ Mission Viejo about 23 percent hispanic and only 8 percent asian. Whites will even in 2030 run the South County government while hispanics in all of south orange county will be almost 40 percent.

Anonymous said...


Google's ad platform works by auction. Google doesn't create the ads, they're created by ordinary people wanting to advertise their own stuff. Google is the middle man between advertisers (normal people) and publishers (normal people again).