So I’ve been thinking about this idea Shoemoney (a blog that tells you how to make money blogging) had about trying to get people to not click on his Google AdWords. The basic idea is that a click costs him money, so he puts his phone number in the ad copy and asks you to call. Since his initial success rate was 5:2 in favor, I imagine Google hates this idea.
But here’s what I realized: pay-per-click advertising really punishes the advertiser if you’re just casually interested in a subject. If you’re just screwing around or doing research on something that’s unlikely to lead to a purchase, clicking ads becomes ethically suspect. Unless the sites you’re landing on have text ads as well, and you’re a compulsive clicker, in which case they might make back their cost of acquiring your attention when you click on something on their site.
There’s a way we can exploit this, and maybe feel good about it. What we need to do is start clicking on the ads of companies we hate! Say, for example, you have a beef with Sprint. Type Sprint into Google. See that blue box at the top of the page marked “sponsored links?” Click on the top one–the one that goes to Sprint.com–and you’ve cost the company about $3. I’m not saying you should do this, or do it a hundred times, obviously (although as far as I know, there’s no law against it), but you see my point. The same holds true any time you see one of these Google text ad blocks. See an ad you hate, click on it, cost that company or organization anywhere from 15 cents to 15 dollars, depending on the keyword.
Of course sometimes you’re on the side of the advertiser. Type Red Cross into Google and you also get a sponsored link. Assuming you’ve set aside your concerns about the internal corruption and inefficiency of the Red Cross and actually want to support them, it’s probably best not to click on the sponsored link in this case. One wonders why they even have the sponsored link, since they already have the top three search results for their own name (and you can’t buy that placement). What did I say about inefficiency?