Contextual ads: Place them carefully

By Steve Outing

Here’s an interesting observation (admittedly anecdotal). I use Gmail, and you’ll find Google contextual text ads in individual-message view; they’re in the right column. Also on the main-inbox view as well as individual-message view are “Web Clips,” which are links to related stories, with the occasional contextual ad thrown into the rotation. It’s common to see a Web Clip be an ad in individual-message view.

I keep noticing that the top Web Clip ads catch my attention. Because they are about the topic of the message I’m reading, the ads are relevant and I often click them. The other day a colleague sent me a note about a recommended video camera — and the Web Clip ad was a retailer selling that model. I clicked the ad to find out how much the unit cost.

Now, the Google text ads in the right column of my e-mail I scarcely look at. My brain is trained to ignore that part of the page because I know that those are ads. But the top-of-page ads register and get acted on.

This fits with my past experience doing eyetracking studies. (I was project manager of Poynter’s Eyetrack III study.) People avert their gaze from things that look like ads, and the right side of a page typically doesn’t get much action. There’s a lesson here for those using Google AdSense.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!