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Is there really no AdSense on wordpress.com?

Scientology ad on this blog

Google Ad for what?

You know you can’t have Adsense on your wordpress.com blog, right? Well, think again. You can’t have AdSense on your wordpress.com, blog but WordPress can. Yes, WordPress does run AdSense on your wordpress.com blog.  See for yourself, left. And if you came to this post from a Google search, you may even see the ads above this paragraph, and below, at the bottom of this post.

Ok, it’s a free service. I knew they were running ads. I read Matt’s note. Jada jada jada. I know all that. Fair enough, but this? Thanks to an observant reader of my blog I was sent a screenshot of how the ads actually appear on my blog. Look at the ad, that isn’t even remotely contextual. Then I began to search for it myself; you can read how below.

The bliss of ignorance

Here I am, blissfully blogging along and thinking WordPress is spam-free and splog-free, as I did in yesterday’s post about Why no AdSense on wordpress.com is a good thing, but I’m not so sure anymore about that. So  they serve these kind of ads to my readers? Come on WordPress…I am fine with you serving ads if you have to in order to keep this great service free, but please consider serving actually related ads. If I can get self-installed and related ads without problems on my TypePad, or Blogger for that matter, you should be able to do that on my WordPress blog, too.

WordPress – spam-free?

Google Ads on this blog

Google Ads

Yesterday I pointed to an article on Plagiarism Today titled Why WordPress is virtually spam-free, where Matt Mullenweg boldy proclaimed that WordPress says no to Adsense. The article makes no mention of WordPress indeed running Adsense ads on wordpress.com themselves, although the article does provide a link to the WordPress FAQ on Adsense, from which you can find a link to the announcement that they sometimes do run ads.

To report or not to report

OK, WordPress, so you don’t want to allow me to have ads, so I don’t turn my blog into a splog. IIndeed,  wholeheartedly applaud that decision. BUT, why do you have to run such blatantly sploggy and spammy ads on my site: earncashathome.co.uk or similar is not a site I want to be affilated with. You serve such ads yourself, while you ask your blog owners to report blogs that link to such sites:

And here are some examples of blogs that are banned from WordPress.com (all of these fall under the general heading of “spam blogs”, or splogs, and we will be deleted as soon as we find them or they get reported):
[...] Affiliate marketing blogs: Blogs with the primary purpose of driving traffic to affiliate programs and get-rich-quick schemes (”Make six figures from home!!”, “20 easy steps to top profits!!”, etc).[...]

I will continue to report splogs as I have done for the past couple of weeks. You bet I will. But I won’t do it as happily as before.

A paid ad-free wordpress.com?

Click where?

Click where?

Here’s a thought, why not give me the choice to opt out, like all other ad-based free services? With ads it’s free, without ads, you have to pay. I’d be more than happy to pay you what I pay for a blog on TypePad, $5/month, if I knew it were ad-free. That’s how much WordPress functionality is worth to me. I’m sure many here would agree, albeit their willingness to pay and how much will of course vary. I really want an ad-free blog…is that possible? Matt? Or is shareholder revenue what matters?

Want to see your own ads?

AdSense on this blog

Ads on this blog

If you’re using Firefox, this will probably not work, even without an ad blocker running (another reason why you should use FireFox). If you’re using Internet Explorer, simple delete your cookies, do a search for  keywords or a phrase you know appears on your blog, find a search result that links directly to one of your posts, and voila! It’s there…yuk!

In the example left, the top ad banner is actually cut off, because my main column width is narrower than the 468 pixels required by the banner. One thing is to serve ads, but serving the wrong banners is really annoying. What is also noteworthy is that the Adsense script is incredibly clever in matching color and font to your blog.

This blog explains further in detail the technique wordpress.com uses and provides screen shots of how the ads look like: Making money with AdSense without annoying your users: wordpress.com

Maybe not so bad after all?

More ads on this blog

More ads on this blog

In all fairness it has to be said that the ads (as far as I have tested them) tonly appear to new visitors who have never been to your site before, coming from a search. Once there, and then browsing the site, nothing happens, or so it seems . This means that regular readers or logged in WordPress users will not be prompted with ads, at least so the saying goes, and hopefully it is true, and in that case I’m not so worried.

If I also consider that there is a very low number of wordpress.com users complaining about this feature in the forums, I think I can safely assume that at least to regular wordpress.com users and readers, the ads really do not appear. Only to first-time visitors going to your site by a search. The next time you search and end up on the same blog, you’re (probably) not greeted by ads. Good.

Corporate governance

What does bite me, though, is the lack of full openness about this. Alright, Matt’s note on AdSense says

We very occassionally show Adsense (contextual text ads)

Well, maybe they’re not so contextual and not so text ad after all, as my screen shot above proves, and a few examples to illustrate the point would have helped getting the point across. And Matt does make a point that neither you nor your regular readers are likely to see any ads:

The ad code tries hard not to intrude or show ads to regular readers, which means a small percentage of page views.

Still, I would appreciate a little bit more transparency from WordPress and Automattic in this matter. I think they owe it to us, their users. It’s about corporate governance.

Move?

That said, I have no plans to abandon wordpress.com. I may consider switching over to self-hosted wordpress.org, but I’m kind of dreading the whole DIY-thing, wordpress.com is easier, and provided that my regular readers really don’t see my ads, I can live with that. On the other hand, my first-time readers may be scared away when seeing the ads, and may not come back. Well, that’s the price I have to pay for free hosting.

Related (updated 2008-08-20)

WordPress’ own announcement about Adsense:
On Ads

Here’s a forum thread on suddenly appearing AdSense ads:
adsense appeared on my wordpress.com blog

On this blog:
Why no AdSense on wordpress.com is a good thing

Google Ads on wordpress.com – some examples

Notes, links and conversation
Making money with AdSense – without annoying your users: wordpress.com

Update

wordpress.com can now be ad-free

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  1. August 7, 2008 at 6:10 am | #1

    Check out what wank has to say on the subject; she’s the one who broke the news to the forum long ago: http://wank.wordpress.com

  2. August 7, 2008 at 6:34 am | #2

    @raincoaster
    She’s the one who broke the news to me in the first place :-)

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