A few of you might have noticed that I dabbled with Google AdSense last week.
For those of you who aren’t already aware: AdSense is a program run by Google, in which you can throw a few adverts on your website, and make a little bit of cash. In the end, I decided it wasn’t worth it over the long-run.

It looks tacky

I’m all for the streamlined experience. I want readers to enjoy content on my website without any distractions. AdSense could potentially disrupt this.

To put things into context: I experimented with an ad underneath the banner at the top, one in the sidebar, and one at the end of each post. Of all three, the one at the end of the post is probably the one I’d have stuck with if I’d kept ads on my site. The sidebar, some way behind in second. The one underneath the banner… wow, that looked ugly.

I think that’s just part of the problem with AdSense ads: they don’t look that great. To me, they can even look a bit desperate when over-used. Why not focus on engaging your readers and keeping them on your site, rather than hoping they’ll click an external ad and leave it? And for what; a few pennies? Something just isn’t right about that, to me.

The ads can be… interesting

I have a post called ‘The pain of the waiting game…’. With AdSense ads, it picks up a few keywords from each post, and builds the ad based on this, I believe.

Now, all seemed well on my website, except for this one post, where ‘Professional gout removal’ was being advertised. ‘No more pain & no more waiting’, it claimed.

As tempting as the offer was, I feel it could lead to on-site mockery. Gout removal has nothing to do with my readers whatsoever, unless… well, you have gout. In which case, my sympathies. But I thought something like this had the potential to detract from the point of the post, and undermine the legitimacy somewhat.

For anybody interested, I’ll forward the gout company to you. They looked like quite the bunch of professionals.

Dubious affiliates

Another thing that made me feel severely uncomfortable were some of the companies being advertised on the site.

Without naming names, a certain self-publishing company seems to have a lot of influence through AdSense. This very same publisher has had a few less-than-flattering reviews in its recent history. I’m not sure I’d want to be held accountable for somebody innocently clicking a link through my website, and ending up getting ripped off.

If you want a good self-publishing company, I’ll throw a few reliable ones out there now, as a way of advertising: LuLu in the US, and FeedARead in the UK. I know people who have used both, and had good experiences, so always make sure you do a bit of extra research before clicking on anything.

And yes: this counts as research.

There is a better option…

I believe that the best advert you can put on a website is not, in fact, an advert at all.

As Jonathan Gunson suggests, a mailing list is a much more viable alternative. That way, you can focus on building your audience through offering updates, and bonus content, whilst maintaining a professional looking website.

So, I’ve chosen to refuse ads, for now. If I’m ever at a stage where I absolutely need them to cover costs, I might make them as invisible as possible. But for now… RyanCaseyBooks.com will be staying ad-free. Hurrah!

Now I’ve got you, do me an enormous favour and show your support by signing up to the mailing list.

You’ll receive all sorts over the coming months. Email subscribers were the first to see the cover of What We Saw, for one, but there’s loads of other things on the horizon. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Do you disagree with my stance on advertising on your website? Have you had any good or bad experiences through advertising that you would like to share?

NOTE: As of 03/2013, I’m experimenting with two low-key advertisements on the website. I’ll let you know how they perform and update with a new post, so stay tuned.

AdSense image via QuickOnlineTips; Email image via kristiewells; Flickr.