Google’s Ads: Less Is More?

    March 22, 2007

Ads are a necessary part of the Internet experience, but they have an undeniable power to annoy and frustrate.  So when Google’s results pages seem a little less cluttered than those of its competitors, we breathe a collective sigh of relief without another thought.  Yet as Robert Scoble points out, this clean presentation may be influenced by a keen business sense as much as it is by kindness.

The idea stems from our ability to block out all sorts of stuff that we deem unnecessary; when we’re bombarded with ads, we tend to consider them precisely that.  But fewer ads – and, just as importantly, more relevant ads – can capture users’ attention.

Scoble was introduced to this concept by an anonymous Google employee.  “Google has done a lot of research with users and found that fewer ads mean less revenue SHORT TERM,” the nameless Googler revealed.  “But long term the advertising revenue actually goes up.  Why?  They found their users started trusting the advertising more and were more likely to click on ads.”

Scoble then shared some research he’d done on the matter.  For most queries, Google did indeed subject him to fewer ads than Yahoo and, and the ads were also more relevant (Live tried to direct Scoble to the InterContinental Hotel when he asked about San Francisco sushi).

So we wind up with a win-win-win situation.  “Google’s pages look cleaner, more relevant, advertisers are happier (fewer accidental clicks that they have to pay for), and it sets the stage for the new pay-per-action plan,” Scoble wrote.  And add one more “win” to that list – users don’t have to view quite as many ads.