High Ad CTR vs. User Annoyance

My last post on Adsense placement received an interesting comment about users getting annoyed by ads on blogs. High CTR and earnings are no good if a blog’s ad placement turns many users away and prevents it from getting inbound links. The important question is: does prominent placement of ads always annoy users?

With some sites, there’s no question that the “whoring for CTR” annoys readers and discourages links (About.com comes to mind). On the other end of the spectrum are webmasters so afraid of backlash that they settle for .5% CTR when they could get 5% or more.

I think some people have figured out a sweet spot — see this Weblogs, Inc. blog for example. Yes, the ads are prominent — but they’re not in the ‘content area’ which is what regular readers will want. I’m of the opinion that you want to simultaneously avoid annoying regular readers, while maximizing CTR from your ‘one-time’ traffic (i.e., people who find you on a long tail search and who are not likely to make a return visit). The first group is the sustainable audience that will link to you, while the second will be your primary revenue generator if you use Adsense. It’s all about the balancing act.

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