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28 October 2007

Kona Earth A friend ordered a bag of Kona Earth 100% Kona Coffee today.  That's nothing new, he's purchased coffee from us before.  While ordering his coffee he also took a moment to read the latest web postings.  That's not unusual either, many of our regular customers like to keep up on the latest happenings around the farm.  What made this visit from my friend different is he clicked on several of the ads at the bottom of the page.  I don't know why he did that, maybe he saw something he was interested in or maybe he was in the mood to go shopping.

Mailbox Kona Earth receives a few cents every time someone clicks on one of the ads on this website.  I don't keep very close track but this time I decided to look it up.  My friend was the only one to click on any of the ads today and his clicking generated $1.56 in ad revenue.  $1.56 isn't all that much, what makes is significant is that it pushed my account total across the $100 minimum for getting paid.  It took nearly two years but hopefully soon I will receive my first ever earnings from advertisements on KonaEarth.com.

Most websites don't make much money from advertising but some do.  The most extreme case I've heard of is a guy that makes over $100,000 per month from online ads.  Of course I've also heard of people getting rich from playing blackjack in Vegas or selling cosmetics for Avon.  In general, programs like Google AdSense benefit Google more than they benefit the advertiser or publisher.

There are ways to cheat the system.  The easiest cheat is to host a bunch of ads then get all your friends or a computer program to click on the ads repeatedly.  This is called Click Fraud and it is a felony in some jurisdictions because it is effectively stealing from the advertisers.  The problem is that it's not always clear what is fraud and what isn't.

HeatMap Google has rules concerning click fraud.  Google allows text such as "Sponsored Links" and "Advertisements" but prohibits phrases such as "Click on my ads", "Support our sponsors", or "Favorite Sites".  Arrows pointing to the ads are prohibited yet coloring the ads to match the rest of the page and placing the ads in the middle of legitimate text is actually encouraged.  Google publishes a long list of optimization techniques including a heat map that shows where to place ads on the page for the best performance.  In my opinion, many of the "optimizations" are designed to trick people into clicking on ads they aren't really interested in.  Is it click fraud if the user clicks on an ad unintentionally because he or she didn't know it was an ad?

Google I've never liked advertising.  From a consumer perspective I hate being constantly bombarded by misleading and annoying ads.  From a merchant perspective I've found the cost of advertising to be greater than the revenue it generates.  Some advertising is useful but in general I prefer to concentrate on product quality rather than heavy marketing.

Yahoo I resisted the urge to place external ads on this website but in the end I decided it could be done harmlessly.  The ads from Google and Yahoo are context sensitive which means they use keywords from the page to decide which ads to display.  For example a page about fishing has ads about fishing while a page about fertilizer has ads about fertilizer.  The ads from Amazon are cookie based (a cookie is like a nametag that Amazon uses to remember who you are).  If you've ever shopped at Amazon then their ad server remembers who you are and serves ads based on your shopping history.

Amazon If there aren't enough relevant ads available then ads about coffee are used.  This means there are sometimes ads for our competitors.  I can block ads from specific competitors but decided that wasn't necessary for several reasons.  First, I feel that people will comparison shop with or without ads for competitors.  Second, our coffee is better than any of the competition's so comparison shopping is a good.  Finally, most people ignore the ads anyways and I have the statistics to prove it.

The ads at the bottom of the page are going to stay there for now.  They don't generate much money but they don't hurt anything either.  Advertisers want you to click on their ads as long as you don't click repeatedly for no good reason.  So feel free to click on the ads or ignore them, it is totally up to you.  Just make sure you buy some Kona Earth coffee while you're at it.

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