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Banner-Ad-Free Syndication

15 June 2005 2 Comments

I have a suggestion for syndicated blogs and news sources: don’t use banner ads in your feeds, people will likely just block or ignore them.

It is fairly simple to block images from a particular site or URL pattern, and I know many people that do this, including myself. I use Bloglines, a Web-based feed reader, and Firefox as my Web browser. I block images using a Firefox plugin called Adblock. I block banner ads on all of the blogs that I subscribe to fairly easily using Adblock. For example, I block every image that comes from FeedBurner.

If you want to have ads in your feed, I would suggest using either text-based ads that are tacked on to the end of an entry or using seperate (banner free) syndicated items to display ads. I think that “feed decorating services” such as FeedBurner should offer the ability to do this for you automatically (which they may already do).

I would wager that people are more likely to read banner-free ads that appear as seperate items in a feed. This is because people wouldn’t instinctively ignore them like banner ads. They are also more likely to read them because there is no way to distinguish an “ad entry” from a “real entry” until you read the headline and/or scan the actual entry.


  • Dick Costolo said:

    Hi there, this is Dick Costolo from FeedBurner. The problem with text ads in feeds is that these get picked up by the search engines as part of the post. If you use text ads, then somebody searching on text that only appears in the ad would get your content in their search results. This doesn’t happen in web-based ads because the ads are script-based and placed there by scripts. The problem with using ads as posts is similar. Search engines pick up the ads as posts to that blog or site and index that content, and obviously that throws off the quality of the search results. the reason we use ads as images in readers is so that a) the ad can rotate without updating the feed, and b) to the extent a search bot we don’t know about picks up the feed, all that’s getting scanned is an image url and not text that will be included in the index for that post. Of course, you are certainly free to block the ads with ad block software, I’m just letting you know how we’re trying to balance publishers’ desires to get paid for their content with the benefits of reasonable search results and subscriber experience.

  • Javid said:

    Thanks for the feedback Dick.

    I’m not saying that that the ads should necessarily be published on the Web page. I’m talking about ads that are added through feed decoration. If I Google something, I’ll pull up the Web page, not an XML-based RSS feed. The ads wouldn’t appear on the Web page. I agree that this may affect search capabilities in blog specific search engines that only search through XML feeds. But even then, if the search engine is any good, it should take references into consideration when deciding rank (not just keywords).

    And to tell you the truth, even if it did mess with search results a little, I just don’t see this as being all that evil. I don’t think that it should be a publishers concern to worry about how their postings may affect a search engine’s indexing. It is a search engines job to deal with real-world content and figure out how to show users what’s important based on their search. Ads are part of the real world. A publishers job is to come up with ways to show ads that both the advertisers and the audience will be comfortable with.

    My guess is that advertisers and content subscribers would be more comfortable with the model that I’m proposing. Whether this prognosis is right or wrong, I would base my business model on my customer’s needs, not the search engine’s needs.