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The Demographics of Who Clicks on Ads

In Who Clicks on Ads? And What Might This Mean? by Apophenia, there is an interesting discussion going on about ad-generated revenue on blogs and websites.

Advertising is the bread and butter of the web, yet most of my friends claim that they never click on ads, typically using a peacock tone that signals their pride in being ad-averse. The geekier amongst them go out of their way to run Mozilla scripts to scrape ads away, bemoaning the presence of consumer culture. Yet, companies increasingly rely on ad revenue to turn a profit and, while clicking on ads ?may? be declining, it certainly hasn’t gone away. This raises a critical question: Who are the people that click on ads?

The assumption is made that the majority of ad-clickers are Americans, and then goes down hill from there. The truth is, anyone can click an ad from any demographic. But the point is who clicks ads?

I don’t. I make a point of it and have since the first ads started appearing on the web. When the extremely annoying and non-accessibility standard text links started appearing, ads hidden in links with a double underline, I was furious as these are so deceptive, yet, they remain popular. Then pop-up crap started appearing when hovering over any link, which made browsing blogs even more nerve wracking. You never knew where or what a link could do.

So who clicks? Does ad-clicking really generate massive income any more? In addition to clicks, income is often made based upon traffic and pageviews, but with AJAX, even that metric is changing.

So how are all these thousands of dollars being generated for bloggers through their blogs? If no one is clicking, or only a small demographic is clicking, where’s the money coming from if not from the clicks?

There are a lot of rumors, conjectures, and even a few studies that say one thing or another, yet, what’s the truth of it?

Do you click? And what does this mean for you?

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.


  1. Posted December 27, 2007 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    all of us click on ads, even when we are in so called, Boycott ads move…. provided, they are personally targeted. No one can make ads personally targeted. But, at times, it can also happen… Suppose I look for X and I find ads about w y and z, which are almost similar to x, but not x, I may not click on the ad, but if I find the X that I am looking for, on ads, I will, I cant stop my self. Ads are content targeted, but people click on them, when they get personally targeted.

  2. Posted December 27, 2007 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    I will never click on inline ads that replace terms in the text no matter how interesting the result may seem, but ads like adwords occasionally are interesting and so I do click on them.

  3. Posted December 27, 2007 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    It’s not the ad that decides if I’ll click it, but the site that I’m visiting. Most sites I won’t click on ads. But a few (mostly photography sites) I know the owner of the site is selecting ads that will be beneficial to the visitors. So I help them out partly to be nice, and partly because I actually want to see what’s on the other side of the ad.

  4. Posted December 27, 2007 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I think a more relevant question is…who buys things as a result of those ads?

  5. Posted December 27, 2007 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    If there is a website, theme, or plugin I like I click on the ads. I feel like it is a small thank you. It costs me nothing and they may get a little money from it.

  6. Joey
    Posted December 27, 2007 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I only click on ads that interest me. I probably click more banners than Adwords. I click on forum signatures of people that I recognize. Sometimes those yield great ideas for me to implement.

  7. Posted December 27, 2007 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    @ matt:

    Actually, clicking on some ads can cost you greatly as some sites install malware and auto-loading crap. Sophisticated ad programs can also gather information about where you’ve been, where you are going, and more privacy information you might not want them to know.

    Am I missing something here? Clicking on ads can be dangerous to your online health. Yes, they can make money for the blogger, but sometimes, your visit to their page makes money, not just clicking. You better trust the blogger to really know what they have on their blog ads before you click. They might not know they are hosting dangerous ads. Are you really willing to risk it?

    About four years ago, I clicked on an ad by mistake as I moved the mouse across the page. It opened up window after window, and for every window I closed, another two opened. It took over my whole computer screen, and things were installing as I desperately disconnected from the web. It didn’t stop. Whatever was self-generating the windows kept going. I kept closing, they kept multiplying. It took two hours to clean up my machine and get rid of the criminal adware. The ad was on a site I’d been to before and had some trust established with them. I contacted them afterwards and they were horrified and put an end to dealing with those ads, but you never know.

    Have a few nasty instances like that, and you stay away from ads like the plague.

  8. Posted December 27, 2007 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I relate to your experience Lorelle. I’ve had some nasty malware as a result of making the wrong clicks. I learned my lesson. Now, I only click ads on trusted websites, but even then I’m cautious. If it isn’t something I’m really interested in and expect to make a purchase then I don’t click. In that case, it’s very rare.

  9. Posted December 27, 2007 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, I am a bit confused here. I have never had any software installed by a website surreptitiously. Are you referring to IE or Firefox issues? I don’t have those problems with Opera.

    Also if an ad is dangerous,then so is any link on a page. Might as well close the Internet, rather than live in such paranoia.

  10. Posted December 27, 2007 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    I think majority of the visitors who click on the ads are the ones who don’t know they’re “ads”. And the others who know they’re “ads” are just trying to help the website owner earn a few cents. That’s just what I think.

    I rarely click on ads, only if they interest me.

  11. Posted December 28, 2007 at 6:25 am | Permalink


    This doesnt happen on mainstream sites – though you are right, it does happen on less trustworthy websites, but then the site isnt trustworthy so it should be treated with care in any case.

    Everyone clicks on ads when it interests them at that moment. Say you’re in the market for car insurance and you see a text/banner ad offering a discount from a brand you know and like – you’re much more likely to click.

  12. Posted December 28, 2007 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    No ad clicking for me or my family if I can help it. That said, I have Google Ads up on the side of my blog. Some folks click there everyday. Who knows why.

  13. Posted December 28, 2007 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    @ Riaz:

    I have to disagree. If I’m in the market for car insurance, I will turn to search engines, reviews, and comparisons. I will not be swayed by an ad. Anyone who is, needs to remember that advertising is meant to entice, not necessarily provide you with the information you need to know in order to make a wise buying decision.

    Have we become so gullible?

  14. Posted December 28, 2007 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Some of the ads now are pretty cool! I’ve been anti-ads for a while, but I warming up to trying them. Mostly after seeing how well a friend of mine has done on his blog(s). He pulled in $600 in November … Ok, so now my pride is swallowed, where do i sign up?

    If I see a cool ad, I will click on it. If it’s something I want, i prefer to by it through the adsense (so to speak) path than elsewhere … that way I know a blogger’s gettin’ some 🙂

  15. Posted December 28, 2007 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Having Adsense on my blog, I was quite surprised at how many clicks are NOT paid by Google these days. I can’t give you an exact amount, as I only have partial stats… but it is H I G H! Much higher than you’d expect.

  16. Posted December 28, 2007 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Woops! I hit enter too soon. Yes, so I think a lot of ads on blogs of the adsense type are being removed by bloggers these days… in favor of other advertising….

    Now I’m looking for ads that ‘look good’ even if people don’t click on them, as a way to compliment the appearance of my blog. Adsense text ads are hideous. The image ads are better, but still spammy and low quality oftentimes.


  17. Posted December 29, 2007 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    I guess the people who know a little bit about ads click on them a lot lesser than those who don’t. Depends on what kind of an audience you have. Other wise a lot of ads are clicked and some of them have a good value in them.

  18. hotsauce102
    Posted December 29, 2007 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    I generally don’t click on ads on some sites, however, if it is relevant to what I am searching for, then I don’t mind clicking on it as I feel that it might be a better option to what I am wanting.

    As I run several sites, I feel the most important thing is that the ads must be relevant to the topic of your site, have to integrate nicely with your site (colors, sizes, etc.), and they shouldn’t take up more than 25 percent of your blog “space”. If I come across a site with a huge amount of ads, I might look quickly, but then I usually don’t come back.

  19. Janice
    Posted December 29, 2007 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    I occasionally click ads on blogs, but only if they’re relevant. For example, a few days ago I was reading a how-to blog about handmade jewelry, and clicked a (non-obnoxious-looking) ad that promised “Best Prices on Beading Supplies!” I didn’t actually buy anything at the time, but the store DID have good prices, so I bookmarked the site for when I’m actually in the mood to check out the company and do some shopping.

  20. Posted December 29, 2007 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t click, nor do I run ads on my blog (as of today)not because I’m opposed to income but because I can’t stand how it looks. I too would really like to know who is clicking on these ads, what does it mean and how does it translate to revenue. That info might change my stance on running ads on my blog. But probably no.

  21. Posted January 2, 2008 at 4:00 am | Permalink

    @ Lorelle

    Certainly advertising is meant to entice, but then so is everything about how a company presents itself – it’s just that today different mediums/methods can be more impactful. So a standard TV ad is not going to entice some people like it did 10 or 20 years ago. People are much more aware (and becoming even more so everyday) about advertising so marketers are using different methods like SEM and comparison sites to attract customers through an exchange of information. This is all a good thing – as longer term honest /ethical marketing will succeed better than false messages because consumers will return.

    Back to banner ads and the car insurance example – I am the same as you: research, analyse, buy. But there is a period of time during that process where you have to make a decision. If you see a banner for one of your final choices and there’s a special offer shown, I say you would still click through to check it out. Obviously the idea being that the consumer gets a better deal (better than the one on the comparison site) and the company gains a few more customers who might have picked one of their competitors.

  22. Posted January 2, 2008 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I click ads for two reasons.

    Reason one – because I am interested in what someone is offering. This is admittedly rather infrequent.

    Reason two – because the advertiser is in some way obnoxious and has irritated me. I will click this ad several times in order to can spend their advertising dollars.

  23. patricknh
    Posted January 3, 2008 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I believe that people who write quality articles in their blogs will get high revenues from ads.

    You can build trust with your articles and that funnels to your ads. I just started blogging and have ads on my site because I can use any dime at the moment. For me, blogging is not cheap.

    I try to match my ads with my article content though. This is not often easy with Google Adsense or at least, I haven’t figured it out yet.

  24. robinandraenelle
    Posted January 4, 2008 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Lorelle, I’m really surprised at your comment of multiple windows opening up due to an ad click – 4 years ago. You’re right, that used to happen a lot, but it’s hard to find in the modern web (nowadays you have to venture to a disreputable site, remove any security settings from your browser, and click willy-nilly all over the place). The idea that links on the Internet are dangerous defeats the purpose of the net, ad or no ad.

    I prefer the approach that links are good, and as content owners we need to be informed and vigilant of the links we post. Our responsibility is to our readers, again, ad or no ad (I feel like I’m preaching to the choir).

    In response to the main post, I don’t see a long and happy future for Adsense and others if they continue as we know them. The ad robots are going to need to get a lot smarter for the business model to be sustainable. However, the trend towards site owners picking which ads to show is growing; for example Consumption Junction, and the newer Google referral ads are just two. To me that’s a different ball game.

    There’s little difference between posting related links at the bottom of an article (like on many posts in this blog), and posting sponsored links that I think my readers would find valuable – but for these I would be paid.

    Ads are important and they are here to stay. We’re still working the bugs out, and it’s going to be a few years yet. In the meantime, as a part time hobby blogger I still need to be paid for the quality information I provide. Imagine the loss – imagine how many would stop writing – if there was no way to compensate authors who “give and give and give – and still have to pay the rent…”

    Lorelle, this is really great stuff. Thanks for your insight, questions, guidance, and thought-provoking content. I really enjoy it.

  25. Posted January 4, 2008 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    @ robinandraenelle:

    I’m eagerly waiting the needless years for ads to get it “right”. As a hobby blogger myself, I feel no need to be paid for my hobby since bringing money turns the hobby into a business, thus changing the reason I enjoy my hobby. For those who turn their blogs into business, then ads are an option for income. Ugly ads, though, have got to go.

    If the ad folks don’t clean up their acts on their own, and we continue to support their ugly ads, they will never change and we won’t force them to change. I’d like to think we still have some sway when we make our decisions.

    As for the link spawning ugly, it happened again the day after I posted that comment. There are still uglies out there. Not every webmaster is reputable or even knowledgeable about what they are doing. Some are just downright evil. It looked like a legitimate link to information I was interested in, not an ad. I reported them, as should we all.

  26. Posted January 5, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I am an ad clicker. Not the pop-ups or ones that cover the screen or make noise. If a site has those, I won’t come back. But banners and Google ads I have no problem with and actually click them sometimes if they interest me. I probably click 2 or 3 a week.

    For instance, I once posted a thread about my cat being sick and the Google ads at the bottom of the page came up with products that would help my cat. I clicked them and one site had just what I needed.

    Sometimes, when making searches on Google, the paid ads are more what I’m looking for than the search results, so I’ll click them.

    I’ll click banners if they look like they’ll take me somewhere funny or interesting.

    Basically, I have no problem with advertising. I don’t expect people to make stuff for free. And if the ads are something I’m interested in, I’ll click ’em.

  27. Posted January 8, 2008 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    In the old days, clicking an ad was a nightmare, but tactics like popups and such lead to breaches of trust. If people host ads like that, you won’t come back.

    Reputable sites know this and won’t serve those types of ads these days. Otherwise, they fall out of favor pretty quickly.

    As a former tech security worker and long time user of the internet, I understand your inherent mistrust though.

  28. Posted January 12, 2008 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I rarely clicked ads, especially because the demography is mainly targeted for these who live in english-speaking countries.

    But when the text displaying ads in my language, sometimes I clicked it when they are my field of interest (for example, an ads displaying video games sales)

  29. Gil
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Who clicks on ads?

    1. I would think the most obvious answer would be people intent to buy something. Following from that: those with more disposable income are probably apt to click more than others.

    2. Except for those people who relate to web advertising in the same way they do to window shopping, i.e. people with big appetites but small pockets.

    3. Those who couldn’t find their way ’round a broom closet without a neon sign pointing the way.

    I don’t click on ads because my time spent on the internet isn’t predicated upon buying stuff. And if I’m interested in purchasing something online I just go to the source.

  30. homaid
    Posted January 23, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I click on ads only when i think the writer of the post deserve it (a way to thank him).

  31. beloy
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Only contextual ads work! And only sometimes.
    As for other types of (unrelated) advertising, they are a province of *uneducated* public, like rural folks or housewives, — and should be banned!

    I’ve just made a “mini research” on the topic, and my conclusion is amazingly simple:
    To get rid of it,
    Just Say No to Ads!

  32. Posted May 20, 2008 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I click on ads when I am looking for something that I know I am going to part with money for – otherwise I don’t as the only thing at the other side of the ad is someone wanting me to part with money for something…

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] few days ago Lorelle asked “Who Clicks on Ads?”. It got some interesting […]

  2. […] The Demographics of Who Clicks on Ads: I’m always fascinated by those who make money from ad clicks, and those who click on ads. It’s a strange phenomenon. Sometimes I think that most of the ad clickers are people who video tape television shows so they can skip the ads. […]

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