Monday, June 11, 2007

Targeted Links

Targeted links are big business. You can sign on for a service that will analyse the content of your website and place "appropriate" web-link adverts on your site. Each time someone links to the destination site from the link on your page you get rewarded (sometimes by as much as 0.0001p per link!). The only problem is that content analysis is often an automated process which searches for key-words and matches them with appropriate - and sometimes extraordinarily inappropriate - adverts.

There was recently an outcry about an on-line memorial site which was financed by targeted links. Several examples of distasteful and inappropriate links were given. In one case, an online memorial for a boy called Ryan featured an advert for Ryanair. Another, for a woman called Sheila, linked to Sheila's Wheels car insurance. A person called Watts was linked to an ad for light bulbs. A tribute to a boy killed in a motorcycle accident carried an ad for a new motorbike while memorials for babies had promotions for nappies and prams.

Even where the adverts have been chosen by a real person rather than a machine, the choices can often be bizarre. This morning, my son tried to book an appointment to see the doctor. The best they could offer was an appointment at the end of the week but by the time he checked his diary, that had gone so he will now see the doctor a fortnight today. We checked to see if an appointment could be made on-line (it can't) and therefore turned to the practice website. Like everywhere else these days it has targeted advert-links. Call me old-fashioned but for a NHS GP surgery to feature a link to BUPA at the top of their page is somewhat inappropriate. But you have to give the people concerned their due : what the first link achieved in inappropriateness, the second equals in appropriateness. It is a link to a firm of debt management and bankruptcy consultants.

Please note, this posting has benefited from the financial support of the following organisations.

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