Opting Out Of PPC Ads

There are some who might say I’m shooting myself in the foot by writing this post, since I make my living by ensuring people see PPC ads. But even though I’m an ad guy, I kind of secretly loathe being advertised to. And since most of the folks that read this blog are marketing folks who are thoroughly immune to advertising (because we’re all so clever and special, right?), I’ll charge right ahead and explain some ways to ensure you don’t see PPC ads.

Even though Google’s massive profits are driven by advertising, they give a surprising amount of control to users on how they can be marketed to. Just this week, Google announced that they’re giving users the option to mute ads. This allows people to permanently block ads from a particular campaign. This is bad news for intrusive or misleading advertisers, and great news for people who don’t really want to learn about “one weird old tip” to help them lose weight/quit smoking/get rich.

This may seem groundbreaking to the layman, but Google and Bing have allowed people to adjust their ad preferences for a while now. I’ll save you a search. Google’s ad preferences page is here:


…and Bing’s is here:


On these pages you can’t opt out of ads entirely, but you can adjust your preferences so that you’re no longer seeing ads from particularly irrelevant categories. Both search engines also give you the option of opting out entirely. But this only means that you’re opting out of behavioral and interest targeting. You’re still going to get ads, but they won’t be as creepily relevant as they used to be.

If you have more of a scorched earth policy against web ads, you’ll have to turn to a browser plugin. I recommend AdBlock Plus. This will block not only those pesky PPC ads, but will shoot down most every display or interstitial ad as well, whether or not they’re in the Google or Bing display networks.

So why divulge all of these trade secrets if you’re a PPC advertiser? Well, at the time of this writing the amount of web users that are savvy enough to use ad blockers and ad preferences is a very, very small percentage of the total users of the web. And honestly, if you’re clever enough to change all these settings, ads probably aren’t going to work on you anyway. Best not to waste those ad impressions on an audience that just doesn’t care.

And even though I support ways to opt out of ads, I still think that web advertising on a whole is a good thing. Web ads give content providers a way to make a living through their content, and allow advertisers to highly target their wares to an audience that is most likely interested in them. Advertisers save money by focusing their spend on the most effective audiences, and users win by not getting blasted by irrelevant ads all the time. If you oppose search results ads and display ads, I encourage you to remember what ads were like before the web. Instead of an ad providing a genuine answer to a genuine question (that’s what a search query is, after all), we could always go back to the days of unsolicited telemarketing, blaring TV ads, and junk mail. Well, maybe that’s a bad example – we’re still kind of in those days. But with better targeting options on both sides of the web advertising equation, I like to think that the good guys who aspire to provide the most relevant PPC and display ads are going to suck the life and the advertising dollars away from the spammers.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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