Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Advertisements, just like in newspapers or magazines, are nothing more than rented space on a page and should never be confused with recommendations.
For some this'll seem both obvious, and somewhat odd that I'd be addressing it at all.
For others, however, there's an extremely important lesson here that I've come to the conclusion needs some serious clarification.
And it's not just about what happens here at Ask Leo!, but rather how you view the content you see everywhere on the internet.
You need to recognize advertisements.
In recent weeks, I've had a couple of people ask me for assistance with a product that I'd recommended. The problem, of course, is that not only had I not recommended the product, in at least one case, I'd never heard of it!
What had happened, I presume, is that the individuals asking the question saw an advertisement of some sort on one of my pages and mistook it for my recommendation.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The vast majority of ads on Ask Leo! come from an outside vendor: Google's AdSense. I do not select what AdSense shows - rather, AdSense generally selects ads from its inventory of advertisers based on the content of the page. This is referred to as "contextual advertising". If you're viewing a page that discusses viruses, for example, AdSense may well display ads for anti-virus software.
But the key is that the site owner - me, in this case - has nothing to do with the ad selection. I don't even know what products are available to be advertised; I just tell AdSense "put an ad here" and it does the rest.
Now, if this were just about my site, Ask Leo!, I'd probably not bother to address it publicly in this way. Rarely do information sites like this talk explicitly about how they make money, focusing instead on ... well ... the information.
Here, however, there's an overlap, and it highlights an important distinction that you need be aware of as you surf not only Ask Leo!, but the entire internet.
This advertising based revenue model that I use is extremely common. Many, if not most of the free sites you visit every day derive a majority of the income that allows them to even exist from advertising displayed on their site. I know that Ask Leo! would not be as comprehensive as it is - heck, it might not even exist - were it not for the advertising presented on the site. Alternate revenue models rarely come close to covering even the most basic of costs associated with a site like this.
So with all that advertising out there, it's important that when visiting any site you make sure that you recognize just what it is you're looking at.
An ad is just that, an advertisement. Not unlike a newspaper or magazine, an ad is simply some space that's been "rented out" to an advertiser for them to place their message. An ad implies no relationship to the site that it's on beyond having rented some space to be displayed.
If you can't tell the difference between an advertisement on a web site and the content provided by that site you're likely to make some ill-informed decisions.
I'm not (not, not, NOT) saying that ads are bad, or that the products being advertised are bad - far, far from it. Many products being advertised are quite good, to the point that I've occasionally joked that AdSense's targeting often ends up with the ad being the solution to the problem that led someone to my site in the first place.
But certainly not always.
While the majority of ads on my site and the internet in general are for perfectly fine products, I'm sure, they're still advertisements, and not endorsements. It's still your responsibility to understand that an ad is an ad, and to do due diligence in understanding if the product being advertised is appropriate for you.
Perhaps most importantly it applies to every site you visit on the entire internet.
Ads are everywhere, and advertisers are naturally going to attempt to make their ads as enticing as they can in order to garner your interest. Whether that interest is deserved - which it may or may not be - is something only you can decide.
And once again, to be clear: Ask Leo! owes its existence to, and derives the majority of the revenue to keep the site operating, from the advertisements that appear on the site. Ads are not my endorsements, and I have very little control over exactly what gets advertised. I can block a limited number of particularly egregious advertisers, and value your feedback - but blocking them from advertising here is all I can do.
I do have explicit recommendations. They don't come easy, and that's why there aren't more of them. They also change over time as I find that things that I once favored no longer meet my standards, and new products or services arrive to take their place. But they are explicit recommendations and not paid advertisements.