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It’s not me, it’s you. (or your husband. or your babysitter. or your kid. *ahem*) |

It’s not me, it’s you. (or your husband. or your babysitter. or your kid. *ahem*)

An awkward in-person conversation I recently had:

This person: Um, the ads on your blog are kinda adult themed right now. Adult, playthings. Are you aware?

Me: Um, you know how google generates those ads, right? Were you aware?

Clearly, this person was not aware how ads show up on their favorite (always wholesome) web pages.


You guys, YOU GUYS. You know how google generates sidebar ads, right?

Ok, fine. I’ll throw you a bone if you don’t. In fact, I didn’t know either until about 18 months ago. At the time, I was researching a potential trip to Disney, and pricing out various lodging options for the family. I found it very interesting that every time I got on the internet, even for something totally unrelated to researching the trip, I saw an ad for the exact resort I really wanted to stay at.

And then the exact purse I had been coveting from Zappos (which I continued to stalk on their site, just waiting for the price to drop) started randomly show up in all the ad sidebars. Taunting, come back and buy me, Emily….

Coincidence? Nope, not a chance in cyber hell.

Friends, google and his sneaky-sneakster friends are watching. Google ads generated in any given sidebar are typically ads BASED OFF YOUR SEARCH HISTORY.

And sure, site owners (such as myself ) can for the most part customize what types of ads show up, if they are truly worried about offending readers. But for real, I can barely find time to publish a post these days, let alone make sure weird pantyhose art doesn’t show up in the sidebar.

Let’s prove a point, shall we?

Exhibit A:


These are the ads that popped up for me this morning on the various sites I frequent. They make complete sense based off my resent search history.

Breaking it down:

I’m doing a series of spring cleaning posts over at CafeMom. They’re sponsored by, you guessed it, Bissell.

GAP had a big 40% off Memorial Day sale, hence the GAP ad. I didn’t buy anything, but I did do a bit of cyber browsing.

And lastly, The Simple Moms site has been down all weekend with some epic server issues related to the company in the solid state ad.


So when you see an undesirable ad in your sidebar, don’t look at me. And don’t email me being all judgy and stuff telling me how I’m trying to sell ya gross hippo lip decals or bowling balls that look like human heads.

Look um, at yourself. Or your husband. Maybe even your kid or your dog.

Yes, it’s totally the dog’s fault. He’s always up to no good, giving everyone the shifty eyes.


But definitely don’t blame me. Because things will get awkward fast.





  1. Ha ha ha!! Great post. I just saw someone yesterday yelling because their ads were porn. I didn’t say a word. I mean, what CAN you say to that??! 🙂


  2. One of the many reasons I love AdBlock on Chrome. When I end up using IE for some reason, I’m often taken aback by the number of ads on certain sites! And it freaks me out how… personal… they get with my info.
    Eternal Lizdom recently posted..Making Friends


  3. True Story. Companies that run AdWords remarketing campaigns basically stalk you after you visit their site. It’s a little creepy, but true. They can customize ads based on where you visited on the site, and set how many days they’d like to show a particular ad to you.
    Michelle@Gotchababy recently posted..Schools Out For Summer…Time for KidVentures


  4. So … I work in ecommerce and I can tell you it goes way deeper than Google itself.

    Say you’ve been to Zappos. In order to give you the best experience, you have to have cookies enabled. This makes your cart work WAY better and wishlists and all of that good stuff you want to work. It remembers the last few items you’ve viewed so you can easily compare and go back to them.

    But it also remembers that after you leave. And whether it’s Google Ads or one of several other companies that does “re-targeting,” now the fictional version of Zappos (I don’t know their specific policies and I’m not saying this is exactly what they do), basically says “The computer with this particular, anonymous cookie looked at Widget Z. Cool. Hey, company that does our re-targeting ads? Will you please show anyone with this particular anonymous and unique cookie this Widget Z? We want them to come back and get it instead of forgetting about it.”

    And the re-targeting ad company looks at all the requests and shows you ads either based on your general viewing history (you shopped at Company Y, so here’s their ad, sorry it’s just for the company) or specifically based on things you viewed (Here’s that bag at Zappos you wanted … or here’s an accessory for that thing you just bought at Amazon).

    So, if you’re shopping for a surprise on a shared machine in the house (and I’ve heard some reports of this carrying over to the main network in the house, not just the single machine), you’ll want to enable some kind of private browsing. Chrome calls it Incognito, IE is I think Private Browsing, FireFox is Private Window, Safari is Private Browsing.

    It’s a little crazy how much we’re being tracked ….
    (What? It’s not paranoia if it’s true!)

    Great article, Emily!!
    ender recently posted..Pulling the Plug


  5. Well said!


  6. Whatever, we all know you’re trying get all up in our grills with that stuff. A man can only have so many purses!


  7. Oh, lovely. I JUST put my first ad on my site yesterday. So far it’s been AT&T nonstop, but I’m waiting for something ridiculous to show up. I can’t believe you got an email about it!
    Sara C recently posted..Family Night with Indiana Family of Farmers at Victory Field Ticket Giveaway #FarmsMatter


  8. I apparently want to go on vacation to a Westin. Which, duh.
    Casey-moosh in indy. (@mooshinindy) recently posted..shane garcia can do anything.


  9. And this, this is exactly why I use ad-block. I actually had to switch to Chrome just to see your example ads, it’s that good! 😉
    And I don’t run that kind of ads on my own site so I’m happy to say I’ve never gotten that kind of email!
    Although at one point my dad followed a link to a friend’s blog and then saw a rather sketchy ad on her site (not google based – it was one she’d posted as a graphic) and was all upset that I would link to something like that. I’m like, Dad, you weren’t on my site anymore and I’m sorry that not all of my friends are squeaky clean… oy!


  10. & websites can do dynamic targeting to you based upon your search, demographic, etc.

    Let’s say Target using dynamic mastheads – you see shoes, your husband sees golf, your dog sees toys & treats.

    When people tell me that they don’t understand my day job, I smile. They might not understand it, but they see it every single day.
    Beth Anne recently posted..It’s tough being gorgeous.


  11. I didn’t know, but now I do 🙂 So apparently I need glasses or contact lol
    Renee recently posted..Spring into fashion ~ Fashion Friday


  12. and this is why I see banana republic, old navy, and gap ads everywhere. is it weird that I like that they are stalking me? yeah, that’s weird. ::hangs head::
    Katie recently posted..a diverged path


  13. Whew, just Zappos. The dog must have been busy lately.
    joules recently posted..28 Days Later


  14. I don’t see any ads? I think I have adblock but I’m not sure. Now I have to look at your site on Chrome to see what kind of porn I get. 😀
    Smellyann recently posted..This Is My Confessional


  15. Hmm. Still no ads on Chrome. Apparently I’m more on top of things than I knew. (I’m the only one who uses this computer.)

    Plus, now I’m remembering my pastor complaining in church once about all the porn ads HE got on HIS computer. HA!
    Smellyann recently posted..This Is My Confessional


  16. Very good written story. It will be supportive to anyone who employees it, including myself. Keep up the good work – can’t wait to read more posts.


  17. Woah! I’m really digging the template/theme of this blog.

    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s difficult
    to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appearance.
    I must say you’ve done a awesome job with this.
    Also, the blog loads super fast for me on Internet
    explorer. Exceptional Blog! recently


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