Where does a person need to click on an ad to generate a click?
On the ad, of course!
This is a question Google has been experimenting with lately, by making changes to their AdSense ad units.
As I understand it, Google is concerned about people clicking on ads accidentally. For example, you may have opened this window, toggled over to work on a different application, then clicked back over here. If, by chance, you clicked on what you thought was a blank part of the page, only to find yourself leaving through an ad, you'd probably consider that a bad experience.
Likewise, the advertiser you accidentally visited has now paid for your unintended visit, so they're not going to be particularly pleased.
To address these concerns, Google has modified what constitutes a click. You new have to click specifically on the text portion of text ads rather than anywhere within the area that serves up the text ads.
Some publishers find this unfair, but if it's good for visitors and advertisers, it's the right thing to do in the longer run.
Now here's the twist: Google's modification to what constitutes a click has been inconsistently rolled out. Some sites, as Darren Rowse from ProBlogger has pointed out, are receiving special treatment from Google:
AdSense Ad Click Zones - Gmail and Other Large Sites Get a Better Deal
I can’t be certain that it’s just a premium publisher thing - but it does illustrate that Google isn’t completely consistent with the the clickable zones on their ad units. While I can understand the need to provide value to their advertisers and to give extra features to premium publishers it does leave me with two questions:
1. are Google not worried about readers of these sites mistakenly clicking ads?
2. how do the advertisers whose ads appear on these sites feel about the increased chance of a mistaken click?
"Premium publishers" like CNN and MySpace get to play by the old rules, thus continue to benefit from accidental clicks.
A better way to handle this would be to give publishers control. If publishers choose to blended ad colors that lead to higher percentages of accidental clicks, only the text should be clickable. However, if publishers choose to use ad colors that clearly differentiate advertising from other content on the site, the entire ads should be clickable.