Long-time readers know that I like to bring up ToolGuyd’s website on occasion, to discuss changes, potential changes, and to ask for feedback. As my last update was about a year ago, it’s time to check in with you.
Most of the things I have been wanting to revamp will need to be rebuilt from the ground up, and so progress has been a little slow.
If there’s something you want fixed, improved, or changed, with respect to the look, layout, or your user experience preferences, please let me know!
Aside from considering a 3rd party service for improved on-site searching, I don’t have any other experiments planned for the near-future.
(I’m sorry, but there’s still no easy way to allow for comments to be edited without utilizing a 3rd party system, and I have yet to find one that’s worth the compromises they require.)
Minor Content Format Changes
I switched to a different content editor towards the end of last year, shortly after the holiday season kicked off, and have been experimenting with it a bit since then.
You probably haven’t noticed any differences, but you might see certain types of posts structured a little differently in the future.
Let’s Talk About Advertising
I have been frequently contacted over the past year, with ad management companies trying to convince me to sign ToolGuyd up for their services.
We currently use Google’s program for some of our display ads. This has been the case for most if not all of the 13+ years I have been running and creating content for ToolGuyd.
All of these new advertising management agencies want to serve as intermediate parties, with all of them claiming it will increase ad revenue.
This sounds good in theory, right?
But it’s not as simple as that. As I like to have full control over the look and layout of ToolGuyd content, I also like to have full control over how and where ads display.
These ad management reps throw all types of terms at me – programmatic advertising, machine-learning, AI-optimization, real-time bidding, and so forth.
For pitches I don’t immediately dismiss, I might ask for live examples of where these different advertising networks and management programs are in use.
I have been shown implementations where there are ads every other paragraph, sliding ads, ads that move, ads that open and close.
If I managed the advertising for a large newspaper or magazine where my responsibility was to increase ad revenue no matter what, maybe I’d be more open to this.
But, everything I’ve seen so far is plain terrible. Intrusive. Excessive. Distracting. No, thank you.
From all of the different inquiries and solicitations, there was one great pitch. I considered working with that person, but she left the company.
But oh, there were so many bad ones. One guy keeps calling my personal phone number, asking for “Stuey.” And then his colleague called me too. Why? I was “in his database.”
Higher revenue? I’d love more money. But at what expense?
“But you’re leaving money on the table.” That’s okay with me. There has to be some ads, as we have bills to pay, but I strive to create a minimally-intrusive user experience.
While I am happy to pat myself on the back for this stance, I mainly brought this up because of how it relates to the next part.
A New Google Ad Experiment
About a year ago, we were unexpectedly auto-enrolled into a Google ad experiment. I have auto-optimization setting activated, but most other settings are toggled off.
As part of our first-ever Google-created ad experiment, some users on 1000px+ desktop browsers would see a “vignette” interstitial after clicking a link. For instance, let’s say there was a tool post with a link to an earlier ToolGuyd post. Clicking the link might have shown you a small ad surrounded by a blurred-out page. Closing the ad would take you to your link destination page.
I ultimately judged the “1000px vignette” ad to be too intrusive and deactivated it.
I do appreciate having let the experiment run, as it gave me an idea of what it costs me to spare myself and all of you from that ad’s annoyance. I also use this figure for comparison purposes whenever ad management companies give case study examples about how much more revenue they’ve helped other sites earn.
That said, I just noticed that Google activated a new ad experiment for my auto-optimization-enabled account. Here’s what it looks like:
This particular ad was for Tech Tool Supply, presumably because I was recently shopping with them. Some of my pages show me tool-related ads, others are showing entertainment-based ads.
(The way automatic bidding works, the advertiser willing to pay the most for the visitor’s attention and potential click wins the spot. Things are more complicated than that, but that’s the gist of it.)
On a desktop or laptop screen, the new ad unit is a closeable horizontal banner ad at the very bottom of the page. On mobile devices, a horizontal ad slides down from the top of the page.
I was 4 paragraphs into writing a comment reply before I noticed the new ad.
On one hand, I have tried really hard to build walls around our ad placements. For instance, the ad at the top of content, right under a post headline, is allows a maximum of 468x60px on desktop devices, and 320x50px on mobile. It cannot expand to 100px heights, and certainly not to 250px. 50px is the most I will allow that ad unit to have.
There were times when changes to ad display mechanics broke down my walls, and so I coded new ones.
Within content, there is a single 300×250 ad placement on mobile devices.
On desktop, there are 300×250 ads in the right sidebar.
There are other ad placements, such as horizontal header ads (728×90), but I’ve kept them closed for a few years now.
I checked, and the Google experiment is programmed to run for 90 days and be displayed to 50% of readers.
At this time, I’m considering letting the ad experiment run for at least two
weeks days so that I can collect data.
Its performance projections are small, especially when compared to the vignette ad projections and results. But, it’s also not as disruptive or annoying – so far.
I am sensitive to how ads impact the reader experience, which is why I keep ignoring or rejecting the companies that want to take over our ad management, but I’m also worried about my inability to be impartial.
With the vignette ad, I wanted it to work, but it ultimately interrupted me way too much.
So, please keep an eye out for the new ad placement that’s being tested, and please let me know your thoughts!
Coincidentally, a company reached out to me yesterday, inviting me to try a tool meant to appeal to adblocker users. If you use an adblocker, this service launches a pop-over prompt that will ask you to allow ads.
The pop-over demo shows a small branded message, a large “continue” button, and a small “continue without support” text link at the bottom of the pop-up window.
I’m sorry, but I highly doubt that pop-overs are a good way to ask adblocker users to whitelist a website.
If you use adblockers and have ToolGuyd whitelisted, that’s great. If you use adblockers and don’t, that’s okay. Affiliate links are no different – you can click a link to make a purchase, or you can copy model numbers to paste into a search bar.
Maybe I would feel differently if I managed ads for a website belonging to a $25 billion global media company, but this is not something I’m interested in.
Elsewhere on the Web
Just like Google can apparently create new ad units as part of their auto-optimization setting, bad actors can do the same.
In browsing a couple of websites this week, I was taken from national news and magazine websites to “because you’re a Google user…” and “because you’re an iPhone user…” pages with scam giveaway offers and similar.
Never click on any of that stuff. Hit the back button or close the tab.
Every now and then bad code gets through ad network filters and do things like that. I’ve seen it happen on desktop and mobile devices, and it can happen to any website that runs any ad network ads.
These types of incidents are very infrequent, but it’s still worth mentioning while we’re talking about ads.
If you ever see it on ToolGuyd, and I hope you don’t, please let me know.
Potential Changes to ToolGuyd’s Media Guidelines
Most types of content can be classified into 3 categories: Earned Media, Owned Media, or Paid Media.
A post here on ToolGuyd about Brand X’s new tool would be an example of earned media, a post to Brand X’s social media channel would be owned media, and Influencer X’s sponsored post (with monetary ties disclosed or not) would be paid media.
An increasing number of tool brands and companies have been prioritizing owned media and paid media, and no longer seem interested in earned media.
Around 9 years ago, I developed editorial guidelines that can best be summarized as being rules of professional media conduct.
Given how the tool industry and earned media practices have changed, it’s time I revised some of these guidelines.
There’s a lot more to this if regulars are interested in an expanded discussion.
Review Request List
Are there any tools, brands, or equipment that you might want to see reviewed this year?
I have a heavy workload right now, and so I cannot immediately accommodate requests, but I want to ensure your needs, wants, and interests are being met.
Also, are there any tools you would prefer for ToolGuyd to buy for testing and review purposes?