The Strange Psychology of Adsense Keywords

My husband and I are out here in the beautiful western slope region of Colorado, visiting our friends, online entreprenuers Randy Cassingham and Kit Riley Cassingham. Of course, we’re all sitting here in the living room of their brand-new mountain home, geeking on our laptops.

Randy was just telling me about the oddities of the ads that Google Adsense serves up on one of his sites, Randy exclaimed, “Sometimes the context of the ad is funnier than the joke!”

It really makes me wonder what keywords some of these advertisers are selecting, and why. There’s definitely some weird psychology going on here.

For example…

Randy’s latest joke is The Cannibals. It starts, “Five cannibals get appointed as engineers in a defense contractor…” It’s a pretty good joke, go to his site to read it. But trust me, the joke has nothing to do with dating or sex. However, ALL of the Adsense ads served up on that page are for dating sites that feature the keyword “single.”

I kid you not. Right now, there are six ads total on that page, and here are the first two – which are representative of the others:

Single Woman
Meet Singles – Photo,
Video, Chat. Free
Personals. Sign Up Now!

Find Single Women
Millions of Profiles &
Photos Free! Meet Single
Women in Your Area

…So how does a joke about cannibals eating defense contractor staff attract ads for dating services all featuring the word “single” in the headline? It’s like a contemplating a Zen koan, or the famous Alice in Wonderland riddle, “How is a raven like a writing-desk?”

Well, maybe the fact that the cannibal joke includes the word “eat” could be attracting ads targeted at ANY possible sexual innuendo, however slight. But how about this – check out Randy’s joke, The Donkey in the Well. This joke, which has nothing to do with food, eating, or dieting, attracted a page full of Google ads for Atkins diet products.


Well, all I can say is that if you publish a Web site or weblog and you’re considering putting Adsense ads on your site to increase revenue, you probably should preview the possible results. To do that, enter your site’s URL into an Adsense sensor. Here’s one from Ken Schafer, and another from Aaron Swartz. The results might be a bit different for each engine, so check them both.

Leading blogger Anil Dash also has been having trouble making sense out of Adsense, too.