Are Made-for-AdSense Sites Ethical?

The bane of the internet, aka Google AdSenseWith each passing month, it becomes increasingly clear there are a zillion ways to make money on the ‘net. One of the most direct and sustainable ways to create a passive income stream online is to parasitically attach oneself to the Google teat and commence sucking. Plenty of armchair Seach Engine Optimizers (SEOs) have spammy, made-for-AdSense sites that act as Google breast pumps for niche topics. Once the milk starts flowing, it’s green, and it’s steady. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

If the only thing that really matters is making money, then I guess these “splogs” aren’t that big a deal. When you look at the relationship dynamics of everyone involved in this AdSense exploitation, though, things are quite different. In fact, I don’t really see how you can possibly claim that splogs developed solely for Google or Yahoo ad exploitation are ethical.

The dynamics of a made-for-AdSense splog

Here’s how these (para)sites work (god, I’m clever!):

  1. Armchair SEO (ArSE-O) picks out a popular keyword as his topical focus
  2. The ArSE-O then creates a splog around that keyword, pulling articles or search results straight from Google on the topic
    • One note here – the ArSE-O may even create the articles on his own, or else outsource them to India for a paltry sum that allows Mahesh to live in the nice part of Calcutta…Neither method of production affects the ethical status of the site, in my opinion.
  3. Next, the ArSE-O shamelessly slaps Google AdSense ads all over his splog in hopes that information-seeking schmucks from Google will stick around long enough to click on one.

Once the ArSE-O has his site up and running, he establishes parasitic relationships with three parties: advertisers, Google, and Google users. To give you a better idea, I went ahead and made up a visual to help explain things.

Graphical representation of the ArSE-O relationship structure

Notice how no arrows go from the ArSE-O to anything else. It’s all “take take take.” By reproducing articles or even creating simple content to help “sell” his ads, the ArSE-O has really offered the user nothing, although I know a few SEOs out there who’d like to cry foul over this statement…

In addition, the ArSE-O has knowingly created a site with the sole intention of exploiting the Google AdSense system. This exploitation is twofold, though – advertisers get screwed, and so does Google. Personally, I feel as though the search engine user is getting screwed here, too, because the splog was not created to solve users’ problems or answer their questions in the first place!

Ethical or unethical?

I’m opening up a philosophical can of worms here, but unidirectional money flows without informational or product reciprocation are unethical. Made-for-AdSense splogs don’t help anybody but the ArSE-O, and it’s this “every man for himself” mentality that is bloating out the web and rendering search results shady at best.

Extracting money from a particular economy without providing anything useful in return is wrong.

To me, the bottom line is more personal than the macro economical scenario posed above. At some point, you simply have to ask yourself:

Do I want to produce something of value, something that people will use, experience, and enjoy? Or do I want to be a leech, creating things that have no value and offer no personal gratification?