AdSense for RSS Feeds – How Contextual Are the Ads?

Over the last few weeks we’ve (b5media) been experimenting with AdSense for RSS on our blogs (including ProBlogger). I’d previously had them on my photography blog but not here on ProBlogger.

Since activating them I’ve had around 1 email a day from readers telling me that they are seeing ‘strange’ ads. The feedback is that some readers are seeing ads for scammy ‘make money online’ products (relevant but not really what I’d want to associate my brand with) or irrelevant ads.

Last night a reader (Pawel from SEOblogr) emailed to tell me that he was seeing ads for a Gay Chubby Dating service. He sent me this screenshot (click to enlarge).

Gay Chubby Dating

Now I’m sure ProBlogger has its fair share of Gay Chubby reader who are looking for dates – but it’s not the most relevant ad in the world – certainly not ‘contextual’ as the post it appeared under was about the names that people leave comments under on blogs.

I’m wondering if this ‘irrelevant’ AdSense for RSS feeds is impacting others? I do know that irrelevant ads impact normal AdSense ad units from time to time but it seems I’ve had a lot more complaints about them in my feed than any other ad unit.

PS: I took a few minutes to scan through other b5media blogs to see how relevant the AdSense ads are on them. In most cases they are pretty good. The only other explanation I can think of is that perhaps because the ads are geotargetted that in some parts of the world there are less ads in the system and that relevancy suffers in these places.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  1. Sid Savara says:

    I wonder also if it’s taking into account your Google Web History, Search History, and then finally the actual RSS feed you’re viewing. Perhaps the combination of all those together plus some weirdness in the algorithm is leading to strange results like the Gay Chubby ads?

    Sort of like when that guy’s TIvo thought he was gay. Nothing wrong with it, but I remember it frustrated him and recommended a lot of things that were irrelevant just because he liked Will and Grace.

  2. Ryan McLean says:

    Hey Darren,
    I have not had this problem on my entrepreneurs blog. Good luck fixing it :-)

  3. Rahul Jadhav says:

    Hi Darren , I tried to put adsense in my RSS but i am having some problem…though i faced similar problem with the image ads on my blog…..i was getting ads of some adult dating site with pics of nude girls…i was shocked because i knew that google didnt allow porn ads ….i immediately removed adsense from my blog as its embarrassing to get adult ads on a tech blog

  4. FixThePig says:

    I think that there is more then just the content of the RSS Feed Article. Google might be looking at browsing history etc. Overall I’ve read positive things….The real test would be if you are seeing any click-through on your Ad’s. If yes then they must be having some matching quality.

  5. Thomas says:

    Boo AdSense! I’m much happier making money through advertising without the middle man.

    I recently installed a new wordpress plugin that allows me to sell my own ads and use PayPal to process the payment. Only time will tell how well this works out. :)

    The plugin is called MyADManager (available from, and you can see that I’ve got it working here:

  6. Justin Davey says:

    It seems many are struggling with this. Check out the post on Techcrunch today about the new AdSense search box and syndicated ads. I think Google is trying to buckle down and push their way through a tough global economy. But are they pissing off AdSense users? Definitely.

  7. Wess Stewart says:

    It could also have something to do with links in responses, perhaps. I could be way off, but on my blog someone commented and left the url for their gay blog and it affected my adsense ads for quite a while. Kind of crappy, but it can happen.

  8. C.J. Harley says:

    I have had AdSense since I started my blog, (which wasn’t all that long ago.) but I have found the ads to be very coherent with my blog and have had no issues.

  9. Saurabh says:

    Good post. But I don’t use Adsense on my blog.

  10. I’ve not paid much attention the the feed ads that come up for my blog, but it looks like yours are working a lot better today.

    The ad for this post was ‘contextual advertsing’ –

  11. Jeff says:

    “The only other explanation I can think of is that perhaps because the ads are geotargetted that in some parts of the world there are less ads in the system and that relevancy suffers in these places.”

    Or that reader surfs lots of gay chubby sites ;)

  12. I have been using them for my feeds and have been seeing them in the numerous feeds I am subscribed to and so far they have been pretty contextual for me. Though like adsense they do display OT ads at times but that is to be expected.

  13. Ah the joys of adsense. It’s been putting Hello Kitty Underwear ads next to some of my email messages in gmail lately. It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing ads with chubby gay men in hello kitty underwear!!! It’s a conspiracy I tell ya!

  14. Dilip Shaw says:


    Theres not much you can do about it actually. Take it or leave it. Is there a way to get direct advertisers in your RSS feeds? I don’t know if theres a way, but if its possible should give you better returns.

    Good Luck.

  15. Christopher Clayton says:

    It is propurbly just a small glitch from Google.

    @Sid – you forgot ‘blog owner’ =D lol

    @Tomas – if you want a GOOD ad system, use Google Ad Manager.

  16. The ad on this particular RSS feed was about running Adsense on your blog, so I guess that’s pretty relevant. But that ad for chubby gay guys is pretty darn funny! Made me laugh a little… and forced me to check the ads on my own RSS feeds. Everything seemed relevant.

  17. Brian Auer says:

    Well, most of the RSS ads I’ve seen haven’t been too out of place… although the one on this post had a headshot of Obama and said “Obama Finished? Vote Here Now!”

  18. Andreas Gohr says:

    That “fair share” of chubby gay readers you mention might be the key here. I wrote up my thought here: Is contextual advertising bullshit?

  19. Tom Hanna says:

    I haven’t paid attention to Adsense for RSS, but with standard Adsense I know I sometimes see ads that seem very tailored to my search history and barely relevant, if at all, to the site I’m actually looking at.

  20. Pat with SPI says:

    @ Thomas,

    Wow that plugin is actually pretty helpful. I use the plugin WP125 for 125×125 ad management, but it doesn’t deal with paypal or any payment processing. Thanks for the link!

    Hey, Gay Chubby Guys need love too.

  21. Ben says:

    I’ve noticed it too on my blog’s feed. Sometimes the ad is relevant and other times it’s from left field. Maybe, it’s the size of the ad and the inventory for that size that determines what you get.

    I’ve also noticed that the click thru rate is so low on my feed ads, that I’m highly considering removing them and replacing them with ads that promote my blog.

  22. jhay says:

    Why this kind of ads appear on totally unrelated posts, only the AdSense team knows.

  23. Joel Drapper says:

    You should sell private ads there. I am sure a wordpress plugin could be made.

  24. Marija says:

    Darren, I’m reading this post in Bloglines, and guess what ad I see in the end of your article: Meet Local Single Lesbian and Bi Women. Haha.

  25. Hi guys. I have to say that search history or previously viewed websites or even user trends or habits over long period of time do NOT play role in displaying AdSense ads. If it did, i would have never seen that kind of advertisement.
    I bet its the case of not enough ads in rotation in AdSense system. Sometimes it will show unrelated ads because its a machine and no matter how good it will be, it WILL make mistakes.

  26. Roy Scribner says:

    I’m just not very comfortable with ceding editorial control over ad content to a third-party. When it comes to your brand, you are ultimately responsible for all of the content that appears in or with all of your material.

  27. Surender says:

    Hi Dareen,
    What if I publish my articles on Techno Blog?I have techno blog and earning by ads of Kontera.Can I publish Kontera ads in Feedburner?

  28. The add I got today was advertising adsenseg.. So I guess that was perfect. These scammy/spammy ads are exactly why I don’t like adsense. People are confused enough.

  29. Hi, Darren.. :)

    Haven’t tried RSS ads, but I’d had similar, the girl version, occur early on in my use of context-based ads on the blog itself.. Not what I was writing about and no clue what was the trigger..

    Finally had to nix context-based completely when questionable get-healthy-quick fixes started being the only serving of the day, especially the ones that looked like they were shipped from overseas.. OUUUUCH.. :))

    Cyber hugs from North Georgia..

  30. Ashley says:

    It’s funny – I use Outlook to view your RSS feed and I don’t seem to get any of the AdSense ads. I just don’t see them. John Chow did a post a month or so ago about his RSS AdSense ads and I thought it was strange then, too, because I’ve never seen any of his AdSense ads either. Is there something that filters them out in Outlook? Outlook seems like a pretty normal way to view an RSS feed – not that I really mind not seeing any ads, but more of an FYI to you.

  31. That is hilarious

  32. Greg G. says:

    If google was smart (which they are) I bet they are using the Google Reader Trends data to target the ads. That also might be why you can only see the ads with GReader. Ads are not always based on content, google has much more valuable information about you that it uses to target it’s ads.

  33. No problems like that here, but that really sucks! The ads should always be relevant.

  34. I think ads are well targeted.These ads normally appear according to the geographical locations. I agree with you relevancy can suffer in those areas where Google has less ads in the system.

  35. Well, i hope Google can solve that kind of problems in the near future.

  36. I’ve noticed alot of my adsense for rss ads aren’t based on the post content.

    I’m really considering removing them.

  37. John says:

    I’m planning to put RSS reader on my site, not my blog site. Problem is I havn’t tried it yet and anyone has a link where to get a reliable (no virus, worms, etc) RSS reader?