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The stupidest thing Seth Godin ever said.

August 22nd, 2008 · 29 Comments

BLUF Seth Godin’s blog today is recommending that we all start using Click Fraud as way to tell bloggers we love them.

Seth today proposes that we should simply click on ads on blogs that we like.

Seth Godin’s Blog: “If you like what you’re reading, click an ad to say thanks.”

Seth’s post today promotes theft of services!

There is no difference between Seth’s post today, and a Bank Manager telling you how to successfully kite checks.

A store security guard giving you advice on how to shoplift.

Seth is a Marketer.  And a very internet savvy one at that.  His site search lists 136 results for Website Design, and 246 for SEO.  So Seth knows how the internet works.  He especially knows how Pay Per Click (PPC) works as evidenced by this post written back in 2006 when he still explained technical details, now he just does “big picture, high level, strategy stuff.”  I’m telling you this so you know that Seth understands the details of PPC and the details of how the PPC economy works.

Seth today proposes that we should simply click on ads on blogs that we like.  This will pay the website owner for the free content they have provided.  This way only the advertisers will have to pay for the useless clicks they receive. Seth even goes on to say that, “Pretty simple, but not an accepted online protocol, at least not yet.”

For a big picture guy like Seth this a really stupid idea. For an experienced online marketing expert like Seth- this borders on criminal conspiracy.

On successful sites people start clicking all sorts of ads.  Good advertisers leave these sites in droves because the ROI drops out the bottom.  Click Fraud becomes the accepted Standard Operational Procedure for people to do business on the web, if this becomes “an accepted online protocol.”

Just to clear up any confusion here is Google’s take on the idea: (quoted from the Adwords Help section

Google defines invalid clicks as:

  • Manual clicks intended to increase your advertising costs or to increase profits for website owners hosting your ads
  • Clicks by automated tools, robots, or other deceptive software
  • Extraneous clicks which provide no value to the advertiser, such as the second click of a double-click

Don’t be fooled by Google’s spin, “invalid clicks” is CLICK FRAUD.  Seth’s idea is to promote Click Fraud as a way to encourage Bloggers to write more.

Maybe SEO’s should Google Bomb Seth? Seth Godin is a thief.

A Better Alternative

Hey Seth, why don’t you suggest that we enter a friend’s name on a subscription for a good blog?  That’s good for the blog and good for the environment.  How about building things up instead of tearing them down, eh Seth?

What do you think?

Tanks for reading,


Tags: Dear Mr. Reasonable · For Unknown Reasons · Reasonable Techie Advice · Reasons For Net Marketing

29 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lolly // Aug 22, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Love it! Seth is focusing on the negatives whilst you’re suggesting something positive that will better the blogosphere. The example you’ve just given is a good reminder as to why I refuse to add Seth to my blogroll or suscribe to his RSS feed

    Thanks for the great post

  • 2 Andrew Finkle // Aug 22, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Takes real balls to call someone out…specially when your calling out a God like Seth… Good for you!

    Bad post Seth! Bad!

  • 3 Melissa (Pronoia) Pierce // Aug 22, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Oh! You are hitting me where it hurts… and I’m supposing that’s a good thing. As a Seth Godin fan, I have a hard time viewing him as propagating criminal activity. Ooch…

    But you know, the fan in me says he wrote this tongue in cheek.

    However – I applaud your restraint to granting his solicitation such an easy dismissal as I did. I applaud your insight, and will watch sadly as Godinites burn down your house, as I know you to be an honest man.

    Say it ain’t so Seth

  • 4 James // Aug 22, 2008 at 9:10 am

    I run an interactive ad agency. Click Fraud is a big deal. We have enough hurdles convincing clients that online is a legit channel. Activity like this doesn’t help.

    The thing I agree with is to take action. If you like what you read leave a comment and contribute to the conversation. Tell your followers on Twitter or Plurk about the blog. Post a review on your Facebook wall. Email a link to the post to some friends. This activity will increase traffic which increases the value to advertisers. Of course, if you have interest in a product being advertised by all means click away.

    I sure hope Seth is trying to make a point that we missed.

  • 5 Rob Blatt // Aug 22, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Before I start my comment rant: CPM – cost per thousand impressions, CPC – cost per click, CPA – cost per action. This is in case other readers did not already know.

    This is something that used to be standard practice until people realized that this kind of behavior doesn’t actually help the blogger in question. We’re talking about ads that are not simple CPM build your brand through association and visibility. We’re talking about CPC ads I imagine. CPC will slowly turn into CPA and once you’re in CPA land, it is much more difficult to game the system as Seth Godin is suggesting.

    Well, now you know that Godin’s not always right. He’s just right with the stuff that sounds like common sense.

  • 6 Josef Katz // Aug 22, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I am sure Seth’s post was intended to be tongue in cheek. If you think about Permission Marketing and how Seth sees marketing all ads are interruptions if you didn’t request the communication. I guess he figures if advertisers start seeing their ROI drop they will stop advertising/ interrupting consumers. Of course this is not a practical way to convert non permission based marketers.

    I have to hand it to you though. This post took some guts to post. You will either become a hero or a hated man in the next few days. Either way I will remain a fan.

  • 7 Linda // Aug 22, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Here are some thoughts:

    What if the ad actually is placed at a blog, where the readers of the blog truly are part of the true target group for the ad …

    What if the click on the ad, “as it is placed on one of my favourite blogs”, actually makes the person who clicked, realise something valuable or useful, by getting the additional information from clicking and spending a short moment of time extra on this subject?

    What about a thought: The blogs I’m in favour of should also be promoting stuff that they can stand for, and in that sense might be interesting to me?

    Of course, that puts a whole lot of more pressure on blogs with ads, in selecting and not accepting any ad network. But in those (rare or so far unexisting?) cases, the idea would be right.

    Click the ads of bloggers who care about what they promote, and why, in order to find out if they are of interest to you. Click them with an open mind. Just like you would read or view an ad in a magasine, if you believe it might be interesting – and sometimes I think you too base that conclusion on the status and surroundings of the magasine as least as much as on the ad itself.

    So what I say, clicking to find out if it gives you something is not stealing, more like taking a glance in somebodys shop to learn more. (And to the best bloggers, if you have ads, make sure you know for whom, and stand for it). Then the system works. =)

  • 8 Mike Buckley // Aug 22, 2008 at 9:47 am

    I think you’ve entirely missed the point of Seth’s post. He begins by saying that people who “never click on ads” are starving great content and he’s right.

    Isn’t the whole point of PPV to get people to look at ads? Isn’t that the point of all advertising? When I watch an ad on television isn’t the advertiser paying for my attention as part of the cost per thousand, even though I have no interest whatsoever in feminine hygiene products? If I watch the ad am I committing “viewer fraud.”

    Advertisers pay for the right to tell their story. Whether or not they tell a compelling story will determine their success. Like Godin, I don’t have advertising on my blog, but if I did, I would make no guarantee that a certain percentage of the clicks that my page generated would result in sales. I’d promise to send the advertisers some viewers but it’s up to them to make the sale.

    To say that Seth is “a thief” for suggesting that readers check out the ads on their favorite blogs is quite a stretch.

  • 9 Chris Kieff // Aug 22, 2008 at 9:57 am


    Just so I understand your logic:

    You suggest that it’s OK to shoplift from a store because you *might* like what you stole and come back to buy more?

    Nope, I’m sorry that logic doesn’t work for me. Seth really blew it with this one. He could have suggested something good. Something that builds rather than destroys. But he didn’t.

  • 10 Ike // Aug 22, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Seth doesn’t care about online ads, and he doesn’t care whether he brings down the whole system.

    Because Seth is interested in selling Seth’s books. That’s his business model — and one each and every one of us should follow.

    Oh wait, I forgot. Seth said you aren’t supposed to venture into any business where you aren’t the very best.

    I’m leaving now… I have to turn off my blog and go find something I’m good at…

  • 11 Chris Kieff // Aug 22, 2008 at 10:10 am


    I refer you to Rob Blatt’s comment above.

    The vast majority of ads on blogs and sites today are Pay Per Click, not Per Per View, (aka CPM or Cost per thousand of views). That’s why Seth says we need to click them. If they were CPM based pricing then there would be no point in clicking on the ads because the blogger would be paid just from the visit.

    In newspapers, TV & Radio you typically pay for CPM, but the overwhelming majority of ads on Blogs today are PPC based. They require a click for the blogger to be paid.

  • 12 seth godin // Aug 22, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I posted a follow up


  • 13 Rob Blatt // Aug 22, 2008 at 10:25 am

    In his follow up, he kinda misses the big picture. He shouldn’t have said to click the ads, he should have said to support the advertisers by buying their products if they make products you are going to buy, but that speaks only to people that sell advertising or sponsorships on their blog instead of rotating Google ads.

  • 14 Chris Kieff // Aug 22, 2008 at 10:29 am


    Great attempted recovery, but in the Olympic spirit I think you fell off the balance beam with this one.

    The concept of me or any over-busy surfer clicking willy nilly just to attempt to shift the status quo is far fetched at best. What if everything I click on is useless to me?

    What’s in it for me? No short term gain, and questionable long term gain.

    Wonderful attempt at the save, but you’ve fallen short today.

  • 15 seth godin // Aug 22, 2008 at 10:29 am

    That’s fair. Buying products is a more direct way to support them.

  • 16 Chris Kieff // Aug 22, 2008 at 10:41 am

    What about suggesting people subscribe their friends to blogs they like? Unless FriendFeed hits you with a penalty for too many unconfirmed subscriptions. That’s building.

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  • 18 Greg Bond // Aug 22, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I thought his post was a joke. There is no way it was serious. It is clearly going against so many of his philosophies.

  • 19 Greg Bond // Aug 22, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Def click on Seth Godin is a thief. because that is just good clean fun.

  • 20 Michael Crosson // Aug 22, 2008 at 11:54 am

    This is WAY exaggerated. I’m sure that what Seth meant to say is, “If you like an ad on a blog post, then click on it.” He clearly didn’t intend to promote unmitigated click fraud – he is just reinforcing that the business model of blogging relies on advertising. So if you want a blogger to succeed and make a living at it, then support him. No different from any other ad-supported venue.

    Give the guy a break!

  • 21 Chris Kieff // Aug 22, 2008 at 1:49 pm


    Read Seth’s follow up post. It’s not an exaggeration. And clicking on ads for fun isn’t supporting the blogger, it’s click fraud. Google will react to the blogger by showing cheaper and less expensive ads.

    No one is infallible, and this time Seth has proven that he’s human too.

  • 22 Controversy: Seth Godin Asks Blog Readers to Treat Ads as the New Online Tip Jar and Click | Gauravonomics Blog // Aug 22, 2008 at 2:53 pm

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  • 23 Gaurav Mishra // Aug 22, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Even though I love the delicious subversiveness of the idea, I agree with the SEM folks. I have done CPC advertising both as a blogger and a brand manager and I have always had zero tolerance for websites (or keywords) with high clicks and low conversions. If clickthrough rates go up and conversion rates drop, marketers would shift ad dollars to search, away from content/ placement, and ad budgets available to bloggers would drop, instead of going up.

    Seth Godin’s “more clicks -> lower conversions -> better landing pages -> higher conversions -> higher budgets” hypothesis assumes that marketers can learn to design significantly better landing pages to convert disinterested (or mildly interested) leads. I’m not sure if I share his confidence.

  • 24 mike ashworth // Aug 22, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Perhaps the thinking behind Seth’s idea is that if everyone does this then eventually there will be no more advertising on blogs as the advertisers wont trust it anymore.

    Perhaps that what Seth was alluding too that this would be a way to get rid of blog advertising altogether. Why not just say its a bad idea and the best thing to do is never click on an advert!

    Personally I think Chris is spot on for his critical view of Seth’s idea.

    Isn’t now the time to switch comments on at your blog so dialogue, debate, discussion can occur there? Perhaps things wouldn’t be as heated over a mistake (we are all human) if there were a way to interact with him generally over his ideas.

    Mike Ashworth
    Marketing Coach and Consultant
    Brighton and Hove, Sussex, UK

  • 25 Robert Merrill // Aug 22, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I think you’re reading a little more into this than there is.

  • 26 Linda // Aug 24, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    The way I see it, I would consider it paid for in the currency of some-seconds-more-of-deliberate-attention. And the point is that the offer should be well targeted and relevant for the reader of the blog.

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  • 28 Ari Herzog // Aug 25, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Looking at the past 26 comments through 50-50 vision, I see some people seeing the light before reading your post and other people failing to see why you’re wrong.

    As for me, I’m happy seeing people having a dialogue about someone else and then seeing that someone else join the dialogue.

  • 29 jo // Aug 30, 2008 at 10:18 am

    While I completely agree with Ari about the joys of having a discussion, it seems a lot of people are missing the point, discussing parallel subjects or asking the wrong questions.

    The question I hear is: do most landing pages suck? When you click on an ad, are you, as a visitor, really looking to navigate some company’s homepage only to find the services they provide buried behind complicated menu’s and corporate rhetoric? Are landing pages addressing the right audience? Are they putting thought and effort in it? Are they doing it right?

    To me, it seems like most of my questions would be answered with a big fat NO.

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