Yesterday I was reading Aaron Wall’s Google as the Invisible Hand and something curious came to my mind. How many Google Adsense publishers have any idea what their website is promoting, linking to, or being associated with?

I would guess very few – because the system is designed for you not to know.

Google Adsense terms of service forbid the site owner from clicking their own Adsense ads on their own website – their policy is very stringent about this.  So by design, you cannot know if you are promoting garbage or quality sites through your own website.

Why does this matter? It’s about reputation and brand. The websites you link to are associated with your brand. If your Adsense ads direct your visitors to spammy garbage sites or sleazy ebook offers, then your site will inevitably be associated (even if loosely) with those sort of “neighborhoods,” which will devalue your own brand and trust.

Google Adsense needs to institute a filter or publisher-cookie system that enables site owners to click their own ads without fear of getting banned. Since they are very good at catching “self-clickers”, why can’t they just make that into a feature? Or could it be that they don’t want people to know what they’re advertising?

Guy Kawasaki posted his Adsense earnings at the beginning of this year, which were so low, even CNN Money wrote a piece about it. I bet if you ask Guy who he was sending all that traffic to, he couldn’t answer you. What about you? If you have Adsense running on your blog, do you know what sites you are promoting and associating yourself with?

I’m guessing no – and that’s the way Google wants it.