In addition to providing what I consider to be the most consistent search results, Google does interesting things in the advertising space. You've probably noticed contextually relevant text advertising on numerous sites you visit, including mine, or maybe you don't realize you've noticed them because the advertising actually relates to the topic presented on the page. I'm sure someone geekier than me could explain in detail how Google makes their advertising work. In the end, I don't really care how it works; it just does. While I've been ignoring banner advertisements and flashing garbage for years (punch the paparazzi, anyone? Or if you've been online for at least five years, that's punch the monkey) I regularly find Google advertisements that lead me to things I either never noticed before or would not have noticed if the Google advertising weren't making a relevant match to the content on the page.
One of the best examples of this came recently when I dropped by ITConversations to download a recent Voices in Your Head interview with the authors of the book The Future of Music. I haven't read the book yet, but I'm planning on it because the interview makes it seem like a must read, for me at least. ITConversations runs Google advertising on their site and at the time I visited the page for The Future of Music interview, an ad for a book called The Dragon's Lair was running in one of the Google ad positions. The Dragon's Lair is a sci-fi adventure about a female Han Solo-type with a base of operations for her smuggling fronted by a bar on a space station (I've only read the first three chapters so far, so it's a little early to pass judgment on the book, but I like the direction it's headed). I'm not sure how that directly relates to The Future of Music, but both of the books are new releases from niche publishers, so maybe that's the tie in. It's very common for geeks to like sci-fi and the ITConversations core audience most definitely fits the 'geek' label, so the there's an additional layer of relevance.
I clicked the link over to the site promoting The Dragon's Lair, read some of the background about author, Lisa Guilfoil, and other background information about the book. I personally think they'd sell more books with a site overhaul, because the book is far more engaging than the site lets on, but I'm not their marketing team. As a direct result of this ad I clicked on , I contacted the publisher because I thought a new sci-fi book from an independent publishing house might make an interesting topic to write about. The book publisher also happens to be journalist currently doing a story about online publishers and their path of growth. In addition to my finding out more about The Dragon's Lair, she asked if I'd be willing to answer a couple questions for the story she was doing. I willingly obliged and am quoted in the article as a result. This entire chain of events is the direct result of Google Adsense, the program Google offers for online publishers like me interested in generating revenue from contextually relevant advertising.
If you currently have an online site or a blog and aren't using Google Adsense to help offset your costs and possibly generate enough money to pay your bills, I highly recommend you go sign up (I get nothing from Google for making this recommendation). Google Adsense happens to be one of the primary ways I pay the bills on a monthly basis, so I know it works. If you're currently running Google Adsense on your site and aren't making much money with it, there are some tricks to optimizing the placement of the ads in relation to other information on your site to improve ad relevance and make it easy for the readers to still read what you have to say without being overwhelmed by junk on the page. To figure out how to make Adsense work, I highly recommend ordering the Adsense Secrets ebook from Joel Comm. There are some lofty claims made on the sales page, but it's the only source of information on the topic I'm personally willing to endorse because I know it works. Using the recommendations in Adsense Secrets, my Google Adsense revenue is increasing at a rate of 30% per month or more for the last 6 months. I don't make the kind of money Joel makes, but the information he provides is the biggest reason my revenue continues to improve. I consider Adsense Secrets to be worth every penny.
The bottom line here is, we live in a world where advertising comes at us from all directions. We are overloaded with billboards, television advertising, print advertising, online ads, radio ads, advertising on buses, ads on taxi cabs, and ads people post for their own businesses on the side of their own vehicles. Most of these ads aren't applicable to our lives or even to what we're doing at the moment we see the advertising. While I won't go so far as to pretend Google's contextual advertising is perfect, they've managed to something that no other advertising method has accomplished thus far - they've linked advertising to the information it supports. It's the only advertising I ever pay attention to, aside from the Super Bowl ads, which I watch for entertainment and not for the products presented.