Disqus, Make Your Promoted Discovery Ads Much, Much More Relevant

I have only come across one other blog post about the Discovery feature displaying Promoted Discovery Ads that are not remotely relevant to the on-page content, but I have encountered it enough on this website to want to rant about it.

First, what is Discovery? The following is copied directly from the Disqus help pages:

Discovery helps people find new and interesting discussions and stories from within Disqus. Discovery also helps publishers drive increases in internal recirculation and external referral traffic, resulting in increased advertising revenues. Discovery is not just one feature - it is woven throughout Disqus and a driving principle behind our entire platform.

Sounds like a useful feature, but how is the content recommended to users? The following is also copied directly from the same Disqus help page linked above:

The Discovery box presents highly relevant and personalized content recommendations. We base these recommendations on a few things:

  • The current story and discussion that's on the page.

  • Other content on the site and content that others wish to promote.

  • What we think would be most interesting to the specific reader.

We have a deep and wide perspective on trending topics and engagement across the millions of websites that use Disqus. Also, we have rich insights into the over 800 million monthly users who view Disqus-powered pages, including what interests them and engages them to comment. We use these data sets to make the best content recommendations for our users.

We are always working to improve our targeting algorithms in order to provide the highest quality editorial experience for publishers and most relevant recommendations to users.

Yet, from the Promoted Discovery Ads I have seen displayed, I may as well be reading the tabloids, because very few of them are "highly relevant" to the "current story and discussion that's on the page".

For example, most of the posts on this website are technology focused. Google AdSense does a well enough job delivering relevant technology ads and there are times when it does display something completely irrelevant. However, if I turn on Disqus' Increased traffic and revenue or Maximum increased traffic and revenue option in the Discovery tab of the Settings panel at disqus.com, I am presented with the following types of ads:

Not relevant Disqus ads

The only remotely relevant Disqus Promoted Discovery Ad under the Around the Web section is the last one. The other three Promoted Discovery Ads, especially the middle two, are useless and probably not what visitors to my website are interested in. And, the above picture is not a one-off case. I can navigate to any page of this website and consistently see irrelevant Promoted Discovery Ads.

Could I turn off this feature and completely avoid this problem? Sure. I have turned Discovery on and off several times since creating this website, mainly in disgust of the types of Promoted Discovery Ads displayed, but like everyone else that uses Discovery, I want it turned on to further monetize this website.

In Disqus' defense, Discovery is a little over a year old and is undoubtedly still being tweaked and tuned. They even include a Blacklist box in the Discovery tab of the Settings panel at disqus.com to "Block Promoted Discovery links from specific domains from appearing on your site", but I don't think it works. I've added three domains to this blacklist, but Promoted Discovery Ads still appear from those domains. In the picture above, the second Disqus Promoted Discovery Ad under the Around the Web section is one domain I have blacklisted, yet it still keeps appearing.

I like Disqus, I like the Discovery feature, and I want to use it, but right now it seems the pool of Promoted Discovery Ads come right from the tabloids.