Seth Godin wrote today that ads are the new online tip jar. “If you like what you’re reading, click an ad to say thanks,” he says. On the surface, this seems like a nice gesture. Underneath, however, it’s a bad idea.

When people ask me how they can support Get Rich Slowly, I intentionally steer them clear of clicking on ads. Sure, I get a nickel or a dime or a quarter every time somebody does, but there are long-term ramifications to empty clicks. If an advertiser spends money on a campaign that doesn’t work, it’s not going to renew it. In the long run, “false” ad clicks don’t help me — they hurt me.

Here are four ways you can help web sites, including this one:

  • Participate in the discussion. If you have something to say, say it. Much of this site’s success is due to the active, intelligent community. You folks share ideas and offer suggestions. Any site with active readers is going to grow stronger.
  • Tell friends. If you like what you read, share it. Send stories along via e-mail. Mention the site (if appropriate) in conversations.
  • Click on ads that interest you. There’s nothing wrong with clicking on ads for topics that interest you. If I’m at a photography site, I might click on an ad for cheap memory cards, for example. But don’t just click an ad because you think it’s a good way to leave a tip.
  • Link to the stories you like. This is the number one way to support your favorite web sites. At the root of everything — traffic, revenue, subscribers — are links from other sites. If you enjoy a site, or if you find a particular article you like, then link to it.

If you used my list of savings accounts to find a good rate, link to it. If my guide to the Roth IRA helped you, link to it. If you like the ongoing series about our garden, link to it. If you find something of value at a site, link to it. If you can’t link because you don’t have a site, then tell your friends.

The best way to support a site is not to click on the ads, but to spread the word. Trust me: if new readers come, revenue will follow.

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