I visit a lot of sites on any given day. My feedreader is tracking over 200 and I may click on 40–50 per day. One of the habits I’ve acquired is the ability to subconsciously block out those annoying blocks of ad links.
Of course, I sort of see them. Sort of. They have that predictable pattern to them and are often relegated to boxes. I don’t really need to read them to know that they’re useless to me. In a split second, they’re relegated to peripheral vision and never dealt with again.
I would categorize myself a savvy web user. I think (and I fear) that over time, others will also become immune to these ads such that the search engines will feel compelled to start to, how shall I say, mix it up a bit: Images. Varied layouts. Etc. I think the goal today is to make money on advertising without reverting back to the time of balloons flying across a web page via Flash.
Despite my ability to mentally block them out, as a designer, I must say that I hate them. They really destroy any sense of cohesiveness or consistency of a page’s design (if a page was designed with some thought to begin with). I understand they’re not mandatory by any means, but ads like this (unlike the occasional usefulness of ads alongside search results) are just plain annoying.