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Monday, December 11, 2006

Why No Comments on Google Corporate Blogs?

Doesn't it seem strange that the company that owns Blogger doesn't have comments turned on for corporate blogs? Is a blog without comments really a blog? Note that Yahoo! allows comments on the new Yahoo! Search Marketing blog and the Yahoo! Search blog. One of the most popular SEO blogs is written by Matt Cutts, a Google engineer. He has comments turned on and answers quite a few of them. Does Google have an internal policy regarding blogs by its employees vs blogs by the company? Why am I even talking about this? In a recent post, Matt appended this:
P.S. Here's a completely unrelated tip for small businesses. If your small business doesn't have a website, you can still advertise on AdWords and Google will host a business page for you.
I left a comment on his blog regarding that postscript to which he replied:
I'm not an ads person, but I'll definitely pass the feedback on, Richard Ball. Thanks for the clear write-up of how it works.
Very gracious response from him. Trouble is, he shouldn't have to take the time to either read my comment or pass it along. Google already has a blog called Inside AdWords where they posted the announcement. Since Google corporate blogs don't have comments turned on, I did the next best thing and wrote a blog entry, Do NOT Sign Up for Google AdWords Hosted Business Pages, and linked to their blog post. They do at least have the "links to this post" feature enabled. Is that their alternative to comments? Don't they want direct feedback about their products?

Somehow this seems particularly ironic given the fact that Google's business is built on UGC (user generated content). After all, Google search results are UGC. Obviously, the order of the search results is proprietary, but the search results themselves are, essentially, titles and descriptions of URLs that Google pulls from UGC. They bought Blogger and YouTube, both UGC companies. In a sense, AdWords is a UGC product, where the users are advertisers. Why no UGC (comments) on Google corporate blogs? Definitely seems to be some sort of disconnect there.

Speaking of UGC, here's the comment I left on Matt's blog:
Matt - Regarding your "completely unrelated tip for small businesses" here's a tip for the AdWords team: Take Starter Edition back to the drawing board. The hosted business pages are great in concept but poor in execution because they are tied to AdWords Starter Edition. Here's the problem. If a new advertiser wants to buy ads on Google, they think Starter Edition is a good way to get their feet wet with search engine advertising. Trouble is, they're really buying contextual advertising as well. That's not good for a small business just learning the PPC ropes. Either make it clear to new advertisers that they're buying contextual advertising or give them the choice to opt out. From this AdWords help page (

"When you create a new keyword-targeted AdWords campaign, your ads are automatically 'opted in' to run on the entire Google Network. Starter Edition accounts must remain opted in. If you have a Standard Edition account, you can opt out of the Google Network at any time by editing your distribution preferences. Since selecting both search and content sites allows your ad the broadest possible exposure, we recommend you remain opted in. However, the choice is entirely yours."

Huh?! The "choice is entirely yours" except if you're using hosted business pages which are using Starter Edition which forces you to remain opted into the content network, where the chance of click fraud (or at the very least junk clicks) is higher than on Google itself or the search network. With all the heat Google (and other search engines, to be fair) is taking concerning click fraud, this combining of search ads and content ads for new advertisers seems like a bad idea. Sure, it's more revenue for Google in the short term and it's more ad impressions for a small business w/o the work of creating 2 separate ad campaigns. But, these new advertisers, signing up for what they believe is search engine advertising, will start to see where their traffic is coming from and they'll think they're subject to click fraud. It's usually not the case. It's just that they've unwittingly purchased contextual advertising.

Can you get someone to fix this? Doesn't seem like a good idea for small businesses in the short term. I also think this'll hurt Google in the long term. I'd suggest either dropping the content network from Starter Edition or giving those advertisers a way to opt out. At the very least, make it excruciatingly obvious that they're buying contextual advertising and not pure search engine advertising.

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Anonymous Justin Kistner said...

It is rather cowardly that they don't allow comments. I'd say it's a spam management issue, but if G can't handle spam filtering than no one can. ;)

Mon Dec 11, 12:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Richard said...

Hi Justin - Yes, I suspect spam would be a problem for them. That's not a reason to skip comments, though. As a first step, they could only allow comments for those signed into a Google account. As you say, I'm sure they could figure out a spam filtering solution.

I'm wondering if this comes down to a technology vs people issue. They seem to neglect customer support to a certain degree and choose to automate as much as they can. However, if full-time software engineers like Matt Cutts can take the time to answer comments, couldn't they either get existing Googlemployees (nice contraction, eh?) to volunteer to answer the corporate blogs or else hire new employees to manage blog comments?

Mon Dec 11, 01:19:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Nicki Dugan said...

When we launched Yahoo!'s corporate blog, Yodel Anecdotal, in August, we were adamant about allowing comments. To your point, we didn't think it could really be a blog without dialogue. The recent response on our redesign of Yahoo! TV is a great example. Without all that very passionate and helpful feedback, we'd probably never have gotten the level of specificity from our users on what they'd like to see in their product. It's all been catalogued by our product team. Invaluable.

Spam is a definite bummer, but thankfully Akismet catches all of it and we just have to pull out the few legitimate comments from its filters. Certainly not a reason to shy away from accepting comments.

Tue Dec 12, 12:35:00 AM EST  
Blogger Richard said...

Nicki - Nice work with Yodel Anecdotal. It's been in my feedreader (NetVibes) for awhile now. I've found the fact that you allow comments helpful in the past. Hmm, I'm beginning to wonder if Yahoo! is about people while Google is about technology.

Tue Dec 12, 12:24:00 PM EST  

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