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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Alarming Stat for Google AdWords Advertisers

The Alexa traffic rank chart for information.com should be a concern for Google AdWords advertisers:
information.com alexa traffic rank chart

If you look closely at the information.com traffic rank, you'll see this data in the "Where do people go on information.com?" section:
  • searchportal.information.com - 91%
  • sp2.information.com - 8%
  • information.com - 1%
  • sp7.information.com - 1%
Why is this a concern for AdWords advertisers? The searchportal.information.com domain, where most of the traffic exists, powers parked domains. Google carries these parked domains on its Search network if they're classified as search engines. They are not, in fact, search engines. I cannot figure out why Google treats them as such. Perhaps because they have the word "search" in the name of the domain? Perhaps because they plaster a search box onto the pages? If you read either of my previous posts, Is Google Partnered with Spammers or Not Search Engine Spam, you'll realize this is a serious problem. The order of magnitude jump in traffic to searchportal.information.com should be alarming for anyone who buys PPC advertising via Google AdWords. You might not be purchasing search engine advertising. Be aware and take appropriate action.

Since Google is not dealing with this fraudulent situation in an appropriate manner (how much of their PPC revenue comes from this partnership?), I feel compelled to warn AdWords users. I'm a frequent contributor to the AdWords Help groups. I post there as Rich@Apogee. I'll repeat my suggestions from my last post which provides a detailed timeline related to this parked domain on Search network problem. Do one of the following:
  1. Turn off the Search network entirely
  2. Lower bids to stay out of the top 5
  3. Split ads into 2 campaigns: Google only w/ normal bids + Search network w/ lower bids
  4. Request Google block *.information.com + *.domainsponsor.com
Look at your historical traffic from Google's Search network. If you find extensive garbage traffic from searchportal.information.com, call Google via 1-866-2-Google and complain. They need to know this is a problem. From my conversations and emails with them, they think it's perfectly acceptable to consider parked domains as search engines. Here's their justification for this practice:
We've found that AdWords ads showing on parked domain name pages often receive clicks from well-qualified leads within the advertisers' markets. As a result, the return on investment for these pages can be comparable to that of search pages.
That's a pretty weak argument, IMHO. If I'm buying search engine advertising, I want my ads to display next to genuine search results, after someone has actively typed keywords into a search box. I don't want to pay for ads that originate from a parked domain that happens to have a search box or for some other reason is deemed equivalent to a search engine.

I'd like to thank Loren Baker for publishing Google AdWords & Domain Parking : Garbage Paid Search, Jeremy Luebke for publishing Google Domain Parking Arbitrage and Jennifer Laycock for publishing The Problem With Syndicating Paid Search Ads. I believe this is an important issue and I appreciate them getting the word out. Because of their posts, this story was on Techmeme and Megite yesterday and people submitted my last two posts to Digg: Is Google Partnered with Spammers and Google Partners with PPC Spammers. Hopefully, the increased awareness of this issue will save some AdWords customers both time and money.

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