Maine Munchies Ad

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

YouTube Debate w/ Republican Candidates Impressions

The YouTube debate is on now. Based on the impressions from the AdWords experiment I conducted after the last YouTube debate, I'll be curious to see if any of the Republican candidates buy PPC advertising based on tonight's search trends. These were the top impressions:

youtube debate impressions

Look for PPC ads, then, on these Google searches: youtube debate, republican debate, republican candidates. Look at the organic search results, too. The campaigns could use blogging as a tool to achieve top Google rankings for current searches. Creating PPC ad campaigns using the current search trends would probably be the most effective tool for broadcasting their message, though.

At any rate, I hope the debate itself is interesting. I'll be paying more attention to what's happening online, both during and after the debate.

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NASDAQ Internet Index Components by Ticker Symbol

Yesterday, NASDAQ launched the NASDAQ Internet Index (via Read/WriteWeb and TechCrunch). Today, they've provided a spreadsheet of its components. These are the stocks in the index, sorted by ticker symbol:

ADBL Audible, Inc.
AKAM Akamai Technologies, Inc.
AMZN Amazon.com, Inc.
ARBA Ariba, Inc.
ARTG Art Technology Group, Inc.
ASIA AsiaInfo Holdings, Inc.
BIDU Baidu.com, Inc.
BIDZ BIDZ.COM, INC.
CCOI Cogent Communications Group, Inc.
CFSG China Fire & Security Group, Inc.
CHRD Chordiant Software, Inc.
CLWR Clearwire Corporation
CNET CNET Networks, Inc.
CRYP CryptoLogic Limited
CYBS CyberSource Corporation
DIVX DivX, Inc.
DRIV Digital River, Inc.
DSCM drugstore.com, inc.
EBAY eBay Inc.
EGOV NIC Inc.
ELNK EarthLink, Inc.
EQIX Equinix, Inc.
EXPE Expedia, Inc.
FLWS 1-800 FLOWERS.COM, Inc.
FTD FTD Group, Inc.
GIGM GigaMedia Limited
GMKT Gmarket Inc.
GOOG Google Inc.
GSIC GSI Commerce, Inc.
GSOL Global Sources Ltd.
IACI IAC/InterActiveCorp
IBAS iBasis, Inc.
ICGE Internet Capital Group, Inc.
IGLD Internet Gold Golden Lines Ltd.
IIG IMERGENT INC
INAP Internap Network Services Corporation
INSP InfoSpace, Inc.
IPAS iPass Inc.
IWOV Interwoven, Inc.
JCOM j2 Global Communications Inc
JRJC China Finance Online Co. Limited
JUPM Jupitermedia Corporation
KEYN Keynote Systems, Inc.
KNOT Knot, Inc. (The)
LLNW Limelight Networks, Inc.
LOOP LoopNet, Inc.
LPSN LivePerson, Inc.
LQDT Liquidity Services, Inc.
MCHX Marchex, Inc.
NAVI NaviSite, Inc.
NFLX Netflix, Inc.
NILE Blue Nile, Inc.
NTES Netease.com, Inc.
NTRI NutriSystem Inc
OMTR Omniture, Inc.
OPWV Openwave Systems Inc
ORCC Online Resources Corporation
OSTK Overstock.com, Inc.
OTEX Open Text Corporation
PCLN priceline.com Incorporated
PETS PetMed Express, Inc.
PRFT Perficient, Inc.
PRTS U.S. Auto Parts Network, Inc.
RATE Bankrate Inc
RNWK RealNetworks, Inc.
RVSN RADVision Ltd.
SCOR comScore, Inc.
SDXC Switch & Data Facilities Company, Inc.
SFLY Shutterfly, Inc.
SIFY Sify Technologies Limited
SINA Sina Corporation
SKIL SkillSoft plc
SNWL SonicWALL, Inc.
SOHU Sohu.com Inc.
SONE S1 Corporation
SPRT SupportSoft Inc.
SRVY Greenfield Online, Inc.
STMP Stamps.com Inc.
SVVS SAVVIS, Inc.
TMRK Terremark Worldwide, Inc.
TRAK DealerTrack Holdings, Inc.
TSCM TheStreet.com, Inc.
TZOO Travelzoo Inc
UNTD United Online, Inc.
VCLK ValueClick, Inc.
VIGN Vignette Corporation
VOCS Vocus, Inc.
VPRT VistaPrint Limited
VRSN VeriSign, Inc.
VSCN Visual Sciences, Inc.
WBMD WebMD Health Corp
WBSN Websense, Inc.
YHOO Yahoo! Inc.

The ticker symbol for the NASDAQ Internet Index, itself, is QNET. I'm an avid investor and, having worked on web projects since 1994, own a handful of these stocks in my Etrade account. Yes, Etrade that's currently facing bankruptcy rumors. I wouldn't touch most of these stocks, however. More on that in a future post. Thought it would be useful to simply list the stocks included in the new index, for now.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

2 Suggestions for Google AdWords

I have two suggestions for improving Google AdWords. They pertain to giving advertisers more control over:
  1. Broad matches implemented as expanded broad matches
  2. Parked domain ad distribution via AdSense for Domains
Neither of these features existed in the original version of AdWords. I don't want either removed from AdWords, but the way Google has implemented them is not in the best interest of its advertisers. These features should be optional, at the discretion of the advertiser rather than Google. For instance, these are the basic match type choices:

[exact match]
"phrase match"
broad match

Since broad match is, by default, implemented as expanded broad match, advertisers should have the option to choose standard broad match (no synonyms) or expanded broad match. It should be explicit and not default to expanded. For example, I propose these match types for the AdWords system:

[exact match]
"phrase match"
/expanded broad match/
standard broad match

This would give advertisers the option to take advantage of the expanded matching feature but would make it more clear what they're actually purchasing. The current implementation of expanded broad matches has some deleterious side effects. I advise caution while using broad matches.

The second option, which isn't really optional, pertains to ad distribution. When advertisers buy clicks from Google, they expect to be purchasing search advertising or contextual advertising. Sometimes, though, the advertisers' ads are being distributed to parked domains. That would be perfectly fine if the advertisers had some choice in the matter. Instead, Google routes AdSense for Domains traffic on *both* the AdWords search and content networks. There is a concerted lack of transparency on Google's part. I'd like to see these kind of choices:

google ad distribution networks

The AdWords content network choice distributes ads via AdSense for Content. Why not create an AdWords domain network choice for AdSense for Domains traffic? It's time. This would appease dissatisfied customers. The current practice of routing the parked domains traffic on the existing search and content networks and then hiding the domains from reports creates a de facto hidden ad network. This seems only logical:

if { AdWords content network == AdSense for Content }
then { AdWords domain network = AdSense for Domains }

The current implementation looks more like:

AdWords search network + content network = AdSense for Domains

That just doesn't make any sense, does it? It's a hack. Yes, a poorly implemented hack. It needs to be fixed. Google can do better. The advertisers deserve better. Domainers deserve to have their traffic isolated and valued for its true worth, too. Seriously.

Anyway, I know Google's busy spending the money advertisers give them buying jumbo jets and then pursuing green projects to balance out the environmental impact of such conspicuous consumption. Maybe someone at Google, though, has their feet on the ground, listens to their core customers, and would like to improve the AdWords platform. ;-)

Do you think upgrading AdWords to provide more control over expanded matches and parked domain ads would be useful for advertisers?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Google Click Fraud Update: Another Dissatisfied Customer

Google has another dissatisfied customer. Check out this comment left by Bill McMullin of TrueCheck.ca on my AdWords Team Sabotages Google Corporate Mission & Philosophy post:
I found this blog entry while searching for a disease I didn't know existed. The disease was 'distribution fraud'. We are an AdWords advertiser spending about $3K a month. While researching new domain names I directly entered a domain name which turned out to be a parked domain belonging to information.com. I then found (without searching) my AdWords ads on this site. I traced our log files and found a very large amount of traffic from information.com and many (many) other such sites. The key, as you point out, is that there were no keywords entered in a search bar. The other element of fraud here is that the referer data in the log makes it look like someone actually entered keywords, which is totally false.

This is fraud no matter how Google tries to explain it. We will be asking for a full refund on every click from the search network that they cannot prove originated from an actual search. I'm not holding my breath.
He states the problem rather succinctly. Google customers are paying for something they didn't choose to buy. Click on the image for more details on the kind of click fraud Google permits on its search network:

google click fraud example

C'mon Google! Solve this distribution fraud problem, already. Today.

Domainers should also be putting pressure on Google to solve this problem. Why? Their reputation is being hurt by this situation. Advertisers subject to this kind of click fraud become wary of all parked domains. Domainers need advertisers. Advertisers who knowingly and willingly place ads on parked domains. Not advertisers who have no transparency as to where their domain ads are running.

Maybe domainers don't need Google to find those advertisers, though. As Google enables a blocking feature for AdSense for Domains traffic (it's coming), perhaps this creates a bigger opportunity for companies like Sendori?

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CyberMonday.com vs PriceGrabber.com in Top 25 Google Searches

Today is Cyber Monday (according to shop.org). Note these domain name searches in the top 25 Google searches:
  1. cybermonday.com
  2. www.cybermonday.com
  3. pricegrabber.com
  4. shop.org
Seeing cybermonday.com in the current list is not a surprise. That site is run by shop.org which is probably why people are searching for that domain name. Interesting to see the comparison shopping engine pricegrabber.com and not shopping.com or shopzilla.com on the list. If you want to keep up with these comparison shopping sites well after Cyber Monday, check out the Comparison Engines blog. It's the best blog I've found that's devoted to the comparison shopping subset of PPC advertising.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cyber Monday Doesn't Exist, Despite CyberMonday.com

Apparently, everyone's looking for Cyber Monday deals. Trouble is, Cyber Monday doesn't exist. Fascinating perspective from Fast Company:
Unlike the nickname "Black Friday," which is said to have been coined in the mid-70s, the term "Cyber Monday" has a short, definite history. The phrase was born on November 21, 2005 in a press release published by Shop.org, a self-styled network for online retailers, which referred to the Monday after Thanksgiving as "one of the biggest online shopping days of the year." That was a specious claim; at the time, the Monday after Thanksgiving was historically only the 12th biggest online shopping day of the year, according to comScore Networks, an Internet research group. But Shop.org's motivation was clear enough; it also happens to own CyberMonday.com, a purported clearinghouse for online holiday specials. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to see the connection.
Every Monday from now until Christmas is a "Cyber" Monday.

Related Posts:
Cyber Monday Holiday Sales
SEO Tips: Top 10 Google Rankings in < 24 Hours = Blogging + QDF

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving 2007!

wireless broadband cardHappy Thanksgiving! I have quite a bit to be thankful for. Right now, I'm thankful for my wireless broadband card. Seriously.

Last year, I wrote a bit more on Thanksgiving...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

SEO Tips: Top 10 Google Rankings in < 24 Hours = Blogging + QDF

I've noticed an unexpected side effect from blogging about Google AdWords experiments related to top Google searches. My PPC advertising experiments led to some immediate SEO results. Some of the blog posts I wrote about AdWords experiments ended up ranking in top 10 Google search results within a few hours of posting. It can often take days or weeks for SEO changes to make a difference in Google rankings.

So, why were these particular blog posts ranking in hours instead of days? QDF. For some Google search results, Google applies QDF (Query Deserves Freshness). For some background on QDF, read Is Google Hot Trends Near Real Time? What kind of fresh content does Google like? Yep, blog posts. Here's an example:

etrade bankruptcy Google search

Note the "1 hour ago" indication of freshness. That Google search query, etrade bankruptcy, was a hot search on both Nov 12 and Nov 13. It's actually still a pretty hot search. The blog post I wrote continues to receive a steady stream of traffic. As I noted from measuring ad impressions during my PPC advertising experiments, these spikes in search trends continue even after no longer being listed in Google Hot Trends.

I have many examples of this kind of strategy working. I'll show another screenshot to prove this was not a fluke. Consider this search trend from Oct 24:

Google search trend example

A few hours after I wrote a blog post, it ranked well for that top Google search:

top 10 Google SEO example

Here's the formula, then, for top 10 Google rankings in less than 24 hours:
  1. Identify QDF searches (via the TagTrends tool or Google Trends directly).
  2. Write a blog post with those keywords in the html title.
  3. Tag that blog post with those keywords (I use TagBuildr to create Apogee Tags).
  4. In between the title and the tags, write some good content. Please don't spam. ;-)
That's basically it. If you've enjoyed these SEO tips or want some PPC advertising tips, subscribe to Apogee Weblog. Oh, here are a couple of bonus SEO tips to go along with this strategy:
  1. You can find more than 100 QDF searches each day. The TagTrends tool pulls data from this Google Hot Trends feed. Note the name of that link - it ends in hourly. Check the search trends at different times of the day and you'll see different top searches. Google only lists 100 per day when you look back in time, but on the day itself, you can find far more than 100 top searches.
  2. It's often easier to rank for domain name searches. Note the usps.com/household example from above. From that screenshot, Google indicated 9,540 search results. Compared to other keyword searches, that's not a high number. I'm still amazed by this direct navigation via search behavior. Might, indeed, be a need for domain name reputation management.
Bottom line: For certain searches, it's possible to attain top 10 Google rankings in less than 24 hours. In these cases, applying simple SEO techniques to blogging is almost as quick as running PPC advertising, at a much lower cost. Having the time to write an effective blog post is another cost to consider, though.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Fun - 9rules TagMan Game

Thursday, November 15, 2007

GlassBooth.org - Presidential Candidates Selection Quiz

Glass Booth election 2008 logoGlassBooth.org (found via TagTrends which is a top Google searches tool) looks like a useful site. You take a quiz and it helps narrow down the field of presidential candidates which fit your issues. Now, knowing so many people are currently searching for glassbooth.org via Google, wouldn't it make sense for presidential candidates to buy that domain name via AdWords? Speaking of Google, I like this sentence on the glassbooth.org about page concerning transparency:
All information used by Glassbooth will be available for the public to view and scrutinize. We are not Google…we want you to know why your results are delivered the way they are.
Don't get me started on Google's transparency, again. Check out glassbooth.org, instead.

Related Posts:
Which Presidential Candidate is Most Qualified for the Job?
3 Secret Tools for Presidential Election Advertising Campaigns

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Etrade Bankruptcy Update - Buy Etrade Stock

On Monday, I wondered if an Etrade bankruptcy was possible. On Tuesday, I bought some shares. Why? The analyst report that caused ETFC to lose more than half its value on Monday cited a 15% chance of Etrade filing for bankruptcy. Doesn't that strike you as an odd figure to publish? If the weather report called for a 15% chance of rain, would you fetch an umbrella? Today, the Etrade CEO responded on CNBC, calling the bankruptcy talk irresponsible. I'm debating whether I should hold Etrade stock (ETFC) as an investment or sell in a few days as a trade.

Why am I blogging about this on a blog devoted to search engine marketing? Well, my original post about the Etrade bankruptcy issue mentioned a PPC advertising strategy. Today, I'm writing because a client, Analytical Investing, has some information that might be helpful for Etrade stock investors. This is an unusual situation causing quite a bit of angst in the investment community. If you read this blog for search marketing insights, you can stop reading this post now. I'll get back to SEO/M ideas in my next post. If you're interested in the stock market, however, keep reading. I have permission from my client to post this data, from a Company Query for Etrade:

sample company query - etrade stock

Two items jump out at me in this analysis. First, the intrinsic value of Etrade stock is calculated as $14.03, more than double where the stock closed today. Second, the safety rating of 18 (on a scale of 100) is very low. On the one hand, then, the stock seems very cheap at these levels. On the other hand, it seems like a risky buy. With the uncertainty in the market and with this stock, in particular, that seems like a pretty good assessment. Did I mention that a subscription to the Analytical Investing service is only $25 for a 3 month trial? ;-)

Anyway, for those wondering about the value of Etrade stock, I hope the above screenshot was helpful. It's always nice to have some objective analysis when there's so much emotion and hype involved. Here's an explanation of the various stock ratings shown in the above screenshot:
For each company, we provide an overall rating, as well as ratings in each of four categories: value, growth, timing, and safety. The overall rating is derived from the other four, and is intended to be a indicator of share price appreciation potential. The overall rating is what would normally be used to make buy & sell decisions, with the other ratings providing more detail about the strengths & weaknesses of each company. The value rating is an assessment of a company's current financial fundamentals, the growth rating is an assessment of a company's growth potential, the safety rating is an indicator of how well a company is protected against a sudden drop in share price, and the timing rating indicates whether or not it is a favorable time to purchase the stock.
Well, I rather enjoyed talking about a client. I might have to do this sort of thing more often, particularly since most of my clients don't have blogs. If you're an investor, do check out Analytical Investing. And, if you've been following this Etrade saga, let me know if you think Etrade stock is a long term buy or a short term sell.

Apogee Tags: , , , ,

Monday, November 12, 2007

ETFC - Etrade Bankruptcy Possible?

As an Etrade (ETFC) customer, seeing these top searches via TagTrends today make me a bit nervous:

etrade bankruptcy etfc

UPDATE (12/6/07): See this ETFC analysis courtesy of Analytical Investing:

ETFC stock analysis

Etrade competitors like TD Ameritrade (AMTD) and Charles Schwab (SCHW) could possibly poach customers from Etrade with this kind of news. Note this quote from tonight's Fast Money Final Trade:
Both Pete Najarian and Karen Finerman recommend buying Ameritrade (AMTD) on weakness at E*Trade (ETFC).
Watching the show, Karen Finerman suggested that Ameritrade or Schwab buy full page ads in major newspapers this week. Why wait? They could buy PPC advertising right now. I currently see Google ads for competing discount stock brokers on a search for etrade, but these hot searches could be bought as exact matches right now (not tomorrow or the next day):
  1. etrade news
  2. etrade bankruptcy
  3. etfc
  4. etrade stock
I see that Eric Frenchman noticed these trends, as well. Read his post on the matter for a unique perspective.

UPDATE (11/14/07): Etrade Bankruptcy Update - Buy Etrade Stock

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

How Google Uses Fake Searches Click Fraud to Hide Typosquatting Revenue

Google earning revenue from typosquatting is not a new story. How they hide it, though, and the fake searches click fraud involved is an important story to tell. Before showing a specific example, I'd like to preface this post with a few points:
  1. The fake searches click fraud I've seen in numerous client accounts originates from parked domains, but this does not mean all parked domain traffic is fraudulent. On the contrary, parked domain traffic from generic keyword domains has the potential to be better traffic than search engine traffic. I'll explain that concept more in a future post. Here's a preview.
  2. The real issue is distribution fraud. Google is distributing contextual advertising on its search network. If the clicks came from the content network, at content bid pricing, and advertisers had visibility to see the domains in question, these kind of clicks wouldn't be fraudulent.
  3. Google has failed in their mission to organize the world's information. They also use terms like squatter on their corporate site. A company that uses such language but then profits from typosquatting needs to be held accountable.
  4. I am a proponent of Google AdWords. In fact, I think it's currently the best PPC advertising platform on the market. However, it has a structural flaw that enables click fraud. The mere presence of a search box on a parked domain should not classify all clicks from that domain as search clicks.
With that out of the way, let me walk you through an example. This is not a theoretical example. I had a client who experienced a spike in garbage traffic from AdWords. When I reported the invalid clicks to Google, they denied the traffic was fraudulent. That led me to write Not Search Engine Spam, one of the most widely read posts on this blog. If you haven't read that post, you might want to read it now. The rest of this post will make more sense.

At the time, I didn't want to show the site where the clicks originated, both because I didn't want my client subject to more garbage clicks and I didn't want the parked domain owner or parking company (DomainSponsor) or Google to earn more revenue from the site. My client has lost confidence in the AdWords search network and has now opted out entirely. They've given me permission to post a few more details so that other companies understand the click fraud that exists on the AdWords search network.

InfoPass (infopass.uscis.gov) is a U.S. government site that allows the public to schedule appointments online to meet with immigration officers. Because we live in a dotcom world, though, many people type infopass.com when attempting to get to the InfoPass site. Here's what the typosquatting domain looks like:

infopass.com

A couple of items worth pointing out:
  1. The Infopass.uscis.got link reinforces the conclusion that this site is intentionally typosquatting on the infopass.uscis.gov domain.
  2. Traffic from this parked domain is routed through Google's search network simply because the site has a search box (at the bottom, no less).
  3. The first link reads Appointment Scheduler.
Someone who sees this site, thinking it's the real InfoPass site will click on the Appointment Scheduler link expecting to schedule an appointment with an immigration officer. Instead, they'll see Google ads:

infopass.com ads

Notice how the page says "Search results for ..." at the top? Google does, indeed, classify these as search results. Any clicks on the ads on the page are charged to AdWords customers as search clicks. That's why this is click fraud. It's a trick. Who is tricked? The end user and the advertiser. The end user doesn't find what they're looking for. Their time is wasted. The advertiser is left holding the bag as end users click on ads, not finding the appointment scheduler they're expecting. The advertiser's money is wasted and their trust in Google greatly diminished.

If these clicks came from the AdWords content network, this wouldn't be click fraud. It would still be deceptive, but I wouldn't call it click fraud. Going to infopass.com and then clicking on a link that reads Appointment Scheduler is not equivalent to someone typing "appointment scheduler" in a search box or navigating to a generic keyword domain like appointmentscheduler.com. No, these are NOT search results. Google should not allow them to be classified as search results. Perhaps there's a contextual relation between the words "infopass" and "appointment scheduler" but there's no direct search involved. Advertisers should not be billed for these invalid search clicks. This is click fraud - fake searches click fraud, distribution fraud, syndication fraud. There are many names for it. Call it what you like. Google, however, calls this acceptable practice.

To compound the deceptive nature of this traffic, all clicks are routed through searchportal.information.com URLs. PPC advertisers looking in their server logs would not see any indication of the typosquatting domain. The actual domains where the ads were displayed are hidden. They aren't even visible via AdWords reporting. In fact, because these invalid clicks are routed through the search network, there is no AdWords report that will display the origin of the traffic. There is an AdWords report for content network traffic, but it hides traffic from parked domains. It lumps all AdSense for Domains traffic into a single "Domain Ads" category:

domain ads

That's pathetic for a company whose mission is to organize all the world's information. Think about that.

What do you think? Is this click fraud? If so, who's going to put an end to it?

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Google Dichotomy

I left the following comment to a post on Aaron Wall's SEO Book site:
Aaron, I wonder if it's more a case of different groups at Google having different values. It seems like the organic search staff like Matt Cutts and Adam Lasnik (and previously Vanessa Fox) act like they're working on an academic project that's not a business. They seem naive but genuinely interested in limiting search engine spam.

OTOH, the people on the paid ads side seem to be going after revenue at all costs. That's actually what they're supposed to do. However, that's sometimes at odds with Google's stated values. When looking at Google, I think it's useful to think of it as separate companies - the organic search company and the paid ads company. They need to work together better and share the same set of corporate values.

For example, I find this quite amusing. Try either of these Google searches:

info:domainsponsor.com
site:domainsponsor.com

What do you make of that? Anyone using AdWords and opted into *either* the search network or content network is going to see traffic from searchportal.information.com which is powered by DomainSponsor. DomainSponsor (part of Oversee.net) is clearly a major partner in the AdSense for Domains program. However, the organic search people are blocking DomainSponsor.com.

Any idea what's going on? Somebody's not on the same page.
Nobody answered the question. I'd really like to know the answer. I think the possibilities are:
  1. Google's algorithm is broken and the Domain Sponsor site should be included in the index.
  2. Google has a company-wide policy of keeping parked domain sites out of the organic search index, including domain parking companies.
  3. Google's organic search team views Domain Sponsor as spammers. Google's paid team views them as partners.
If #1 or #3 are true, then Google is broken and perhaps this dichotomy between organic and paid teams exists. Which is it? Or, are there other possibilities to explain this:

domain sponsor site

Incidentally, that site: search command is useful to check which pages from a site have been crawled and are present in the Google index and how the html titles and meta description tags display. Example of how this kind of search should look, using a client's site, Longlife™ Pet Supplements:

longlife pet supplements site

Does this Google dichotomy exist? Is Google essentially operating as two very different companies (organic search and paid ads) with very different corporate values? Is one of them sabotaging the Google corporate mission? More specifically, why is DomainSponsor.com not included in the organic search results? Anybody know the answer?

Related Posts:
Google AdSense for Domains + DomainSponsor.com = Fake Searches Click Fraud
Meta Description Tag Tips from Google

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