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Thursday, May 29, 2008

AdSense for Domains Click Fraud Quotes from Google Employees

I think Google employees (including executives) are starting to realize that distribution fraud is the real click fraud and that it is tarnishing the Google brand. Consider what Google's Strategic Partner Manager for AdSense for Domains, Hal Bailey, was overhead saying at a recent conference:
The session started off with a bang as Howard Neu told the audience that Google’s Hal Bailey had accused domainers of clicking on their own ads and for fraudulent traffic.
Wow. I've seen many instances of garbage traffic originating from Google's AdSense for Domains network, but I've never heard Google admit to the fraudulent traffic. Until they clean up the network, I recommend opting out. New advertisers shouldn't be forced to pay for this traffic. Parked domain traffic should be excluded by default and Google needs to be more transparent about the sources of their traffic on both the search and content networks.

Reading the Google Q1 2008 Earnings Call Transcript, Google's Senior Vice President of Product Management, Jonathan Rosenberg, refers to "the AdSense for domains cleanup" when answering a question about slowing sequential growth. So, even a Google executive is aware that this network needs to be cleaned up. Think about that. Even at the top level, Google knows it has a click fraud problem on its hands.

I know this blog is read by a diverse audience including advertisers, domainers, and investors. Do any of you know more about these quotes from either Jonathan Rosenberg or Hal Bailey concerning click fraud and AdSense for Domains?

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Automatic Matching is a Dumb Idea for Google AdWords

Automatic matching is a dumb idea. I try to be polite, but with all the existing flaws of expanded matching, why would Google push ahead with an even more aggressive matching algorithm? So, if you see this message in your Google AdWords account:

automatic matching beta message

Run, do not walk, to edit your campaign(s) settings:

Google AdWords advanced campaign settings

Make sure that checkbox for the "Show ads on more search queries without adding keywords" option is NOT checked. You don't want this. Heed the warnings from other others like SearchQuant and Dan Thies. Automatic matching is, simply put, a dumb idea.

BTW, while you're opting out of this new AdWords feature, you might want to also opt out of AdSense for Domains. I think that's another dumb idea by Google. Serving domain parking ads is a good idea, but not routing those clicks through the search network when no searches actually occur. IOW, the concept is good but the implementation is poor. As PPC advertisers become aware of the automatic matching beta and the liberties Google is taking with their ad spend, I think they'll pay a bit more attention to where all the clicks are coming from.

For those of you as concerned about the quality of your paid clicks as Google is about their organic search quality, here's my advice:
  1. Opt out of automatic matching!
  2. Opt out of AdSense for Domains (at least for pure search campaigns)!
  3. Subscribe to Apogee Weblog so you'll know what to opt out of next. ;-)
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Monday, May 19, 2008

4 Strategic Alternatives for YHOO

Now that YHOO and MSFT are talking again, perhaps this scenario isn't so unlikely:

YHOO + MSFT

The wording of today's YHOO press release is peculiar:
Yahoo! has confirmed with Microsoft that it is not interested in pursuing an acquisition of all of Yahoo! at this time. Yahoo! and its Board of Directors continue to consider a number of value maximizing strategic alternatives for Yahoo!, and we remain open to pursuing any transaction which is in the best interest of our stockholders. Yahoo!'s Board of Directors will evaluate each of our alternatives, including any Microsoft proposal, consistent with its fiduciary duties, with a focus on maximizing stockholder value.
Stockholders interested in the long term might not want a deal with a company like Microsoft, or Google, for that matter. Short term, a deal might seem appealing but remember when Yahoo outsourced organic search to Google? Why make the same mistake with paid search? (BTW, why are so many eager to see YHOO outsource paid search?) Instead, I propose these 4 strategic alternatives for YHOO stockholders (none of these are new* but now seems like a good time to restate these options):
  1. Buy the search.com domain from CNET CBS
  2. Allow pure search advertising (no search syndication) via Yahoo! Search Marketing
  3. Build a domain parking distribution channel separate from pure search advertising
  4. Continue to innovate the core, organic search product
These strategic alternatives basically come down to improving the quantity and/or quality of search traffic. Improving those will have the side effect of attracting more advertisers, which will lead to a network effect. Part of the reason search advertising is so effective is because paid search ads are, in essence, content. Search ads *are* search results. Having a larger pool of advertisers will lead to higher quality ads which will improve the search results. That will, in turn, attract more searchers. That will attract more search advertisers. And so on...

Options #1 and #3 probably deserve their own posts. Options #2 and #4 have been covered.*

Regarding #1, Yahoo knows how many people search for search.com on their system. Imagine how many people go directly to search.com rather than look it up on a search engine. People who navigate directly to search.com are looking to, well, search. What about people who go to yahoo.com? Where do they want to go today? Google is synonymous with search. Yahoo is not. YHOO should buy search.com and rebrand search.yahoo.com as search.com, powered by Yahoo!

It might sound too simple, but getting people to switch from google.com to search.com will be much easier than getting them to switch from google.com to search.yahoo.com. People have become accustomed to going to "www dot [insert name here] dot com" or, more lately, to simply "[insert name here] dot com" rather than a subdomain like search.yahoo.com.

Plus, search.com could be used to brand Yahoo's search engine. Think about how effectively domains like hotels.com have become brands as well as domain names. Yahoo needs a search brand. Google *is* a search brand. A domain name like search.com could become that Yahoo brand name synonymous with search.

If YHOO implements #2 (pure search advertising), that could pave the way for #3 (pure domain advertising). Clearly, they'd have to change the sausage ingredients. If they were willing to do so, however, this could lead to a PPC advertising option more effective than search advertising. Think about that for a minute. As Google advertisers are starting to realize they're paying for garbage traffic via the AdSense for Domains product, YHOO could create a brand new alternative to search advertising by separating domain ads from their sponsored search product and keeping it clean (only generic keyword domain names). Now, that's a strategic alternative I'd support!

*Previous YHOO Suggestions on Apogee Weblog:
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Frontier of Search Syndication Is Not Efficient

Efficient Frontier recently published some interesting conversion data on search syndication and traffic quality which conflicts with what they've said in the past about conversions from the domain parking subset of search syndication. I don't think both studies can be true, unless the quality of traffic from the Google network has diminished since Google and/or Efficient Frontier boldly claimed, "Efficient Frontier's automotive clients receive twice the conversion rate as search with domain ads." That's published on adwords.google.com:

domain parking study

The new study by Efficient Frontier paints quite a different picture:

search syndication traffic quality

If you believe these numbers, then:
  1. You might want to stick to pure search by blocking Google domain parking syndication.
  2. You will find the 250 limit on blocked domains on Yahoo Search Marketing is not sufficient!
  3. You might want to read Aaron Wall's insightful post: How Click Arbitrage & Dirty Ad Syndication Killed Yahoo! Search Marketing.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Google AdWords Auction Has Hidden Minimum Bids

I wonder what prompted this statement on the Google Public Policy Blog:
Some people think that Google manually controls prices for the ads that appear on our site. But Google -- like all the major search engines -- actually uses auctions to price ads, meaning that prices are determined by advertisers.
They point to a post on the main Google blog, How auctions set ad prices, which reveals a fact about AdWords that I suspect most PPC advertisers are not aware of:
Google actually runs two auctions: one for ads at the top of the page, and one for ads on the side of the page. Only ads with particularly high quality are eligible to compete in the top-ad auction.
One big difference between these 2 auctions is that advertisers know the minimum bid necessary to be eligible for ads on the side. The other minimum bid is hidden. If you read "Did Google Kill the SEO Star?" on this blog last year, you would have been aware of this change and the 2 price hurdles advertisers must now jump:
  1. Minimum bid to be active for search
  2. Minimum bid to be eligible for top placement
I can understand why Google would not want to make it easy for advertisers to know the bid necessary to achieve top placement. However, I don't understand the explanation they give for determining that bid (emphasis mine):
First, your ad must pass our high quality threshold for eligibility to appear in top spots. If your ad is shown in a top spot, its price will be determined by the auction, but subject to a minimum price for top positions. This minimum price varies based on the quality of each ad per search query. For this reason, our system doesn't display the minimum price.
The min bid varies by quality for the other auction, so why is the top placement min bid hidden? BTW, you can see the min bid for the side ads auction via the Quality Score column in the AdWords interface:

adwords min bids

So, why do you think Google hides the minimum bid for top placement? Hiding it certainly doesn't instill confidence that Google is not, in fact, manually controlling prices.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

AdWords Agency Blog Response on Parked Domains

Someone from Google's San Francisco office (based on the IP address) left this comment on my New Google AdWords Agency Blog post:
Hi there,

I thought you might be interested in a recent post on the AdWords Agency blog. We read your post about parked domains and it inspired us to publish this one: [link]

Hope you find it useful.
Nice to know that Google's paying attention. ;-)

In that post, they announce a new level of transparency for parked domains on AdWords:
If you're advertising on Google's search or content networks, your ads may be appearing on parked domains. Parked domains are sites using AdSense for Domains, which allows domain registrars to show relevant ads, rather than empty space, on parked pages. But which parked domains did your ads appear on?

We recently added a new level of detail to Placement Performance reports to answer this question. Placement Performance reports give site-by-site performance metrics for the sites where your ads appeared within Google’s content network. Now, rather than seeing one consolidated entry for all parked domains in your reports, you'll see separate rows displaying performance statistics for individual parked domains.
I am pleased to learn they are starting to include more details about parked domain traffic. However, since the Placement Performance reports only apply to the content network, this doesn't help advertisers track AdSense for Domains traffic on the search network. I think it would make more sense for Google to go back to the drawing board and simply split off the AdSense for Domains traffic onto its own network on the AdWords side. I'd like to see this additional ad distribution option:

adwords domain ad distribution

That would avoid much of the confusion caused by the current, rather un-Googley design. Also, I still contend that Google has a miserable failure on its hands. Adding some reporting functionality doesn't solve that problem. Conceptually (yes I read Conceptualist), I do think parked domain ads have potential. The implementation in AdWords doesn't fulfill that potential for advertisers, however. Maybe someone at the Google San Francisco location will make sure this problem gets fixed in a Googley fashion rather than simply patching over the current, poorly designed system?

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mother's Day Flower Delivery for 23 Cents!

Some of my clients are pretty funny. The owner of Plantrex Interior Landscaping Company & Flower Shop is a big sports fan. In light of the Papa John's to offer Cleveland residents 23-cent pizzas fiasco, he's decided to offer 23 cents for Mother's Day Flower Delivery. Use code PAPAJOHNS when checking out. This code is valid today only! Plantrex works with other florists around the nation so this offer is not limited to the Cleveland area.

Here are excerpts of the note he sent to his mailing list:
As a courtesy to everybody I know (feel free to pass onto EVERYBODY) and an opportunity to stick it to the genius that approved those shirts in DC, I have compiled a list of every Papa John’s with phone numbers and addresses that are honoring the 23 cent one topping large pizza on Thursday. I have called over 20 of these stores – they are all opening at 10 a.m. to start taking orders on Thursday. A few are taking orders ahead of time, most are saying you have to call that day.
...

As many of you know, this is my busiest week of the year due to Mother’s Day. I’m a huge Cavs fan so taking time away from my business to do this will cost me but I believe it’s worth it. With that in mind though I am going to plug my company and remind everybody that Mother’s Day is this Sunday and our website is www.plantrex.com.

I am offering a 23 cent delivery for any floral order placed on our website between now and midnight on Wednesday the 7th. To get this discounted delivery, log onto www.plantrex.com, select the item(s) you would like and on the first checkout page, enter the promotional code papajohns and click the submit button. Your delivery fee will be reduced from $7.95 to just 23 cents (your discount will most likely be shown as a reduction of $7.72 off your product – we’re not quite sure how to make it appear on the delivery but bottom line is, you will be paying just 23 cents for delivery).
So, don't procrastinate if you want to send Mother's Day Flowers. Also, keep Plantrex in mind for future floral needs. Their flat delivery fee of $7.95 is better than most online florists, anyway.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Berries for Mom

berries for Mom at Maine MunchiesIf you're searching for berries for Mom, try these gourmet fruit gift boxes. (If you're reading this blog post looking for search engine advertising ideas, skip to the bottom*). I suggest a gift box that features Blue Loon Munch, a combination of dried wild blueberries, dark organic chocolate, and roasted almonds. Looking to spend less on berries for Mom? Try the gift tins.






*When is a Google search like a parked domain? Consider this recent berriesformom.com search:

berriesformom.com search

Subscribe to Apogee Weblog for an explanation in a future post.

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