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Affiliate Policy Changes - Multiple Domain Workaround?
SimpW




msg:1121340
 4:52 pm on Apr 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

Per the ad policy change on affiliates (link removed), each AdWord ad must link to a unique domain.

As an affiliate workaround, could a company just create, for example, 10 different sites on 10 different domains. Each site would be unique in a superficial graphical way. Each site might have slight differences in pricing.

But each site runs on the same physical servers and uses the same ecommerce engine and dumps data into the same CRM database.

Would this strategy work to crowd out all competitors? Would the benefits of this "market control" gained by this strategy offset the disadvantages of paying twice or three times for the same customer clicking through and doing some comparison shopping?

I guess this strategy would be compliant with the new Google strategy. As long as the affiliate doesn't mind the initial set-up costs of establishing a "multi-brand" strategy (ie one corporate entity selling the same product via multiple corporate brand identities).

Thoughts?

Are there real world examples of this going on today?

[edited by: eWhisper at 5:21 pm (utc) on April 26, 2005]
[edit reason] Please don't drop links. [/edit]

 

Frequent




msg:1121341
 5:18 pm on Apr 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

The problem with your plan is that in order to "crowd out" the competition you would need to have all 10 of the unique urls in ads that are targeting the same keyword. Hence only one ad of the 10 will be served at any given time. Unless of course you plan to set up 10 separate adwords accounts.

Freq---

SimpW




msg:1121342
 5:22 pm on Apr 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

Can't a single account advertise multiple domains?

wayne




msg:1121343
 5:29 pm on Apr 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

You can advertise multiple domains with one account,
but only one ad per keyword per account will show.
So if you have the same keyword with all of the
domains, only the highest performing ad would show for that keyword,
not all of them. You would need to have multiple
accounts to have more than one ad show under the same
keyword, and I know some people that do this, although
this is really against the terms also.

SimpW




msg:1121344
 5:57 pm on Apr 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

Ah, thanks for the clarification.

What are guidelines that allow a corporation to maintain multiple accounts? Wouldn't it be easy to set up dummy subsidiaries if need be?

Frequent




msg:1121345
 6:15 pm on Apr 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think this is not so easy to do for the very reason you asked the original question.

Freq---

SimpW




msg:1121346
 6:56 pm on Apr 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

I looked up the Google AdWords T&Cs. The advertiser must comply with the Editorial Guidelines. The Editorial Guidelines includes the "Double Serving Policy". Some excerpts:

=============================================
=============================================

We do not typically permit advertisers to manage multiple accounts featuring the same business or keywords. When we find that an account is not in compliance with our double-serving policy, we will prevent multiple ads from appearing on the same query.

Exceptions are granted only in very limited cases.
-- The destination site for each ad offers different products or services (for example, a large manufacturer with two product sites, one solely for stereos and one solely for computers, both running on keyword 'electronics').
-- Each destination site has a different layout and design, and each URL and domain is different.
=============================================
=============================================

So in the scenario I just outlined in my original post, then it seems the company could set up multiple accounts and successfully seek an exception to have multiple accounts without violating any T&Cs (assuming the company even bothers to seek an exception to begin with).

Am I missing anything here?

wayne




msg:1121347
 2:39 pm on Apr 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

There is nothing wrong with having multiple accounts,
but you can't use multiple accounts for the purpose
of advertising the same product with the same
keywords.

SimpW




msg:1121348
 3:13 pm on Apr 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

According to my post above on the double serving exception policy, you *can* use multiple accounts for the purpose of advertising the same product with the same keywords.

So if you're a merchant, or an affiliate, just set up X # of multiple accounts, targetting the same keywords. As long as you have also X # of web sites that have different domains and different UIs/templates, you're golden. Your web sites can share the same hosting, the same CRM, the same ecommerce engine, the same architecture.

You can then crowd out the competition thus circumventing Google's January 2005 affiliate AdWords policy change.

The questions I have are:
-- What do you see as the economic factors in having multiple links on the same query results page? If the audience starts clicking on several of your links, to what degree with this adversely affect the CPA and thus causing this strategy to backfire?
-- Do you know of any companies (merchants or affiliates) out there that are currently doing this?

paleolith




msg:1121349
 5:39 pm on Apr 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

SimpW,

You're reading the words too closely. Google is saying that they disapprove of the tactics you are contemplating. The exception for different layout and design is clearly intended to mean a totally different website organization, not just cosmetic UI differences or a different style sheet.

From the user point of view, I can tell you that I strongly dislike hitting two or three web sites that look different at first but turn out to be really the same. If I were to click on three ads that look different but end up in the same place, I'd say hey, you wasted a bunch of my time, go nail yourself to the wall, I'm not dealing with you.

So consider what kind of reaction you want from a potential customer.

Edward

wayne




msg:1121350
 2:37 am on Apr 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

SimpW,

You need to read your post over again a couple more
times.

*****

From this page:
https://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=8759&ctx=en:search&query=multiple&topic=0&type=f

Can I have multiple AdWords accounts?

Google maintains a high standard for our user experience and the quality of our advertising. In order to preserve the quality and diversity of ads running on Google, we don't allow advertisers or affiliates to have any of the following:

Ads across multiple accounts for the same or similar businesses.
Ads across multiple accounts triggered by the same or similar keywords.
Individuals advertising for themselves or for their own businesses may only have a single AdWords account. However, your account may contain multiple Ad Groups and ads triggered by the same or similar keywords.

Only client managers (such as third parties or search engine marketers) who use a My Client Center can have multiple AdWords accounts. All associated accounts must be linked to the manager's My Client Center account. If you're interested in creating a My Client Center so you can manage multiple AdWords accounts for other people, you can sign up for Google Advertising Professionals. This program provides you with free tools and training to help you manage clients successfully.

SimpW




msg:1121351
 2:44 pm on Apr 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Wayne, no need to get snippy.

You are quoting the FAQ. I already read the FAQ.

However, I did further digging. I read the actual T&Cs. The T&Cs refer to the Editorial Policy. The Editorial Policy refers to the Double Serving Policy. Thus the Double Serving Policy is part of the T&Cs.

The T&Cs are a *legal* document and thus trump whatever an FAQ might say.

Another way to look at it: the FAQ conveys a general spirit of intent. But the T&C clearly describes the specifics and it DOES lay out an exception.

The scenario I outlined in my original psot *is* that exception and represents a loophole to the FAQ.

Plus, it's very very very easy to just set up a 2nd account and not tell Google.

The intent of my post is to explore whether this makes sense to exploit from a financial perspective and whether others are doing it today?

I think I have safely established that it can be legally done. And if not, it can be done illegally very easily as well.

inasisi




msg:1121352
 5:25 pm on Apr 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi Simpw,

I read through the editorial guidelines you posted a couple of times. I still don't get how it says you can post two ads for the same product. Am I missing something?

Also even if you do prove that, the final decision lies with Adwords rep. If you're somehow able to get through them too illegally, you will have to contend with thousands of Adwords advertisers who will not hesitate to report such black hat operators.

paleolith




msg:1121353
 6:54 pm on Apr 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

SimpW, you're assuming that you can parse the T&C like an exercise in Logic 101, and that the intent behind the words doesn't matter. You are wrong on both counts.

First, despite attempts at precision, legal documents are written in natural language, English in this case. You have to read it as English, not as formal logic.

Second, in legal documents, intent does matter. The crystal clear intent of what you cited is that you're not to use multiple accounts to get around

we do not generally permit advertisers to manage multiple accounts featuring the same business or keywords.

They go on to make it clear that "Exceptions are granted only in very limited cases" and that "Advertisers seeking an exception to Google’s double-serving policy must contact AdWords Support". They further make it clear that exceptions are only granted for disjoint product lines represented disjointly on the web, or for different presentations of the material. In the end it might come down to what they consider "different", but when you combine that with "only in very limited cases", it's obvious that superficial differences won't cut it.

And the very clear intent of all this is that they don't want multiple impressions for the same thing to display on the same end-user page view. What you proposed blatantly violates that intent.

Edward

SimpW




msg:1121354
 7:22 pm on Apr 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

They further make it clear that exceptions are only granted for disjoint product lines represented disjointly on the web, or for different presentations of the material. In the end it might come down to what they consider "different", but when you combine that with "only in very limited cases", it's obvious that superficial differences won't cut it.
==============================================

I agree, it depends on what they consider different. I agree that 2 sites that have slight superficial differences won't cut it.

But to recap, Google states "Each destination site has a different layout and design, and each URL and domain is different". I assume this is meant to accomodate a company that has a "multi-brand" strategy in selling the same product.

It's not difficult at all for a professional full-time webmaster to create 2 sites, 2 domains that look totally different and have totally different UIs. But that same webmaster will have no problems linking both web sites to the same ecommerce engine, CRM, pipe and server farm for a common backend infrastructure.

I am quite sure other companies must today be taking advantage of this method to gain more ad market share in adwords. By the very fact that Google notes the exception indicates that these cases already exist. I would like to learn more about who these cases are and if it works for them.

One interesting theoretical example would be the green tea market. If you search for "Japanese Green Tea", the first 4 results are: hibiki-an, TeaFoundation, GreenTeaTime and ChadoTea. Let's say you do a rollup of all 4 companies. Then you move all 4 company web sites to the same server farm, link them through to the same bandwidth provider, put them all on the same ecommerce merchant engine, migrate them all to the same CRM app.

Now this merged entity has 4 domains, 4 very different looking web sites all on a common backend infrastructure. They also happen to have the top 4 spots on AdWords. Which has more value because your ranking is partially dependent on historical clickthroughs which makes it all the harder for new entrants to break into the top 4 spots. Oh, and the other advantage? As a merged entity, you eliminate the bidding war between spots 1 to 4. It's now just a bidding war between spot 4 and 5.

dregs33




msg:1121355
 10:36 pm on Apr 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi

Googles T&C aren't laws that take a long time to change.

If you go to expense of doing what you say, server,websites and ads spend. You might run for 10 or 15 days.

Then Google spends 5 minutes updating the T&C's.

Your setup is finished.

I prefer slighty longer term plans :)

dregs33

paleolith




msg:1121356
 10:42 pm on Apr 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

SimpW,

Your original posting said

Each site would be unique in a superficial graphical way.

But now you say

I agree that 2 sites that have slight superficial differences won't cut it.

So at this point we're talking about something quite different (!) from where we started.

But it also comes back to what the people at Google intended when they wrote "different design". My interpretation would be that they meant not just a different look but an entirely different approach to presenting a product line -- different navigation paths, different descriptive text, probably geared to a different audience. Something you could not get from just dropping in a different style sheet. In other words, you could have major superficial (literally, on the face) differences and that would not be enough.

But yes, if you have real design (not just face) differences, then I'm sure a common back end inventory database and order processor could be used. I see that as part of the intent of what they say.

I am quite sure other companies must today be taking advantage of this method to gain more ad market share in adwords.

When you're a hammer, all the world's a nail.

I think you're making too much of the importance of AdWords to most companies. Yes, it's an important marketing and advertising tool, but it's not the be-all and end-all that it seems to be to some people here. I think that many companies would consider building a truly different web site if they have truly different audiences which have quite different needs. But the web site itself is far more important to most companies than the ads -- the ads just get people to the web site the first time. A reasonable self-interested business would put the effort and money into building an easy-to-use, easy-to-recognize web site, and not fritter away name/logo/design recognition with multiple designs just for the sake of AdWords.

Edward

patient2all




msg:1121357
 12:39 am on Apr 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

This entire thread is getting surreal.

First it's titled "Affiliate Policy Changes - Multiple Domain Workaround" although nothing discussed is unique to affiliates.

Second, the exceptions Google is talking about for the multiple account policy would apply to someone who runs say a auto tire dealership and a plumbing supply company. They're likely to want to keep expenses seperate and there is no intent to gain advantage over other advertisers.

Third, these 4 Japanese Tea Companies just had themselves implicated in this through no fault of their own. They're probably competitors and each is wondering why some odd phenomena happened today.

Their best keyword "Japanese Green Tea" had a huge surge in impressions but no clicks and is now "Disabled"

- or -

Worse, they had a bunch of useless clicks from WebmasterWorld readers trying to figure out if they are indeed competitors or examples of these theoretical colluders.

----

For those who care to try, you can fly under the radar with a huge enterprise like AdWords for a while and not get caught, but eventually you'll lose the game.

Try one honest, creative, sensibly bid account and you'll be surprised what results you'll get. I was. ;)

patient2all

SimpW




msg:1121358
 3:07 pm on May 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

SimpW,
Your original posting said

"Each site would be unique in a superficial graphical way."

But now you say

"I agree that 2 sites that have slight superficial differences won't cut it."

So at this point we're talking about something quite different (!) from where we started.

Allow me to clarify that I am using the word superficial in different ways in each quotation.

In the first quotation, I mean that differences between the web sites are inherently superficial (ie on the surface, in its appearance, in its graphics and UI) compared to the shared backend infrastructure (ie below the surface).

In the second quotation, I mean that slight (ie superficial, minor) differences in graphical and UI presentation won't pass the sniff test in the Double Serving Policy exception.

[edited by: SimpW at 3:16 pm (utc) on May 2, 2005]

SimpW




msg:1121359
 3:10 pm on May 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

But it also comes back to what the people at Google intended when they wrote "different design". My interpretation would be that they meant not just a different look but an entirely different approach to presenting a product line -- different navigation paths, different descriptive text, probably geared to a different audience. Something you could not get from just dropping in a different style sheet. In other words, you could have major superficial (literally, on the face) differences and that would not be enough.

But yes, if you have real design (not just face) differences, then I'm sure a common back end inventory database and order processor could be used. I see that as part of the intent of what they say

Agreed. The green tea rollup example I gave above matches against the criteria of what you're saying here.

If anyone knows of any real world examples of using the multiple domain approach to lock up more market share of adspace, please let me know. The exception in the Double Serving Policy *probably* exists because real world examples actually exist.

suzyvirtual




msg:1121360
 4:13 pm on May 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Couldn't that work if you "gave" each of the different sites to a trusted affilite of your program?

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