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|NY Times Background Story on DOJ AntiTrust Investigation|
AntiCompetitive Behavior or Out Side the AS/G Lines?
New York Times profile of a businessman who got on the wrong side of the Google quality guidelines entitled Stuck in Google’s Doghouse [nytimes.com]
|"Your landing pages will continue to require higher bids in order to display your ads, resulting in a very low return on your investment," a Google executive named Nathan Anderson wrote on Jan. 2, 2007. "Therefore AdWords may not be the online advertising program for you." |
Two days later, in another e-mail message, Mr. Anderson told Mr. Savage to "please refrain from repeatedly contacting our team."
First off, there are patents (or patent applications) published that are pretty clear on ad quality guidelines. So someone asking for a manual exception is asking for individual editorial review of their site.
Comparing to business.com? Which is a human edited directory? Why not take a look at business.com's process for submission and acceptance of sites, which is a manual, human review:
There's a link to the editorial guidelines,which is in a popup. But here's one of the bullet points of what is NOT to be submitted:
# Link-only sites or third party CPC ad resellers.
From the Times article:
|Although the company never told Mr. Savage what, precisely, was wrong with his landing page quality, it offered some suggestions for improvement, including running fewer AdSense ads and manually typing in the addresses and phone numbers of the 600,000 companies in his directory |
They DID tell him. They told him to do human review. That's what you have to do to manually type them in, and that's what business.com does - human review.
There's nothing monopolistic or unfair about that, it sounds perfectly kosher to me. IMHO Google was as helpful to him as they possibly could have been.
"Google also told me that it never made judgments of what was “good” and “bad” because it was all in the hands of the algorithm. But that turns out not to be completely true. Mr. Savage shared with me an e-mail message from a Google account executive to someone at another company who had run into the same kind of landing page problem as Sourcetool. The Google account executive wrote back to say that she had looked at the site and found that “there seems to be a wealth of valuable information on the site.” Consequently, her team overruled the algorithm"
I found this para in the NYT artice interesting. It seems if the site does provide useful unique info, adWords is a good source of traffic. .
IMO , the site NYT refers in this artice, clealy practices arbitrage. Their listings are not of very high quality while the adSense ads are more relevant. I did glance at a few categories.
I see this as an issue as Google is trying to tell an advertiser how to run their business.
If they aren't involved in scams, pyramid schemes, or anything illegal, Google should probably keep their nose out of it unless they put their foot down and say you can't direct adwords ads to pages that contain adsense and be done with it.
Here's the damning part for Google:
|Google at first gave him nothing but encouragement, even naming Sourcetool its AdSense site of the week at one point |
How do you go from site of the week to being run out of business?
If Google makes that universal statement that AdWords campaigns can't work in conjunction with AdSense publishers, then it's very clearly trying to protect the advertiser, done.
Otherwise, it's this hit and miss situation that ends up being biased and I'm not sure this guy doesn't have a good case.
Will be fun to watch.
I think google is fairly clear in their
Landing Page and Site Quality Guidelines.
See under Relevant and Original Content
|Provide substantial information. If your ad does link to a page consisting mostly of ads or general search results (such as a directory or catalog page), provide additional, unique content. |
Clear meaning of this is you cannot point your Adwords Ads to the page which is having Adsense Ads only or general search result.
When I visited the site under suspension mentioned in the article I can see google ads on the site. Also the site do not look like MFA site.
I can only say that it must be the case of Landing Page Quility Guideline. I think if the site had reduced the adwords spending or tried to increase the organic traffic they would have been spared.
In New York Times article itself it is said that the said site was earning 5-6 cents (difference) between AdWords spend and AdSense earning.
Any business not alone google will see to it that it is not loosing money due to its two linked businesses (Adwords and Adsense here).
So I think google is justified taking the action as per their Quility guideline.
[edited by: martinibuster at 9:58 am (utc) on Sep. 13, 2008]
[edit reason] Fixed quote tag. [/edit]
|How do you go from site of the week to being run out of business? |
Anybody have a URL for where that site was listed as Site of the Week, or AdSense Case Study?
I dunno, if you buy ads to get traffic to your site and make money from ads of that same company... it's kind of incestuous, counter productive and it should be up to the company to decide if they want that kind of arrangement. The rest is drama talk. Adwords is not the only choice for traffic source, so this whole "omg they're an evil monopoly just like microsoft I'm being oppressed let's call the government and batman" seems terribly unjustified. However, Google should really treat other companies with the same criteria (hello ebay, yahoo shop, etc) as this complaining party if they're going to go that road.
As a publisher, it's hard for me to relate to an advertiser paying 5 cents a click so they can get 10 cents clicks on the same topic. Just an extra, uneeded middle men stealing decent paying clicks from more deserving web sites.
|But because his was a free site, he needed to generate his revenue from advertising. |
Is it 100% free with absolutely no strings attached? If so, and all it takes is submitting to automatically be included, then it's a FFA directory, isn't it?
However, they require pretty complete information, including company information, address, phone, etc., and there's no indication whether or not it's automatic inclusion. So is there, by any chance, follow-up contact by the company before inclusion, tacking some kind of stipulation onto the "no cost" submission?
Could they be contacting business owners by phone, snailmail or email, and asking for (or requiring) a homepage link back to them as a condition of inclusion? And it has to be a verifiable email address from the domain, else an explanation is required. So no one can submit other people's listings - which wouldn't provide contact and permission by the party, who controls the domain.
A direct link won't work, you can see it at Yahoo Site Explorer:
Also, use Control/A on pages to see all the links for yourself. That's a lot of links to get! ;)
Is it possible that over 195K site owners voluntarily, without being asked, or without it being required, gave SourceTools a backlink, most of which (at the beginning of the search result, anyway) appear to be homepage text links?
You would think that they'd have enough rankings and organic traffic with all those backlinks that they wouldn't need AdWords - except that they aren't using anchor text and they're to the homepage. Looks to me like those "verified" links would have been better directed to category pages in some way.
People are chided all the time for relying completely Google organic search for all of their traffic and income, for having a bad business model by putting all their eggs in one basket. We've been seeing that for years, how Google dumps sites and people have to lay off their employees, or will starve or have to live in cardboard box under a bridge and it's all Google's fault.
How is relying exclusively on any other source (like Adwords) a better business model?
[edited by: Marcia at 11:24 am (utc) on Sep. 13, 2008]
My quick thoughts:
- If the guy's site had content of real value, would it need to rely almost solely on AdWords for traffic?
- Where is it written that AdWords/AdSense quality control shouldn't be subject to improvements?
- Why should Google be obligated to support people who build their businesses around Google Search, AdWords, or AdSense?
This guy picked a high-risk "get rich quick" business model. He made hay while the sun was shining, and now it's time for him to rebuild his site into one that doesn't rely on click arbitrage or move on to something else.
Here's an article from 2006 and a couple of quotes:
|“Our mentors in the Internet business are Google and Craig Newmark [founder of Craigslist],” Savage says. |
|Savage says he wasn’t always convinced that joining someone else’s ad network was a path to long-term viability. |
He seems pretty bitter at Google even though they gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars by letting him exploit their ad system for so long.
If his site was worth going to he would have some returning visitors instead of needing Adwords to stay in business.
I'm glad that google kicked him out, it is nothing but webspam. He buys cheap at adwords and sells at expensive clicks. Frankly, google should ban all those cheap links directory site.
Seems a few here are so tainted by MFAs that there is trouble distinguishing a real business, one written about in the news, between a scraper site has become near impossible.
|You would think that they'd have enough rankings and organic traffic with all those backlinks that they wouldn't need AdWords |
There's a huge difference between the quality of AdWords traffic in terms of conversions that there is with organic traffic IMO.
|Frankly, google should ban all those cheap links directory site. |
And leave what, just the expensive directories like Yahoo?
The market should dictate who lives and dies, and apparently the market liked his marketing or he wouldn't have made so much.
Then along comes a big monopoly, someone that earlier praised this site. and slapped him upside the head so they could keep all that ad money to themselves.
Besides, if you read about SourceTools mission, published in real magazines unlike crap directories and scraper sites. The site was built to hook up B2B sites using the new United Nations UNSPSC codes and taxonomy, which was relatively new. Like 'em or hate 'em, it's a viable venture trying to help international businesses connect using a new protocol.
A very viable venture strategy that seems worthy of advertising IMO.
However, we aren't the big billionaire company also wanting to help international businesses connect so the easiest way to be that business is to stop your competitors from advertising.
[edited by: incrediBILL at 10:34 pm (utc) on Sep. 13, 2008]
Well said incrediBILL!
|Then along comes a big monopoly, someone that earlier praised this site. |
Bill, that's the second time you posted that assertion and now my second time asking for confirmation of that as a fact. It's important to get a link up to that praise before we accept that as fact.
I looked and could not find an AdSense case study for that site. Anyone else want to help confirm the statement that Google had lavished praise on the site?
|second time you posted that assertion |
OK, read the article you posted the link to, it was Mr Savage that made the assertion and the NYTs posted it, I'm just quoting them.
|According to the letter Mr. Savage submitted to the Justice Department, Google at first gave him nothing but encouragement, even naming Sourcetool its AdSense site of the week at one point. |
Maybe the NYTs can confirm the accuracy of their news ;)
[edited by: incrediBILL at 4:04 am (utc) on Sep. 14, 2008]
Sorry Bill, but NYTimes may not have fact checked that assertion. For a fair discussion of this I think it's important to verify his assertion before flinging that pie in Google's face. :)
When Google banned the paid links,
I remained silent;
I was not a link seller.
When Google banned the SEO directories,
I remained silent;
I was not an SEO directory.
When Google banned the paid articles,
I did not speak out;
I was not a paid article writer.
When Google banned the Arbitrageurs,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Arbitrageur.
When Google banned my site,
there was no one left to speak out.
That's all I have left to say about that.
|That's all I have left to say about that. |
Seems to me it's up to Google to decide what topics are appropriate for their ads. I didn't see any uproar when Google decided not to accept sites on guns, hacking or porn, everyone understands where they are coming from. If some unexpected new topic or method of using Adsense is deemed undesirable, they should be free to adapt their TOS accordingly. I doubt it's really in their interests to ban all topics until there are only a few, as per your political analogy where a dictator only wants one political party. It's amusing but it really doesn't apply to this situation.
|It's amusing but it really doesn't apply to this situation. |
Google has no recourse, no accountability, no transparency, it's a black box with often vague rules open to interpretation.
You think if you came to work one day and the city had dug a massive hole in front of your door only, for no reason with no explanation, and blocked all access without any kind of process or review that it wouldn't end up in court?
Google search and PPC program are that street, this site was making a legit go of a legit business, and Google just randomly decided he shouldn't be allowed customers.
It's not a scraper site, not a proxy hijack, not even trying to game the system.
It's a very legit B2B play and he was advertising to bring in customers.
Like I said, if AdSense was disallowed on ALL Adwords landing pages as a general rule then this would be a fair decision and not look so shady.
However, in this case, the AdSense content is just as legitimate as the directory content, either would serve the B2B community equally as well.
When Google cut out the B2B directory they simply keep all the income and eliminate the middle man.
Doesn't mean I like the site but I believe in his right to advertise as long as the site is legal, not stealing from other sites, no bait & switch, and was playing above board as it appears to be.
Again, it's Google's psychotic duality of playing to both publishers and advertisers that's at the very core of this problem and banning ALL advertisers from advertising for AdSense publisher sites makes it very clear and fair across the board, no fuzzy gray areas, just a simple NO with no exceptions.
As it now stands, whether you can make a living online using AdWords/AdSense in combination is at the whim of someone flipping the Google switches that suddenly sends you from the line at the BWM dealership to the line at the welfare office without warning and without recourse.
From rags to riches to living in ditches, it's the AdWords way.
[edited by: incrediBILL at 5:56 am (utc) on Sep. 14, 2008]
Look at the Alexa graf
Seems since 1 year nearly no traffic.
Nothing what can be associated with more than $100.000 AdSense income.
I was October 27th 2007 until March 2008 filtered at Google
(I assume my form mail system for all domains on one subdomain was the reason)
Even in this time, the Alexa graf shows much more traffic at my site, because I have many repeated visitors.
In this time, I was around $1800 a month, and here claims somebody to have 50 times more money with less traffic.
Business.com > Category > Sub-category > Links to the websites. Click on the website listing, and you're at the URL for the listing. The website is one click away - and the pages are indexed and cached.
sourcetool.com > Category > Subcategory > Another Subcategory > More Subcategories > etc., etc. - as long tail as it gets.
Going back to any of the subcategories:
sourcetool sub-category > Click on the website listing > Not linked to the company, you land on a "company profile page" in search.example.com
Robots.txt for search.example.com:
So there's a circle jerk of a series of long tail categories (to maximize keyword groupings and ad groups), and the company url that's finally listed, that you'll finally get to, which is far more than the recommended 3 clicks as stated in the guidelines, is on pages that are robots.txt excluded.
In what way does that resemble the forthrightness and credibility of business.com who are obviously a premium publisher?
|Like I said, if AdSense was disallowed on ALL Adwords landing pages as a general rule then this would be a fair decision and not look so shady. |
I agree that it would be a lot clearer for everyone if they did this.
|As it now stands, whether you can make a living online using AdWords/AdSense in combination is at the whim of someone flipping the Google switches |
I would be horrified if they did this to me, for sure. But basing your business model solely on another company's services makes you at the mercy of their whims and is a very risky business plan, as admitted by Savage:
|Savage says he wasn’t always convinced that joining someone else’s ad network was a path to long-term viability. |
Alexa is meaningless.
Do you have the Alexa toolbar installed?
I sure don't, does anyone?
I know sites highly over and under rated in Alexa, anything under the top 1,000 or so is purely mathematical speculation for the most part.
FYI, my site has been ranked from the 10Ks to the 80Ks in Alexa yet my traffic was always increasing during that period of Alexa flux so explain that?
I know sites that make less money than I do with more traffic and sites that make more money with less traffic, high traffic doesn't always equal high revenue, that's a flawed concept, but it sure doesn't hurt.
I have some affiliate programs that bring in $90 per sale, I see over $4 per click on some pages of my AdSense, you can never tell based on some arbitrary numbers in Alexa, not possible.
Anyway, this isn't a thread about Alexa but I'd like to think the NYTs verified his income claims before posting that article.
|Do you have the Alexa toolbar installed? |
Until 2007 always.
I did not install on my new notebook because I do not want to influence my stats by my own visits.
But I think Alexa becomes better and better to filter this out.
I had once installed Alexa at a client on 5 of his office computers.
It was a real estate page with about 4000 visitors a month by search engines, but showing in Alexa around 50.000.
So my rule is, a page can show in Alexa better, but never worse the real stats.
|So my rule is, a page can show in Alexa better, but never worse the real stats. |
That rule is so wrong in so many ways it defies further discussion.
However, I'll give you one simple example:
I have an old customer that runs a very busy site that gets 3x-4x my traffic per month yet ranks down at 100K which is completely incorrect.
How can I outrank them by almost 3x when they have 3x+ my traffic?
How? Because Alexa is garbage.
However, the topic is Garbitrage, not Alexa ;)
[edited by: incrediBILL at 7:44 am (utc) on Sep. 14, 2008]
I think the real test would be if Google offered to let him back in at this point. Would he suddenly set aside his objections about Google's business practices to get the income?
Could the guy not just start buying advertising on targeted websites directly? If he was making that much then he could hire someone to source good places to advertise?
But, thats not an argument thats more of an idea...
"Could the guy not just start buying advertising on targeted websites directly? If he was making that much then he could hire someone to source good places to advertise? "
The clicking/conversions is the best for adwords traffic.. That is why he could survive without being smartpriced to 1 cents.
In that case my opinion is feel sorry for him but he should just move on (less of this lawyer rubbish) get a more solid business plan together, don't put all eggs in googles basket.
I hope he saved a lot of his money that he was making and invested it in other online ventures. If he was smart enough to be making that amount of money from it then I am sure he will do ok in his next ventures.
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