You, sir, are exactly right. I couldn't have stated it any better.
If you've never viewed referring URL logs to analyze exactly where your SEM traffic is coming from - please do. You'll realize that everything you ever thought you knew about the conversion rates of your keywords is completely wrong.
The conversion rate that you always assumed was an accurate measure of the number of people interested in your product out of those who clicked on your ad - a figure that you've tracked and obssesed over - is really just a watered down number. The true conversion rate from your ad showing as a result of actual queries on legitimate engines and partner sites is staggeringly high. Similarly staggering, however, is the amount of absolute junk traffic driven per keyword through usually only a handful of the "distribution fraud" sites that Shorebreak speaks to.
Do yourself a favor. View your logs. Understand your true conversion rate. Think about all that you do to optimize your ads to try an eek out a mere 5% or 10% lift, and then realize that the very best optimization that you can do is to eliminate the fraud - which can garner lifts of 10% to as much as 50% in your ROI.
Document the fraud. Protest it. It can and will result in credits - not just from Google, but from each of the prominent engines.
You bring up an interesting point, PosterBoy. The ROI from *real* search is way better than what the industry is seeing today. This helps explain why there are so many more stories of insanely good ROI in Europe than in the U.S. - with Google getting 95%+ of its marketshare via Google.com (and not distribution partners), money spent on Google in Europe is relatively free of distribution fraud.
What's funny is, if distribution fraud all went away tomorrow, CPC's would quickly increase to replace the value of lost click volume = G's business would remain unchanged.
Here's the sad thing about this - this video is 7 months old, and has had 25,000+ views.
Has anything been done about it?
The abuses shown in the video are blatent.
I believe these are 'Content Network' websites, not Google search related. If you opt-out of the Google Content Network your ads will not be shown on these websites.
"Secondarily, it's correct to call this Distribution Fraud rather than Search Arbitrage because this practice goes against the T's & C's of AdSense. "
Yeah... Then why does G not ban such sites. Relatively easy to do so.
Is money the consideration?
The lastest QS initiatives should have had this detection built in...but G does not care.. It NEEDS those cliks to use up budgets..
Am I wrong in my thinking?
|[search arbitrage] is nothing if not fraud. |
Why? Simply because paid search ads are bought by advertisers with the explicit understanding that those ads will only be viewed as a *direct* result of a search performed on a search engine.
I don't agree - maybe I'm misunderstanding your point.
As an advertiser I buy search ads - they show on Google and other search engines. That's fine.
If I wanted to (generally I don't) I could buy content ads. They would show on non-search websites. I wouldn't pay as much for them. That's fine too. (Although I don't choose to use them much, you pays your money and you takes your choice).
So where's the element of dishonesty here that would be needed to realistically label these sites as in some way fraudulent? You're saying that arbitreurs are showing search ads as content ads - how would they have access to search ads? (are you talking about domain parking sites or something?)
Or does the Yahoo! system work differently? My recent experience is mostly of Adwords.
PS I don't have anything to do with the running of any sites of this nature... I'm on the other side of the fence, an advertiser.
"As an advertiser I buy search ads - they show on Google and other search engines. That's fine.
If I wanted to (generally I don't) I could buy content ads. They would show on non-search websites. I wouldn't pay as much for them. That's fine too. (Although I don't choose to use them much, you pays your money and you takes your choice)."
While I concur with everything you said, the separation between search and content is not as black and white as your post seems to indicate.
Parked domains (google.com/domainpark/), for instance, show ads and they are part of the search network. It's not so much "search engines" in the search network, but those who have applied to G as search partners, put adsense ads on their sites and generally have a G search box or search results or something that looks like search results as well.
"In the search network, your ads may appear alongside or above search results, as part of a results page as a user navigates through a site's directory, or on other relevant search pages."
Andye - RhinoFish answered this one spot-on: domain parking sites are often (if not always) included as search partners, when in fact the nature of domain traffic is fundamentally different from search and much more akin to contextual traffic.
The challenge for Google with this type of traffic is that it's ROI doesn't merit high enough bids. This is a huge issue, though, and in my view constitutes the difference for Google between roundly beating investor expectations and delivering ho-hum quarters. As long as it goes on, they're able to pay [low] contextual distribution fees and reap [high] search CPCs.
PS: here are two quotes from their Q2 & Q3 earnings calls:
Q2: “Ongoing initiatives to improve the quality of our ads were a significant driver of increased monetization.”
Q3: “…monetization gains were the primary driver of sequential revenue growth.”
-George Reyes, CFO
Hear hear Shorebreak.
Also, let's not forget that Yahoo is as big an offender as Google - if not a bigger offender. At least Google offers site exclusion - Yahoo's old system does not. (I am told this is a feature in Panama.)
This is a huge problem and money-suck for advertisers.
|At least Google offers site exclusion... |
Google does not offer site exclusion from the "Search Network", which is where these sites live.
Actually, a Google speaker at Chicago SES assured us in a session that you can now exclude search sites in the Google network. I haven't tried it yet, but he insisted this is now live.
Great post ShorebreakCZ,
Interesting phenomenon going on here:
1. Google has done nothing to stop trademark domain squatters from running AdSense. Why, because Google makes huge money from their domain park (http://www.google.com/domainpark/)
2. As the video shows, Google lets some "distribution fraud" companies continue in their AdWords results. Why, because Google makes huge money from multiple clicks on the same topic.
3. Google has implemented Quality Score, impacting some advertisers and not others. Why? Because it allows Google to get rid of savvy advertisers paying a few pennies a click and replace these advertisers with higher paying advertisers who don't know any better.
Is it about relevancy? About "quality" user experience? About the advertisers? No, no, no. It's all about the benjamins!
If you make Google more money than someone else, your ad shows up. Period. It don't matter what your landing page looks like, or the relevancy of your ad, or any of that other smoke and mirrors.
Now I will sit back and wait to hear from the Google Apologists . . .
|Actually, a Google speaker at Chicago SES assured us in a session that you can now exclude search sites in the Google network. I haven't tried it yet, but he insisted this is now live. |
I was at Chicago SES and I didn't hear that. You can exclude search sites as a whole, but not specific ones. If that were true, wouldn't it be all over webmasterworld and similar boards? We've been asking for this for years.
I'm glad for this video to get more people aware of this. But it's hardly a new thing. Been going on for years. My only objection to the video is where the narrator says that there has been a recent explosion in this phenomenon.
The introduction of the quality score has helped.
|I was at Chicago SES and I didn't hear that. You can exclude search sites as a whole, but not specific ones. If that were true, wouldn't it be all over webmasterworld and similar boards? We've been asking for this for years. |
At the campaign level, go to "exclude sites" and enter in any URL you want - this site will be excluded.
A few caveats (big caveats):
1. This only works for content network, not search network;
2. You can't exclude the Google domain parks from this (anything that says apps.oingo.com). The reason Google gives for this is that domain parks are a hybrid of search and content, and since you can only exclude content-only sites, these pages don't qualify. So site exclusion is somewhat limited in this regard.
Were you at the Domaining & Address Bar-Driven Traffic session? Hal Bailey from Google said in that session that site exclusion was now available across the entire network, including Oingo and parked domains in the search network. Someone questioned him on this (they had been told different from their G rep) and he said again, "There is not a single site that you cannot exclude from Adwords." That is a direct quote - I wrote it down.
As I said, I haven't tried this, so I can't say first hand, but that is what he said.
|As an advertiser I buy search ads - they show on Google and other search engines. That's fine |
And parking sites, and sites just like those shown in the video.
Is THAT fine?
BTW, thanks to this video, I have added one more pattern to my inurl: search exclusisions: -inurl:allthe*
I have a friend who is a materials scientist. He asks me for computer advice now and then. He hates allthe* with a passion, because they turn up on most of his searches, and offer nothing of value on their pages. Think I'll show him how to dodge their SERP listings.
If the advertiser is happy with these results and Google is making money and there are no complaints from the searcher than what's the beef?
From my point of view the search experience is weakened by ad sites pointing to ad sites but that's because I expect more purity from Google and the other SEs.
Search purity is only found on Wikipwedia and Answers. com now.
As for Google putting an end to it that won't happen. Doing so would put a crimp in the earnings growth estimates and the share price would be severely punished.
AdWords is a bidding system. It an almost perfect market system. I will bid as much as I can afford given the quality. It's not fraud at all because if the traffic converts i'm happy. Google offers a good service. I'm happy and I only bid what i'm willing to pay.
There is much room of interpretation on Google's policies, so I think it kind of presumptuous for the video guy to tell us his interpretation of Google's policies as if he represented Google. A lot of things at Google are automated. Therefore, Google's interpretation is probably from a computer. Therefore, a computer judges if the site offers substantial content or violates the terms – not the video author. And even if Google does not use a computer to interpret their policies, it really is up to Google how they interpret their policies. It is up to us to decide if we do business with them. And as of today I want to do business with Google.
[edited by: RockSolidWes at 9:02 pm (utc) on Dec. 15, 2006]
|it really is up to Google how they interpret their policies. It is up to us to decide if we do business with them. And as of today I want to do business with Google. |
Do you feel the same way about the cable company, or Microsoft office?
|It's not fraud at all because if the traffic converts i'm happy. |
A grocer touts the quality of their produce. They claim it is all fresh and organic. Yet, one in 4 apples is rotten, and half are tainted with chemicals.
Is that not fraud?
Google is misrepresenting the nature of their search network. They publish rules which advertisers expect that they will enforce, but then do not enforce them.
Most experienced advertisers know better than to believe what Google tells them. Some turn off search network. Some fine good conversions in the content network, by carefully filtering sites.
Sure, it's still advantageous to do business with them as long as the return is greater than the cost. While it may be a good business decision for those who have their eyes open, that doesn't make it right or lawful.
Many businesses are more than happy to pay bribes or protection to organized criminals, for example. It's a good business decision.
It may not bother you that others believe what Google tells them, and make bad business decisions based on that. Probably more money in your pocket, anyway, right?
This is not the Wild West. We do not live in a lawless society where it is every man for himself. The laws of economics, yes, ultimately regulate any business. But the laws of economics do not consider right and wrong - just survival.
Businesses need to obey both the laws of economics (which they cannot escape) and the laws of society.
Should Enron have been excused? Should the laws of economics reign supreme? After all, if electricity is too expensive, people will just turn off the lights. It is self-limiting, right?
In any case, I doubt you will get much agreement that these link farms are good for advertisers in general. Except from those running the link-farms.
The stupid thing about this whole mess is that in the long run **Google would probably make as much or more money** if they allowed advertisers to opt out of sites within their search network.
That makes me think the issue is really either:
a)strategically G doesn't want the domain industry to fall into anyone else's hands. For now they want/need the revenue, and once their stock comes down to earth then they can get to the business of letting people bid it separately (as is the case with Content).
b)G's using domain sites and the branding they get therein to drive new/novice internet users who are lost online to Google.com. Given how many people still don't know the difference between a search box and the address bar, it's a distinct possibility.
c)Google's less coordinated in its efforts that you'd think.
" Do you feel the same way about the cable company, or Microsoft office? "
I use Verizon FIOS and not Cable. I like Microsoft Office and have no complaints with them, so yes.
If I buy a bag of rotten apples, I bring it back to the grocery store. Google has been known to refund advertisers if they show logs proving click fraud took place on their account. There should be no problem.
Quality and misrepresentation of service: This is very subjective. It may be that I agree with you on this because Google simply uses the term 'quality' websites. They should give a better description of what what they deem a quality website. Until they do that, it really is up to them. What is quality to you, may not be for me.
|Google has been known to refund advertisers if they show logs proving click fraud took place on their account. There should be no problem. |
They've been known to. But it isn't common, nor does it often cover the amount of click fraud claimed.
But, who said anything about click fraud?
We've been talking about misrepresentation of services.
It seems like much of the QS updates have hit sites that were providing at least some value, many with reviews, links to a variety of sites and some non-affiliate end businesses. The examples pointed out in the video have been around for ages, they draw huge traffic, one would think that those would be some of the first to get knocked out because they are so blatant and easy to pick out.
Some of these sites are so prominent in the search results, the average person would probably remember seeing them more so than big brand sites they've visited.
|I believe these are 'Content Network' websites, not Google search related. If you opt-out of the Google Content Network your ads will not be shown on these websites. |
I've seen cloaked Awords ads go to pages with nothing but Adsense ads from the search listings and I personally found them very annoying.
As an advertiser.....I actualy have to disagree on one thing here....
I do examine my logs and have tracking in place and I get decent conversions from this kind of traffic.
You can't just assume that since you are not getting conversions that others are not.
|AWA, can you please confirm whether site exclusion is now supported on both search and content networks? |
I'm almost 100% sure it isn't. I put some search network sites in the excluded sites list of one of my campaigns earlier this year. Yesterday, I put a few more in. I just tried those affiliates and my ads are showing up same as ever.
I have no doubt a Google rep said you could exclude specific search sites at the Chicago SES, and he probably actually believed it when he said it. But this is probably an example of when people who work for a big company don't know the policies of different parts of the company. Happens all the time.
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