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Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Not to be outdone, Overture plays shell game with its advertisers

In an "anything sneaky Google can do, Overture can do much sneakier" development (boy am I glad I did all this research tonight):

In poring over log files, I found it curious to find a lot of people finding my consulting web site with the phrase "famous Canadians" typed into Yahoo Search. Then it hit me. I remembered using a jokey ad title "World Famous Consultant (From Toronto)" in one of my Overture ads. And the copy below the title included the words "Canadian business owner." Overture sponsored links, of course, appear at the top of Yahoo Search results. Sure enough, that was what was happening... but it shouldn't have been!

I am *not* advertising on the word "famous" or the phrase "famous Canadians." Overture's evidently "yet again enhanced" matching software (it's called Match DriverTM, but can we come up with a more derogatory name for it please? how about Pocket PickerTM?) now grabs keywords right out of the ad title I've written! Nice of them to fully disclose this little enhancement. Here's a little refresher course for Overture on how pay-per-click keyword advertising works: the advertiser toils on something called a "keyword list" of words relevant to their business. Their ads come up whenever someone types in those designated keywords, depending on how much the advertiser bids. The advertiser also writes ads using any words they feel might attract or interest or prequalify their visitors. The ad copy is *not* used as the basis for determining whether an ad appears on a given keyword or not. When my ad that is only supposed to appear on a term like "marketing toronto" comes up under "famous Canadians," I'm not getting the level of control I bargained for. I can tell you that 101% of advertisers feel the same way. Ask around.

I tell ya what, it's pretty neat seeing my ad up at the top of the page when some poor sap types in "famous Canadians." Now Overture, can you please smarten up and let Jim Carrey, John A. Macdonald, and Jane Siberry have their page back?

I'll bet the fly fishing camp appearing below me in the #2 sponsor slot is equally thrilled at the unexpected exposure.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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