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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It's Unofficial: AdWords Targets Arbitrageurs

Google's Inside AdWords blog alludes to an upcoming tweak of the quality score formula. MediaPost thinks it's an "apparent attempt to target arbitragers." Possibly so, but Google isn't on record as saying so.

Some "arbitrageurs" (those who place ads on Google AdWords at low cost, and profit from higher-priced clicks on ads on their websites, often designing those sites around ad links alone and hoping some users will click on two or three ads) have already seen this coming, and indeed may have already seen some of the measures intended to stop them.

So it's unclear as always who will be most affected, but if Google is conservative in its initiative, it'll be mostly lower-quality pages that *only* have ad links on them.

"Advanced" arbitrageurs who have built out more content on their sites are less likely to be affected. At a certain point, if a site or landing page really is a consumer guide to a product category, and happens to show ads, of course there is absolutely no reason to single it out for a low quality score.

The real question becomes: can Google target sites showing ads served by its main competitors, such as Yahoo (Overture) ads? Probably not, given the potential for an outcry if this were discovered. But it's perfectly possible for their editorial staff to "find" arbitrary other reasons for manually entering red flags into the system for any given landing page, and it just might so happen that a lot of those contain Yahoo ads.

Conclusion: arbitrageurs were already being targeted, and ongoing efforts will be made to take those kinds of ads off the system. If you're targeted, that doesn't feel very good, but if you're one of the other advertisers on the page, directly advertising your goods and services, you'll probably like it.

Even simpler conclusion: the fun & games are coming to an end. Those of you who have read all those books promising "quick cash" from running ads through to affiliate programs or pages full of AdSense ads are going to need to get back to the drawing board.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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