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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Searching for Parrot: Bad Monty Python Impression Waiting to Happen

rustybrick and WMW ask: Is Google treating Wikipedia too well? (It ranks #1 for "parrots," for heaven's sake!) Probably.

But how about AdWords? Is all right on that side of the page? In the attached screen shot see some of the advertisers who come up when searching for "parrots" in (whoops, I mean from) my Toronto office. Does this crazy list mean arbitrage and other "low quality ad" shenanigans are not, as Google would have us believe, "no more! ... ceased to be! ... expired and gone to meet its may-kar! ... a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace, if you hadn't nailed it to the perch it would be pushing up the daisies! It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisibule! This is an ex-...."???

[Meta-oh-so-post-Valleywag-irony: When I search for "parrot python dialogue" on Google, guess what site's account comes up first. You guessed it: Wikipedia's! BTW, it was extremely helpful.]

Anyway, the rundown on the ads in order of position on the page for "parrot" today in Toronto on my computer (your results may vary):

Bizrate: Landing page looks arbitragey, crappy. Ads or listings may even be from Google!

Kijiji.ca/Toronto: Heavens to mercy, there really are high-end parrots being sold here... with photos.

ParrotDirectory.info: It's garbitrage at its worst. Ugh. With links to other garbitrage pages about "dog beds," and so on.

BirdTricks.com: Apparently a real offer for training your parrot not to bite you. But the page may be violating some Google quality guidelines, by resembling a template "squeeze" page. With effort this site could improve its quality score significantly... unless it really is a scam. I would have expected minimum bids on this offer to be prohibitive, but maybe I completely misunderstood Google's landing page quality guidelines. (I actually got a huge kick out of this guy's come-on video, but would have assumed this offer would be kiboshed by the ad quality gods.)

Parrots-Training.com is the exact same site as above, so one or the other should be removed, or be hit with a prohibitively low quality score, unless I'm missing something about Google's rules....

JustAnswer.com: Seems to be a Q&A site about pets.

ParrotTrainers.com: At least it's really about parrots, and discloses a bit more business information than the other parrot training offer.

In a search using a US-based IP, I see additional, very weird, uses of the parrot ad space. We have the usual eBay junk (any word in the dictionary will do, even if the landing page is just 6,200 results of stuff that have parrot somewhere in the description of some product), and then, even weirder, something that directs the user to a SERP on Ask.com. Ask is promoting their search engine in Google ads; because the Ask SERP's are fairly heavy with ads this looks semi-arbitragey in intent, but from a user experience standpoint, definitely violates what Google says users hate - getting another page of search/ad listings, after clicking on a search ad listing. I'm sure IAC has plenty of money for this branding exercise; only they know what they're paying per click.

In fairness, pages of ads on any generic, one-word term are bound to look stupid. And Google's already indicated that their minimum bid policies might be relaxed in markets (countries) that are "less mature" (read: fewer ads). Nonetheless, this example does seem to show that as dead as they may be in Google's rhetoric, once in awhile, users still get to admire the beautiful plumage of the odd prime specimen of "garbitrage" and "double serving cheaters."

Today, some websites are having to fight for the right to run their ads at all. Some are squeaking through the cracks, at least in some query areas. Others, like Wikipedia, simply get the love for free. Is there a lesson in this? Or is this sketch getting too silly?

Unrelated: Lee Odden, SEO: Rocket Science, or Colonoscopy?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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