Traffick - The Business of Search Engines & Web Portals
Blog Categories (aka Tags) Archive of Traffick Articles Our Internet Marketing Consulting Services Contact the Traffickers Traffick RSS Feed
Friday, July 14, 2006

Speaking of Arbitragey AdSense Sites...

Sometimes I do a search relating to my bank - using Google for navigation, essentially, when I'm on someone else's computer. I know I can get to the correct home page by typing certain queries.

One of those nasty looking keyword insertion ads came up when I did that today, so I checked out the site. (The ad had my query -- a trademark term -- in the title, and contained some stupid nonsense text based on the name of the bank... TD Canada Trust... "find out more about trusts!" etc.).

The crap site was built to look like a real site, but it had mostly ads. The navigation links mimicked the actual internal structure of my bank's navigation links!

Not expecting to find any real info, I did a domain lookup on the site. As expected, no company information was available. But the date of registration was interesting: today!

As these annoying schemes proliferate, it's clear why Google has to crack down on them. Deception, spam, and abuse of several organizations, companies, and systems which were initially built around a much less adversarial concept of the Internet.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

Subscribe: +RSS | +My Yahoo | +Newsgator | +Bloglines | +Rojo


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 | | | Permalink

Subscribe: +RSS | +My Yahoo | +Newsgator | +Bloglines | +Rojo


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The "New Economy" Moves to Michigan

There could scarcely be a more graphic representation of economic realignment in America than Google announcing the addition of up to 1,000 new jobs in a new facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Although the auto industry is hardly on its knees, the jobs picture is certainly less certain than it once was. Some fortunes have risen, others have fallen. Some say the Michigan economy is looking downright bleak, so Google's announcement is timely.

It hits a rather personal nerve (in a good way) for me. My family owns a cottage on the other side of the lake, near Bayfield, Ontario. It's a bit over 3 hours from Detroit, so many Michigan residents make second homes there. Good careers and a low Canadian dollar had made that possible for many working people. You'd also run into the odd family whose patriarch had done something cool like invent the windshield wiper. :)

The folks are selling the cottage, so I had a good last look at the sandy beach on the Ontario side. While those with good money are now coming over from Michigan and building bigger, bolder beachfront homes, it seems many regular working people can no longer afford even the less expensive property in the area given the declining job pitcture and rising Canadian dollar. I can't think of a better shot in the arm for Michigan than to have so many high-tech jobs coming available. (On the Ontario side, several new auto plants and auto parts plants have been announced. Oh well!)

It's too bad my gang's moving out of there. It might have been interesting to watch the "Michiganians who call themselves Googlers" poking around the area. It might have made for some interesting random encounters on local golf courses, and even the opportunity to talk about AdWords over rhubarb pie.

Search marketing chatter, interspersed with church suppers in Goderich? Stranger things have happened. Hey, that's been my life for the past few years. :)

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

Subscribe: +RSS | +My Yahoo | +Newsgator | +Bloglines | +Rojo


SEM 2.0 Turns 2.0 Years Old!

Has time flown by that quickly? A couple of weeks ago, SEM 2.0, a discussion list I founded in 2004 -- inspired by the I-Search "email-based" discussion list format launched by Marshall Simmonds and also moderated by Detlev Johnson and later, me -- turned two years old.

It's been pretty much what members wanted, I'm told. A moderate-traffic, professional-quality, intelligent group. No newbies, not very much black-hat discussion. Using Google Groups means the list is searchable and more usable than the old cobble-together platforms we used in the old days. Google Groups was very buggy at the beginning, and lacked features. Now, it's getting closer to what a forum should be, with the ability to put sticky notes at the top, rate posts, create profiles, etc. Still waiting on the avatars and other obnoxious stuff. :)

Looking for a helpful search engine marketing community that won't be up in your face all the time? Just a reminder that when you're ready, SEM 2.0 is ready for you. You can subscribe below (no charge, no ads, no nonsense). You need to provide a couple of sentences in pre-moderation proceedings (you'll be asked to do this) to keep out the ol' riffraff.

Google Groups
Subscribe to SEM 2.0

Browse Archives at

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

Subscribe: +RSS | +My Yahoo | +Newsgator | +Bloglines | +Rojo


Monday, July 10, 2006

Fighting Search Engine Spam Part 2: My Baby Likes a Bunch of Authors (and Critics, and Scientists, and Celebrities, Designers, Analysts, Athletes...)

Two words: branded recommendations.

Opinionated categorization has been a key driver of web search. And now in the kerfuffle about the New York Times cloaking, and in lawsuits against Google, it's come to our attention that Google is actually editorializing when they choose to index and rank results in a certain way. Duh.

Mysterious processes of editorializing are going to lead to less compelling results. Algorithms that tap into "collective" wisdom are helpful, but easily attract spam schemes, and carry with them a "scientific cachet" that unnecessarily confuses users.

These search algorithms are indeed wonders of the modern world, don't get me wrong.

But it's evident that something akin to an Expert Council would be as useful and fun for users as the existing experimental methods that attempt to measure usefulness and relevancy -- and fight spam -- with forward-thinking mathematical models that look at how the whole world sees a given site or page. In many cases, there is so little data available that the returned results are somewhat arbitrary. A bunch of sites squabble over long tail search referrals by "optimizing" and fretting about why they don't have more of that valuable traffic in obscure search queries. And when most sites can't make it high on the trust meter, they get trumped by sites that seem to be just a bit higher. But is a Wikipedia entry or Yellow Pages backfill really the way to help users, in that case?

Arguably, people should know a search engine isn't good for everything, so the best they can expect on their obscure queries is a jumble of results and ads, and go find what seems best from there. But in practice, many people aren't that great about doing the finding. And in practice, they use a search engine for pretty much everything.

Engines have made great strides in customizing results -- with OneBox help, and more. But they could improve further. Essentially, they would think more like vertical portals in every vertical of substance. And they would selflessly point users towards the most appropriate "vortals" for their needs. Who's going to do the pointing, though? Anonymous editors hired by the SE companies? The ones who used to think foosball tables and pop were a great job perk? No sir! Users want to hear from their heroes.

Think of the problem search faces by pondering your user experience on a site whose job it is to share consumer opinions about products. (Think epinions,, and many more.) You'd be searching for information on the latest $500 Taylor Made driver, and all of a sudden there'd be all these 13-year kids in there claiming they're striping 300-yard drives. Yeah, sure, Taylor Made reps. :)

In spite of the fact that we live in ostensibly democratic societies, the "collaborative" part of collaborative filtering still isn't working. It's being gamed. The tail's wagging the dog (yep, I said it over six years ago, and I still think so... as do many of today's Wikipedia critics). And many online recommendations are losing legitimacy with the public. (This varies from community to community, of course. But I would argue that in those niche sites where you can truly believe your peers' recommendations, it's because they are known quantities, people you know as real people with verifiable claims and experiences.) Back in the ascendancy of the dmoz directory -- if you're a normal web user and not someone who worked there, put up your hand and tell me if you really wanted travel categories edited by some random enthusiast named "monkeybrayn".

The branded recommendations scheme could work in a couple of ways. One, search engines could actually go around and sign up a bevy of experts and celebrities and enlist them to participate in a recommendations scheme facilitated by technology. The expert's photo or logo could adorn results that show up in the OneBox, in the 3rd search results position, or in the right-hand margin in place of an ad. Compensation? No problem. As long as the rough parameters are disclosed on the search engine's site, people understand that experts are compensated but that they lose their status as experts if they don't give good advice. For lighter topics, who even cares about "relevancy" or "bias," since the picks would be "for entertainment purposes only."

The second method would be to develop metadata or other approaches that attempt to pin down ownership and authorship, so that real-world credentials matter more in weeding out spam. These kinds of checks and tests could be largely concealed to keep spammers off balance. There's no question search engines are doing some of these things today. Sadly, the "semantic web" concept which might have accelerated this trend still seems stalled in the garage.

Both approaches could work in tandem.

This is one of those areas where a company like Microsoft or Yahoo could have shown substantial leadership. What did they do instead? Built their own search algorithms and "MyWeb" schemes that attempted to out-Google Google, and which continued to overrely on anonymous humans and impersonal algorithms to rank-order "web pages". Meanwhile, jettisoned its humanistic answer sets and natural language concepts (to say nothing of the butler) in favor of ever-more-impressive science that will be applied to an ever-more-spammy and ever-expanding in complexity web universe.

This isn't a debate about whether humans or computers do it better. A non-starter, to be sure. Computers aren't optional when it comes to search. But audiences are seeking guidance, and the idea of collaborative filtering is so powerful that it deserves to be refined and implemented in new ways, including ways that de-emphasize the "collaborative" aspect. Occam's Razor cuts through clutter and spam all in one go.

Ironically, it may be Google that understands this best, in spite of initially building their company around the world's fascination with PageRank.

The biggest hurdle to this, perhaps, may be the hubris that comes from building a company around 1,000 Ph.D.'s, buying up all the world's fiber, etc.

It now looks like partnerships with traditional media companies and relationships with traditional... people are the way you build a truly trusted media company. And those relationships are hard to build when so many in "new media" build their empires out of ripping and sharing little pieces of other people's content, releasing every new idea as if it were merely a product, rather than a product that requires a relationship.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

Subscribe: +RSS | +My Yahoo | +Newsgator | +Bloglines | +Rojo


View Recent Posts


Speaking Engagement

I am speaking at SMX West

Need Solid Advice?        

Google AdWords book

Andrew's book, Winning Results With Google AdWords, (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed.), is still helping tens of thousands of advertisers cut through the noise and set a solid course for campaign ROI.

And for a glowing review of the pioneering 1st ed. of the book, check out this review, by none other than Google's Matt Cutts.

Posts from 2002 to 2010

Traffick Blog Archive ::
June 30, 2002
July 21, 2002
July 28, 2002
August 04, 2002
August 25, 2002
September 01, 2002
September 08, 2002
September 15, 2002
September 22, 2002
September 29, 2002
October 06, 2002
October 13, 2002
October 20, 2002
October 27, 2002
November 03, 2002
November 10, 2002
November 17, 2002
November 24, 2002
December 01, 2002
December 15, 2002
December 22, 2002
December 29, 2002
January 05, 2003
January 12, 2003
January 19, 2003
January 26, 2003
February 02, 2003
February 09, 2003
February 16, 2003
February 23, 2003
March 02, 2003
March 09, 2003
March 16, 2003
March 23, 2003
March 30, 2003
April 06, 2003
April 13, 2003
April 20, 2003
April 27, 2003
May 04, 2003
May 11, 2003
May 18, 2003
May 25, 2003
June 01, 2003
June 08, 2003
June 15, 2003
June 22, 2003
June 29, 2003
July 06, 2003
July 13, 2003
July 20, 2003
July 27, 2003
August 03, 2003
August 10, 2003
August 17, 2003
August 24, 2003
August 31, 2003
September 07, 2003
September 14, 2003
September 21, 2003
September 28, 2003
October 05, 2003
October 12, 2003
October 19, 2003
October 26, 2003
November 02, 2003
November 09, 2003
November 16, 2003
November 23, 2003
November 30, 2003
December 07, 2003
December 14, 2003
December 21, 2003
December 28, 2003
January 04, 2004
January 11, 2004
January 18, 2004
January 25, 2004
February 01, 2004
February 08, 2004
February 15, 2004
February 22, 2004
February 29, 2004
March 07, 2004
March 14, 2004
March 21, 2004
March 28, 2004
April 04, 2004
April 11, 2004
April 18, 2004
April 25, 2004
May 02, 2004
May 09, 2004
May 16, 2004
May 23, 2004
May 30, 2004
June 06, 2004
June 13, 2004
June 20, 2004
June 27, 2004
July 11, 2004
July 18, 2004
July 25, 2004
August 01, 2004
August 08, 2004
August 15, 2004
August 22, 2004
August 29, 2004
September 05, 2004
September 12, 2004
September 19, 2004
September 26, 2004
October 03, 2004
October 10, 2004
October 17, 2004
October 24, 2004
October 31, 2004
November 07, 2004
November 14, 2004
November 21, 2004
November 28, 2004
December 05, 2004
December 12, 2004
December 19, 2004
January 02, 2005
January 09, 2005
January 16, 2005
January 23, 2005
January 30, 2005
February 06, 2005
February 13, 2005
February 20, 2005
February 27, 2005
March 06, 2005
March 13, 2005
March 20, 2005
March 27, 2005
April 03, 2005
April 10, 2005
April 17, 2005
April 24, 2005
May 01, 2005
May 08, 2005
May 15, 2005
May 22, 2005
May 29, 2005
June 05, 2005
June 12, 2005
June 19, 2005
June 26, 2005
July 03, 2005
July 10, 2005
July 17, 2005
July 24, 2005
July 31, 2005
August 07, 2005
August 14, 2005
August 21, 2005
August 28, 2005
September 04, 2005
September 11, 2005
September 18, 2005
September 25, 2005
October 02, 2005
October 09, 2005
October 16, 2005
October 23, 2005
October 30, 2005
November 06, 2005
November 13, 2005
November 20, 2005
November 27, 2005
December 04, 2005
December 11, 2005
December 18, 2005
December 25, 2005
January 01, 2006
January 08, 2006
January 15, 2006
January 22, 2006
January 29, 2006
February 05, 2006
February 12, 2006
February 19, 2006
February 26, 2006
March 05, 2006
March 12, 2006
March 19, 2006
March 26, 2006
April 02, 2006
April 09, 2006
April 16, 2006
April 23, 2006
April 30, 2006
May 07, 2006
May 14, 2006
May 21, 2006
May 28, 2006
June 04, 2006
June 11, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 25, 2006
July 02, 2006
July 09, 2006
July 16, 2006
July 23, 2006
July 30, 2006
August 06, 2006
August 13, 2006
August 20, 2006
August 27, 2006
September 03, 2006


Traffick - The Business of Search Engines & Web Portals


Home | Categories | Archive | About Us | Internet Marketing Consulting | Contact Us
© 1999 - 2013 All Rights Reserved