Dynamic Sitelinks Gone Wrong

Back in July, Google launched dynamic sitelinks, which are sitelinks that Google automatically appends to ads.

Google touts dynamic sitelinks as a “(tool) adding value to your ads while saving time and simplifying campaign management.” But for many advertisers, it’s yet another example of the dumbing down of PPC. And for B2B advertisers, dynamic sitelinks often spell disaster.

In B2B, it’s common not to use sitelinks, because there’s one specific landing page you want to drive traffic to. In fact, many times sitelinks are a worst practice for B2B.

With dynamic sitelinks, Google, in their infinite wisdom, is choosing random pages to display as dynamic sitelinks. In fact, even if you are using sitelinks, they may be overridden if “Google thinks it’s best.”

This is disastrous for many B2B advertisers who deliberately aren’t using sitelinks. Often, there is only one relevant landing page for PPC – one that’s been optimized for conversion. Other pages on the website likely are informational in nature and have no way to generate a conversion. So, we deliberately decide not to use sitelinks for these advertisers.

Here’s an example:

dynamic sitelink 1

The destination URL for this ad is a page specifically optimized for conversion. The dynamic sitelink extension goes to neither an e-commerce nor a lead gen page.

Here are a couple more examples:

dynamic sitelink 2

dynamic sitelink 3

The first one is showing the About page. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen many About pages that are designed to drive conversions. The home page would be a better choice in this instance.

The second example is for one product with one relevant page. Google has chosen a page featuring a totally different product – freezers instead of milk coolers. While Google may think that’s relevant, it’s not – this client has asked us to focus on milk coolers only, not freezers.

If you’ve ever worked with B2B clients, you’ll know that for many of them, it’s like pulling teeth to get even one optimized landing page created. Now, your hard work is potentially going to waste by Google deciding to pick random pages to show alongside your carefully crafted landing page.

Granted, we all know that few people click on the sitelink itself – most clicks happen on the actual ad, which goes to the landing page. But the problem I have with these random dynamic sitelinks is that they make the ads look weird. Instead of adding to the experience, dynamic sitelinks potentially detract from it – risking CTR and other key metrics for advertisers.

And what about advertisers who’ve tested sitelinks and found they hurt performance? Yes, it does happen – and now those advertisers are stuck with a “feature” that they know doesn’t work for them.

Google does offer an opt out form for those who don’t want dynamic sitelinks added to their campaigns. You’ll have to fill it out for every single advertiser.

And even then, it may not help.

We filled out the form for the advertisers in the examples above. We heard nothing from Google for nearly 2 weeks. When we finally did hear back, Google’s response was to “just wait.” Not “we’re opting these accounts out,” but “wait.”

That’s unacceptable. Guess what, Google? We paused all these campaigns until we can get the situation sorted out. You’re not getting another dime until we know we can serve relevant, high-performing ads for our clients.

I know that for many advertisers, dynamic sitelinks are a great thing. For ecommerce advertisers, they’re undoubtedly a huge timesaver. But they’re not for everyone. All Google needs to do is give us the explicit choice: let us opt in or opt out at the campaign level. Then everyone would be happy.

What’s your take on dynamic sitelinks? Boon or bust? Share in the comments!

Special thanks to my coworkers, Jessi Link and Mark Herman, for providing the background and screen shots for this post.

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Beyond The Paid 2014 Reader Poll

Well, it’s December. Time for holiday cheer and ecommerce madness; time for 2015 predictions and 2014 year-in-review posts.

I’m not going to do any of those. Instead, I want to hear from all of you. What do you want me to blog about? What topics are on your mind? What were your favorite posts this year?

I set up last year’s poll as an experiment, and the responses were eye-opening. You all inspired me to write about things I hadn’t really thought of.

So let’s do it again! Here is the second annual Beyond The Paid reader poll. It’s 2 questions, so please answer both! I can’t wait to hear from you!

 

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PPC Remarketing: What Not To Do

By now, we’re all accustomed to being followed around by remarketing ads. Those of us in PPC are particularly attuned to remarketing ads. We know what they are, first of all. Most of us can probably spot a remarketing ad on the first impression. Second, we visit a lot of different websites as we research competitors, read news, and check display campaign placements. It always makes me chuckle to see our clients’ competitors as I move about the web.

I don’t blame the competitors for following me; after all, they don’t know why I was on their site and didn’t convert. As long as they don’t show me hundreds of impressions per day, it’s not a problem. Then again, there are some remarketing ads that seem nearly ubiquitous, almost to the point of harassment.

Here’s an example of an ad that most PPC pros probably see at least 20 times per day:

remarketing ad

Now, I think WordStream has good products – I’ve praised several of them in posts I’ve written. And I have nothing but respect for Larry Kim, their CEO. But I gotta be honest – I’m tired of seeing their ads all day long, everywhere I go.

How to avoid harassment: Use frequency caps! I usually start with 5 impressions per user per day. And even that might be high – I’ve gone as low as 1 per day.

Now, I’m sure the fine folks at WordStream have probably tested the frequency threshold and likely are serving the right number of impressions to drive the results they’re looking for. But gosh, these ads are everywhere. I’ve even tried to get them to stop showing by going to different pages & sites – I gave up after about 50 impressions.

This week, I got to thinking about another, bigger problem: showing salesy remarketing ads to people who already use your product. I credit my co-worker, Ben Nusekabel, with pointing this out. Here’s the ad he sent me – for the project management software we all use every day!

remarketing ad

Now, I love so many things about this ad: the copy, the art, the call to action… If I’d seen it, I probably would have downloaded the ebook! But here’s the thing: they’re wasting money on me, because I work for a company that already uses them.

The solution? Don’t remarket to people who log in to your site. Create an exclusion list for them.

Here’s another one, for the videoconferencing program we use:

remarketing ad

Great – I started seeing this ad AFTER a video meeting in which I gave a presentation from my home office in Michigan to our main office in Cincinnati, while I was logged in, of course. At least this ad wasn’t interesting enough for me to click on it. So maybe the key is to use boring creative? (I keed, I keed.)

And finally, the icing on the cake:

remarketing ad

Yes, our friends over at Adwords want me to check them out. “Try Google AdWords,” they say. As if I’m not logged in to their interface from dawn till dusk. This one made me laugh out loud. Yet another example of Adwords not using their own best practices.

I’d have been ok with seeing all of these ads if I weren’t logged in to their sites at the time I saw them. Makes me wonder if their PPC department or agency doesn’t understand how to use remarketing. At least it’s good for a few laughs.

What about you? What are the craziest (or best, or creepiest) remarketing ads you’ve seen lately? Share in the comments!

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The Adwords Red Bar of Death Is Killing Me

Ever try navigating within your PPC account and seen this?

red bar of death
It’s affectionately called the “red bar of death” by PPC advertisers, and it used to show up relatively infrequently. Starting about a month ago, I noticed more and more tweets on the PPC Chat hashtag from people saying they were seeing the red bar of death. Most of the tweets at that time were from our friends in the UK and Europe, so I figured something was going on over there.

Then I started seeing it myself, more and more. Then I saw this:
adwords down
And this:
adwords down again
Mountain View, we have a problem.

It seems as though everyone is seeing the Adwords red bar of death:
rbod tweets

It’s gone beyond ridiculous at this point. Twitter users point out that the issue happens in nearly every instance of Adwords daily usage: in every browser, navigating from one campaign to another, filtering, segmenting, editing… the list goes on. And nothing we do seems to make it go away for more than a day or so.

Adwords has maintained near-silence the whole time this has been going on. Last week, after the tweet I sent in the image above asking why the silence, they finally sent me a direct message on Twitter.

The DM contained a link to report the problems I was having. Finally! I thought. We can all get a resolution on this, if for no other reason than to bombard Adwords with form fills from the sheer number of PPC pros having this problem. So I tweeted out the link.

I promptly got another DM from Adwords – this time, asking me to delete the tweet. Why? Because apparently they handle these issues on an individual basis, so the form was meant for “specific cases” only.

Fair enough. But newsflash, Adwords: TONS of users are having the same problem, and it’s gone on for weeks! Why create a form meant for single users when this is a nearly universal problem? It almost seems like you’re underestimating the extent of the issue.

To their credit, Adwords did send me a public link to contact support, and I deleted my earlier tweet and sent this out instead. But this is just a link to their general support options. We all know how well that works (i.e., it doesn’t). Meanwhile, we’re still getting the red bar of death and other errors on a daily basis.

Hey Google, in case you haven’t noticed, the holidays are fast approaching. PPC advertisers need to get all their holiday campaigns teed up, launched, and managed. We don’t have time for continual outages and errors. Several people said they couldn’t access their shopping campaigns at all yesterday. That’s a major problem.

This fiasco is yet another indication that Google may be getting too big to fail. And it’s not the first time we’ve gotten terrible support from Adwords. But this goes beyond silly feature announcements and uneducated reps. This is a system-wide, worldwide outage that’s been going on for at least a month.

Adwords, it’s time to step up and fix the platform that’s your bread and butter. Now.

What about you? What have you done when you’ve gotten the red bar of death? Has Adwords reached out to you individually? Are you noticing any patterns in when it happens? Share in the comments!

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PPC Campaign Setup Best Practices

Everyone who works in PPC management will have to set up at least a few new PPC campaigns. Setup seems easy, especially if you read what the engines tell you. But there are several tricky default settings that can trip you up.

It’s easy to make mistakes in campaign setup that can negatively impact performance. Here are some PPC campaign setup best practices to follow.

Campaign Setup Basics

Experienced PPC managers may take the basics for granted – after all, we’ve looked at these settings hundreds of times, right? But that doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes. I recently set a campaign’s geotargeting to the entire US when it was supposed to be geotargeted to a few cities. Be sure to look at the following settings to ensure they mesh with your campaign goals:

  • Billing & Currency
  • Account Timezone
  • Geographic Distribution
  • Language
  • Campaign Budget
  • Ad Distribution
  • Ad Rotation

For an overview of all these settings, here’s an article I wrote for Web Marketing Today.

Campaign Setup Strategies

Once you understand the various settings that are available, you need to think about campaign strategy. What makes the most sense for each campaign? Review some of the choices you have in terms of ad rotation, budget delivery, etc.

Also, think long and hard about mobile. Do you have a mobile version of your site? Is your site responsive and works well on mobile? Can users take conversion actions on a mobile device? Don’t just automatically include or exclude mobile – think about how it fits with campaign strategy.

Audit and QA

Even the most experienced PPC managers make mistakes in campaign setup. I’ve set the wrong budget, opted campaigns into display by mistake, set wrong geos, added “keyword” to my keyword list, and messed up destination URLs and tagging. It happens to the best of us.

The worst possible thing that can happen is to have a client, or your boss, find your mistakes. While some things will inevitably slip through the cracks despite your best efforts, putting an audit and quality assurance (QA) process in place will help you to avoid the most egregious errors.

One key to successful QA is to have someone else check your work. We recently did a huge launch of new landing pages for a client with a very large campaign. On top of that, we had to manually tag our URLs. It was a complicated process with a big margin for error. We had multiple sets of eyes on the destination URLs to make sure everything was set up correctly. We checked, and then checked again. And I had others help me, because after I’d stared at it for multiple 10-hour days straight, it was hard to find my own mistakes.

Another key to correcting errors is to do regular audits. We’ve all made changes to accounts in good faith, only to realize we messed something up in the process. Auditing your campaigns on a weekly or monthly basis will help keep errors from perpetuating over time.

My favorite audit tool is Joe Kerschbaum’s 10-Minute Audit spreadsheet. He presented it at SMX Advanced 2012 on a panel we were both speaking on, and I’ve used it ever since. Even though it’s 2 years old, it still holds up – the only thing that’s changed is device segmentation (sadly). Even still, you should think about mobile as I mentioned above. Are you using mobile-preferred ads? Call extensions? Other tactics for mobile success? Use the audit spreadsheet to find mistakes quickly.

Again, it’s best to have someone else audit the campaigns you manage. While I’ve used it on my own campaigns, it’s easy to miss things. If you work on a team, take turns auditing each other’s campaigns each month. You’ll be glad you did.

What are your favorite campaign setup best practices? Share in the comments!

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Scaaary-Cool News From Bing Ads Next

Last week, I attended the second annual Bing Ads Next conference at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, WA. Like last year’s event, it provided a look into what’s on the horizon for Bing Ads.

It was a great conference filled with knowledge-sharing and networking. I love the fact that Bing is listening to us – and they’ve really stepped up the pace at which they release new features. Think back to last year at this time, and all the issues you probably had: using the online UI and Editor, dealing with weird errors and login troubles, and other challenges. It seems like Bing Ads released a record number of updates this year, to the point at which they’re pretty close to Google in terms of features, and are ahead of them in others.

For a recap of some of the cool stuff that was announced last week, check out this post on Universal Event Tracking and this one on customer focus.

I love hearing about the latest and greatest when it comes to search engine marketing. One of the best speakers of the one-day event was Stefan Weitz, Director of Search at Microsoft. He did a demo of new Bing technology that can anticipate and predict a searcher’s actions without query input, based on the context of their interaction. Microsoft uses reactive processing to incorporate the knowledge that’s already out there, such as flight schedules and traffic reports, and combine it with what they know about you as a user. They can then offer suggestions tailored to you as an individual – going beyond the 10 blue links ranked by a single algorithm.

Stefan showed other cool technology, such as Cortana and its natural language learning abilities, which make it more like talking to another person instead of a search engine. In the example he demoed, he searched for “barbecue,” and the system showed Korean BBQ restaurants nearby. Think about that for a minute: “barbecue” is a vague term that could mean lots of things: a barbecue grill, pulled pork, a party you’re attending, or the Korean variety. Because Cortana knew Stefan’s preferences, it showed Korean restaurants. Pretty nifty.

He also showed us the predictive capabilities of Bing. Bing Predicts looks at things like elections and NFL game predictions and provides odds, of sorts. Bing predictions go beyond exit and phone polls – this is actual forecasting based on millions of bits of data. Here’s an example:

bing predicts election results

Here’s another one for the NFL:

bing predicts nfl results
Wow. Here’s more information on how it works.

There’s no doubt: this is super cool. It’s also scary to me.

Think about the election predictions for a minute. In the screen shot above, it shows that Gary Peters is going to win the Michigan Senate race in a landslide. (Remember, this is based on data Bing has, including who’s talking about the candidates, how much they’ve spent on advertising, sentiment, news articles, and other factors.)

Now, let me tell you a little bit about this Senate race.

These two are vying for a spot that’s been held by Carl Levin for the past 35 years. I don’t remember a time when Carl Levin wasn’t in office. This is huge for the state of Michigan and for the US Senate. We need as many people in the state to come out and vote as possible.

And yet, if I were thinking about voting for Terri Lynn Land, and I saw this, would I bother to go vote, seeing that she has no chance? Would I be tempted to just sit at home and watch the Bing Predicts data instead of watching TV coverage of the election? Would I decide my vote doesn’t matter?

I personally won’t decide any of these things, but I fear others will.

And what about the NFL example? Will people go out and put their money on the Bengals in Vegas because Bing Predicts gives them a 76% chance of winning? Is that easy money for me? Should I quit my job and just start using Bing Predicts to place bets?

Again, I wouldn’t do any of those things – but others might.

Don’t get me wrong – this stuff is incredible. Just 10 years ago, who would have dreamed of search going this direction? We are getting very close to being able to say, Star Trek-like, “Computer, report!” and getting back actual, meaningful info. (I’d love to do that for my weekly and monthly PPC reports!) We can get our email on a watch. It’s awesome.

And yet, what are the social implications of all this? I’m a bit scared that our elections might be predicted by a search engine.

What about you? Is this cool, and I need to just tell everyone to get off my lawn? Or are you just a little concerned about the machines predicting everything? Share in the comments!

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Must-Read Posts On PPC And Other Topics

I’ve been bookmarking great PPC posts like a madwoman the past few days, and some of the posts are too good not to share. Here are my must-read posts on PPC, and on a couple other topics that PPC managers will find useful.

Excellent Bidding in PPC by Lauryan Feijen. This long but worth-the-read post covers how to effectively bid on keywords for best results. If you’re looking to meet your PPC goals, check this one out.

Multi-Ad Group Testing by AdAlysis. This video is intended for users of Brad Geddes’s AdAlysis tool, but it’s worth a watch for anyone looking to streamline ad copy testing across large accounts. You could apply the principles outlined in the video to a pivot table and gain similar insights with a few calculations, although it would take significantly more time than it takes in AdAlysis.

Incidentally, I’m a huge fan of AdAlysis. If you manage multiple accounts or have a large account with multiple ad tests, this tool is a must for saving time on test analysis.

Google AdWords Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSA): The Ultimate Guide by Lisa Raehsler. An oldie but a goodie, this Search Engine Watch post is a must-read primer for anyone looking to take advantage of the power of remarketing lists for search ads.

The next 2 posts are on giving great presentations. Even if you don’t speak at search conferences, you probably have to give presentations to clients, or to co-workers if you work in-house. I bookmarked these 2 posts because they’re loaded with tips that I can use right away to make my presentations better.

Making Great Presentations by Ian Lurie. A true lesson in the “less is more” philosophy, Ian’s Slideshare deck will have you fine-tuning your PowerPoint decks in no time.

Free Resources For Great Presentations by my friend Aaron Levy. Aaron gave this presentation at his alma mater, Villanova University – but the lessons in this post apply to far more than just college students. Everyone can benefit from the resources he offers up in this killer post. (Disclosure: Aaron credits me with providing ideas for his presentation, and I did send him a few tips – but this post has given me way more than I gave it!)

Give these great posts a read or view – you won’t be disappointed. Got any great PPC articles to share? Post in the comments!

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6 Milestones For Successful PPC Campaigns

When I train new PPC hires, one of the questions they often ask me is, “How long does it take to get a PPC campaign running well?” It’s a fair question, and the answer isn’t what you might think.

A good PPC campaign takes time to set up. It’s not immediate like Google Adwords would lead you to believe:

This is Google's idea of how quickly a campaign can go live. They're wrong.

This is Google’s idea of how quickly a campaign can go live. They’re wrong.

Here are 6 milestones that will take you on your way to a well-run campaign.

Research

Doing your homework is a must. Guessing at keywords and creating one ad that lands on the homepage is not the way to approach PPC. You’ll need to think about campaign goals first, and then do your keyword research.

Creating good ad copy is harder than ever with all the options out there today. Be sure to incorporate best practices.

Campaign structure is also vital for success. Plan for expansion, and create campaigns and ad groups that will make management and reporting easier.

Tracking

If you don’t measure results, how will you know if the campaign is running well? Tracking setup can be very simple, using only Google Analytics or the engine conversion tracking scripts, or it can be ridiculously complex, with content marketing and CMS integration, call tracking, social media, and other integration elements.

Set aside time to get the tracking right before you launch. Inaccurate tracking is worse than no tracking.

Approvals

Whether you’re in an agency dealing with clients, or in-house with a boss or CEO, someone will need to approve your campaign before it goes live. Chances are you’ll need someone else to set up the tracking on the website, too. Allow time for approvals – in my experience, a 2-day turnaround is lightning-fast, and it frequently takes a week or more for all approvals and tracking codes to be installed. Work that time into your launch plan.

And if you’re creating new landing pages, plan on at least a month to get them up and running. Even with marketing automation, I’ve found it takes several weeks to create new pages, QA them, and get them ready for traffic.

Relevant Data

One of the great things about PPC is its immediacy – you can start seeing data right away. But just because you can see data the first day doesn’t mean you should act on it.

Use the first days of a new campaign to trouble-shoot: ad disapprovals, broken links, and tracking issues are some of the roadblocks that can crop up in the early days of a new campaign. You should definitely look at the data to spot these challenges and fix them as soon as possible.

But don’t fall into the trap of viewing performance after a couple of days or weeks and making huge decisions on it. Most campaigns need at least a month to really get a feel for performance. The first couple weeks will have huge swings in key metrics – so it doesn’t make sense to decide the fate of keywords and ad copy while things are going back and forth. Give it time.

Optimization

Campaign optimization should be ongoing, of course, but it’s in the first month or two that the most learning happens. You’ll probably find a couple of keywords and ad variations that perform terribly. As long as you remove them quickly, usually there’s little to no harm done. Fail fast and learn fast should be your motto.

Reporting

Reporting is another way to get your campaign performing well. In a report, you must show results, highlight key wins, and point out issues and problems. Even though you’re looking at your PPC data on a regular basis, you’ll probably see something in the first report that you didn’t notice before. And that’s ok.

I always tell clients that their first report is going to be their worst report in terms of performance. It’s the baseline by which future performance is judged. And a good PPC report will facilitate a conversation between you and your client or boss that will help you get the campaign to perform better in the future.

Work toward these milestones as you set up your next PPC campaign. What milestones do you look for in a new campaign? Share in the comments!

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PPC and Content Marketing: Integration

Previously, I’ve talked about PPC and content marketing as it relates to the content audit, audience research, timing, and buyer journey. Now it’s time to think about integrating your content marketing efforts across channels.

It’s common for advertisers to integrate their search and social PPC channels. PPC can inform SEO and vice versa, and social PPC can inform search as well. Frequently, the same person is managing many or all of these channels, making it even easier to coordinate and integrate learnings.

But what about other kinds of media? Think about ad networks, traditional media, organic social, PR, email…. Are you talking to these folks about your content marketing?

Chances are, the answer is no. And it’s time to start.

Map channels to the buyer journey.

The best way to begin the mapping process is to go back and look at your buyer journey. Map each channel to the phases in the buyer journey that make the most sense. You’ll probably need to break things down even further and map campaigns within the channels to the buyer journey. PPC, for instance, can fit into multiple buyer journey phases, so you’ll need to map campaigns accordingly.

Once you’re done, you’ll have a good roadmap of which channels need to be working closest together.

Track content across channels.

Now it’s time to think about tracking your content across channels. It’s not always easy to do, but if you have a good content management system, usually you can assign a content ID to each asset. Then you’ll include the content ID as a URL parameter in each channel. This enables you to slice and dice the data and see how each content asset performs across channels and as a whole.

This is the secret sauce that will help you take your content marketing to the next level. If you know that a certain asset performs well in every channel you’ve used it, then you’ll want to lead with that asset when you enter a new channel for the first time.

If you don’t have a CMS that can track content performance for you, you could try using the utm_content parameter in Google Analytics for content ID. As long as it’s used the same way across channels, you could get asset performance this way.

Track content types.

It’s also important to learn what types of content perform best. Are white papers your top lead generators, or do videos perform best? Track performance by asset type, either by including it in the content ID parameter, or by tracking it manually. One of our clients tracks link clicks on asset titles in their web analytics, using consistent link naming across all channels. The asset title always includes the asset type, so we can roll up the results fairly easily.

Establish a consistent naming convention.

I can’t stress enough how important the naming convention is to content marketing integration success. A naming convention is like a code or shorthand that maps back to your content. For instance, an Intro to PPC white paper might be coded like this: ppc_int_wp_01. All PPC content would contain “ppc,” all intro content would contain “int,” and all white papers would contain “wp.” “01” is the specific asset number. This convention enables you to track and report on all kinds of asset types.

Establish your naming convention before you begin, and you’ll be able to track content performance across channels.

Don’t forget to ensure that all marketing channels, including organic social, are using the content parameter in their destination URLs.  All the naming in the world is no good unless it’s used consistently!

Use the data to learn and improve.

If you find that white papers perform best across all channels, you now know that you need to start writing more white papers. You might find that certain types of content do better in PPC than in other channels, and vice versa.

Be sure to communicate learnings to all involved: your counterparts working in other channels, your client or boss, and so on. Set a monthly or quarterly content performance review meeting to go over your findings. This way you ensure that everyone is informed and can use the information to improve the marketing efforts in their area of expertise.

An integrated content marketing strategy can be highly effective. How have you integrated your PPC content marketing? Share in the comments!

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Hey Ask.com: Yes, That’s Google Arbitrage

Earlier this week, Susan Waldes caused quite a stir with her Search Engine Land post, Will Ask.com Google Arbitrage Ever Stop? Google arbitrage is the practice of advertisers buying Google Adwords ads for the sole purpose of driving traffic to their made-for-Adsense or other site where the primary goal is to generate ad revenue. Susan called out Ask.com for arbitrage practices, giving examples of how Ask.com buys traffic via PPC, and then sends it to their own search results pages – which are full of ads and links to other sites owned by the same entity that owns Ask.com.

Susan garnered the attention of Ask.com’s CEO Doug Leeds with her post. In fact, he wrote a rebuttal to Search Engine Land that was published yesterday.

Leeds claims that Ask.com is not engaging in arbitrage, but rather is “(providing) information from our own network of sites, or from around the web, that can answer (searcher’s) questions.”

Bullcrap.

I’ve long been tired of seeing Ask.com results clogging the PPC landscape. Instead of giving searchers the information they asked for, Ask ads take searchers to yet another search page – a terrible user experience that I can’t imagine Google is excited about if they really care about ad quality. (And that’s a topic for another post.)

So, I ran a couple searches. I decided to sidestep Google and try Bing instead. Here is the same search that Leeds performed in his rebuttal, on Bing:

bing SERP

 

You’ll notice that the ONLY ad at the top of the page is an Ask.com ad. And it’s a terrible ad. The whole premise of both the ad copy and sitelinks is, “Hey searcher, come to Ask.com to get answers to your questions!” Hey Ask.com, guess what? The searcher ALREADY ASKED A QUESTION! They want INFORMATION, not your crappy ads taking them to your crappy SERPs that do anything but answer the searcher’s questions.

(Not to mention the fact that the first ad on the right is an About.com ad – and About.com is owned by the same parent company as Ask.com, as Susan Waldes pointed out.)

Here’s the Ask.com landing page for that ad:

ask serp

I added the red box. What’s at the top of the page? Arbitrage ads! Ads that Ask.com is profiting from!

Let’s recap this process:

  • Ask.com buys ads on Bing
  • Ask’s ads take users to their crappy search engine results page
  • Users click on their ads
  • Ask makes money

What other possible goal could their Bing ads have but to drive profit from their own ads? Isn’t that the definition of search arbitrage?

In fact, look at the organic results on that Ask.com “landing page.” And look at the “ads” on the top right. All that stuff is driving traffic to Ask.com pages! Ask is taking their poor unsuspecting site visitors on a virtual wild goose chase through their various SERPs!

It’s kind of like voice mail hell – every option you choose just takes you to something else that still doesn’t answer your question. That’s the antithesis of a quality landing page, in my book.

What do you think? Is Ask.com the king of PPC arbitrage? Or are they justified in their actions? Is Doug Leeds admitting guilt with his rebuttal, or does he have a point? Share in the comments!

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