Sometimes you do not even need to test a pay per click search engine to know there isn't much value there. In much the same way you can determine the quality of a directory by the sites listed there, you can also determine the (lack of) value of a PPC engine by looking at the sites listed there.
Check out these LookSmart ads:
And then look at this search result:
- they throw tribal fusion pop up ads at site visitors.
- they sell off target banner ads at the top of the search results.
- they don't even have good ad placement on their own site, putting dumb banners and pop up ads front and center - making users hunt for the ads.
- what is up with the dumb blue triangle on the left? It points at nothing.
If they sell trashy off topic ads front and center on their own site what does that do for advertiser or publisher trust in their ad network?
They couldn't even keep Zeal, their free volunteer directory, running with their own ads OR Google's ads (due largely to ignorant ad placement / integration).
They may be able to leverage all of their content to make some sort of a content play, but they would probably gain more credibility if they stopped selling ads directly and / or got rid of pop ups and integrated the ads appropriately into their search results (ie: place off topic banners AFTER the relevant ads).
And they probably would do better in other engines if they cleaned up their URLs and page titles a bit. They probably cut off 50% to 75% of their traffic with their current URLs, page titles, spreading their content over many domains with poor internal link structure, and marking it hard to get back to the root site from some of the sub sites.
Combine that with making their own ad market less efficient due to poor ad placement of the relevant ads and scaring off visitors with pop ups and you can see how the margin based network business they are running is doing less than stellar.
It might be different if they didn't also own a search engine, but how can they be so not clued up?
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