eBay recently banned search arbitrage, and Google is also trying to clean up their network. eWhisper posted that he thought the recent clean up may be an attempt to make the network look more appealing before showing advertisers what URLs their ads appear on. A neverending Webmasterworld thread highlights that many thin AdSense publishers got emails from Google stating that "our specialists found that your business model is not a good fit for the AdSense program".
The hard part is both judging intent and forcing quality. On one front Google offers a heat map showing you that your ads should go in the middle of your content, then they tell you to use AdWords to drive traffic to AdSense sites, and in their guidelines they state:
No Google ad may be placed on pages published specifically for the purpose of showing ads, whether or not the page content is relevant
In a market where virtually every business arbitrages other markets what is an improper business model? SEO is a form of arbitrage. I even had one engine call me up and ask to pay me to spam arbitraging Google's search results. That engine may even be one of Google's largest syndication partners! As ShoeMoney pointed out, many large arbitragers will continue arbitraging. Companies like Business.com or the 100s of shopping search engines are not going to get booted out of syndicating ads.
I think the big long-term distinction between what Google considers low quality and of quality is going to be brand equity. Do people visit your site from channels other than Google? Large brands get more return out of buzz marketing, while smaller businesses lean hard on search. inbound made a great post in that WMW thread about the arbitrage and MFA changes, which notes that Google is getting better at coming up with proxies for visitor value.
Based on Google's authority-centric relevancy algorithms and this move it is clear that Google wants to trust the larger businesses so they have less work to do policing the web. The way around getting forked by Google is to create something that does not need Google to exist. Create the type of site that people would link at if Google did not exist, and the type of site that they would want to advertise on directly. I have a large AdSense site that needs a re-brand and some serious work on content quality if it is going to stay viable in years to come.
For those who just got the death letter here are a few options:
- Buy old trusted sites with a clean core and real value add. do arbitrage stuff off of them
- Look to other related programs like YPN, Searchfeed, and Ask.com's feed.
- If your site is of low value consider showing fewer ads short term...to make up for non arbitrage ads and to lower your risk profile.
- Create a new corporation, open up a new AdSense account and figure out ways to get your sites approved.
- Publish fewer and higher quality sites with fewer ad units on each page.
From a risk management perspective, I think every web publisher should own at least one real branded site, even if it offers low returns for the amount of work required to maintain it.
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