Improve Search Engine Rankings: Not with Overture Content Match!

So I have content match turned on with Overture, and with my recent post about click fraud, it appears they are trying to make me a liar. One of the terms in my account is Improve Search Engine Rankings. My Overture content match usually costs me about $20 a month total, across a large number of words. In the last week I spent over $75 on that single term, at 44 cents a click, while my ad was in 3RD position. Whats up with that?

I understand they enable certain terms on certain partner sites, but I just can't believe that traffic was legitimate.

I have not seen much sketchiness with their regular search product, just their content match on that specific term. Since it never really made any sales Overture content match has now been disabled :)

Over 38% of Click Fraud Prevention Software Vendors Use Bogus Click Fraud Stats to Promote their Products

Another class action click fraud lawsuit:

Google (Nasdaq:GOOG - news) and its top rival, Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news), have declined to say what percentage of clicks would fall under click fraud. The figure most cited by independent firms that track the practice is around 20 percent.

Scott Boyenger, chief executive of Colorado-based Click Defense, said in an e-mail that his company's tracking system has detected click fraud rates of as high as 38 percent. The company sells software to prevent click fraud.

Joe Holcomb, from BlowSearch, also states the 38% is not unrealistic.

A few things which discourage AdWords click fraud:

  • If you click a competing ad on Google you make that ad more relevant to the search query. Google discounts their click price to make up for their higher relevancy.

  • By clicking on a competing ad on Google you increase your own ad costs since you must bid higher to make up for your lower ad relevancy.

There are hundreds of millions of searches each day. No way 38% of the ad clicks are fraudulent AND not detected by the engines.

Recently, at the New Orleans WMW conferences I spoke with some people who told me they intentionally clicked their own AdWords ads just to try to keep them relevant and ranking.

Those preaching about the doom caused by click fraud are not telling the whole story.

To me, doing click fraud is about the same as complaining about people ranking above you. It is a waste of energy and builds little to no longterm value. Why? You will always have competitors.

Worrying about competitors instead of focusing on building your own business and parnerships while they are busy building their business means you are falling behind. If you are spending a ton of money on PPC ads it makes sense to track it, but click fraud should not be a primary business focus if you are trying to build a legitimate long term business.

Content publishers have more incentive to do click fraud since they get a cut of the revenues, but that is why most smart people do not bid sky high on content ads. For how cheap the branding effects are, I am usually stoked just to break even on content ads. If that means I am paying for a little click fraud oh well.

Danny Sullivan posted the click fraud complaint here (18 page PDF).

AdRoar: No Click Fraud Here?

So AdRoar recently sent out an email that starts with:

We have recently seen many articles discussing pay per click "click fraud" in relation to the major search providers Google and Overture. Please see the articles referenced below.

By its design, advertisers on AdRoar cannot be subject to "click fraud". This is primarily due to the fact that almost all popunder creatives are shown using contextual software. Since this is not accessible to third parties, it cannot be defrauded.

We urge you to test AdRoar against your current PPC provider to see the vastly better ROI's available. Click here to see how now! Firther information about AdRoar is below the referenced articles.

How Orwellian is that? A small ad provider with a fairly open publishing partnership talking about fraud being virtually impossible with their service.

If I can't do click fraud can I still do impression fraud? How is your service better than AdSense ad targeting which lets me chose the sites my ads are published on?

The larger picture is does AdRoar have any quality traffic, and where does it come from. For them to attack the credibility of Google and Yahoo! to push their product seems bizarre.

In the same email they also promote their ad publishing service offering 60% payout. Weird.

Crazy Dayz I Sayz.

Overture Bid to Postion

Not sure if this is new, but I just logging into Overture today and I noticed a bid to position option, where they state:

Choose the desired position for your Standard Match listings. Your Max Bid will be set $0.01 above the Max Bid of the advertiser currently in that position. If you'd like to set a limit on your cost per click to attain this position, enter it in the box next to "No Max Bid to exceed" and you will be given the best position available for that price.

It allows you to set your max bid and bid for postion 1 through 5.

You can still bid using the regular old max bid format, but it interesting to see some of the third party bid management type functionality integrated directly into the bid management systems. Bidding to position is only possible for the Standard match type.

This new feature moreless integrates bid jamming right into the ad management console, simply state you want to rank 1 position below your fiercest competitors and crank the bid price way up.

Of course this will also encourage click fraud. By factoring clickthrough rate into click cost AdWords helps ensure relevancy and combat some of the potential click fraud. Sorta amazing to see that Overture has not been more proactive in using CTR.

Search Engines Trashed for Paid Links, Paper Trashed for Bias

The East Bay Business Times published an article named Jeeves, others trashed for sponsored links, about how search engines do not label their ads properly:

Indeed, the quality of search results has steadily increased. That's due to better search technology and to reforms resulting from pressure from the Federal Trade Commission and groups such as Consumer Reports.

Wow, talk about a pat on the back article. Search quality evolved because of these groups? Search evolved because Overture proved it could provide strong revenues and Google proved it could be done cheaply & highly profitably on the back of those evil ads.

The competition for the ad dollars, userbase, and purest data set have been what has driven it from there.

Dan Thies got a plug in the article:

"Speaking as an advertiser, I would prefer that my ad is known as an ad because it is more likely to reach the right audience," said Dan Thies, a search engine advertising consultant. "I wouldn't want my ad snuck in."

I personally like people not thinking of my ad as an ad. There is so much nasty advertising that many people would be turned off if they knew what the ads were.

Our phone number is on the no call list and my roommate gets about 2 or 3 telemarketers a day. They almost always refuse to give there name and want to know who I am, so I curse them out and hang up the phone. My goal is to help give them a bad day, make them want to quit their job or be less productive, and make that marketing channel more expensive for wasting my time.

Paid ads are different than telemarketers though because people are requesting information on the topic. It is the same exact reason that most legitimate SEO services are not nasty. Quality SEO work focuses on being relevant.

Whether people click more ads or more regular results there is approximately the same value in the search market as a whole, and I am willing to pay for the targeted leads that might still be a bit earlier in the sales cycle. Is that somewhat wasteful of me? Yes, but since the medium is so new and the market is inefficiently tracked it is undersold.

A person interested in a topic who does not buy right now may also be a person conducting research and buying later, or they might link to or reference my site in some way.

Even if search engines noted that the ads were ads that still would not stop people from manipulating the regular search results, so I don't really see how it helps them to brightly label many of the ads for what they are and ignore labeling the rest of them. Doing that would make the regular results seem more pure than they are, and if that was the case my bank account would be empty and I would not be typing this particular post right now. You can't take human bias out of search.

The article continues their multi page focused attack on Ask Jeeves:

take the search term "Asian." In past years, such a search would have been guaranteed to result in many adult and pornographic sites. That has been mostly cleaned up by the search engines, though traces still remain: search for "Asian" at Ask Jeeves and the paid listings come up with three dating sites.

Dating ads = porn? What sort of comparison is THAT? Of course they don't tell you that those nasty dating ads on Ask Jeeves come from Google's AdWords program.

Usually search articles good and bad focus on Google. This is about the first industry wide article that I have seen which places much more emphasis on Ask than on Yahoo! and Google. Lets not forget that this article is about wanting engines to label advertisements and it only gave Yahoo! paid inclusion a brief mention. Was this focus on Ask because they are small and easy to attack, or did someone not want to lose an inside contact with Yahoo! or Google?

Mirago Context Stream, Search Suggestion, PPC Best Practices

Why Does Google Lie to SEOs?
asks Stuntdubl

Leslie Rhode created a new seo blog, and a new Mastering PageRank video. His OptiLink was one of the first SEO tools I bought and one of the few I ever found useful, although the advancing algorithms are making link analysis harder than it was a short time ago.

Say Cheese:
the demise of a brand - a Kodak moment.

Mirago's Context Stream:
new AdSense competitor spotted.

Spammy Directory Links:
Have still seen them working decent in Google, although I am sure that will eventually change.

About 3 months ago a friend launched a brand spanking new site on an expensive topic which already ranks in the top 30 for a well known short query. The site ranked there before being listed in DMOZ.

Other than a Yahoo! Directory link only a few links from on topic sites or sites that would be well trusted by an algorithm such as TrustRank.

Most of the links popularity comes from general directories. The site also has sitewide outbound links to a couple industry hub resources. Most other sites in the field are not well topically connected and are powered by fake hubs and the like.

Cory Rudl:
Ken McCarthy posted a in memory page with a 1 hour MP3 audio clip of Corey from February 2001, which is well worth a listen to anyone new to internet marketing.
Their search service now comes with a new search suggestion / keyword research tool. Similar to how Snap works, except instead of showing queries which start with your term it shows querries which contain your term. from TW

MarketingSherpa best practices - How Autobytel Ramped Up to 150,000 PPC Search Campaigns : 5 Best Practices in Campaign Management. from GotAds

Fear, Greed, & Social Software:
article by Ross Mayfield

Don't Forget to Try FindWhat too... Changing a Name.

FindWhat and Espotting are being renamed Miva. Very rarely do I disagree with AussieWebmaster, but he said:

They have decided to take a completely new name so neither party could feel the upper hand in the relationship. Smart move in my opinion.

Many people in the know still recommended FindWhat. I think about a year ago I remembered Dana Todd saying FindWhat is almost like a tier 1.5 engine instead of a tier two engine (although there has probably been further market consolidation since then).

FindWhat drives nowhere near as much traffic as Google or Yahoo! / Overture, but they still have a few decent partnerships.

There are lots of posts out there telling people they may want to try FindWhat. On the other end of the spectrum you have people saying LookSmart is the worst traffic they have ever bought. Most smaller pay per click search engines could correctly be renamed pay per click fraud search engines.

So you take what is a somewhat clean search engine, which recently cut it's income heavily to get rid of bad partners and you give it a brand new name out in the wild which will make all the old recommending posts sound outdated or incorrect.

Sure FindWhat has had a bit of a bad rap for its stock price getting ahead of itself and the Miva Merchant buyout not leading to as many advertisers as desired, but the stock buyers and market price will eventually follow the value created.

Investors have a longer memory than webmasters, and based on FindWhat's market capitalization not many people are buying it.

Making More Money with AdWords: Search Engines, Not Consumers

Sounds like a marketing product name, eh? Actually this is a link to a research paper Orion mentioned, a 20 page PDF about AdWords and Generalized On-Line Matching, which covers the idea of allowing search services to extract the maximum ad revenue out of advertisers.

One problem current search related ad systems have is that after one advertiser exhausts their budget the competing sites may get ads below their fair market value.

If a college student wanted to get a job at Google you could bet that writing a research paper about making AdWords more profitable would be a good idea :)

In related news...
AdWords Smart Keyword Evaluation Tool:
Sometimes without human review it disables some exceptionally well targeted terms even before you get a chance to display your ads. That is not so smart, as it frustrates advertisers and prevents them from selling part of their inventory.

You can't know how well an ad will perform based on past advertising experience since so much of Google's ad space is full of "Buy dead animal at eBay" type ads.

Why Disabling Some Generic Term Makes more Money:
I advertise one product line on Overture where part of the name is an acronym. I can use that acronym to make a decent number of sales on Overture for a good sum of money. If I want to advertise for that term on Google AdWords, even with like 20 negative keywords (filtering out unrelated traffic), the term consistantly gets shut off, despite getting a clickthrough near their minimum rate and converting exceptionally well.

Then again, maybe Google does not want me to get those conversions for a nickel. In how broad search engines allow you to advertise they are also trying to control the way searchers search. If a person searches for a short acronym Google would prefer that person to give them more data, so they can gain a better understanding of what the person wants, and deliver more targeted and hopefully more expensive advertising.

In my example for targeted terms I pay over 10 times as much per click, which really sucks since the acronym had a conversion rate higher than the campaign does.

Lost Clicks Click Fraud Site Launched

So the people suing the major search engines for click fraud issues created a website.

With the money that is going to be needed in that sort of a case you would have thought they could have made an attractive professional looking site, but you would be wrong. They even have (not so) flashy "click here" banners.

From their press release:

"What we'd like is for to become an electronic meeting place for advertisers and individuals who are concerned about pay-per- click (PPC) fraud," says attorney Joel Fineberg of Dallas, who represents online advertisers in the class action lawsuit. "It's very important that all of us share information because we're dealing with a new technology and a new challenge. The more people who visit the site, the more knowledge we can all gain."

Sending what visitors I can. They are surely in for an expensive battle. Wonder why don't they have a blog, forum, or anything that would encourage community activity? They probably could have put a bit more effort in on that front.

Google Corporate Desktop Search, New AdWords Blog, Yahoo! Media RSS & Messenger VOIP

Corporate Search:
Google launches desktop search app for businesses

Google Inc. on Wednesday launched a corporate version of its desktop search application. The Google Desktop Search for Enterprise allows employees at companies to search for information on their computers. The free, downloadable application is based on its desktop search tools introduced last year. Google said it collaborated with IBM on the program, which is able to search IBM Lotus Notes messages, among other features.

AdWords Blog:
Cornwall notices a new AdWords blog.

Yahoo! VOIP:
new (Beta) Messenger allows calling over the web from messenger to messenger

Media RSS:
info from Yahoo!