Poll: Is Ask.com Using Google AdWords For Arbitrage Purposes?

Oct 24, 2012 • 8:52 am | comments (2) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google AdWords
 

Ask.com LogoA reader sent me a complaint about Ask.com using Google AdWords to send themselves traffic to their search engine, which just leads to a page of search results and additional ads. Now, the Ask.com page does have some licenses content as well, but it mostly shows ads and then some search results.

We broke the story on Search Engine Land under the name Is Ask.com Continuing To Play The Google Arbitrage Game?

Let me show one of many many examples. Search Google for [what is hyperlipidemia] and you will see this ad from Ask.com:

Ask.com Ad

Now click through and you are taken to this page:

click for full size

Most of it is search ads, then some organic ads (both powered by Google I believe) and then some licenses content about the condition within the mix.

Google's policy on this states:

Google AdWords doesn't allow the promotion of websites that are designed for the sole or primary purpose of showing ads. One example of this kind of prohibited behavior is called arbitrage, where advertisers drive traffic to their websites at low cost and pay for that traffic by earning money from the ads placed on those websites. We've created this policy to help ensure that users see useful, unique, and original content without excessive advertising.

Ask.com's CEO told us at Search Engine Land:

We get traffic to Ask.com from many sources -- online and off -- and Google is just one part of our strategy. We are consistently collecting feedback from users who come to Ask via search advertising on Google, and the data shows that our experience is good compared to other advertisers on the page. For example, our advertisements on Google generate 200% higher retention, 33% higher time on site, and excellent customer satisfaction scores as compared against our competitors. You don't get those results by just sending people to pages with ads - we get them by making good on the promise of delivering answers. We don't do everything perfectly however, and I'm definitely all ears in terms of how we can continue to do things better.

Google told us that Ask.com is not getting special treatment here.

Anyway, I wanted to get your thoughts on this. Is this against Google's AdWords arbitrage policy? Take my poll below.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Comments:

Robert Fisher

10/25/2012 01:33 pm

So, What is Google saying in the policy: "Google AdWords doesn't allow the promotion of websites that are designed for the sole or primary purpose of showing ads." Yet, to anyone who has even landed on Ask.com not realizing they were going to an advertiser of advertisers, they know that is what Ask is. Doug Leeds, CEO of Ask, does not even answer a question regarding arbitrage; I don't know if that was the question to him or not, but the answer is a general, "Cycling is a great sport." type of answer. When you look at a topic like hyperlipidemia, you don't see as many ads so it is a bit less obvious (it seems). But with a search in a competitive and somewhat related vertical - Best place to buy vitamins - you see that nearly every Google advertiser is advertising on Ask.com. With Hyperlipidemia, you are going to draw more organic results and fewer ads so it is a bit less illustrative. But, if you read Googles words, the do not allow the promotion of websites that are designed for the sole or primary purpose of showing ads." And Leed's answer in Pamela Parker's SEL piece two days ago is super clear: “We’re clearly a service that uses advertising to monetize our site, but the only way that we make advertising work is when people come back to our site,” And thanks to advertising with Google, they do. Obfuscation is a wonderful tool in advertising and politics. When you look at a highly competitive vertical, you cannot come away with a conclusion that is other than: It appears to be arbitrage. Yes, I guess, appearances can be deceiving.

Barry Schwartz

06/22/2014 10:30 am

Spasm

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