Google blurs line between advertising and content, again

Google blurs line between advertising and content, again

Summary: What happened to the Sergey Brin and Larry Page infamous advertising is evil in search theory developed while idealistic Stanford students?A little evil is good for the (Google) bottom line.

TOPICS: Google

What happened to the Sergey Brin and Larry Page infamous advertising is evil in search theory developed while idealistic Stanford students?

A little evil is good for the (Google) bottom line.

Google AdSense proudly announces “A fresh, new look for AdSense ads":

Just in time for spring, we've given our standard ad units a fresh makeover. After extensive testing and research, we’ve found that the new formats are not only visually appealing to users, but they also perform even better for publishers and advertisers.

What about better “performance” for Google’s coffers?

Google’s public facing product “enhancement” pronouncements are always presented as in the public good. Who can argue if Google continues in a never ending quest to improve “performance” for publishers and advertisers.

Google’s Wall Street facing product tweaking discussions, however, present the Google bottom-line objectives. Sergey Brin, Google Q3 2006 earnings call, talking “a little bit about monetization”:

In a sense, you might imagine that the low-hanging fruit have been picked. But in fact, we have at the same time built ladders and are reaching for perhaps even larger, higher-hanging fruit.

We seem to be able to produce new ways to monetize all the time. So I don't see an obvious ceiling.

What are some of the recent ways Google has been “able to produce” to prove there is no obvious ceiling to its monetization growth?

NOT so obvious to users new ad presentation strategies in its AdSense network.

In "Is Google doing advertising evil with new model?" I analyze how Google may soon need to amend its making money without doing evil "philosophy" due to its "new pricing model," Pay Per Action (PPA) advertising.

Google on new "embedded, blended" with publisher content "recommendatory" PPA Google ads: 

Text links are hyperlinked brief text descriptions that take on the characteristics of a publisher's page. Publishers can place them in line with other text to better blend the ad and promote your product.

For example, you might see the following text link embedded in a publisher's recommendatory text: "Widgets are fun! I encourage all my friends to Buy a high-quality widget today." (Mousing over the link will display "Ads by Google" to identify these as pay-per-action ads)…just use your brand name to offer maximum flexibility to the publisher.

Contrary to long established AdSense restrictions, Google is now encouraging the “encouraging of clicks,” while keeping the “Ads by Google” disclaimer quietly (deceptively?) under users’ mice.

How about the “fresh, new look for AdSense ads”? The greater visual appeal Google touts also stems from a greater perceived blending of the Google ads with publisher content.

Gone is Google’s signature left-side, top of ads disclaimer “Ads by Google,” replaced with a bottom of ads, right-side “Ads by Google” branded logo message.

“Advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a "Sponsored Link," Google says in its “you can make money without doing evil” philosophical pronouncement.

Google, however, makes a lot of money OFF of What about not doing advertising evil in the Google AdSense network?

ALSO: The new Google risk: Googlers and Google: Any rain on My Maps parade? and Google clients ‘frustrated’ by unprofitable AdWords buys and Google (will be) a monopoly and Does Google SEO success ’suck’?

Topic: Google

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  • A bit curious...

    I am curious as to why you "report" on Google so much when you clearly don't know a whole lot about Google. I am beginning to wonder if all ZDNet properties are becoming the "Geocities" of the blogging community.

    There is a difference between CPM (impression-based), CPC (click-based), and CPA (action-based) ads. The AdSense rule about not "encouraging" users to click the ads was always in place to prevent CLICK fraud. However, the AdSense rules have ALWAYS allowed a proper encouragement of, say, installing FireFox since the corresponding ad is action based. No "click-fraud" can occur.

    Think of it this way. If a car lot is providing free coffee, they will not be too happy about someone telling others to go to that lot, grab their free coffee, and run. However, if someone encourages others to go to the car lot, take a test drive in one of the cars, and get their free coffee on the way out, the lot would likely welcome this kind of advertisement. The thought is that once the user test drives the car, installs the product, tries the service, etc... the product/service will sell itself. Even if the user only performed the action because a reputable site told them to, they may very well fall in love with the product/service once they actually see it or experience it.

    So, where is the problem? That has always been the rule, so nothing has changed here. Secondly, nobody said Google isn't trying to make money. In fact, Google's philosophy about the whole "good versus evil" sentiment specifically states "You can make money without doing evil." The great position they are in, however, is that by sharing their income with AdSense publishers, if they can increase the income for their AdSense publishers, they are also increasing their own income. This is a clear example of a win-win situation. Even better, if the new advertising methods and look results in better advertisement performance, then advertisers themselves will be happy. So, this is a win-win-win situation. Yet, somehow, you seem to be able to put a negative spin on it?

    Regarding the placement of the "Ads by Google" line at the bottom rather than the top actually makes it more noticeable. AdSense ads are all over the place. People have come to expect them. People are tuning them out. Any CHANGE in the look will get people to take notice. Eventually, people will grow accustomed to the new look and will learn to take it for granted again. That's the world of advertising. However, nothing they did here is "deceptive" as you call it. In my opinion, they simply updated the look to be "more with the times." To be honest with you, the old design looked... well... old. New flashy site designs with rounded corners everywhere were clashing with the ad layout. The new layout will keep sites looking fresh again.

    To go back to their new "link" strategy for advertising options. I really don't see how this is different from anything else. If you were to write a professional article that wasn't way off the mark, I (and others) may even link to the article from blogs. These links result in extra traffic for your article and, as a result, more traffic for ZDNet. This increased traffic will increase the advertising revenue for ZDNet. As a result, this linking behavior is advertising worth paying for. Our links won't have a disclaimer that the links are an "advertisement", even on mouse-over. Nobody will be upset when they find out that, after clicking the link, they are taken to an article that has advertisements surrounding it. Nobody was mislead here, so everyone is relatively happy.

    Now, imagine instead that this linking behavior (that you call deceptive) were a part of an advertising network. I want people to buy my widget. Bloggers all over the world say "This widget is great. Buy it!" which link to my site. And, better yet, I only pay when someone follows the link and actually BUYS my widget. Now, how was that deceptive? It WOULD be "deceptive" if the user who clicked the link was taken to a page that had nothing to do with widgets. This, however, would be against Google's policies. The only potential for harm would be if my widgets weren't actually as "great" as all of these bloggers were claiming them to be. But that's the nature of commerce. In reality, this method of advertising has existed for quite some time. It's called "affiliate marketing." Are you now calling Amazon's marketing tactics "deceptive", as well as the marketing tactics of every company that uses affiliate marketing? On top of this, Google will likely be the only company flagging the links (through a mouse-over) as an advertisement. Why not call all of the other organizations deceptive, and require them to force their affiliate marketers to label their links as advertisements as well?

    It seems to me that you may have this link-marketing behavior confused with another (and much more annoying) advertising tactic that automatically turns keywords into advertising links. This is a much different scenario. If I am reading an article about the PSP, and I saw the term "PSP" was a link, I would EXPECT clicking such a link to either tell me about the product, or try to sell me the product. If, however, I saw an article about computer networking and I saw the term "tcp/ip" I would EXPECT clicking such a link to tell me about the TCP/IP protocol, NOT to be an advertisement for Windows Vista. And this type of advertising is happening today, and this is not something Google is participating in. So, why aren't you writing articles going after the "bad guys" instead of constantly trying to paint the "good guys" in a bad light? Google is certainly no saint, but it never claimed to be. They simply took the stance that you can make money without doing evil, and that you can put the user first and all else will follow.

    For a blogger or a "reporter" to put the user first, it would mean she would report the truth, rather than twisting facts and embedding lies in order to fit her own personal agenda, whatever that may be. Perhaps by disguising her opinions as facts, she can convince the world to believe in her opinions. And, somehow, this makes her more powerful? More important? Or maybe in this day and age, constantly giving reports filled with negativity results in more readers, resulting in more advertising dollars for ZDNet's coffers?