Will new Google CPA ads and GBuy online payment system turn the Social Web into a marketplace?

Google’s ability to curry favor via a “we make advertising relevant

Google’s stated “mission” to “organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful,” does not encapsulate the full intent of the company.

Google’s current “Company Overview” indicates that Google.com, “the world's largest search engine,” is but the initial foray in its goal to make “it one of the world's best known brands.”

Google summarizes its diverse offerings:

When you visit www.google.com or one of the dozens of other Google domains, you'll be able to find information in many different languages; check stock quotes, maps, and news headlines; lookup phonebook listings for every city in the United States; search billions of images…

Google, of course, is most proud of its “Sponsored Links” money-making machine:

Google generates revenue by providing advertisers with the opportunity to deliver measurable, cost-effective online advertising that is relevant to the information displayed on any given page…

Thousands of advertisers use our Google AdWords program to promote their products and services on the web with targeted advertising…thousands of web site managers take advantage of our Google AdSense program to deliver ads relevant to the content on their sites, improving their ability to generate revenue.

Google’s unprecedented financial success is due, in part, to its uncanny ability to elevate its advertising business into almost a “public service.” According to Google:

  • Google AdWords “makes the advertising useful to you”
  • Google AdSense “enhancing the experience for their users”

Google’s ability to curry favor via a “we make advertising relevant” stance will undoubtedly be hampered as it rolls out unabashedly sales oriented products and services. The Google Content Referral Network (see my Google goes for the hard sell: New 'Content Referral Network' targets higher click-throughs, ad rates and new GBuy transactions ), a Cost Per Action, commission-based affiliate network currently in testing, and Google’s impending online payment system, or GBuy (see my Google GBuy specifics: 'Could be a game-changer' ), seek to solicit and enable third-party online retail transactions, for a fee.


While Web publisher partners in the Google AdSense network simply display Google ads in a hands-off manner, Web publisher partners in the Content Referral Network are being asked to actively promote the new Cost Per Action (CPA) Google ad units by aggressively soliciting the desired “actions.” In other words, Google Web publisher partners in its Content Referral Network will not receive any payment from Google, unless they are able to convince their Web visitors to both click on the new Google CPA ad units and then complete the targeted transactions, generally product purchases.

Google directly advises its Web publisher partners for its CPA ad units to present the Google ads at their sites with personal solicitations to their Web visitors such as:

  • “I recommend this product”
  • “Try JetBlue today”

The new Google hard-sell strategy will presumably provide an avenue of higher payout opportunities for Web publisher partners. As such, the Content Referral Network may very well unleash a new, intense round of “fake” Websites seeking to cash in. Mark Cuban has said that he believes “click fraud FAR exceeds what is being published by search companies”:

Hackers have figured out that the risk of proving they are breaking the law with click fraud is minimal. Try explaining the difference to authorities between a blog, a splog and a website that is trying to make money from any of the many, many affiliate marketing programs that also happens to host adsense or other ad publishing network ads…

Hackers have figured out that they look a lot more legit getting checks from google than trying to wash 10k dollars in cash delivered in a bag…

The number of splog/fake websites being created EVERY HOUR is exploding. Based on the comments Im getting on my blog from what must be legions of boiler rooms creating marginally understandable comments , with links back to “affiliate websites” and legit email addresses in an effort to legitimize those sites. There must be just as many more in place to sign up those sites for ad publishing networks.

Besides the nefarious element that may seek to capitalize on lucrative opportunities available via the Google Content Referral Network, popular, legitimate Social Web properties may view Google’s new commission-based sales-driven ad strategy as an avenue to better monetize their vast user traffic.

YouTube, MySpace, Facebook…are undoubtedly frustrated that their enviable user base assets are not generating commensurate financial returns (see my Monetizing you and your friends: The Social Web seeks social brand dollars ). Efforts to increase monetization, however, are stymied by both advertiser and user resistance; Advertisers are wary of the uncontrolled environments and users are deemed to be keenly sensitive to corporate “infiltration” and ready to bolt from the sites if they become unduly commercialized.

While the dominant Social Web properties can not remain under-monetized long-term, Google’s new Content Referral Network may represent a double-edged sword.