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Google Domain Parking Arbitrage

Richard Ball has a great write up concerning Google’s Adsense for Domains program and potential abuses. He is concerned that certain keywords being bid on through Adwords are producing garbage traffic.

A whopping 72% of clicks for a single exact match keyword originated from the searchportal.information.com domain. Investigating this domain, it turns out to be owned by a company called Oversee.net that owns DomainSponsor, a parked domain operation.

What Richard seems to miss is why the traffic is garbage. It’s because Information.com is one of the largest arbitrage 1.0 operations around. The reason it doesn’t convert is because Information.com bids on long tail search words for cheap and then send the clicks to ads targeted at the high paying general search terms. Terms which may be related, but are not actually what the user was searching for.

Richards offers up the following solutions:

What’s next? Is there anyone at Google who can solve this problem? Perhaps Shuman Ghosemajumder? Until Google stops this practice of distributing search engine ads to places other than actual search engines, I recommend that AdWords advertisers implement one of the following strategies:

1. Turn off the Search network entirely
2. Lower bids to stay out of the top 5
3. Split ads into 2 campaigns: Google only w/ normal bids + Search network w/ lower bids
4. Request Google block *.information.com + *.domainsponsor.com

I would personally recommend you just turn off the search network entirely. With the percentage of searchers coming from the Google.com domain, there is no real need to run ads on the search or content networks unless you have the extra money to burn. The reason MSN PPC traffic is the best converting on the web is because they do not partner out their network and Google provides you with the same service but you must opt in.

  • http://www.apogee-web-consulting.com/blogger/blog.html Richard Ball

    Thanks, Jeremy, for publishing this story. It’s important that people understand what’s happening on the AdWords Search network. Interesting insight on the source of the traffic. Why do you think it’s from arbitrage?

    Something puzzles me. Look at an Alexa chart for information.com for the past year. There’s a spike in rank from ~600 to ~200 in March 2006. Currently the site has an Alexa rank of 166. But, if you look at the details, 91% of that traffic is on the searchportal.information.com subdomain. Huh?! That tells me there’s a whole heck of a lot of click fraud on Google’s Search network.

    But, what’s the ultimate source of this traffic? Every instance I’ve seen of searchportal.information.com in client log files has been embedded in the frameset of a parked domain. Do these parked domains really drive that much traffic? Is the Oversee.net CEO correct in claiming that 10-20% of paid traffic comes through parked domains. Yikes!

    Does the traffic come from arbitrage? From the SearchAndBrowse spyware distributed by Oversee? From traffic exchange programs? Google needs to do some due diligence here. Do they really want to be partnered with this company?

    If this Oversee.net company that owns searchportal.information.com really does distribute the SearchAndBrowse adware/spyware, then Google really is partnered with spammers. Is Google profiting from and, essentially, funding spyware? Perhaps that’s the real evil with this story.

    Sigh. In the meantime, it’s the AdWords advertisers who are stuck paying for this. Something’s not right. Again, thanks for getting the word out.

  • http://www.xuru.com Jeremy Luebke

    I wouldn’t call what they do click fraud.

    At least 90% of their traffic (I think more like 99%) is coming from PPC. They are bidding on terms on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and others to drive traffic to these pages as cheaply as possible and then sending you the expensive clicks.

    Arbitrage and click fraud are 2 different things.

  • http://www.apogee-web-consulting.com/blogger/blog.html Richard Ball

    How do you know their traffic is from PPC?

  • http://www.xuru.com Jeremy Luebke

    Let’s just say I have extensive knowledge experience with arbitrage and their websites pop up all the time. They are one of the largest players out there.

    And where else are they going to drive that much traffic to have that alexa rank? It’s not through bookmarks or repeat visits and they don’t rank for much.

  • Andrew

    No real need to run ads on the Search Network?

    I would advise NOT to disable the Search Network as Ask, AOL, & other partners (CSE’s, Buy.com, etc) can generate a significant volume of Traffic & Conversions.

  • http://www.praesidentin.de praesidentin.de

    Leckt mich doch

  • Astralis

    Looks like you’re going to get your wish.

    On June 1st Google will ban arbitrage and MFA sites.

    http://www.jensense.com/archives/2007/05/google_adsense_16.html

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