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Google AdWords & Domain Parking : Garbage Paid Search?

Richard Ball emailed today to fill us in on the current issues he’s having with a large amount of Google AdWords Paid Search (not contextual) traffic coming from Domain Name Parking companies and how such traffic is garbage for his paying clients.

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. Now, I don’t have a problem with domainers or parked domain sites.

What I do object to, however, is a situation where my clients opt into the Google AdWords Search network, expecting to pay for search engine advertising. Instead, they find themselves paying for garbage traffic. Let me emphasize that this garbage traffic originated from the Search network and not the Content network.

Question is, what kind of conversions, if any, are coming from this traffic? Is it hurting the all around quality and ROI of advertisers or just throwing it off a bit?

For those looking to stay away from such Domain Sponsor and other type in domain traffic, Richard adds a tip:

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

Again, Richard’s full post and copies of mails and responses from Google can be found at “Not Search Engine Spam

Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.21.12 AM Google AdWords & Domain Parking : Garbage Paid Search?
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.21.12 AM Google AdWords & Domain Parking : Garbage Paid Search?

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16 thoughts on “Google AdWords & Domain Parking : Garbage Paid Search?

  1. Thanks for posting this, Loren. Had Google simply issued a click fraud refund to my client and blocked the domain for them on the Search network, I would have moved on to another project. Instead, I found myself incensed with Google’s intransigence. I started researching these click patterns to help bolster the case for click fraud and the more I dug, the uglier the picture looked. I blogged about my research because I think it’s important that anyone who’s using Google AdWords understands the risks involved in using their advertising platform. Caveat emptor! And to Google, if you said you weren’t going to be evil, well don’t.

  2. Well done, Richard! I’ve got to agree 100% with your findings, because a client of mine has seen at least 10-20% of their PPC traffic coming from these garbage parked domains/landing pages. This has amounted to over $100K DOLLARS over the last year.

    It’s ridiculous (and quite evil-ish) that Google won’t allow advertisers to block these ridiculous sites that don’t belong in the “search network”. Nor will they refund the money. (Yahoo’s been much better about this, btw, issuing refunds going back 60 days, making it requisite to report every 60 days).

    As for conversions, the answer is simple: none. most of this traffic has just over 1 P/V (perhaps just enough to avoid the overt clickfraud charges). It’s garbage traffic that is most likely some form of arbitrage (in my opinion).

    Keep up the announcing! One day (i’m hoping) it’ll change.

  3. Thanks, Abhilash. In my post I mention a quote from the CEO of Oversee.net, the company that owns the searchportal.information.com domain that I’m seeing frequently in client logs, where he claims 10-20% of paid traffic comes from “direct navigation.” That sounded outlandish to me, but seems to correlate with your client’s PPC traffic.

    That Google lets advertisers block sites on the Content network via the site exclusion tool but has no such feature on the Search network and pushes these “direct navigation” parked domains on the Search network is ridiculous. Something has to change. Advertisers need to be aware of the source of their Google PPC Search network traffic. These advertisers are buying “search engine advertising” and not “direct navigation advertising” so should not be charged for these clicks. Google is behaving in a very un-Google like fashion.

    Something else to consider – the Alexa traffic rank for information.com has jumped from ~1000 a year ago to close to ~150 now. Alexa reports that 91% of that traffic is on the searchportal.information.com domain. How did they increase traffic so much? Are all searchportal.information.com pages garbage pages full of Google PPC ads? How much is this costing Google AdWords customers?

    Warning to any AdWords advertiser reading this post: Check your server logs! If searchportal.information.com is, indeed, a top 200 Internet property, you might be paying for their growth. Lame.

  4. It is obvious by your comments and lack or stats you do not understand the direct navigation parking industry. If someone is smart enough to type in the address of either firefox or IE the phrase designerimports.com, How in the can this person be a worse searcher than any search engine? Where are your stats? Or just ranting?

    We have tested it, and the converstion for this website and others in same class as designerimports.com covert at least 2x better than google or yahoo, and 1.5x better than MSN.

    The key is a quality domain name.

    Now on the other hand there are garbage domains parked, risk offending others, I won’t list them here.

  5. I think both google/yahoo are working to keep these guys away. But it is easier said than done – bad sites are mushrooming…and it will be smothing they have to manage always.

  6. Anthony, thanks for posting an example searchportal.information.com site. Here’s why I wouldn’t want this sort of a site to show Google PPC search engine ads:
    1) Annoying popups
    2) Not a search engine
    3) Visitors follow navigation links

    I don’t have a problem with parked domains. I have a problem with parked domains being a part of the AdWords Search network. If they’re on the Content network, I could probably live with that. It’d be more transparent, though, if Google had a Domain network distribution option. If these sites really do convert, advertisers will opt in.

    I want the Search network to be pure search engines. That’s what I’m buying on behalf of my clients. I don’t want to mix non-search engine ads with search engine ads. I don’t buy the argument that direct navigation is equivalent to search. If I’m buying search engine advertising, I want to have those ads distributed on nothing but actual search engines.

    My 3rd point is probably the most important in this case. Every single instance of referrals from searchportal.information.com I’m seeing are coming from people somehow getting to a parked domain site and then clicking on navigation links. Then, they see the ads. That’s completely different from someone actively typing keywords into a search box and seeing ads. Clicking on navigation links and then seeing ads is more like contextual advertising than search engine advertising. That’s not just IMHO – that’s from looking at the behavior both in terms of tracing visit paths through sites and tracking conversions.

  7. Thanks Richard and everybody for opening our eyes. Until now we remained ignornat how adwords can be scams. Cannot believe it!
    I hosted many of my domains with one hosting co. Added googleadsense ads, wished to go for google adwords , yahoo pub.net. etc. what should I do? Should I try designimports.com? How to rely upon them too. Please advise best solution.
    Regards,
    Dr. Altaf

  8. Loren,

    your question above: what kind of conversions, if any, are coming from this traffic?

    ClickZ put the following article out last January and supports the fact that direct navigation traffic converts and converts quite well.

    “The third, and best-converting group, is made up of people who know what they’re looking for, and know where they want to shop to get it. These users arrive at a site via direct navigation, by typing in the site’s name or using a bookmark. These kinds of users converted almost twice as well as those using search engine links, with a 4.23-percent conversion rate”

    http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3581646

  9. I just tested the idea of running separate campaigns on Google Search only and Google’s Search Partner Network. You can’t opt out of Google Search and select Google’s Search Network.

  10. Also, Google is not “working to keep these guys away”. Google has a formal offering called Google Adsense for Domains which is explained at http://www.google.com/domainpark/. The immediate question that comes to mind is if they named it “Adsense for Domains” why aren’t they displaying content ads on these sites instead of search ads?

  11. Hi Rose. Right, you run 2 campaigns with identical ad groups (except for different tracking URLs + different bids):
    1) Google only w/ high bids
    2) Google + Search network w/ low bids

    Since ad rank is CPC x QS, identical ads should have similar QS. Therefore, CPC is the overriding factor and keyword ads in campaign #1 will outrank keyword ads in campaign #2 and display on Google. Granted, there will be exceptions where a high CTR for a particular keyword messes this up. But, it’s a pretty reliable way to achieve the goal of separate ads for Google only vs Search network.

  12. I represent a major online advertising company that specializes in a new form of Internet advertising . I am interested in buying advertising on your website and all your park domain names on an ongoing basis, that GURARANTEES that you will get a 100% conversion rate on 100% of your website traffic.
    Your website appears to be running ads on some of your pages and we want to pay you a fee for every visitor you receive and GURARNTEE that you will get a 100% conversion rate on 100% of your website traffic. I would like to fill you in on more details. Are you the correct contact in regard to business development for your website?
    Like I said we want to pay you a fee for every visitor you receive on your website and all your park domain names.
    If you need more details please visit us at tinyurl.com/3yp4yr
    Or anyone that has a website
    THANK YOU

  13. Major advertisters want to play 5 second audio ad on your website(s)
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    Get Paid Per Visitor You Get To Your Website(s)
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    Get paid for every visitor to your website(s).
    How many visitors do you get?
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  14. Adsense garbage is even worse and is cluttering the Internet. Google is reponsible for more garbage than any other single entity online. There are billions of pages of grabage created soley for adsense revenue.

    And you have their PR man talking about balckhat spam. It is only spam when Google aren’t making money from it.