Google’s New PPA Program Opens Up New Opportunities for Bloggers

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Last week, Google announced the beta test of their new pay-per-action (PPA) advertising program. In addition, Google mentioned a new ad format, the text link ad (which will presumably be similar to the current referral text link unit.), would be available. This new ad format, along with the new PPA (or affiliate) model, will open up new potentials for bloggers to make money from their blogs.

There is a big difference between Google’s new CPA ads and their traditional, context-based AdSense ads. According to the AdSense program’s policy, publisher is not allowed to call attention or encourage their site’s readers to click on the ads, since the advertiser pays on a per-click basis. If a blogger writes, “It’s been a tough month, please be kind enough to click on a few Google ads to help make ends meet,” there’s a very good chance said blogger will find their AdSense account suspended. But with the new CPA ads, since the advertiser only pays when a specific action is taken by the user, a publisher is allowed to encourage or draw attention to the ads.

Google’s existing ad units are meant to act as supplements to the content of a site; for a blog, you can place an AdSense unit above, below, to the side, or even in the middle of a blog post, but the unit physically looks separate from the content.

Google Text Link AdsThe new text-link ad unit, however, can be embedded in the middle of a post, in the middle of sentence even. Bloggers will be able to link to offers, much as they can now link to Amazon products using Amazon’s affiliate links, within the content of their post. And since there are no restrictions to calling attention to an ad, bloggers will be able to encourage their readers to click on the ad and check out the offer.

An interesting technichal question that arises from this is how these links will work when included in a syndication feed. Like Google’s other AdSense ad units, the text-links will likely be snippets of Javascript code that a publisher embeds into their site.

Javascript will work fine in a browser on a normal web page, but when that same Javascript is exported in the blog’s syndicated feed, and rendered in an aggregator such as Bloglines or Google Reader, that strip out Javascript elements for security reasons, those links will not appear.

Google may address this issue by implementing the links in a form other than Javascript, such as how their AdSense for Feeds units are implemented, or provide alternate code that will work in environments where Javascript is not available. It will be important for bloggers, especially those that publish full content and have significant numbers of readers via their feed, to make sure the new text-link format works properly in a feed-based environment.

It will also be interesting to see how this new format is embraced by those that were critical of blog-based text-link marketplace services such as PayPerPost; the Google CPA/text-link model is not quite the same as paying bloggers to post, but it is similar in that it provides incentive for a large group of users to focus on a specific product. If a new ad for Company X is released, and thousands of bloggers begin posting about Company X, Company X’s site will likely receive an influx of plain-old links (in addition to the Google text-link ad units) from many blogs, increasing it’s visibility in search engines, memetrackers and other sites/programs that follow trends in the blogosphere.

Google takes a negative view towards paid links, and memetrackers such as TailRank have banned sites that participate in PayPerPost, as these practices artificially promote stories/sites that are not necessarily interesting in and of themselves.

Will a similar approach be taken to sites that utilize Google’s text-link ad units? A larger question is: What potential ways could the text-link, or CPA model in general, be creatively used/abused by those looking to get attention and traffic to their sites?

Google’s new Cost-Per-Action model opens up many new potential opportunities for bloggers, but also raises a host of questions. It will be interesting to see how things unfold as the program comes out of beta.

Greg Gershman is the co-founder of BlogDigger, an independently owned blog search engine which offers local blog search.

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