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Friday, February 13, 2009

Google Using AdWords Search Ads to Promote Sites They Don't Own?

Came across something interesting this afternoon in the paid results. I was signed into my Google account and did a search for "recipes". I noticed a paid ad from Google and thought that was odd... didn't know Google had a recipe site they were promoting.

After I clicked on the ad I was at my iGoogle page (which I have never used) and was kind of surprised at what I was looking at:

It took me a minute to figure out what happened but as you can see a gadget for Simply Recipes was now present on my iGoogle homepage. Outside of the ad copy indicating I could "See easy and delicious recipes on your iGoogle homepage. Free!" I was never asked or prompted to add anything. I know that technically nothing is being "installed" but I would have to venture a guess that this is closer to prohibited than encouraged. When I hit the back button it didn't go "back" either, it just added another gadget. Hit back again and it added another. Don't think it's supposed to be that way...

I did the same thing not signed into my Google account and here's the page I landed on:

That's a little better, at least I'm getting chance to "say yes".

The Simply Recipes gadget and the site have AdSense ads.

I though this experience was interesting...regardless of who's running the ad.

If Simply Recipes is running the ad I would like to know how they were able to get around Google's enforcement of it's own TM rule and the fact that Google does not allow advertisers to use as as a display/destination url. I've tried in the past and get auto rejected during ad creation. Maybe Google and Simply Recipes struck a deal and Simply Recipes has permission to use the Google TM? That seems like a stretch to me but you never know.

I think what's more likely, and this is pure speculation, is that Google is running the ad themselves to promote the use of iGoogle via gadgets....which in this case is tied into a site that runs a lot of AdSense ads. Now if that's the case it opens a lot more questions like who's paying for that ad? If Google's paying itself to run that ad that raises even more questions. Has Google decided that it's ok to use it's search network to promote sites that it does not own that promote it's revenue generating products (AdSense)? Does Google not have to adhere to it's own policies (functioning back button)?

This is one query and one example but if Google is indeed behind this campaign the implications for other advertisers could be significant. Imagine if Google came knocking in your vertical with a similar campaign. How could you compete against the owner of ad platform on it's own platform? You couldn't, at least not effectively.

Hey it's Friday 13th and maybe this is nothing more than an ad campaign that slid past editorial review. Then again, maybe it's not.


At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Dave Davis said...

The destination URL is:

So it's technically on a google domain. In fact, it would be AGAINST google display URL policy to have it as

I think Google should have seen this coming a LONG time ago. It's a form of click jacking.

At 7:40 PM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...


Yep, and that's why I wondered who's running the ad. I've had ads denied for all things related to Google - use of their TM in the ad copy and having as a display or destination url. Granted it was 2007(was going to set something up for my adwords search engine which sits on a google domain) but I can't imagine Google changed policy and is letting people do this now.

Actually here's the wording from the disapproval e-mail:

-> At this time, we do not allow AdWords ads that link to or anything within this domain. Please edit your destination and display URL to lead to a page with content relevant to you ad and that is not in this domain."

And yes, the typo was in the e-mail. That's a copy/paste:-)

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Elise said...

Wow. Well I can tell you that I have never placed an ad for Simply Recipes anywhere, including Google Adsense. (This is Elise Bauer, publisher of Simply Recipes). So this means that Google is placing its own adsense ads to promote i-google feeds like mine.

At 8:40 AM, Anonymous Suthnautr said...

Well to me it looks like a recipe for disaster, especially since it kept adding more gadgets every time you it "back".

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...


Thank you for posting and clearing that issue/question up. You have a great site by the way, dozens of your recipes have been had in this household over the years. Google obviously likes your site content as well:-)

If you don't mind me asking, does the "can't use the back button" issue concern you at all? Had I been a "regular" user unfamiliar with Google advertising and your site I would have assumed you were running that ad and trying to "trap" me into adding your gadget to my iGoogle page. That would have turned me off to your site. I'm asking because this type of situation is an ongoing issue for Google. See:
Tarnishing a Competitors Brand with Paid Search

The other issue, more geared to other search marketers, are the potential implications this type of advertising by Google brings up. Google's long advertised their own products but this, at least in my opinion, is taking it to a new level. If they are going to use gadgets to promote iGoogle they could essentially have ads showing for anything and everything. If a gadget exists that would match keywords they could run an ad.

I would assume that most advertisers using the AdWords platform would prefer to not compete against the owner of that platform, Google.

So in summary the issues I see:

- Google is promoting iGoogle using Simply Recipes and potentially creating a poor user experience that most users would blame Simply Recipes for. Users would assume Simply Recipes was running the ad that brought them to the page they can't back out of.

- Using this same methodology Google could start AdWords campaigns for essentially very keyword that exits, all they need a related gadget. This could go far beyond just running ads for Google products like AdWords and AdSense.

- One would assume that Google entering your auction space will have an impact on your ad performance & associated costs. That impact would likely not be positive for you, the advertiser.

- It appears Google does not have to play by it's own rules (functioning back button).

I would be interested to know if anyone else has noticed this type of Google ad in any other queries?

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Ryan said...

Strange but interesting!

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At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Tom Hale said...

Is this another example of Google's Terms of Service? In that they can use submitted "content" however they wish?

I that embroils one in a negative user experience, that ain't good.

At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Jordan McClements said...


I tried this in the UK and got similar except it was

"BBC Good Food Recipes"

At 10:36 AM, Anonymous CustardMite said...

Like Jordan, I'm getting the BBC's recipe widget added to my iGoogle.

Looks like they've decided to promote their widgets using Adwords.

If I was paying to appear in the search results and was below them, I'd probably be a bit annoyed by this - wonder if they are doing it on many keywords?

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...


I've found them doing the same thing for search terms like "sports" and "weather". Looks like they are targeting high volume search queries where they can come up with a gadget.

Slippery slope....

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Line Number 1, Column 1:

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...

That's odd, I just tried it and it appears to be working.

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At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Nick Stamoulis said...

This is a good example of Google being Google. They have found another way to pull the visitor back into a Google tool or product.

At 7:00 AM, Anonymous Ricky said...

I am surprised to see that, it could be any technical problem with the site. You must investigate whole thing before blaming the organization.

At 8:49 AM, Anonymous jobawareness said...

nice informative post,this post will be an eye opener for the people who are put google url as their own in google adwords.

At 1:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 4:53 PM, Blogger Ann said...

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At 3:16 PM, Anonymous KINGRPG said...

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