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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.

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