One is always torn between 1) complementing Google for their cleverness, generally good internet stewardship and 2) pointing out how they always manage to find Google gold in the “internet virtue” equation. Now, I’m all for internet advertising and as an information publisher elsewhere I’m also a beneficiary of this change since I run Google Adsense advertising at several sites. However I’d say the explanations of how what’s good for Google is good for the gander (FYI YOU are the gander) can sometimes be a little nauseating to read as in the latest post by Anne W. at the Google Blog: [cue symphony here]
By making ads more relevant, and improving the connection between advertisers and our users, we can create more value for everyone. Users get more useful ads, and these more relevant ads generate higher returns for advertisers and publishers. Advertising is the lifeblood of the digital economy: it helps support the content and services we all enjoy for free online today…
As an aside to the point today I would be very interested in some exceptions to this rule if anybody has one – ie where has Google sacrificed significant revenue long term in an effort to improve the internet ecosystem. Please don’t use stupid examples like “no ads on home page” which arguably would have lost market share and hurt Google in the long run. Too many ads (I can say from personal experience trying this tactic) often fails users and gets you in trouble. Google has been brilliant at optimizing the advertising equation for their profit. Nothing wrong with that at all, but I’d sure like to see some cases where they sacrifice their own interests for the greater good. An area where this remains desparately needed is in advertising quality control and site feedback for mom and pop websites. Google has made hundreds of millions running ads for sites that are exploiting customers, running ringtone scams, and worse. This situation could improve but it would impact Google’s bottom line and be expensive to monitor since the exploitative sites are very clever, change, etc.
The latest example of Google advertising innovation are tests running now that will match your site viewing history to the ads you see. The idea at first glance is very reasonable – Google can better determine your intererests using this data combined with the immediate “on page” information at a particular website and then deliver ads of more interest to you from their huge stable of online advertising. However given some of the matches we find at regular Google for scammy companies with questionable business practices (I just had such an experience buying a camera I wrote about over at Technology Report. I found the “discount” via Google’s ad for Broadway Camera and their salesman then misled – I would say boldface lied – to me to upsell unneeded accessories. In that case I got some satisfaction after two calls to customer service, but clearly this and thousands of other companies advertising at Google have very questionable sales practices. Yes Google could monitor this using community feedback and as far as I know they do little to screen for anything but illegal advertiser behavior.
Although some online company abuses fall into under ‘Caveat Emptor” = let the buyer beware, there is no good reason – other than profit – for Google to effectively place their stamp of approval on questionable online merchandising. Quick example (there are tens of thousands more) is right here with Google’s ads for “Free Ringtones” which, for those of you silly enough to think they are free, arent’. This is not a suggestion! DO NOT BUY RINGTONES *EVER* and make sure your kids are not buying them. This is one of the biggest scam markets of all time.
The “real solution” Google could implement with respect to advertising would be to more aggressively remove advertisers who have a lot of complaints from users. ie become an advertising ombudsman and policeman.
So, when we combine the predatory advertising practices we find at the regular listings with the new context matching how will things shake out?
Dunno, but you can bet Google will be turning a good buck on the deal.