July 21st, 2006

The Hypocrisy of Google’s User Experience Policies

by

Explain this — Google is penalizing AdWords advertisers “who are providing a low quality user experience on their landing pages,” and yet Google just signed a deal with GoDaddy.com to run AdSense on parked domains (via JenSense):

Now, GoDaddy is offering customers the ability to run AdSense for Domains on their parked pages – for a fee – and those customers can then make money from the ads on the parked pages. Essentially, GoDaddy will share a cut of the click revenue with their customers, but will charge customers a fee for the privelege.

The program is called CashParking. And the monthly fee is scaled depending on what percentage of GoDaddy’s revenue you want to keep. It is worth noting that GoDaddy is sharing the revenue they earn from Google, so Google will still be earning money from each click on a parked domain page.

Here’s how Google describes its AdSense for Domains program:

AdSense® for domains allows domain name registrars and large domain name holders to unlock the value in their parked page inventory. AdSense for domains delivers targeted, conceptually related advertisements to parked domain pages by using Google’s semantic technology to analyze and understand the meaning of the domain names. Our program uses ads from the Google AdWords™ network, which is comprised of thousands of advertisers worldwide and is growing larger everyday. Google AdSense for domains targets web sites in over 25 languages, and has fully localized segmentation technology in over 10 languages.

And here’s the fantastic user experience that you get:

AdSense for Domains

There’s a reason why in 2Q06 Google had a profit of $721 million on $2.46 billion in revenues — but it has nothing to do with “providing a great user experience” (good old Google search notwithstanding).

Comments (78 Responses so far)

  1. Impact of deleting Keywords and Groups Those Not Hit By Google’s New AdWords Landing Page Quality Score Google Landing-Page Crawling Google’s Landing Page Quality – Wealth Transfer to Smaller Search Engines The Hypocrisy of GoogleÕs User Experience Policies Targeting Adwords Ads Google Advertisers Upset Over Landing Page Scoring Email from John Reese – AdWords Panic!!! Has Google gone crazy? Google has acquired a new factor to its Quality Score Has Google gone crazy?

  2. Publishing 2.0 charges ‘Hypocrisy in Google’s User Experience Policies’, after juxtaposing Google’s penalization of AdWords advertisers for low quality landing pages and its simultaneous advocation of parked pages among AdSense users. Publishing 2.0: Explain this — Google is penalizing AdWords advertisers “who are providing a low quality user experience on their landing pages,” and yet Google just signed a deal with GoDaddy.com to run AdSense on parked domains (via

  3. Google partenaire de Go Daddy dans le business des noms de domaine Une actu sur laquelle je ne peux absolument pas faire l’impasse. Lue sur le blog de John Battelle, où il mentionne un article de Scott Karp dénonçant l’hypocrisie de Google, qui d’un côté pénalise les annonceurs AdWords (voir également la question examinée sous un autre angle par Vinny Lingham), et de l’autre passe un accord avec Go Daddy, grand pourfendeur de

  4. (PDF) on Google’s click-fraud efforts says Google’s overall efforts to combat click fraud are reasonable. So what to make of Google’s AdSense for Domains program, then? One well-trafficked blogger is crying foul that Google–which argued that Webmasters needed to increase the quality of their landing pages–has partnered with GoDaddy to place ads on parked domain pages. (Parked pages are pages shown on domains that are not in use.)

  5. ’s User Experience Policies’, after juxtaposing Google’s penalization of AdWords advertisers for low quality landing pages and its simultaneous advocation of parked pages among AdSense users. Publishing 2.0: Explain this “Google is penalizing AdWords advertisers who are providing a low quality user experience on their landing pages,” and yet Google just signed a deal with GoDaddy.com to run AdSense on parked domains (via

  6. ’s User Experience Policies’, after juxtaposing Google’s penalization of AdWords advertisers for low quality landing pages and its simultaneous advocation of parked pages among AdSense users. Publishing 2.0: Explain this “Google is penalizing AdWords advertisers who are providing a low quality user experience on their landing pages,” and yet Google just signed a deal with GoDaddy.com to run AdSense on parked domains (via

  7. the last post with the relevance of the adwords for the user that wants to be introducing about something new. I have had a little surprise today because there are a lot of posts that comment the agreement between Google and another well known company (http://publishing2.com/2006/07/21/the-hypocrisy-of-googles-user-experience-policies/

  8. Shared by: don l on 7/22/2006 at 3:06 PM – Details Publishing 2.0 » The Hypocrisy of Google s Use…

  9. describes the meeting where Steve Jobs gave his first impressions. A VC: Pondering GOOG And I hear that new forms of banner ad targeting are giving marketers a way to generate CPAs from banners that are approaching and at times exceeding search CPAs. Publishing 2.0 » The Hypocrisy of Google’s User Experience Policies There’s a reason why in 2Q06 Google had a profit of $721 million on $2.46 billion in revenues — but it has nothing to do with “providing a great user experience” [IMG]

  10. Publishing 2.0 charges ‘Hypocrisy in Google’s User Experience Policies’, after juxtaposing Google’s penalization of AdWords advertisers for low quality landing pages and its simultaneous advocation of parked pages among AdSense users. Publishing 2.0: Explain this — Google is penalizing AdWords advertisers “who are providing a low quality user experience on their landing pages,” and yet Google just signed a deal with GoDaddy .com to run AdSense on parked domains (via

  11. There’s a BIG difference between SEO traffic to direct navigation traffic- B I G. Let’s cut to the chase instead of all the info I can throw at you.. the point is what converts? Domain traffic is proven to convert better then any type of traffic so far.

    http://www.clickz.com/news/article.php/3581646
    “Using data from more than 30 business-to-consumer e-commerce sites on its HBX Web analytics platform during the last three months of 2005, WebSideStory found that those who navigated directly to a site, either by typing in a URL or using a bookmark, were most likely to convert. The next-best conversion came from users following search engine links, and then other Internet links.”

    So if you are about to discuss traffic better first understand it. Comparing rotten apples to fresh oranges is not a fair comparison at all.

  12. I think the point here is the difference between traffic through a click arbitrage funnel and the merits of traffic that a parked domain can inherently recieve.
    You make it sound as if the parked domain example you posted is providing a bad user experience. The users that hit these pages will vote ya or na by either clicking a link or backing out / x’ing out of the page. These domain landing pages oftentimes recieve a 100% click-through-rate (CTR). That means 100% of the traffic will click into a link that’s they find interesting. These links are automatically relevant to the domain URL they had typed in – there’s an algorithm that automatically creates the ads based on the words nested in the domain string, among other variables. It’s totally relevant.
    On the other hand, and where you fail to differentiate, is that there’s folks that purchase AdWords traffic and send them to a page thats doing nothing other than re-directing them to other ad-sponsored pages, a mousetrap, if you will, of series of links until they finally hit the real content, highest paying bidder page. They can pay 10c for a click on a little known keyphrase, then make 50c when that user clicks a link on their landing page littered with more valuable keywords. It’s click arbitrage, and it’s not a pleasant user experience. As for the experience a user gets when he/she visits a parked domain, the proof is in the CTR pudding – then further confirmed when he/she makes the purchase from the chosen advertiser.
    Please understand the difference. You should not compare these two as you have.

  13. @Sal: What’s your view on typo-squatting? Ipwalk’s picked up a bunch of domain parking “businesses” that toss up AdSense on pages people reach by mistyping a URL.

    More here.

  14. @Sal: What’s your view on typo-squatting? Ipwalk’s picked up a bunch of domain parking “businesses” that toss up AdSense on pages people reach by mistyping a URL.

    Trademarks and the internet is like water and oil, it doesn’t mix well.

  15. [...] Publishing 2.0: Explain this — Google is penalizing AdWords advertisers “who are providing a low quality user experience on their landing pages,” and yet Google just signed a deal with GoDaddy.com to run AdSense on parked domains (via JenSense): The program is called CashParking. And the monthly fee is scaled depending on what percentage of GoDaddy’s revenue you want to keep. It is worth noting that GoDaddy is sharing the revenue they earn from Google, so Google will still be earning money from each click on a parked domain page. [...]

  16. Sal,

    Of course it’s about conversion! And more than conversions, it’s about who controls the revenue for those conversions. But I wasn’t trying to compare conversions — that’s not what “user expeirence” is about. My point is that Google is being completely disingenuous saying iit’s efforts to improve and control conversions is actually about improving user experience.

    Jarred,

    Perhaps you and I have a different definition of good user experience. 100% CTR has nothing to do with the quality of user experience. If someone lands on a page full of ads and has nothing else to click on when searching for content but an ad, OF COURSE you’re going to get a 100% CTR! To call a page full of ads, designed to look like content, “relevant” really pushes the limits of the term.

    Let’s get real here — the game is all about getting the user to click — the user is treated like a pawn. Both of your comments show just how much the whole notion of good user experience has been twisted in service of the click game.

  17. My point is that Google is being completely disingenuous saying iit’s efforts to improve and control conversions is actually about improving user experience.

    The question then is what does it mean “user experience” in google’s eyes?

    IMO it means SPEED and RELEVANCY. If you slow down the speed which a user gets to their desired destination, from the MOMENT they showed interest, you are in effect dilluting conversions.

    This is comparable to a site with a 100 pages. Is the user more likely to convert on page 1 or on page 2, or page 89?

  18. In the offline world many places would like to close a sale on the first time you visit their business vs the second or third. They know the chances drop significantly when you step out of their business after that first visit. Same goes online. If I show an interest in purchasing a spyware software the longer it takes me to find one to purchase the less likely I am to purchase.

  19. Sal,

    Again, I don’t dispute at all your analysis of what drives conversions — but if that’s what Google has in mind by good user experience, they sure don’t make it clear. Have you read their Google AdWords Landing Page and Site Quality Guidelines? It has the following categories of recommendations:

    Provide relevant and substantial content.

    Treat a user’s personal information responsibly

    Develop an easily navigable site.

    Now maybe you can interpret this all to mean don’t let anything get in between the user and the purchase (or whatever the conversion is), but it sure feels like they are trying to hide the ball.

  20. I think they are mainly penalizing click arbitrage, not real content pages.

  21. Click arbitrage :

    http://www.google.com/search?q=boat+sales&start=0&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official
    See this ad :

    “Boat Sales
    Usefull resources and links
    All about Boat Sales
    http://www.all-boating.info
    Link : http://www.all-boating.info/boat-sales.html

    These are the sites I believe they are trying to penalize.

  22. Sal, indeed that is click arbitrage. But that’s not all that’s getting caught in Google’s “quality score” net. Check out this tale of woe from Graywold, who was working a successful affiliate program. He specifically says:

    The landing page is not an arbitrage page, it’s a single product with descrption and a buy now button. The buy now button goes through a redirect page (for my tracking) and then onto the merchant. Since it’s an affiliate product getting them to put the google conversion tracking code is not an option, and to be perfectly honest shouldn’t enter into the equation.

    As I said before, this isn’t all about good user experience and improving conversions — it’s about Google’s ability to control the value chain, from click to Google Checkout.

  23. I do not disagree with you about google wants more control, not at all.
    Also my comments weren’t in relation to what you are now describing but for putting down Adsense for domains program (previously called Domain Park), and click arbitrage.

  24. How about writing about something fun, like personalization search? Would love to participate in that discussion.

  25. How about writing about something fun, like personalization search? Would love to participate in that discussion.

    wtf?

    Scott don’t stop writing about these sort of issues (internet pollution, economies of adsense). This stuff is really important and I appreciate you going toe-to-toe with these spammers over what they and google have created. I have learned tons through these posts.

  26. Scott don’t stop writing about these sort of issues (internet pollution, economies of adsense). This stuff is really important and I appreciate you going toe-to-toe with these spammers over what they and google have created. I have learned tons through these posts.

    I wasn’t putting the topic down. I was suggesting a topic I’m personally interested in, no harm intended.

  27. Perhaps you and I have a different definition of good user experience. 100% CTR has nothing to do with the quality of user experience. If someone lands on a page full of ads and has nothing else to click on when searching for content but an ad, OF COURSE you’re going to get a 100% CTR! To call a page full of ads, designed to look like content, “relevant” really pushes the limits of the term.

    Let’s get real here — the game is all about getting the user to click — the user is treated like a pawn. Both of your comments show just how much the whole notion of good user experience has been twisted in service of the click game.

    I’ll get real here. Marchex (NasdaqGM:MCHX) purchased over 100,000 domains last year for $164M. Last quarter, $11.3 million was generated from ad sales on their portfolio. In order to facilitate more return visitors to their domains, they purchased the content network Open List, and have begun to integrate the user generated content into their domains. See newyorkdining.com. While the domain parking space may still have room for uphill progress, believe me, the industry’s leaders are diligently working behind the scenes to make the parked domains stickier and a better user experience while stilll continuing to allow the visitor to enact on advertisers of interest.

    The GoDaddy integration allows the domainer to choose from 15 templates and a plethora of categories. They, too, are working on making the parked domains with more content.

    Take a look at TrafficZ, for example. Their parked domains also have content – see webmortgage.net. Give the user something interesting – an article about getting the best rate, and then offer some links to phrases of interest. User clicks a phrase, and is served some ads. No advertiser pays for this click to view the ads of interest. And they now have a highly interested web surfer looking into the window of their business.

    Both the advertisers and the visitors are happy with the experience, notwithstanding publishers are working towards an even higher satisfaction rate. If ad spending on the net were going down, I would understand your motives to publish this article. But more people are buying keywords, more sales than ever are being made on the net, and in addition to products, more information than ever is being dispursed online. Ad spending is on the rise because of the efforts of industry leaders, such as Google, to create destinations (and partner with other webservice companies that create destinations) that cater to both the user and the companies that relish the traffic.

    This is a far cry from click arbitrage as you have inferred in your first post.

  28. I also think its important to differentiate between the user who visits Google to search and the user who types in a descriptive domain name of the phrase or product they’re looking for, hoping to find what it is they want on the website of the domain they have oftentimes guessed and typed in to see whats there. It’s easy to see why conversion rates are higher on the domain traffic. Not only is it a different user experience, it’s a different category of user.

  29. Jarred,

    I don’t question for a moment the profitability of a site like webmortgage.net, but from a user standpoint, it’s a total scam. It exists to display ads and to give people no choice but to click on an ad. The “content” is an afterthought — and is this the best “content” available to users on mortgages? Please! If somebody wants to do serious shopping for a mortgage online, these parked domains are serving them about as well as the local supermarket coupon flier helps me learn about nutrition or the credit card offer in the mail helps me learn about managing my credit. These sites are preying on people who don’t know how to find the truly useful information online.

  30. Scott: When you mistype a domain name, which would you rather have 1) a blank page or 2) a page with relevant ads? Even if it is only a small benefit to the user, it is still a benefit.

  31. I can’t speak for Scott but, Mark, that strikes me as kind of a straw man argument. The intent when a person types in a domain name is not to be directed to a site full of ads. Their intent was to get useful information about the subject at hand, not a page full of advertisements. If I am out looking to buy soap and I happen to make a wrong turn and find myself stuck in the middle of a convention of amway salespeople, well, I may get some relevant information about soap, but that wasn’t what I left the house for! And suddenly what should have been a quick, simple and relatively painless experience turns into something else entirely.

  32. Their intent was to get useful information about the subject at hand

    Relevant ads ARE useful. We know that because of CTR and conversions. Now if anyone tells you that users will click on anything ask them to back it up because it ain’t true. We own many domains that get a fraction CTR compare to other with higher relevancy. The difference is in the keywords, the category, the ads themselves.
    Reminds me of a name we own where we used to get 100% CTR on then the top ad changed (different wording, same link/company) and CTR dropped to 34%.

    Abd while I agree current panding pages are not the best they can be they are getting better with time. They are much better then few years ago and will be much better few years from now. I can see a future where the landing page on domains will be personalized to the user who lands on it, bringing relevancy to new heights.

  33. If I am out looking to buy soap and I happen to make a wrong turn and find myself stuck in the middle of a convention of amway salespeople, well, I may get some relevant information about soap, but that wasn’t what I left the house for!

    It’s like you have a headache and want Advil. You go to Walgreens looking for Advil and once you find it, on thats same shelf, you see Aleve. The package is nicer, the price is more attractive, and the pretty sales rep that passes right next to you whisper to you.. “Aleve works for me”. You go ahead and pruchase Aleve and it works better.
    Point is.. you wanted Advil. You walked in to get Advil, and you ended up buying a different brand. This is a real world scenario happening millions of times every day around the world.

  34. I don’t question for a moment the profitability of a site like webmortgage.net, but from a user standpoint, it’s a total scam. It exists to display ads and to give people no choice but to click on an ad. The “content” is an afterthought — and is this the best “content” available to users on mortgages? Please! If somebody wants to do serious shopping for a mortgage online, these parked domains are serving them about as well as the local supermarket coupon flier helps me learn about nutrition or the credit card offer in the mail helps me learn about managing my credit. These sites are preying on people who don’t know how to find the truly useful information online.

    The content on the billboards on I95 isn’t as relevant to me nor to you on every single billboard along the way, but I don’t see you raising your voice at the owners of those billboards? Why would you on domain owners, where we OWN the billboards?

  35. These sites are preying on people who don’t know how to find the truly useful information online.

    To the CONTRARY !
    Do you think Google is any better, or yahoo? Direct navigation in many instances shows BETTER results as advertisers, because they are paying, MUST satisify the user or they will be out of business.
    There’s many other factors to consider that are not yet addressed on either channel .Personalization, sales cycle, keyword intent, etc.
    The other thing is users many times are frustrated with regular search engines as it takes forever to find information. i consider myself an expert in web technology compare to the average user but last week, yes.. last week, it took me 15 (!) minutes to find what I was looking for on ALL search engines.
    Now how great of a job this is on their part?

  36. Sal, when I go on the internet looking for information on a certain topic and I inadvertently mistype the domain name, my reaction (and I suspect the reaction of many others) when I find myself taken to a site with nothing but advertising on it (regardless of its supposed “relevancy”) is that I have been tricked and used against my will. Finding myself plopped on a site in the midst of a sea of ads is very different from perusing among packages in a STORE (which, by the way, is where I wanted to be in the first place) nor is there any “pretty sales rep” to whisper sweet nothings in my ear about the relative potency of one product over another.

    I would much rather have a “pretty sales rep” from the search engine to tell me that I am going to an advertising and not a content site rather than wasting my valuable time and attention. Without that, what has happened is that my valuable time and attention has been hijacked against my will. And THAT, I contend, is the central issue here. By not disclosing fully what they are, sites like webmortgage.net are perpetrating a kind of fraud on users of the internet. They are disguising themselves as content sites when that is the last thing that they are. And if this subterfuge is not intentional, and if all-advertising sites really do provide a better or equal service than search engines as you suggest, why don’t they all just come clean and label themselves as such? It seems to me that would resolve the issue forthwith. Just disclose to us exactly what you are so we can make an informed choice as to whether or not to give you our attention. Or perhaps the real problem is that if you dropped the disguise that you might be a real content site that people would avoid you in large numbers?

  37. Without that, what has happened is that my valuable time and attention has been hijacked against my will

    It is being “hijacked” every time you see an ad you didn’t want to see, every time you hear an ad you didn’t want to see. I pay 10$/month for XM and they still put ads in between the songs.. it sucks.. and that is life.
    Sine they OWN the network my alternative is not to use them. No one forces users to use domain names as search keywords. Users CHOOSE to do that on their own just a much as users choose to flip channels on FM, flip channels on TV, and flip pages in different magazines before buying one.

  38. Just disclose to us exactly what you are so we can make an informed choice as to whether or not to give you our attention

    By subscribing to MY channel you made that informed decision, wether you are informed of it or not.
    Yesterday I walked into a day spa just wanted to know the address of the place but the girl there didn’t care about that. All she cared about is selling me an hour for my girlfriend there. While I asked for the address (I was looking for another location nearby and there were no addresses written outside) she talked about the relaxation my GF can get in the next hour. Is she to blame?
    Or another example, you flip channels looking for ESPN but accidentally you landed on CNN (happened to me all the time) and an AD is served. Dammit.. an AD on CNN. Is CNN to blame?
    As a channel owner you have the right to do whatever you want to do as long as within the law. Serving advertising which really means connecting businesses with consumers, as far as I know, is legal, highly ethical, , entrepreneurial, and falls within what many define as the road to archiving the American Dream.
    Now as one who owns many domains over the last 6.5 years I can tell you for a fact users did not subscribe out of our channel, to the contrary. Every year we get more and more consumers who type domains to the browser bar landing on our pages. Every year CTR gets better as ad copy gets better. Every year more consumers cut through the noise of search engines and other channels to their desired destination, faster.

  39. By subscribing to MY channel you made that informed decision, wether you are informed of it or not.

    Should be.. wether you are AWARE of it or not.

  40. They are disguising themselves as content sites when that is the last thing that they are

    And that just made me chuckle!
    Do you think CNN is in the CONTENT business? Do you think Jenny Craig is in the DIET business? Do you think MTV is in the MUSIC business? Do you think XM is in the RADIO business?

    http://www.mb-journal.com/2001_Q3/what.htm

    “At the inception of a business, the questions of ‘what is our business’ cannot be raised meaningfully. The man who mixes up a new cleaning fluid and peddles it door to door need not know more than that his mixture does a superior job taking stains out of rugs.

    “But when the product catches on; when he has to hire people to mix it and sell it; when he has to decide whether to sell it directly or through retail stores; what additional products he needs for a full line; then he has to ask and answer the question ‘what is my business?’

    “If he fails to answer it when successful, he will, even with the best products, soon be back peddling door to door.”

    Peter Drucker

  41. Sal,

    You persist in conflating issues here. It’s not about what’s legal, ethical, or profitable. It’s about what’s in the consumers’ best interest — it’s about what creates the most value for the consumer. And you’re right that traditional advertising like what you find on CNN has NOT been in consumers’ best interest, i.e. it has not created a lot of value. Parked domains create a lot of value for you the owner in the form of increased profits, but I still don’t see how it creates a lot of value for the unsuspecting consumer.

    I for one would find it hugely helpful if you could give some examples of your domains that you keep referencing — you seem very proud of what you’ve accomplished with them, so I don’t see the harm in disclosing them. It would make this debate (which is totally fascinating and worthwhile) a little less hypothetical.

  42. Sal, I KNOW that there will be ads on a medium like XM. I know it upfront. They do it to earn enough money to be able to supply me the music content they offer. It is disclosed and THAT is the difference. But if I am looking for information on mortgages or whatever, and a domain name is listed in an area that is supposed to be for content and I go to it expecting content only to find advertising then fraud has been committed to “steal” away my time and attention. This is just wrong, plain and simple.

    Likewise, if I subscribe to “your channel” (whatever that might be) under the pretense that I am going to receive content that I might find interesting, yet ALL I find is advertising, then a fraud has been committed again to steal my time and attention.

    In the dayspa, you CHOSE to enter it and any pitch you might hear for additional products or services comes with the territory. You knew up front it was a business that sold the kinds of services that one typically finds in a DaySpa, so any sales pitch you or your GF might have heard comes with the territory.

    When I flip channels I know that in order to do this I just might run across a commercial or two but I know that ahead of time because that is the price I pay for CHOOSING to have all those channels available through my cable service.

    CNN does offer content. You might not like it and prefer Fox news or something else. But they both do offer content which is supported by advertising revenue. This is a fully disclosed tradeoff. And if I don’t want to watch their commercials I can always click away or TIVO and skip them entirely. But even if those options were not available it is still a fully disclosed activity.

    Same goes for MTV and XM radio or any other product or service that claims to offer something of value. They put out a product or service which they tell us upfront will be supported by ad revenues and/or subscriptions. If CNN claimed to be a news service but all that appeared on it were infomercials and other types of advertising then that too would be attention fraud.

    Parked domains are the same as TV channels that CLAIM to be a news or music service but all you get when you go there are infomercials and advertising. Parked domains do not disclose upfront what they are because they fear their traffic, and profits, would plummet if they did.

    If you offer content then say it up front. If ALL you offer is advertising they say that upfront too. Anything less is just fraud and does a disservice both to consumers and legitimate content providers.

  43. Scott, I can see some instances where a parked domain might provide value for a consumer. If what Sal says is accurate that once there on his site people come back then that is indeed an indication that they find something of value there. I have no problem with that. More power to him if that is the case.

    But for me the real issue is disclosure. I believe that if parked domains had to disclose exactly what they were in search engine results, or if the search engines forced this to occur (as they should) that the number of people that went to them would plummet and THAT is why they insist on continuing to disguise themselves as “content” sites. Maybe I am wrong and that would not be the case. Either way, consumers should be given the ability to know upfront just what kind of a site they are going to whether it is on a voluntary or involuntary basis as far as the PDs go.

  44. it’s about what creates the most value for the consumer. And you’re right that traditional advertising like what you find on CNN has NOT been in consumers’ best interest, i.e. it has not created a lot of value. Parked domains create a lot of value for you the owner in the form of increased profits, but I still don’t see how it creates a lot of value for the unsuspecting consumer.

    It’s not about the best interest for consumers only. As I see it this is about BALANCE. If consumers would vote against my sites believe me I would change the landing page tomorrow morning, but fact is they don’t. They vote for the site by their behavior.
    Can I do better? At what cost? And will it work out to be as profitable as it is now?
    Letme give you an example then. Say you own news.com, you paid 10$ to register this great name. In order to provide content you go and spend USD1m. You then go and hire a stuff for 500k/year just to find out you now make about 200k net a year after all the time and headache you went through.
    Fast forward to plugging the name to parked model where the name say make USD500/day, 15k/month, or 180k/year.. with ZERO invovlement on your side, no overhead but renewing the domain for 10$/year.
    Users do come back. Users click. Users may be satisfied more then if I had a content site there. Having a content site doesn’t mean I will do a good job does it? I can do a bd job just as well.
    With domain parking you have no headache and can go enjoy that new boat you were dreaming of with your new wife and baby. As aggregators improve their automation and landing pages thigns will get even better for consumers while you still enjoy life.
    Personallu, I’ll take the second option any day of the week.

  45. And with the news.com example we didn’t even consier the likelihood of you to FAIL, as I’m sure you know, is much higher then you will succeed.

  46. But for me the real issue is disclosure. I believe that if parked domains had to disclose exactly what they were in search engine results, or if the search engines forced this to occur (as they should)

    There’s a law in this regard I believe where paid advertising must be disclosed.
    With the example above of http://www.newyorkdining.com, if you pay attention on top of page, it says next to the paid links “Sponsored Results for NYC Cuisine”. This is in many instances a much better disclosure then many search engines or content sites will give you.
    The disclosure on paid link is the same as what google and yahoo, which ar the two main forces in this business, enforce on their domain partners.

  47. And if I don’t want to watch their commercials I can always click away

    There’s a BACK button on top of the browser user can click away from our sites as well.

  48. In the dayspa, you CHOSE to enter it

    Did I make you type that domain in the browser bar and click enter? It was YOUR choice, not mine. I am there, just as the day spa is there, to give you my sales speach.

  49. If CNN claimed to be a news service but all that appeared on it were infomercials and other types of advertising then that too would be attention fraud.

    1. We do not “claim” anythign we are not. How does that apply to landing pages? What is it we claim?
    2. Since The Shopping Channel only has advertisements on it, sponsored shows, then it must be a fraud? They claim to give me great deals but do they really care? these shows are all paid shows (not tht they tell you they are– they don’t).

  50. Parked domains are the same as TV channels that CLAIM to be a news or music service

    Again, please show me where we claim something we are not?
    Take this as an example.. http://www.newyorkdining.com/ , where’s the claim??

  51. If ALL you offer is advertising they say that upfront too.

    I agree with you but you are sidestepping the fact WE DO disclose these links are advertisements. Take a look at that SCREENSHOT you posted above. It says “SPONSORED LINKS”.

  52. I for one would find it hugely helpful if you could give some examples of your domains that you keep referencing — you seem very proud of what you’ve accomplished with them, so I don’t see the harm in disclosing them. It would make this debate (which is totally fascinating and worthwhile) a little less hypothetical.

    I don’t find the need as I can use many of my friends’ domains to give you examples. There are many reasons I like my privacy but mainly it is because of statistics. The more you have the higher the likelihood you are to be a a target (Stats from “The Offshore Advantage”, you can find it at Amazon).
    As for achievement I am very proud of where I am in life, for millions of good reasons :)
    Since you have my email address email me and I will discuss it in more details privately.
    Sal.

  53. By the way Scott, the best convention for domain owners is TRAFFIC ( http://www.targetedtraffic.com ). I highly recommend you to attend if you are interested in this space. You can look me up there, just ask for the troublemaker :)

  54. Good grief Sal, how many posts do you have to make to respond to two comments?? I am considering starting to take bets on how many the posts the next set of responses will take…;-)

    Anyway…

    1. Without all those people out there slaving away providing legitimate content that PDs can disguise themselves with and hide behind in search results, while I presume the PDs are out enjoying their boats and getting papercuts counting all of their adsense money, there would be no place for you to hide yourself except over in the sponsored links section where everyone would know who you were from the outset.

    2. You keep dancing around the disclosure issue Sal. Yes, the nydining site says those are ads only AFTER I have wasted my time going there when I was probably looking for REAL content about New York dining. And yes, there is better disclosure there than the search engines provide which is why the major search engines should DO A BETTER JOB! But that is what all the PDs, and quite possibly the search engines too, are afraid of. That kind of disclosure, up front, would reduce traffic to your sites dramatically and probably reduce the revenue that the search engines get from you. But its coming..oh its coming.

    3. Yes, I can click away from the site once I have wasted my time going to it. But I would not have to do that if it was disclosed up front now would I?

    4. In the example you cited, I would never have typed NYdining into my browser bar. I would more likely have clicked on it after doing a search or after typing in New York dining looking for relatively unbiased information, reviews, etc. about New York dining. Instead I get a slew of ads when I was led to believe I was getting legitimate content.

    5. PD sites that are not specifically designated as sponsored links are masquerading as legitimate content. And without the perpetration of this ruse I say that they would start disappearing like vampires trying to sunbathe at the beach. I, and most other people, do not “choose” to enter all-advertising PDs. We are lured there, tricked, bamboozled into thinking that you are actually offering real content. Maybe you do have something of value to offer, but if so then why do you have to trick people into getting there by pulling this kind of a bait and switch?

    6. The Shopping channel is perfectly legit. It says upfront exactly what it is and what it does. It does not try to disguise itself as a place that offers anything other than what it does.

    7. By allowing yourselves to be included in non-sponsored links you are masquerading as legitimate content sites in order to trick people into coming to your site. And the major search engines aid and abet this practice by not identifying PDs for what they really are.

    8. Yes, you those links are cited as being sponsored but, again, this is only AFTER I have been falsely lured to this site, assuming it is not appearing in sponsored links, with the promise of legitimate content about fishing in Iowa.

    9. The fact that all you offer is advertising is disclosed only AFTER I have been lured to your site expecting some legitimate content. The should be disclosed in the search results themselves either by you or the search engine. Period.

    Anyway, I am done with this now. I hope you are enjoying your boat and all of the “good reasons” you have gained from the PD business. Enjoy them while you can because the day is rapidly approaching when you won’t be able to lure people in in the same way any more and then we shall see just how lucrative this “business” remains.

    Scott, sorry for the clutter. I am moving on to other things now.

  55. I would take the time to answer Joseph but you do not understand this space one bit. First the majority, by far, of our traffic is type in traffic, not search engine traffic. As a matter of fact, if search engine dies tomorrow morning on my parked domains my income won’t be affected more then 5%-10%.
    In few points you say that disclosure is made only after you have landed on our site. While it is 100% true realize that it was not us that brought you to the site – it was you that came in. No one lied to you nor mislead you. You, and our users, decided to type in the domain into the browser bar and check our sites out — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
    It is exactly the same as you are flipping channels between 1-100 on your remote control looking for that better show. Majority of time it is not there so you flip away, so you “wasted time”. Is it channel 97 fault that you decided to check them out? please.

  56. “if search engine” .. means “if search engine TRAFFIC..”

  57. In the example you cited, I would never have typed NYdining into my browser bar

    Luckily for us we have hundreds of thousands of others who do every day. We did not tell them to. We did not lure them to. They CHOOSE to.

  58. You guys are all missing the point. The REAL issue here is that not a single advertiser knowingly or willingly purchasing these “parked domains” and not a single advertiser can effective manage or track the conversion of each one of these little gems like they can with a single keyword. As such, how does an advertiser purge the underperforming “parked domains” when they see their campaigns tanking?

    This has the smell of a class-action lawsuit in the making. Watch out!

  59. Michelle,

    First, when you advertise in a “network” like AdSense, you give up a large degree of control — that’s the nature of the game.

    Second, why should advertisers be upset about these parked domains IF in fact they generate “quality” traffic? The question is whether the end justifies the means.

    As to purging underperforming sites, why should parked domains be any more of a liability than any other site — unless the “user experience” is an issue.

    In the previous age of fuzzy math advertising, you could pretend that context matters — in this age of measurability, pure conversion results may fly in the face of PERCEIVED poor quality context.

  60. I agree with you however an advertiser is placed on a parked domain – not when they buy into AdSense, but when they buy a keyword in AdWords. That’s the issue. I buy keywords and measure each one. I apply fuzzy matching to some but not all keywords. I also use negative keywords to purge unwanted gunk.

    This is all part of the game. I can log into my account at any time and make decisions of any/all keywords. For argruments sake, you should assuem that I’ve already opted out of AdSense completely.

    So, now I’m left with a bunch of keywords and ad groups that I can manage and a bunch of placements on parked domains that I have no insight into at all. I’m not personally worried about this issue for myself, however, I can tell you this issues will sting Google at some point. There’s an active lawsuit against Yahoo right now around this very issue. A small group of advertisers claim that this type of placement violates their TOS. I agree with them.

  61. I agree with you however an advertiser is placed on a parked domain – not when they buy into AdSense, but when they buy a keyword in AdWords. That’s the issue.

    To circulate advertising google and yahoo are not targeting channels, they are targeting quality grade of traffic.
    Domain traffic is Primary Traffic (there’s 7-8 different grades where Primary is first on the list), just as much as direct searches in google and yahoo search boxes.
    I’m not the authority on this subject but a close associate os mine is. I’ll ask him to post here on this subject, hopefully he has the time.

  62. Michelle,

    Are you saying that AdWords advertisers are showing up on these parked domains even when they have opted out of running ads through the AdSense network, i.e. they only want to appear on Google search results pages?

  63. Are you saying that AdWords advertisers are showing up on these parked domains even when they have opted out of running ads through the AdSense network, i.e. they only want to appear on Google search results pages?

    I don’t think so Scott. She is saying you cannot opt out of the domain channel specifically, which is correct. In order to opt out from the domain channel (which is part of your adwords account, not adsense) you have to opt out from “google partners” group, which includes AOL, domain parking, and other volume “primary traffic” partners.
    What’s common to “search partners” group is quality grade (Primary Traffic). Google and Yahoo are saying if the quality grade is the same, then we grop them together for you and you cannot opt out for each sub group specifically. It’s all or nothing.

  64. I would add here that just as you cannot opt out from AOL traffic without keeping the domain channel afloat you cannot do the opposite. Just as much as you cannot track keywords on AOL conversions seperately you cannot on the domain channel. This is not an issue of the domain channel specifically but of “search partners” in general.

  65. This is what I see in my AdWords account:

    AdWords Network Options

    If you opt out of the Content Network, doesn’t that opt you out of all “contextual ads,” whether on parked domains, blogs, or the New York Times?

    Or are parked domains in the Search Network? And if so, why are they in the “Search Network” — that would seem to be “search” by a pretty narrow definition.

  66. They are part of the “search network”. As I explained, they are because of the quality grade. Domain parking is considered Primary Traffic, which is the first and best quality grade there is.

  67. Sal, can you point to where in AdWords’ help pages it explains that the search network contains sites that are not actually search engines — at least, I would argue, not by the average person’s definition of what a search engine is?

  68. For “search network” they are not requiring a partner to be a search engine but they do define it to be of a “high quality” partner.

    http://www.google.com/adwords/learningcenter/text/18989.html#19007

    Search Network

    Opting into Google’s search network lets your ad be shown on the search results pages of our high-quality partners. These partners include search sites as well as shopping comparison engines. Ads are targeted to users’ search queries, so that your ad will appear only if a user is searching for information related to your campaign’s keywords.

    All ads served to the search network are contextually-targeted text ads. Advertisers cannot use site-targeting to select individual search network sites. In addition, image ads are reserved for the content network, and will not appear on search network sites. Text ad formatting can vary slightly from site to site, and will be automatically adjusted by our system.

  69. Sal,

    I can see a shopping comparison engine as a form of search, because you type in keywords to search for products. But how can these parked domains be defined as “search”? Don’t you think most AdWords advertisers understand the “search” in “Search Network” to mean typing keywords into a box and pressing “search,” not landing on a site, clicking on a link, and getting a bunch of ads?

  70. That’s where most people don’t understand the nature of domains. I said before, if our SE traffic dies tomorrow it will hardly effect our traffic. The reason for that is that people search via domains. They type keywords without spaces, add a .com at the end, and press enter. This is simply just human nature, no tricks or anything on our side, we just own good domains that people type to get to their destination.
    Search your favorite engine what “type in” traffic is or “direct navigation”. That will explain it.
    Sal.

  71. [...] Is Google an AdWords Hypocrite? Google wants advertisers to clean up their landing pages, even though the company is cluttering parked domains with ads. What gives?Earlier this month, Google made changes to the way AdWords values landing pages. Google made the changes to combat MFA (made for AdSense) sites that attempted to garner clicks by gaming Google’s search. Some keywords increased in value, effectively pricing would-be MFA click-fraud spammers out of the market.Some Webmasters bemoan those changes, saying Google’s sweeping changes erroneously affected some legitimate sites and advertisers and leading another form of SEO spam to reappear: scraper sites.  Others say Google’s changes are a much-needed salve for the contextual ad market, which is losing 15 percent of its business to click fraud. And a recent independent report (PDF) on Google’s click-fraud efforts says Google’s overall efforts to combat click fraud are reasonable.So what to make of Google’s AdSense for Domains program, then?One well-trafficked blogger is crying foul that Google–which argued that Webmasters needed to increase the quality of their landing pages–has partnered with GoDaddy to place ads on parked domain pages. (Parked pages are pages shown on domains that are not in use.) To some, those ad-laden pages decrease the user’s experience, thus giving the lie to Google’s moralizing about user experience and landing-page quality. Others point to the fact that ads on parked domains have a high click-through rate. The argument comes down to a single question: Who defines user experience? Google, or Web search users? [...]

  72. [...] Thanks for the informative link Mike. It allowed me to click on more informative discussions over Googles half hearted efforts to kill off PPCSE arbitrage click traps. Great read, with lots of insightful subject links, can be found at http://oraclewatch.eweek.com/blogs/…7/24/11770.aspx Is Google an AdWords Hypocrite? Want some real discussion from both the affiliate/arbitrage/MFA perps and the smart folks seeing where Google is in real class action delima….. "The Hypocrisy of Google’s User Experience Policies Explain this — Google is penalizing AdWords advertisers “who are providing a low quality user experience on their landing pages,” and yet Google just signed a deal with GoDaddy.com to run AdSense on parked domains (via JenSense):" Google talking out both sides of it’s ass not allowing Adwords advertisers to OPT-OUT of sleazy "Search Partnerships" poluting the internet with bad user experiences via millions of template click traps with scraped content. http://publishing2.com/2006/07/21/t…ience-policies/ __________________ Webmaster’s… Mike and Charlie “What have you done today to put real value into a referral click…from a shoppers viewpoint!” [...]

  73. [...] Scott Karp has been on top of this issue, mainly from an affiliate marketing standpoint, and I agree with him that a transition from pay-per-click to cost-per-action is beneficial to both Google and advertisers. But the reasons for the recent trauma may not be all that nefarious, and instead simply a reflection of the way Google tends to evaluate relevancy. [...]

  74. “” Or are parked domains in the Search Network? And if so, why are they in the “Search Network” — that would seem to be “search” by a pretty narrow definition. “”

    Parked domains have never been in the search network, Always part of the content network. That’s why their parking program is called AdSense for domains, and not Google Search for Domains. Using several sophisticated tools we have been able to determine that AdSense for domains has a significantly lower prices per click as compared to Google’s Search and Google’s Search network. All this you can do yourself and see the difference in prices.

  75. “”I would add here that just as you cannot opt out from AOL traffic without keeping the domain channel afloat you cannot do the opposite. Just as much as you cannot track keywords on AOL conversions seperately you cannot on the domain channel. This is not an issue of the domain channel specifically but of “search partners” in general. “”

    Of course you can opt out of domain traffic, that option has always been inside Google’s AdWords. Do your research Sal. Many top corporations that advertise on Google.com are not and have not been in a very long time syndicated on domain parked results.

    Readung your posts again clearly shows us that you dont know jack about inner workings of Google.

  76. Would like to clarify my last post.
    You can opt out of AOL traffic by opting out of “search network”
    you can opt out of domain traffic by opting out of “content network”
    I dont know how long “search network” opt out option has been in there, but “content network” option has been there for a long time now. I will admit that as a large buyer of Adwords from Google (spending 6 to 7 figures per month) There is no benefit to opting out. When viewing ROI on the large scale, there is more money to be made having your ads shown across the whole network, and that’s the bottom line we all count.

  77. Parked domains have never been in the search network, Always part of the content network. That’s why their parking program is called AdSense for domains, and not Google Search for Domains.

    http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:RiJtrADH2l0J:www.highrankings.com/forum/index.php%3Fshowtopic%3D17913+parked+domains+%22search+network%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=11&client=firefox-a

    Hello Kalena,

    Thank you for your request for an invalid click investigation. My team and I have completed our review of your report. We appreciate your patience as we looked into this matter.

    Please be aware that the landing.domainsponsor.com sites that you mentioned are members of our Google AdSense for domains ( http://www.google.com/domainpark/). Using Google’s contextual targeting technology, AdSense for domains shows AdWords ads on parked domain name pages.

    We’ve found that AdWords ads showing on parked domain name pages often receive clicks from well-qualified leads within the advertisers’ markets. As a result, the return on investment for these pages can be comparable to that of search pages. To determine the value of traffic you’ve received from parked domain name pages, we recommend you monitor your conversion rate…..

    Sincerely,
    The Google Click Quality Team”

    If it’s part of adsense today it’s quite new as the following email is from Nov 8 2005.

  78. [...] Google wants advertisers to clean up their landing pages, even though the company is cluttering parked domains with ads. What gives?Earlier this month, Google made changes to the way AdWords values landing pages. Google made the changes to combat MFA (made for AdSense) sites that attempted to garner clicks by gaming Google’s search. Some keywords increased in value, effectively pricing would-be MFA click-fraud spammers out of the market.Some Webmasters bemoan those changes, saying Google’s sweeping changes erroneously affected some legitimate sites and advertisers and leading another form of SEO spam to reappear: scraper sites.  Others say Google’s changes are a much-needed salve for the contextual ad market, which is losing 15 percent of its business to click fraud. And a recent independent report (PDF) on Google’s click-fraud efforts says Google’s overall efforts to combat click fraud are reasonable.So what to make of Google’s AdSense for Domains program, then?One well-trafficked blogger is crying foul that Google–which argued that Webmasters needed to increase the quality of their landing pages–has partnered with GoDaddy to place ads on parked domain pages. (Parked pages are pages shown on domains that are not in use.) To some, those ad-laden pages decrease the user’s experience, thus giving the lie to Google’s moralizing about user experience and landing-page quality. Others point to the fact that ads on parked domains have a high click-through rate. The argument comes down to a single question: Who defines user experience? Google, or Web search users? [...]

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