March 20th, 2007

Can Google Transform The Entire Web Into A Direct Marketing Machine?


As anticipated, Google has launched a “cost-per-action” advertising program that allows advertisers to pay only for specific results, such as a sale, lead, sign-up, etc. Andy Beal thinks this is a threat to online affiliate marketing, and surely it is. But Aaron Wall’s comment jumped out at me:

If they push this as hard as they did AdSense or search it is going to teach advertisers and publishers to create efficient conversion oriented content and sales funnels. It will fundamentally change the structure of the web.

Google’s contextual advertising revolution has already transformed the structure of the web, leading to the creation of millions of web pages with no other real purpose than to serve AdSense ads. The content on these pages is purely a vehicle for advertising — the traditional Chinese Wall between editorial and advertising has been obliterated. And it has force many publishers who follow a more traditional editorial path to start poking holes in the wall. Content has always been a marketing vehicle, but never at such a granular, easy-to-manipulate level.

With its CPA program, Google will drive this phenomenon to the next level. With cost-per-click ads, spammers create bogus pages where confused consumers click on ads in an effort to escape. But with CPA ads, clicking is not enough. The game is now to manipulate consumers not only to click, but to take some further action. And I don’t use the word “manipulate” arbitrarily. This is about turning the web into one big pile of junk mail, aimed at getting you to sign up, buy, or commit to something that you hadn’t necessarily wanted.

Of course, everything exists on a spectrum. Many CPA ads will be placed next to high quality content and lead consumers to offers that they will genuinly find valuable. But that “lighter touch” publishing model isn’t what made Google the cash soaked monster it is. No, Google became big by giving “publishers” (i.e. people with no editorial goals, only profit goals) the tools to turn the web into a giant direct marketing machine.

If you think the web is filled with marketing now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. It will make you long for the days of network TV when you only had to sit through three minutes of commercials.

Google will also increase, by an order of magnitude, the pressure on advertising as a creative art, where it was once acceptable to waste half of a brand’s money. No, Google doesn’t profit from advertising. It profits from direct marketing, where the ends always justify the means.

  • Tell that to about a million “info product” marketers who’s sales pages convert way higher than most people think they do, consistently!

    I understand that market very well, Jim. When selling information, the copy is more important than the product. :)

    And yet what I said is still true... it's getting harder to sell crap consistently when the word spreads as fast as it does now. Plus, successful direct marketers make money by selling more stuff to the same people they've already sold to, and therefore need to satisfy the quality demands of the audience to be profitable over time.

    The problem with the Google model (and CPA in general) is that the publisher doesn't own the relationship, and therefore has less incentive to play nice. That's why sellers need to become content developers too, and cut out the middleman to a certain degree.

  • I have some different views about CPA network which i listed at:

    Give it some time to read The Reasons with facts that makes you believe it

  • Mind you, I do not believe that all "info products" are crap, at all. But many are. However, many aren't, and are written by good smart people who have good intentions. That's my disclaimer :O)

  • How dare you suggest that my blog on debt consolidating mesothelioma dentistry has no purpose other than to get people to click on adsense ads!

    Haha, now that's funny stuff.

    Brian said...

    But even trust can’t sell a truly crappy product, or, at least not for long.

    Tell that to about a million "info product" marketers who's sales pages convert way higher than most people think they do, consistently!

  • Everyone becomes a direct marketer.

    I've been saying that this is inevitable over here for a year. :)

    I guess this does up the scale of how online direct marketing already works. Everyone in DM looks at what works and emulates it; now it's democratized.

    So, scale is an issue. But WHAT WORKS will remain the same. So I guess the real lament here is that worthless advertising that doesn't work will disappear--and that's bad, because the audience prefers advertising that doesn't work?

    From a publishing standpoint, the most interesting thing to watch is how much we'll see content become the ad itself. The real manipulation occurs when people don't realize they are being marketed to, but again, it's very difficult to successfully sell worthless crap these days, not matter how effective the copy.

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