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Google Sneaks Embedded Text Link Ads Into PPA

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What’s been called an assault on click-fraud, or affiliate networks, or both, could also carry with it a little controversy. Google’s recent beta launch of pay-per-action AdSense, available only to US advertisers, was released overtop another new product: the text link format ad unit.

Google Sneaks Embedded Text Link Ads Into PPA
Google Sneaks Embedded Text Link Ads Into PPA

See, according to the conspiratorially minded, while everybody buzzed about PPA, they’d be less apt to notice the Snap-like or Intellitext-like advertising platform that allows publishers to embed ads in hyperlinks appearing within content.

Before, AdSense ads were confined to certain spaces, transparently. But there in Google’s PPA FAQ is this:

Text links are hyperlinked brief text descriptions that take on the characteristics of a publisher’s page. Publishers can place them in line with other text to better blend the ad and promote your product.

For example, you might see the following text link embedded in a publisher’s recommendatory text: “Widgets are fun! I encourage all my friends to Buy a high-quality widget today.” (Mousing over the link will display “Ads by Google” to identify these as pay-per-action ads).

"They’ve crossed a hazy ethical line here," writes TechCrunch blogger Michael Arrington. "If this product was announced on its own, it would be heavily debated by the blogs and press. But by burying it in other, bigger news, they’ve mostly avoided the critical analysis that this actually deserves."

What’s the big deal? Well, for the Google purists out there, sneaking in an advertisement rather than there being a clear demarcation between ads and content, is somewhat of a sin. Google seems to have realized this, but perhaps was hoping it was a small sin.

As for what the new model could do to affiliate networks, most outlooks are bleak.

"Commission Junction and LinkShare are screwed," comments Arrington.

Greg Sterling, blogging for Search Engine Journal, disagrees.

"I think that we’ll have to see how widely embraced Google’s program is and what the empirical fallout is accordingly. I’m not ready to proclaim the death of these networks. I think that marketers want alternatives to Google and I’m sure some of these programs are working quite well for them."

Google Sneaks Embedded Text Link Ads Into PPA
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  • Jim

    Just a side note. We have a very large tourism website and I told my brother, who works for us, that I could take a keyword ranking right out of the picture (it was #1 ranked with Google).

    I added an affiliate JavaScript code to the page and within a day it was gone from Google rankings altogether.

    I took the offending script off and within ten days it was back.

    None of our other rankings were affected.

    Coincidence?

    Isn’t there some sort of anti-trust law against unfair competition?

  • Jennifer

    The ppa ads *are* marked the same way google ads are. Your article indicated otherwise.

    • Jason Lee Miller

      you’re right, that wasn’t clear. When I said that the ads weren’t clearly demarcated, I meant in the traditional Google ad sense (pun not intended) — text ads to the side or designated places. These ads are marked as Google ads.

  • Monette

    For the record: I despise pop-up ads, and will NEVER buy or use anything from those. I hope they get banned from the internet completely, because they are the tackiest, most intrusive form of advertising. They ruin the appearance of every site they’re on.

  • Lill Hawkins

    “Commission Junction and LinkShare are screwed,” comments Arrington. ”

    I don’t agree. I think the text link format ads will bomb and Google and everyone else will phase them out. I hope so because I think they’re a turn-off for readers. People who set up sites with content for content’s sake, just to run adsense ads, will no doubt accept them. But those of us who are trying to establish a presence with unique, homegrown content or a blog with well-thought out posts, aren’t going to want them disrupting the flow of our text. I won’t run them, but sites like mine with fewer than 1,000 visits a month aren’t going to be where their fate is decided. It’ll be the sites with thousands of pages of PLR content that’ll do that.

    Lill Hawkins
    http://www.lillslist.blogspot.com
    http://www.hawkhillacres.blogspot.com

    • Ariel

      Has anyone seen how this new format looks?
      can’t find it anywhere ?

  • bj

    Well, at least this time it’s at the discretion of the PUBLISHER of the page, instead of what they did with the Goog toolbar awhile back, where it would insert ITS OWN LINKS into anybody’s page without permission.

    Personally this sort of approach pisses me as a reader off. I avoid these sorts of ads like the plague they are. I don’t see this being in the best interest of the publisher who tries them out. And goog isn’t the first to do this sort of thing. Some of the tech sites have been using them for awhile now. Usually those links have a double underline, at least, so they are distinguishable and can be avoided, but truthfully, I tend to avoid the pages they’re on, instead of just avoiding the links.

  • Joyce

    As a “publisher” I grew to hate PPA advertising and distrust those advertisers since it was so easily manipulated by the advertiser with the setup of their landing page.

    My site provided impressions and sent traffic to the advertiser who then decided whether or not to condescend to convert that traffic to something which paid the agreed and appropriate commission. If they were in the mood to send the traffic to something else, they did, and the commissions paid ME dropped accordingly.

    Two PPA advertisers even set up pop-ups for THEIR advertisers on their side of the click. My revenue dropped to the floor because, of course, that cut down on people who even saw the landing page, much less “converted” with the appropriate customer action.

    And I’m not talking fly-by-night junk advertisers. I’m talking very well-known names, through Commission Junction. Protests to CJ were largely ignored except for some sympathy – “No, they shouldn’t be doing that.” And, they stopped when they were caught, but I was never compensated for loss of revenue.

    I dropped those advertisers, and CJ eventually.

    Pay publishers for what they provide – impressions or clicks. Skip the PPA. Who do you really trust to keep track?

  • Str82u

    I understand the principle behind this, and the truth is, most of us put in links to other sites for our own benefit, like backlinking to our own sites to raise popularity, BUT, we don’t identify, up-front, that this is just a link to another site to get traffic (and possibly another attempt at a customer/sale).
    I’ve used text ads from Google and make my own for advertisers, people that visit my sites don’t click any different, as a matter of fact, if an advertiser runs a contest, I know exactly where to put thier creatives.
    My point is this; as long as there is some identification on the link, I don’t have a problem with it. Using Google and text ads allows me to offer something to site visitors I don’t provide and pays me for linking to those sites…alot easier than the old days of hustling up advertisers and making deals for rotation schedules.

    Str82u
    http://str82u.net

  • Matt Jones

    It would be a lot bigger deal if Google were the first ones to impletment ‘in text advertising’, but there are already other
    publisers out there that do this, for example Kontera or Clicksor.

    In my opintion the major problem isn’t whether it is a ‘sin’ or not, but about whether Google can make it more efficient to cut the loading times, which are currently hampering Kontera’s version.

    Matt
    Email: mattjones@affiliatescamguide.com
    http://affiliatescamguide.com

  • Adrian Hall

    Apart from blurring the line between content and advertising, embedded text is generally annoying for users. Involuntary mouse movements pop text over the content you are trying to read, and the link does not provide you with more information, as you would expect.

    I don’t think anyone in the world of marketing should be too happy about Google taking Commission Junction’s business either. The internet marketing world used to be so diverse, that even the smallest businesses could advertise their niche products to their chosen niche market. We will lose that, and consumers end up with only an offering of standardised products from the largest companies – through one advertising medium.

  • http://www.rapturevision.com femdom

    I have a Adult only POP UP Window ( YES/NO) when some one opens my site home page.

    I achieved #27,#52 ranks inGoogle on highly competitive keywords. Suddenly I saw my ranks fallen to #500 from #27. But the JavaScript existed from the very beginning.

    But suddenly I saw my ranks fallen suddenly after I have achived 27 rank in Google on a highly competitive

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