Google Sneaks Embedded Text Link Ads Into PPA

    March 21, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

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."