Jumping to Conclusions on Google’s PPA

    March 21, 2007

There are lots of bloggers talking about Google’s launch of their Pay-Per-Action (beta) program which is really just adding CPA ad units to Adsense with a name to not associate it with CPA directly.

My first reaction is that people are jumping to lots of conclusions about what this program means, what it will do, who it’s competing with, and what it will mean for advertisers, publishers, and arbitrageurs.

I was going to refrain from making a post about this until I had really digested it more and potentially even tried out the beta program if accepted, but since Pete Caputa somehow confused me for being smart, I’ll at least post a few thoughts.

CPA is harder on publishers

There’s no arguing that with CPA ads, publishers take all the risk. This is good for advertisers, and generally it’s harder on publishers. However, GOOD publishers who understand CPA, persuasion architecture, delivering users who will convert, and funneling your site correctly, can actually make more money from CPA then they would from CPC or even a flat CPM. Publishers who don’t understand these things and are used the normal Adsense model will most likely struggle to generate more money with this ad type because of the difference in how you monetize a user.

CPA is a different ball game

There is an assumption that this will be a major challenge to affiliate networks like Commission Junction and Linkshare. Maybe it will be, but I can say that these networks provide a lot of value because they help advertisers create the right kinds of creatives and really optimize CPA. How much advice is Google going to really give on setting everything up? How much human touch will they provide to this process? With Google’s program, if the advertiser’s landing page sucks will Google consult to help them improve it? Sure, they provide access to their Website Optimizer Tool, but those who have tried multi-variate testing know that isn’t just a cut and dry automated process like Google is trying to make all of this.

Will this hurt lead generation or affiliate arbitrage?

I’m not sure I care. Businesses need to provide value, and if Google just made it more efficient so that it’s harder to arbitrage stuff, so be it. I’m not necessarily against arbitrage, but you can’t expect companies to leave things inefficient. Arbitrageurs are always looking for an edge, and most likely they’ll still find one somehow and somewhere.

Overall thoughts

Until we see the program in action, see what advertisers succeed with it, and how publishers can work with it and what types of results they get it’s hard to predict what will happen. The general assumption is that since Google has dominated with Adwords/Adsense/CPC they will dominate CPA by adding it to the mix. Well, Google HAS NOT dominated CPM and display advertising when they added it to Adwords/Adsense. I don’t think it’s a given by any means that this will work as well, however I do give it a better shot. I think the CPA direct marketing advertisers are closer to being the same group that does well with CPC now, while flat CPM and display advertising tend to be a different type of advertiser. It will be interesting to watch.