Should Keyword Arbitrage Be Called “Click Pimping”?

    August 3, 2005

I have a friend who calls keyword arbitrage – the practice of buying cheap clicks on one PPC engine and then collecting a higher CPC based on ads served (and clicked often enough) on a content-oriented site – “click pimping.”

I take it this term is at the level of oral folklore only at this stage, and hasn’t found its way into general usage (only two instances of it in the Google index, so if I’ve actually mentioned it here before, well sorry… I need Google’s index to act as my memory bank…).

Well, good. I’m glad this silly term never caught on. (Sorry, Mike… really just needed something keyword-rich to post about today… and keyword arbitrage was it… hope you understand.)

Some points:

1. It’s nothing new to buy advertising ultimately to sell advertising. There is nothing inherently wrong with a publication using search marketing for customer acquisition. That’s not arbitrage, it’s targeting.

2. In the case of sites that don’t add much genuine value, the question becomes one of traffic quality. Specifically, how can these sites turn a profit if they are buying clicks and only a small percentage of visitors actually click on something? Unless their conversion rate of click to click is really high, they’d need to be getting $1 per click in revenue for every dime spent on clicks, you would think. Not really. Some of these publishers do have totally legit conversion rates of click to click of 50% or higher, because some of their readers might click on five or six different paid links, bringing up the average. However, a small minority of these sites are committing systematic click fraud. It will take more than sticks and stones namecalling or a slap on the wrist to stop these bad apples. They need to be prosecuted.

Click pimping? No. Call it what it is. It’s either a perfectly legitimate targeting strategy, or in some rare cases, it’s a cover for out-and-out click fraud. Calling it click pimping gives it a dangerous, nebulous middle-ground cachet that would serve to needlessly attract certain louts, and needlessly dissuade quality publications from buying ads low, to sell them high.

Pimp on!

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Andrew Goodman is Principal of Page Zero Media, a marketing consultancy which focuses on maximizing clients’ paid search marketing campaigns.

In 1999 Andrew co-founded, an acclaimed “guide to portals” which foresaw the rise of trends such as paid search and semantic analysis.