Google Diluting Quality To Remain Profitable

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Google turned in healthy third-quarter earnings largely thanks to the fact that Google is finally getting serious about cost containment. But that is only half the story. Going into the expected economic downturn, Google is now turning on every additional source of advertising revenues it can. For instance, so far earlier month it began offering AdSense in Flash games, new AdSense links at the bottom of Google Maps, and introduced click-to-buy buttons on YouTube videos. Now, it looks like it may be testing two more ways to juice those AdSense revenues: an AdSense search box and AdSense ads that link to syndication pages filled with . . . more AdSense ads!

Google might just be testing these, but these efforts are starting to get noticed. One reader who runs a site about Google Chrome, for instance, runs AdSense. But instead of a regular text ad, Google served up the search box at left, inviting people to search for specific ads. In effect, Google is saying, “We are not 100% sure what ads you’d like to see, so why don’t you just tell us?” An ad-only search box is a departure from Google’s past policy of showing the most relevant results, with ads on the side. Although it is clearly labeled, some people might still confuse the AdSense search box with a regular Web search box. Others might find it more helpful than the regular text ad links.

More troublesome is Google Syndication. Another reader, Michael Oxley, noticed that the AdSense text links on his golf site are directing readers not to a product page with information about a “Tiger Woods Caddy” or “Golf Wear,” but rather to a Google Syndication landing page filled with more AdSense ads (see screenshot below). These landing pages are run by Google (they take you to a URL). These pages basically syndicate a bunch of other AdSense ads triggered by the keywords in the original ad that was clicked on.

If Google starts using its Google Syndication pages more widely (they’ve actually been around for a while, it seems), it could become controversial. That is because they seem to run counter to Google’s own stated policy for landing page quality, a factor that goes into how Google scores each ad. As this NYT article explains:

Google now takes into account the “landing page” that the ad links to, and, for example, gives low grades to pages whose sole purpose is to show more ads.

The lower the quality score, the higher an advertiser has to bid for a given keyword. Google itself provides the following guidelines to advertisers who want to improve the quality score of their AdSense ads (I’ve bolded parts for emphasis):


* Users should be able to easily find what your ad promises.

* Link to the page on your site that provides the most useful information about the product or service in your ad. For instance, direct users to the page where they can buy the advertised product, rather than to a page with a description of several products.


* Feature unique content that can’t be found on another site. This guideline is particularly applicable to affiliates that use the following types of pages:

o Bridge pages: Pages that act as an intermediary, whose sole purpose is to link or redirect traffic to the parent company

o Mirror pages: Pages that replicate the look and feel of a parent site; your site should not mirror (be similar or nearly identical in appearance to) your parent company’s or any other advertiser’s site

* Provide substantial information. If your ad does link to a page consisting mostly of ads or general search results (such as a directory or catalog page), provide additional, unique content.

The question here is: Why isn’t Google heeding its own advice?

And is it in effect running house ads that it wouldn’t tolerate from an outside advertiser (or at least punish by increasing the minimum bid required to run them)? When times are tough, anything goes.

This post was originally posted by our content partner Techcrunch and is being republished on with permission. I occasionally syndicate news posts from Techcrunch I feel readers get value from and likewise you may see posts on Techcrunch from ShoeMoney at times.

127 thoughts on “Google Diluting Quality To Remain Profitable

  1. netmeg

    ?? I’m confused. AdSense has always acted like that, as far as I know. I see the search box if there’s not enough text or Google doesn’t want to serve ad links. And the ad links have always gone to pages full of ads. What am I missing?

    1. andrew

      You’re right. It’s not the first time I see a search box to search for ads instead of a regular text ad. It was always like this I believe.

      1. Reid

        Ok so I’m glad to see I’m not the only one that has seen this box before or thought “what are they talking about?”

    2. Online Writers Needed- No Experience Necessary

      yeah, well google is nothing more than a big problem now. They are so money hungry that it is sickening. I wish that webmasters would stop dealing with them altogether, (as far as using them for advertising purposes I mean such as Adwords, etc). I say stick to social networking to increase online sales.

  2. Ryan McLean

    Could this not be a glitch in the system?
    It seems like everyone is taking this economic downturn pretty seriously. How long do they think this will last for???
    Lucky I have a job and an entrepreneurs blog to keep me going

    1. Goran Website

      Well you sound like you’re sorted. Having more than one source of income is vital in this time of age. I do think this global economic strain is about to blow over, it’s been on for quite some time now, enough time for solutions to have been thought out. But everyone is still freaked out about it, and with some people it’s only now that it hitting them how bad the world economy is.

    1. Goran Website

      yeah, this didn’t come as a surprise to me at all, because google adsense ads have been like this for quite some time, and only now people are noticing???

  3. Clog Money

    They are also allowing gambling web sites to advertise on google adwords in the UK now. I recon it won’t be long until gun merchants will be able to set up PPC campaigns as well :)

    1. Zeeshan

      Fear not, most guns have registered brand names and those manufacturers would probably block everyone from using Google AdWords to advertise under their brand names, except for their own direct affilates or themselves!

  4. Igor The Troll

    Haha, I would not be surprised Google hiring Indians and Pakistanis to click their own Adsense adds in the near future!

    Google will do anything to keep up the appearance they are healthy and making money!

    Did not Google do this already, at the beginning when they started Adsense? Maybe they will go Chinese this time around! Diversity! Or cloak IPs! ;-)

  5. browie

    Google just keeps changing the “game” on us don’t they? I am happy to hear they are giving pages a quality score if it seems the page is a made for adsense site. That always helps the ppc content network to get more quality clicks.

  6. Adrian

    I don’t know where this article comes from. I see this features in Adsense for over 1 year. Nothing new

  7. QuickPWN

    The View Ads search box has been in the Google search engine for a long time now it’s nothing new. The other ad formats mentioned here are new though. I would be lucky if my website got mentioned in Tech Crunch’s post, I would get a lot of clicks! :D

    I’m surprised Tech Crunch didn’t cover the newer ads I recently noticed. The newer ads appear in the leaderboard and they show related products with prices and you can click each product to see that product.

  8. Vijay

    It is always hard to the right thing, than the thing which will bring in the money….
    Well we have not heard “Do No Evil” for a very long time..

  9. robert

    This is BS! This action is in-line with the for-profit corruption that has ruined Ebay in my opinion. Ebay used to be a usable and relatively inexpensive way to find cool stuff or sell your junk. It seems to be a growing trend, anything for money, that even the airline industry is embracing. I am ready for a google competitor to emerge and take second seat.

  10. Billy

    Yaawwwnnn!!! What a non story! The only newsworthy bit of news in that post is the fact that Google are still doing well against all a background of financial meltdown. But then again I guess that’s not what the Google/Adsense haters want to hear is it?

    1. Skitzzo

      Google’s still doing well but at what expense? As I’ve said in the past what happens if they’re close to not meeting expectations? They can ban thousands of accounts at a moment’s notice to make up the difference.

      The lack of recourse or oversight with Adsense is ridiculous.

      1. Billy

        Why, they’re a private company and not some sort of government social security policy? Then can operate however they like. Some people will take advnatge of it, other’s won’t but Google actually don’t owe us anything.

        1. Billy

          Public Limited Company, it’s still a PRIVATE SECTOR business and not a PUBLIC SECTOR business i.e. part of government.

          They (CEO and Board) are free to operate how they choose, within the law of course.

  11. Ben -

    I’ve been saying this for a couple of years and it’s now happening as you see. Google was first a company run by two computer geeks not necessarily looking for gazillions of dollars so quality was their main concern. Then Google made billions and there’s now an administrator board and Google has to grow every year to keep the share holders happy. Google is now a big corporation and like every big corporation ran by an administrator board, profit prevails. We will see more of this in the future.

    1. Zeeshan

      You hit the nail on the head. Corporations have only one goal: Make more money than the previous day. Sooner or later, this becomes the downfall of the company, but for now, Google is riding high.

  12. dgibson

    Is this a joke? The meat of the article is about features that have always worked this way and putting some spin on it as if it was new.

  13. Skitzzo

    Google has never played by the same rules that it subjects others to. If an arbitrager tried to do something like this they’d be smacked with high minimums or banned as a thin affiliate site. Of course now that Google does it, well that’s ok because they have the User in mind. How this is best for the user I have no idea but I’m sure that’s how Google will try to spin it.

      1. PimpDaddy

        Google sucks! When you do a search on Google you get allot of crap and 2 year old outdated material because they are so hell bent on their property sandbox system to prevent new fresh sites/material to be shown. They want you to grease their palms with adwords before they index you organically. They want to own the internet. They are internet Dictators. They have brain washed the masses into thinking they are the best search engine option out there when truly they suck!

        Ahhhhh, that vent felt good.

  14. Tom Printy

    I also wonder if they are not burrying sites with adsense on them. I noticed an uptick in traffic on some pages with adsense that google delisted or buried earlier in the year. I wonder if they are just trying to get more eyeballs to get convert at 2%

  15. Atlanta wedding photographer

    I started to use adsense on my site but had to take it off because it was giving adverts of my competitors. Does anyone know of anyway to control what adverts are used on your site so this doesn’t happen? Who knows what is happening to Google. Maybe they are just trying new things. The adsense search bar maybe something like the google search bar.

    1. netmeg

      Go into your control panel for AdSense, under Setup – you have a competitive filter where you are allowed to put in up to 200 urls for ads you don’t want to see on your site. It can take a few hours to take effect. Also, sometimes you can’t see the real url they’re advertising with, so you might want to find the AdSense Preview Tool to see if you can extract the url.

  16. Euroangel

    it’s all about money!! and Google, what can i do with google anyway!! i’m just a simply blogger!! but I love your blog… very interesting and informative..happy blogging!!

  17. JetPunk

    I don’t think it’s a big deal. They’re still the best so I doubt they’ll lose visitors.

    I think it’s a great time to buy GOOG. I just picked up some shares last week.

  18. Yogesh Sarkar

    Hasn’t this been going on for a long while? I mean Google’s link ads have always lead to another page which has ads pertaining to what the original ad link said and they have been showing that search ads in the link box for well over a year!

    If you don’t want that then simply start using normal ad units which don’t contain this type of thing. Though Google was testing a feature a while back where apart from showing ad it also showed a search box to show more ads.

  19. da buck

    I read about this early this morning. It would be a shame if google manipulated their QS to start charging people more money. Obviously, Google doesn’t have enough money.

  20. coderbari

    Google is online GOD. whatever God does, is right. You can’t ask any question. But you have to do things according to law, you are not God. Will these steps of Google cause decrease in traffic? And moreover people will still earn money.

  21. Geeks are Sexy

    Google have been doing these things for the past year, and I haven’t heard anyone screaming about it until now.

    And now that someone at TechCrunch noticed it, OH MY GOD, the moon is suddenly going to crash down on us.


    1. Will

      You would do the same thing if you were in Shoemoney’s shoes. Notice he said sometimes he would have posts appear on Techcrunch….What does that tell you? If Techcrunch wanted to enter into a partnership with you, would you turn them down?

  22. Christopher Ross

    When I first heard about this I wasn’t sure that I’d ever search for an ad but then my wife reminded me that she prefers looking at the ads on Google rather then searching. Her theory is that people who are paying to get our attention are likely to be offering content that we actually want to see.

      1. Christopher Ross

        You’re 100% right, it makes no sense but I can’t convince her that dishonest people would pay for ads. Actually the other day I saw her click the featured ad for at the top of Google instead of clicking the search result for right below .. it makes me wonder how much she’s costing companies.

  23. Reid

    While these are some interesting points, I think that some of our economic problems are simply due to media hype that causes people to become scared a little bit… Interesting to see Google doing this much more though

  24. Nashville4U

    I have seen this recently as well as an even further downturn of CPC. In my entertainment niche websites which usually had terrible cpc numbers such as 2-10 cents a click are now averaging around 1-5 cents a click. Luckily I have relationships now with high paying CPM advertisers and don’t rely on google other than one text link. I wish Google would just take a small hit right now to keep its high quality since that is what it is known for.

    1. coderbari

      I think they become the evil long ago, we are not able to understand it. But when we will understand it, there will be no way back. Google took so much control over the mental realm of the users and webmasters.

      1. JetPunk

        I would say they will slowly turn “evil” or at least more like other corporations. As a public company it would be difficult for them to avoid the pressures of Wall Street.

  25. Zurpit

    The good thing is that if google is making more money with adsense than so are we if we have adsense on our site so its still good

    1. JetPunk

      But if Google is making more from their own sites, it probably wouldn’t affect how much we make. Yet, it might actually decrease our earnings and the cpc because there will be more supply.

  26. Christmas tree

    I am little bit shocked, now a days why Google is not approving the adsense accounts like earlier. It is simply declining the small sites or too early sites, or free sites.

  27. Jason Sieckmann

    Transparency when dealing with users is extremely important. When I was just a net surfer, I always closed any kind of ad or shareware that took me to ads rather than what I was legitimately surfing for. Great warning Shoe.

  28. PimpDaddy

    Everyone who uses adsense want clicks of course. It is the stuff that many blogs and forums were created for. My question, as an ad sense advertiser do you when visiting other sites you like give them an adsense courtesy click or are you to busy and selfish to waste your time doing so?

    My humble opinion is if you hope to make money with adsense you should have the courtesy to click an ad once when you visit a site you like. If you do not then stfu with the whining about why you do not get any clicks.

    It’s called KARMA folks!

  29. Dan

    I also noticed Google was putting ads up on flash, etc.

    Do you think people are becoming less receptive to advertising now that they are cutting their spending?

  30. IamJustinM

    For example, would not get paid for a click until someone clicks to the syndication page and then clicks an ad on that page? That doesn’t seem fair.

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  32. PokerPotjieSoftware

    I think this is a very good example of the moral hazzard problem that is sweeping the US financial system. Google isn’t planning on having an effective business model over the long term with these decisions. Instead they are made so that at every turn in the quartter they are turning a profit. This is an extremely dangerous position, as can be attested to by the CEO’s of AIG and Merrill Lynch, because eventually, without long term planning, it can all come down like a house of cards.

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  35. Ryan

    They’re walking a dangerous line. Once their ads stop being user friendly and start being ugly/irritating, they’ll see their market share drop through the floor. They’re not the highest paying ad network around and it’s not too difficult to switch.

  36. Paul

    So as well as Google experiments in wringing more from Adsense how do you think the policy change for on Gambling will add to adsense revenues for sites? Surely this is a goldmine for affiliates that will pull people even closer to adsense?

  37. Steven-Sanders

    More obvious proof that Google is diluting quality, and not with just their adsense?

    How about the new Google phone, or Google Chrome. Both aren’t very good quality in my opinion.

  38. BusinessX

    Google got a lot of love early on for it “Don’t Be Evil” mantra. Now that they are number 1, and rock solid in that position, that seems to be changing.

    They should remember “No one cheers for Goliath.”

  39. Jon

    It’s a slowing economy and Google needs to make money like everyone else… just not sure if I’m ready for sponsored links going to sponsored pages full of links to more sponsored sites

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  41. trends

    I’m not complaining about having more ways to make money from google! why not, bring on the adsense monetization to the fullest :) When they start demonetizing, then we know they are becoming “demon”ized or evil!

  42. ZK@Internet Marketing Blog

    Google needs to think about there strategies the pay rate is decreased a lot and the latest one Custom search engine i feel it is not working properly …for instance we tested it but nothing get converted….

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  44. Golf Balls & Clubs

    noticed that the AdSense text links on his golf site are directing readers not to a product page with information about a “Tiger Woods Caddy” or “Golf Wear,” but rather to a Google Syndication landing page filled with more AdSense ads (see screenshot below).

    Don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Google can only dilute the quality for so long before they are no longer the number one search engine.

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