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Shaking Out the Bad Websites in Google

Everyone is talking about Google’s PPC click thru rate being lower than expected… flat growth for January according to Comscore. I think there’s astory in there about reliance on Comscore-like reports, but that will be addressed soon enough. Perhaps a more interesting story is suggested by this comment from a pro-Google investment entity, as cited by AlleyInsider:

In our view, efforts by GOOG to improve search quality and make online retail a more efficient experience for consumers will deflate paid clicks and inflate price-per-click. As long as lower volume continues to come with higher pricing (as it did in Q4), we are not concerned with GOOG’s ability to grow revenue.

Sort through SEO leads these days and you find site after site that is not able to convert incoming paid traffic. For these business owners, PPC is over. Money flying out the window to Google for PPC ads that bring traffic that does not convert into revenue. These owners moved into Google’s ad program to get traffic, but that “just signup and get traffic” do-it-your approach is just a small piece of the pie. If the site isn’t prepared to convert that traffic into sales, Google gets rich and the ad buyer fails (and scrambles to get some SEO to “get me free traffic from search optimization”). And if the owner isn’t savvy enough to manage the PPC spend in light of competitive pressures, it can be a fast budget drain.

The above comment suggests that Google is going after the revenues on the high end, and shouldn’t care about that low-end where the ad buyers fail to monetize. As click prices increase, presumably because of “quality scores” reflecting that traffic is converting when delivered to the right place, those poor quality sites are filtered out via market economics. Overall clicks go down, as revenues ramin strong or perhaps grow. Sounds great for Google.

But I don’t agree that SERP quality tracks that shake-out, because there are so many good sites that are unable to convert. Those sites represent quality “answers” to Google queries, even if they have not been designed to sell anything or designed to enable conversion tracking. Let’s not forget Google bases it’s judgement of quality on factors it has access to, not magic or divine knowledge of the truth.

Google needs to maintain SERP quality, yes, but that equates to making sure the organic results are high quality as well (or perhaps even especially). Which means reward relevance with rankings. Yes… improve search quality, but more free organic traffic. That’s Google giving away traffic it was passing through (low quality?) PPC ads. if the publishers are disappointed in Google’s ad payouts (due to low quality scores etc), but now they are getting free organic traffic, how does that help Google’s revenues?

Google chose to play both sides of the buy/sell ad game, so Google has to manage customer expectations on three fronts: searcher, ad buyer, and ad publisher. At best Google helps everyone find their way to a piece of the pie. At worst, everyone hates Google. Which one is better for revenues?

When a former Google customer (someone who has quit AdWords out of disgust) asks an SEO to help “get free search traffic from Google” it represents a person who is no longer willing or able to play by the established rules.  It’s not a sign of criminal intent, mind you, so don’t go hyperbolic on me with the BlackHat WhiteHat stuff. But from a demeanor persepctive, that former customer is willing to try things outside of the “let’s do business together” avenue, without telling Google, and recognizing that he is now in competition with Google, his former business partner.

Again, how is that good for Google’s revenues?


  1. Google is like the dog that bites the master’s hand. The master being advertisers. They burn enough advertisers, less people will use AdWords. Less people bid in AdWords smaller payouts for publishers in AdSense. Publishers now get pissed at Google and migrate to another platform. It is a slippery slope.

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 4:01 pm | Permalink
  2. Demerzel wrote:

    I think the one assumption I will disagree with is that Google is not already competing. Google is already displaying Product searches, Image Searches, Youtube Videos, and soon Google Knol pages that forces down more organic searches (the free traffic) which only reinforces sites to show up in Google’s Paid Search area.

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 11:15 pm | Permalink
  3. See, that’s what people missed about the paid links debate. It isn’t about PageRank. It’s about competition for the search marketing budget between links and ppc. And that tension will just continue to grow.

    Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 9:46 am | Permalink