Will the online ad boom continue?

According to an article on CNET today, the current boom in online ad spending is well protected from the kind of bust we saw back in 2001.

The author argues that the presence and commitment of mainstream advertisers like Ford and Procter & Gamble give the online ad business a much stronger and more resilient foundation.

That may be true.

But while CPM advertising is protected to some degree, PPC advertising may not be.

Pay Per Click has become a significant source of revenue for online publishers, and for Google, Yahoo! and now MSN. Not to mention numerous minor players.

However, these large search companies need to address two important problems.

The first, as we all know by now, is the issue of click fraud. We have published research on the topic of click fraud and this clearly remains a problem.

The second problem, which we have addressed in this blog before, in the issue of trash-content sites.

There are hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions of pages online which have been created specifically to fool the search engines and make money from PPC advertising.

Not only do these pages undermine the credibility of search results, but they also reduce people’s trust in contextual advertising itself.

On most of these trash-content pages there is no real “context”. The pages have no original or valuable content at all. And when you have no content, contextual advertising simply becomes regular advertising.

Two things need to happen.

First, the search engines need to find a way to recognize trash-content pages, and list them on page fifty instead of page one of any given set of search results, however well optimized they may be.

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Second, they need to say no when these publishers apply for an account in the first place.

What probably happens is that trash-content publishers create one content-rich site, through which they apply for their account. Once they have the account, they then use the same account across all their trash sites.

Without better policing of where PPC ads are shown, more and more people will jump on the trash-content bandwagon.

And if that happens, unchecked, we’ll see a growing loss of public trust in all search results.

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