11 Sep 2007

Google Pay Per Action Ads – Fooled me!

I was just at a website where I saw an ad that blended in so well, that it appeared to be a nav bar.

It was actually a banner that was the size of an adsense ad…but it did not state "Ads By Google".

Adsense has always included  the tag "Ads by Google" – (and Google says, you should clearly state it’s an ad).

But here, the "Ads by Google" was missing…so I didn’t think it was a Google ad.

Upon further inspection, when reviewing the page’s code, I found that is was an ad….in fact, it was actually an ad by Google.

After further research I found that it was a Google Pay Per Action ad.

So here is what Google says about Pay Per Action Ads.

Text links are hyperlinked brief text descriptions that take on the characteristics of a publisher’s page. Publishers can place them in line with other text to better blend the ad and promote your product. They can’t, however, alter the text of the link.

For example, you might see the following text link embedded in a publisher’s recommendatory text:

"Widgets are fun! I encourage all my friends to Buy a high-quality widget today."

(Note that mousing over the link displays "Ads by Google" to identify these as pay-per-action ads.)

Shorter links tend to perform better, because they allow the publisher use the link in more places on their site and in different context. The maximum length is 90 characters but less than 5 words is best. Even better, just use your brand name to offer maximum flexibility to the publisher.

There’s a few interesting points in here, I’ll touch on one.

It’s interesting that Google say it’s ok to not state it’s an ad on the page (unless you mouse over it) – (Google says "that mousing over the link displays "Ads by Google" to identify these as pay-per-action ads").

Also, FYI, I also don’t get the mouse over "Ads by Google" when viewing a live CPA ad, nor on this page where Google gives the example (mouse over "Buy a high-quality widget today"). I tried on one version of firefox, and IE6.0 and 7.0 and on 2 computers, and still no "Ads by Google" mouse over.

It also seems some of these recommendations contradict some of the recommended advertising techniques that Google tells SEO’s to do in their linking practices.

What do you think?


  1. Jon Kelly September 11, 2007 at 2:07 PM

    Nice catch, Jim. I tried it on Google’s page with IE7/Vista and I didn’t see “ads by Google” either. I think I wouldn’t have a problem with it if it was anyone other than Google. But given their sermonizing on paid links I think they have a higher standard to meet on this sort of thing.

  2. Chris Winfield September 11, 2007 at 2:10 PM

    I don’t get the mouse-over either in FF or IE. Forget about all the people on mobile devices…

    Great post Jim.

  3. Frederick Townes September 11, 2007 at 4:00 PM

    Great post Jim. I thought it was just me that noticed this before.

  4. Brandon Hopkins September 11, 2007 at 4:40 PM

    Tried it with FF and Safari on a 20″ iMac, no luck here either.

  5. Christopher Kata September 11, 2007 at 4:45 PM

    I agree completely. They are really sending a mixed message on this one!

  6. Chickenhole September 11, 2007 at 6:33 PM

    Very nice catch indeed Jim. I am very excited about Google referrals and have been playing with them a fair bit. Once they open it up to some real advertisers who have previous experience in this space I think we will really see it take off. right now it is just way to limited to crappy under paying offers.

    Any word on how many link units you will be allowed to have on a page? Can i litter my Splog posts with Goog Ref links?

    I think this will put some of ye olde egg on the face of Mr. Cutts at the next – Paid links. Evil or Not? Disclosure debate…

  7. Harvey September 11, 2007 at 8:19 PM

    Totally agree Jim and above commenters, Google is getting sneakier in their old age.

    I posted about something similar here a while back http://www.ragepank.com/articles/96/googles-sponsored-links-getting-sneakier/

    I think it’s a bit rich with the Google witch hunt on disclosing our paid links, while Google is busy employing any and all meaures to make sure their revenue stream stays intact.

    What Google is doing is conceptually no different to SEOs hiding their non-disclosed paid links within content – it’s not that we want to do it, it’s just that our revenue stream depends on it.

  8. Hawaii SEO September 12, 2007 at 4:48 AM

    I still prefer the other CPA affiliate networks that don’t require a mouseover.

    How is it anyone’s business if a link is an affiliate ad or not. Websites should have a disclosure policy but I don’t see the need to disclose every single link. How does that help the user experience?

    I’ve always thought “Ads by Google” was for Google branding purposes, not ad disclosure.

    For example: You see ads, they look relevant, you want them on your website as well or you would like to advertise in the network… But… have no idea who is serving the ads because there is no label, logo or other identifying mark of the ad network.

    By placing “Ads by Google” on everything, it raises brand awareness of Google ad programs. By placing Google ads on your website, you are also placing an ad for Google as well.

    I believe they label everything they do for the same reasons why clothing manufactures place viable logos on the garments.

    BTW – I don’t see anything wrong with Google’s obvious branding strategy. I think it works well for them and has contributed to their success.

  9. Stoney deGeyter September 12, 2007 at 10:34 AM

    We’re not expecting Google to follow their own talk, are we? C’mon. Everything they do and say is about helping themselves. That’s not necessarily bad, and we should certainly point out the hypocrisy, just don’t have any other expectation. Good catch Jim!

  10. Kyle September 13, 2007 at 1:02 AM

    Good post Jim. I recently got “invited” to use their full referral program but havn’t got the chance. Maybe they don’t have to show the “ads by google” because it isn’t a ppc.

  11. Isabelle September 14, 2007 at 6:04 AM

    I wonder if these links are have nofollow on them? If not, does that mean we should report them to Google as Paid Links, per their instructions? Might be fun to try.

  12. Andy Beard September 14, 2007 at 7:55 AM

    I have been saying for months that Google are not complying with FTC advisory on word of mouth marketing, but people generally ignore it.

    They are in many ways much worse than PayPerPost ever were as far as disclosure.

    PayPerPost which not enforcing disclosure, never prevented it.

    With Google referral units, based upon their published guidelines, which you are allowed to encourage people to click and download Google products, you are not allowed to disclose that by doing so you will earn money.

    Thus the following breaks Google’s rules

    Download Firefox, I think it is a great browser! [link]

    p.s. disclosure: I earn $1 for each person who installs it

    How long have I been saying this? I think I first wrote about it January 24th

    I don’t normally drop links but you might appreciate some of this for further reading http://andybeard.eu/tag/womm

    Sphunn 🙂

  13. Philipp Lenssen September 14, 2007 at 11:04 AM

    Google is actually randomly omitting the disclosure on normal banner ads too, as I previously reported here:

    It might be more annoying than the non-disclosure of their affiliate links, because at least if they’re always non-disclosed it makes sense for webmastert add their own disclosure. The only problem is when Google is inconsisent about this behavior. I was contacted by them a while ago in regards to my post but the problem persists…

  14. Cygnus September 14, 2007 at 5:30 PM

    Double standards are just another way of ensuring shareholder returns. 🙂

  15. Jason Fox September 15, 2007 at 10:33 PM

    I haven’t seen these available yet in adsense. I’m off to go check it out. Thanks Jim.

  16. ShortBus September 17, 2007 at 7:49 AM

    Do these count towards the 3 adsense ad blocks per page? I would hate to be called a ad spammer for having 5 or 6 of these ads in my content.

  17. Las Vegas Guy September 18, 2007 at 8:07 PM

    Seems a little bit of do as we say, not as we do. So will G punish a site if they employ the exact same tactics?

  18. Bjorn - Devenia Internet Marketing September 22, 2007 at 9:03 AM

    ShortBus: No, they don’t count towards the blocks as far as I have understood.

  19. Money Matter September 23, 2007 at 1:26 AM

    i think it is okay to fool with CPA ads. the reason there is a need to mention it is an ads on adsense and don’t encourage others to click it because somebody would lose money due to unintentional click by someone. with CPA ads nobody lose money. just take a look at the NEW amazon text ads. for the link we cannot change it because advertiser are compiling data for ads test. just like pay per click ads.

  20. Mario September 25, 2007 at 4:09 AM

    Heh. No display of an ‘this is an ad’ can be annoying (well its an ad, right?) when you click and see what have you done, but as someone said…its PPA…clicking on it won’t earn extra buck for site owner, but also won’t have much influence if you are mistakenly driven to ad-site-source…dont know…there are many other ‘more offensive’ ad types which I find not so nice…and yeah, good post 😉

  21. Abhishek Rungta October 1, 2007 at 6:51 AM

    Pay-Per-Action ads need the publisher to pre-sell the concept to be really effective. Therefore I think it is perfectly okay to remove the “Ads From Google” tag to make it look like a normal link.

    In fact, I feel that Google is trying to get ahead to tackle a situation when people will turn blind to their text ad blocks.


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