Google’s New Text Link Ads — Hotornot?

As I was putting together the latest Search Engine Forums Spotlight, I came across some threads on various search marketing forums discussing Google’s new pay-per-action ads. Along with the expected discussions (like one at Webmaster World) of whether it would be good or bad for advertisers and publishers, I also found some people continued to worry that a new ad format included in the program had crossed a line.

I thought Barry Schwartz did a good job of putting the argument to bed in a post at Search Engine Roundtable earlier this week, but it seems that lots of people are up in arms about this new format.

In a discussion on our own Search Engine Watch Forums (among other places), advertisers worried that the new in-line text links, which Google delivers via Javascript, were somehow sneaky.

TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington says “They’ve crossed a hazy ethical line here.” Techdirt calls in-line text ads “fairly controversial and often irritating to users.”

I personally don’t see a problem with these ad units. They are clearly marked as ads when a user mouses over them. They are generated by Javascript, so there’s no “selling PageRank ” going on, which Google’s Matt Cutts has often frowned upon. There is a chance that bloggers will go out of their way to blog about something just to sell it via the referral link, but that goes on every day with affiliate ads as well, and as I said, the ads are clearly marked as ads, so the blogger’s intentions are clear.

Time will tell whether this ad unit sticks or not. At this point, it will only be shown on publisher sites in the beta test for PPA ads, which for now is a tiny group. If they are rejected by readers, then chances are most people will never even get a chance to see them before they are discontinued.

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