Google AdSense For Domains Program Overdue For Reform — And Yahoo & Microsoft Should Also Take Note

MS Research:
Typo-Squatters Are Gaming Google
from eWeek covers Microsoft researchers
discovering Google’s long-standing
DomainPark
program (AKA AdSense For Domains), where if you have a popular
domain name with lots of traffic but no content, Google will kindly hand you
some AdSense ads to turn it into an earner. While it is long-standing, I’d say
it’s also generally little known and definitely upsetting to people who come
across it for various reasons.

In

Google AdSense For Domains Program Overdue For Reform — And Yahoo & Microsoft
Should Also Take Note
for Search Engine Watch
members, I do a
detailed look at the history of Google’s program plus issues it and Yahoo’s
similar program raise for the search industry in general. Below is a summary for
everyone.


  • Google Buys Applied Semantics
    from Search Engine Watch covers how Google
    inherited the lucrative DomainPark program when it purchased Applied Semantics
    back in 2003. Google later changed the name of DomainPark to
    Google AdSense For Domains.
     
  • Tapping into typo traffic was happening even back then. The

    IRS.org
    site (as opposed to IRS.govo)
    I wrote about as an example in 2003 still runs with paid links today.
     

  • Complaint On Yahoo PPC On Placeholder Sites
    and
    NonConverting Traffic
    Coming From Google’s DomainPark Program
    are forum threads that show how
    advertisers question how relevant traffic can be from sites that someone never
    intended to go to in the first place.
     
  • Far from being gamed, as the eWeek article suggests, anyone in the Google
    domain program should have been reviewed or approved by Google itself.
     
  • Antivirus vendor F-Secure gives a good

    example
    on its blog today of how typo traffic helps tap into those
    probably trying to reach F-Secure. It goes further and shows how this also
    costs F-Secure money in that Google puts F-Secure’s own ads on the typo site.
     
  • Advertisers who opt out of contextual are NOT opted out of Google AdSense
    For Domains, as
    Strange
    Log Referrer – Advice Please?
    explains.
     
  • From first hand experience, Google doesn’t seem to worry that typo domains
    violates its own rules
    against trademark violations, since when I queried why serachenginewatch .com,
    a misspelling of our own searchenginewatch.com domain, was allowed to carry
    ads, Google flagged no issues with it.
     
  • Google’s in the mixed message situation of
    saying that contextual
    ads can’t be on parked domains yet completely allowing the minute someone’s
    accepted into the domain program.

Overall, I don’t have an issue with non-typo domains being in these type of
programs, since it’s hard to say they really harm another site or the surfer
coming to them.

In contrast, for the person who is running a misspelling of our
searchenginewatch.com site — or the same for the person doing the misspelling
of the F-Secure site, there’s little doubt they’re hoping to benefit off the
brand traffic these two sites have helped.

Navigation is a big part of search, and you’d think the search engines would
want to ensure people were navigating to the right site. Instead, Google and
Yahoo both seem happy to benefit by making money off these misspellings. That
should change. Forget whether there’s a trademark violation. Just outright ban
the use of domains where it’s obvious the site owner is hoping to tap into typo
traffic.

At the very least, Google should make AdSense For Domains a program that
really is independent of AdSense For Search and allow people to opt-out. It
certainly should be pondering the mixed message of telling AdSense For Content
people that they can’t put ads on parked domains on the one hand yet running a
massive program that does exactly that on the other.

And lest the Microsoft researchers feel to happy, they’d better understand
that Microsoft fully intends to have its own contextual program in the future.
That program almost certainly will face a decision on whether to provide paid
links to parked domains. If Microsoft’s not careful, its own researchers might
end up reporting on typo domains that make Microsoft money.

FYI, I am following up with Google and Yahoo on the issues raised in the
story and will post a follow up article in the near future.

Want to comment or discuss? Visit our SEW Forums thread, AdSense For Domains Garbage Traffic.

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