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Old 06-11-2009   #1
johninbrooklyn
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Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

One of my clients is in the language-learning software business which is currently dominated by Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone now runs 3 concurrent Google Ads which takes you to 3 different websites: rosettastone.com, youtube.com/rosettastone, and facebook.com/rosettastone

I thought it was a violation of AdWords guidelines for one company to poster the SERP with multiple ads that lead to multiple websites. Otherwise GEICO - a large insurance advertiser - could build 10 different websites and run 10 ads so no competitor could ever show their ads.
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Old 06-11-2009   #2
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

As far as I know it is against Google's policy for an advertiser to do this.
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Old 06-11-2009   #3
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

I don't see how it could be illegal. They're advertising different landing pages with completely different display URLs.
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Old 06-11-2009   #4
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

Google's policy is very clear that the same company promoting the same products is not supposed to manage different AdWords accounts sending the same keyword to different URLs. Otherwise, a company like Nike could buy www. nikerunningshoes. com, www. nikegolfshoes .com, www. niketennisshoes .com, etc. etc. and buy up all the available ad space for keywords like "athletic shoes" or even "shoes".

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Old 06-11-2009   #5
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

I think in this case Google might see them as promoting three different 'products', since one is their site, one is a networking site and the other is a video site.

I could see them having a problem if it was a variation such as the example you mentioned.

It's probably worth filing a complaint though. Please let us know what happens.
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Old 06-11-2009   #6
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

I'm not really interested in filing a complaint. I'd imagine it falls on deaf ears. Actually if it's something that goes through, then I might try it myself.
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Old 06-12-2009   #7
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

I wouldn't recommend trying this strategy. It can get you banned from Adwords. AWR, feel free to chime in here, but I believe Google does review the complaints they receive.
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Old 06-12-2009   #8
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

Little away from the topic but here I have to stand out

Year’s back I had been reporting spam sites mostly organic with detailed reports about the site and unethical stuff implementation. It just needs to be attended and the review would be much easier for any body that goes through but the response was nil. Those sites still ranks well with all black stuff

We do understand the team would be getting enough complaints from all over the world but time period like years and more is way long. So I stopped this very long back and I do my other duties, were I get responses as it helps others what they feel worthy

I appreciate if all the complaints are attended in both organic and paid listings. Just told what I feel, nothing to the hearts
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Old 06-15-2009   #9
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

I'm not completely sure I understand you in this last post. Are you saying it's a waste of time to complain? Or that somebody should complain? Frankly I have nothing against Rosetta Stone - I bought their Chinese version myself and like it. I just think it's a bit unfair to both the searcher and advertisers that one company can buy all the top spots on AdWords and funnel all searchers to promote their product or line of products. Right now if you type "Learn Spanish" into Google you see 4 top ads. Rosetta Stone.com. Youtube.com/rosettastone. Facebook.com/rosettastone ebay.com/rosettastone. All these pages are obviously built by Rosetta Stone. They have identical branding, graphics, and marketing collateral. They are all designed to promote the same line of products sold at the same price point. But someone that searches "learn spanish" may not be looking for $250 software. So these ads are blocking out classes, tutors, books, cheaper software, more expensive software, and all the other different options that people want when they use Google. The beauty of Adwords is that it gives searchers options and doesn't just show them the one advertiser that can write Google the biggest checks. This strategy clearly violates the spirit - if not the letter - of AdWords.
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Old 06-16-2009   #10
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

Quote:
Originally Posted by johninbrooklyn View Post
I just think it's a bit unfair to both the searcher and advertisers that one company can buy all the top spots on AdWords and funnel all searchers to promote their product or line of products. This strategy clearly violates the spirit - if not the letter - of AdWords.
I completely agree, and I think that if Google become aware of this, they will stop it happening and limit RS to one ad only, even if they are using different domain names. I've seen them take action like this before in the UK.
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Old 06-16-2009   #11
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

You may post a complaint and wait for the best. Nobody is against anybody personally in the web

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Originally Posted by johninbrooklyn View Post
I'm not completely sure I understand you in this last post. Are you saying it's a waste of time to complain? Or that somebody should complain? Frankly I have nothing against Rosetta Stone
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Old 06-16-2009   #12
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

Just to clarify, I was saying that you *should* complain.
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Old 06-16-2009   #13
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

I sent Google a nice email and asked them to clarify their policy. I told them my understanding is that the same company can't build out multiple websites or webpages and run multiple ads on the same SERP. I then politely pointed out how the current Rosetta Stone strategy seems to be a violation of these guidelines.

I got back a copy/paste form email from Google that affiliates can run ads with the same keywords as manufacturers? Huh? This was obviously a canned response and the person at Google took about 5 seconds to read my email.
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Old 06-16-2009   #14
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

I filed complaints multiple times over the years, about the same guy running 3 ads. All different domains, but the same products, same landing pages (basically duplicates, with exception of color schemes and logos), same owner for all whois searches, etc....and Google is still letting them run today.
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Old 06-16-2009   #15
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

Interesting. Sad that a company as big and influential as Google can freely operate with so little adult supervision. But we've known that forever.
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Old 06-17-2009   #16
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

Did you get in touch using a general contact form? An AdWords rep would definitely take your enquiry seriously. I'd try calling Google if you can.
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Old 07-06-2009   #17
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

The situation is getting worse in some of my niches, namely web hosting and domain names (not much competition there!). With one firm United Internet hogging four of the top ten listings.

For instance on the terms "cheap domains" United brands have four listings for 1and1, fasthosts, sedo and streamline.net. I thought the latter were a fasthosts reseller but it seems Fasthosts bought the customer base last year.

Another multi adwords advertiser was Namesco/Dada, bidding against itself for cheapdomainnames.co.uk, and names.co.uk. Different sites, pricing, and landing pages, but the same firm.

The situation is further complicated by affiliates and 1and1 tends to have a lot of those, but Google seems unable to keep up with this, so all you can do is file a report a hope. However Adwords is increasingly being dominated by just a few big firms, and fails to offer the visitor much real choice.
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Old 07-11-2009   #18
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

Ironically I read today that Rosetta Stone is suing Google because Google allows people to buy ads under the keyword Rosetta Stone. Google used to not allow affiliates to advertise if it directed traffic to the "root" domain. So you couldn't have both Amazon.com and an affiliate (which redirects to Amazon) running two ads under the same keyword. They have now changed that policy. It's too bad.
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Old 07-11-2009   #19
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

If Rosetta Stone is trademarked then your advert would not be able to include these terms. You might be able to bid on the keywords (though this varies).

As for affiliate domains, this is sometimes got around by registering or inventing variations, ie amazonuk.com/co.uk or buyatamazon.com and redirecting to your affiliate link or landing page. I've even seen bogus domains as the display URL work. Certainly Google has made life tougher for affiliates.
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Old 08-03-2009   #20
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Re: Wondering if this strategy is "legal" per AdWords

Google's policy is very clear. An affiliate can advertise under a keyword and drive business to his or her affiliate site the same as the original website. So Amazon can advertise under the keyword "books" and I can advertise under the keyword "books" and drive searchers to my Amazon affiliate site. (Technically Google prohibits redirects where I sent a searcher to my home page and then 1 second later automatically send them to Amazon. But lots of people do it anyway.)

However, Google's policy is also very very clear that one advertiser cannot build multiple sites under different URLs and advertise all those URLs under the same keyword. So Amazon cannot create www.amazonbooks.com, www.amazontextbooks.com, www.amazonmysterybooks.com, and advertise all those sites simultaneously under the keyword "books".

This is the correct policy for two reasons. 1. It's unfair to smaller advertisers because one large advertiser with the largest budget can just buy up all the ads on a SERP and block out all other advertisers stifling innovation. 2. More importantly, Google always prides itself on relevant results to searchers. If someone types in a search query and all the ads point back to the same company and products, then the results to the searcher are way diluted. Instead of seeing 10 ads for 10 companies, the searcher sees 10 ads for 1 company.

As I've pointed out in previous posts, Rosetta Stone has created 4 pages - rosettastone.com, youtube.com/rosettastone, facebook.com/rosettastone, and ebay.com/rosettastone. These are 4 pages created by Rosetta Stone, written by Rosetta Stone, and using the same graphics, copy, and pricing. These are not "affiliates" but are websites created by Rosetta Stone corporate. This is the critical difference that Google reps seem to keep misunderstanding or ignoring.

My frustration with Google is their disdain for any type of personal communication. Everything is auto-pilot and all correspondence continues to be just low level customer service sending me "form" responses that they copy/paste to everyone else. I think that sooner or later this is going to bite Google. It has become too important in the advertising world and advertisers and perhaps even legislators are going to start demanding more if Google has such a large share of our ad dollars and then ignores its customers basic requests.

And while it may seem that I'm attacking Rosetta Stone, I'm not at all. I think their strategy is a smart one. But since it so obviously violates Google's policy, I've just tried to get a clarification from Google. Because if Google allows this type of advertising, then I'm going to recommend it to some of my clients who could afford to block out all their competitors.
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