Feeds

Comparison shopping sites not wicked after all, says Google

As it intros comparison shopping services

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Google is adding "AdWords Comparison Ads" to its armoury of weapons designed to squeeze even more money out of advertisers "make ads more relevant and useful".

The ads will list prices and features for multiple products from paying advertisers on a single page, thus making it easier for shoppers to find the best deal without having to hunt around multiple sites.

Aren't there sites that do that already? Indeed, but they lack Googley Goodness. In its announcement, Google gives the mortgage and loan market as an example, but the company has also been running test ads displaying comparative pricing for other sectors - including consumer electronics - on its search pages in recent months, and it's understood to be planning related moves in the comparison shopping and travel markets.

Which prompts some input from The Register's Department of Strange Coincidences. Google assigns "quality scores" to the landing pages of AdWords advertisers, and these help dictate the amount of money the advertiser has to pay for a keyword. So if the landing page for your ad is deemed by Google to be high quality, you pay less, while if it's defined as low quality the rate is likely to be prohibitively expensive. The idea is - allegedly - to enhance the users' experience and to avoid troubling them with dreck.

For some years now, up until just a few weeks ago, Google's AdWords guidelines said that the following types of websites "are likely to merit low landing page quality scores and may be difficult to advertise affordably... eBook sites that show frequent ads; 'Get rich quick' sites; Comparison shopping sites; Travel aggregators; Affiliates that don't comply with our affiliate guidelines."

Note that the only two in the list who don't have to be doing anything wrong to get tagged as wicked are comparison shopping sites and travel aggregators. There's certainly quite a lot of cruft in these categories, but there are useful sites in them too. Nevertheless, Google's guidelines presumed them to be guilty, and quite a few sites - some of them quite high profile - have been hit by Google penalties, sometimes for years.

That, however, is what Google's guidelines used to say. Around the beginning of October, just about the time that Google's latest experiments in, er, comparison shopping ads were being spotted in the wild, the wording changed to: "Poor comparison shopping or travel sites whose primary purpose is to send users to other shopping/travel comparison sites, rather than to provide useful content or additional search functionality."

An earlier version of the text, still showing travel aggregation and price comparison as inherently wicked, can be found on the AdWords blog. Google's guideline housekeeping is, for a company dedicated to organising stuff, strangely slack.

The mortgage example from Google's comparison ads announcement does seem to include "useful content or additional search functionality", so it handily doesn't fall foul of that Google rule - and seeing it's designed by Google, which makes the rules, it's unlikely to be a poor comparison shopping site.

It does still seem to come dangerously close to breaking the rule that says you should "direct users to the page where they can buy the advertised product, rather than to a page with a description of several products", but maybe that's an old one that needs amending.

According to Google the new ad formats will initially "only show to a small number of users in select US states and is only available to a limited number of advertisers in the mortgage/refinance space." But from the illustration in the announcement you'll see the service gets prominent positioning on the search page anyway. Ahead of mortgage comparison sites offering comprehensive listings, not just ones from paying advertisers? Spot the level playing field... ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.