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Questioning Parked Domains and Google AdNonSense

Chris McElroy

Is contextual advertising helping or hurting the web? It basically started with Google Adsense even though the concept wasn't new. It had never been done on the scale that Google did it. Now we have Yahoo Publisher. MSN is building their version. We have Konterra and a whole lot of other companies scrambling to cash in on the contextual ad craze.

Initially contextual advertising seems like a good idea. Ads based on the content of your website that might benefit your readers or visitors. Ads that are related to the content you produce that will also help you make a little money for your efforts.

However greed ruins all good things. Now there are probably millions of webpages online that are built for the sole purpose of cashing in on contextual advertising. I'm not talking about people who continue to blog the way they always have or continue to maintain a website full of valuable information that just add contextual advertising to boost their revenue a little.

I'm talking about websites full of scraped content, total spam content, or no content at all that are capitalizing on contextual advertising revenue. They are putting tons of webpages up that have no real value for content to the point that now as you search the web doing research on almost any topic you can think of, you have to sift through all the garbage to find it.

I wrote an article for a client recently. The topic they asked me to research and write about was "Mancoon Cats." Take a moment from this article and go try to search for that phrase. I bet you can't find a page about it within 30 minutes. I'm talking about a page that has real content.

Of course the real name for this cat is a "Maine Coon" Cat, but many people call it by the first name above and it happens to be a popular search phrase. But all you can get on that term is pages full of garbage that link to other pages full of garbage in a complete circle-jerk.

All of those pages contain contextual advertising, mostly Google AdSense though. The theory to make money with contextual advertising is counterintuitive. While most of us build websites and create blogs that people will visit and bookmark to return to, a contextual advertising guru does just the opposite.

To make money with contextual advertising you want your content to be bad. Yes, you want it to be bad. You do not want the user to like what you have on the webpage or find what they are looking for in hopes that after not finding it, they will either do another search in your embedded Google search box or they will click one of the contextual ads on the page in hopes of finding what they came there to find.

The defenders of this type of website say they are "just another way for users to search and find what they are looking for." What a crock. If that page never existed, the user would have clicked to a relevant website in the first place.

The fact that you can easily find these garbage pages proves that Google and the others know they exist and are doing absolutely nothing to curb it even though it goes against their ToS. As long as Google and the others make money, they do not seem to care that the content on the web is becoming half garbage.

I'm not even counting the ones that are registering tons of domain names, then un-registering them before the 5 day grace period is up [discussed here and here]. I am including the monetized parked domains. Many will object to that association and say parked domains are legitimate. However if you registered a domain name with the sole purpose of parking it and letting Google monetize it for you, then you are adding to the garbage.

Temporarily parking a domain name while a website is being built is excusable. Never planning to build the website and registering tons of domain names for the sole purpose of parking and monetizing them adds no value to the web.

It's perfectly legal. There is no crime being committed while doing it. But to claim it is anything other than adding to the garbage on the web is just being in denial.

It also makes it more difficult for those who do wish to add value to the web to find decent domain names. But I don't blame the ones parking the domains or doing domain name kiting for that shortage. For that lays squarely on ICANN's shoulders. If they allowed the creation of more commercially viable TLDs, then there would be no shortage of good domain names.

However, that would not get rid of the contextual advertising disease that has infected the web. Google, Yahoo, and the others need to clean up their act and start policing the websites that use contextual advertising to make sure they are actually putting up content and not just googlespam.

By Chris McElroy, Internet Business and Marketing Consultant. More blog posts from Chris McElroy can also be read here.

Related topics: DNS, Domain Names, ICANN, Spam, Top-Level Domains


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Re: Questioning Parked Domains and Google AdNonSense Chuck Crawford  –  May 25, 2006 11:52 AM PDT

Let's face it.  The internet is one big AD.

How many people out there really put up a website simply to provide information for the sake of providing information?  I'm sorry, but the genie was let out of the bottle when the very first banner ad appeared and the first affiliate paycheck was issued.

In some places in this world $5 a day is one heck of a good salary.  So of course many are going to jump on the bandwagon and try to make a buck or two.

Sure, there are a few sites out there that are truly just informational.  But I stress the word 'few'.  Everyone else is just trying to make a living.  I know, a bunch of bloggers are going to jump on me in a minute and tell me how philanthropic they are and how they are just providing content for the sake of making the internet a better place, but even half of those people will have some kind of money making mechanism installed on their blog.

I do agree that the internet has become cluttered with ads, but good luck putting that genie back in the bottle.

Re: Questioning Parked Domains and Google AdNonSense Chris McElroy  –  May 25, 2006 11:55 AM PDT

I'm all for making money for the website you are operating. I have no problem with a bsuiness making a fair profit at all.

I have a problem with people who do not offer anything content-wise skimming of the whole adnonsense thing to where it's difficult to find what you are looking for these days.

Re: Questioning Parked Domains and Google AdNonSense Chuck Crawford  –  May 25, 2006 12:06 PM PDT

As you stated in your original article, if Adsense, YPN and the other big contextual ad companies would actually police the sites like they say they do in their TOS, there would be a lot less junk.  I do agree that there should be actual content in order to be able to use the ads.

But Adsense and the rest are just big greedy corporations.  If they get a complaint about Joe Blow from Kokomo having a website breaking their TOS, Joe's site is going to be down by the end of the week.

But if they get a complaint about the MILLIONS of domains that they have parked with Adsense on them they are going to turn a blind eye.  Why?  CASH!  Millions and millions of dollars are made from the parked domains, Joe from Kokomo only makes Adsense a few bucks a month, so Joe is history, The parked domains get to continue to break the Adsense TOS because of the jillions of dollars they generate.

Re: Questioning Parked Domains and Google AdNonSense Chris McElroy  –  May 25, 2006 3:24 PM PDT

There is a thread at webpro world that is related to this about the way Yahoo Publisher is not policing their own ToS either. http://www.webproworld.com/viewtopic.php?t=63887 is the thread where it is explained further.

Re: Questioning Parked Domains and Google AdNonSense Ram Mohan  –  May 30, 2006 10:17 PM PDT

It is too easy to label Google and Yahoo "big greedy corporations" and just feed into the common hype about how big companies don't care to be ethically and socially responsible.

In the case of ghost content, if Google and Yahoo do "nothing", over time the value of their ad networks and their own value proposition will reduce.

In the late 90's the equivalent of this was "affiliate networks" that simply existed to route normal orders using affiliate links.  Over time though, program managers got savvy and now you don't hear much hue and cry about major affiliate fraud anymore.

History repeats itself.

Re: Questioning Parked Domains and Google AdNonSense Chris McElroy  –  May 30, 2006 11:01 PM PDT

I hope you are right Ram. But about the big greedy corporation thing, think walmart.

Not policing their tos is doing more than hurting their program, it's hurting the Internet in general.

You can hardly do research on the web anymore without finding garbage sites getting top 10 listings in google for the search terms.

I got tired of sorting through the garbage and no longer "google it" to find what I want.

I hope that in a couple of years we will be talking about google the way we now talk fondly of Veronica.

Re: Questioning Parked Domains and Google AdNonSense Ram Mohan  –  May 30, 2006 11:17 PM PDT

Chris, I think corporate economic interests push to make folks like Google stay on their toes - after all, if users like you and me stop Googling, they're going to lose their market cap.

Veronica was cool, but it didn't have to make money!

Re: Questioning Parked Domains and Google AdNonSense Chris McElroy  –  May 30, 2006 11:35 PM PDT

Yeah I do miss the gophers! And you are right, the users will migrate and from what I read in forums and I'm not talking about techie or webmaster forums, many people are moving toward MSN, ASK, and others.

Never thought I'd be rooting for Microsoft to be moving up but google needs some stiff competition.

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