Google Adwords placement reports are purposely vague about ads on parked domain names, but why?
I just finished reviewing a Google Adwords “placement” report. This new report was introduced a few months ago to let advertisers see which pages their contextually targeted ads are showing up on and how they are performing. It can be very helpful. For each site your ad is placed on you can see the number of impressions, clicks, and cost. If you have conversion tracking enabled you can even see your cost per conversion. If a web site showing your ads is performing poorly you can disable it. (You’d be surprised at which sites perform best — some of the most unattractive sites result in the most conversions!)
But one thing puzzles me about this report. Instead of showing which parked domains your ads show up on, Google lumps them together in a category called “Domain Ads” (see graphic below).
There’s no transparency for parked domains. I use a separate program that tracks clicks in greater detail and shows me which parked domains my clicks and conversions come from. It lets me see which parked domains are actually generating traffic.
Why does Google hide this information? After all, Google authorized a case study showing how well parked domains convert. Although I have questions about the case study, I believe parked domains do convert well. Using my stats program I can see that some of the parked domains do result in conversions. Another reason I think these ads perform well is my experience with the Roar advertising network from Fabulous. I receive good conversions on this network, which I always assumed placed ads on domains parked at Fabulous. But I recently found out these Roar ads show up on pop-ups from Fabulous sites. If a click on a pop-up from a parked site converts well, then certainly a click on the main parked page converts well!
(There are parked domains that peform poorly, however. Based on my stats these are likely fraudulant sites. Consider a domain like some-parked-domain.com with multiple hyphens. When I research these parked domains and see no site history and no incoming links, I have to assume the clicks I’m getting from it are fraudulant. Also, many of the sites in Google’s search network are even worse. I find it hard to believe that dexsearch.com has the search volume its clicks would indicate. Since Dexsearch.com doesn’t show up in my content listings report, it must be in the search network.)
That drives me to one plausible reason why the individual domains are not being shown. The reason Google doesn’t break out the domain ads is to prevent people from seeing the typo and trademark domains their ads are showing up on. Imagine the look on an advertiser’s face when they see their advertising dollars being paid out to a typo of their domain. (Not that this is a bad use of advertising money, mind you…but that’s a different story.)
With Google promisng to allow an opt-out of domai ads, the domain industry needs this transparency. Those of use with good quality domains will be rewarded; bottom feeders who are gaming the system will be cut out.
Ok, you bring up a great point here. What is the name of the “seperate program” you use to find out exactly where your clicks came from??? It seems like that would be so helpful in weeding out the click fraud sites.
Here’s the program I use:
It’s not perfect, but it gives you a lot better data than you get from Google
Johnny B. Good says
I think Google may not be breaking out the parked domains for two other reasons as well:
1. If the advertisers are able to zone in on particular parked sites and cut out 25% of the sites that are probably really just junky, non-converting sites, then that percentage of the parking gravy train is over for Google. Why not ride it out until the dam is ready to break, and then announce better tracking?
2. Domains probably convert better and Google is scared of this – it could lead to a mass exodus to something like Sendori, etc…, thus crushing the Google stock price. Also, relating to point #1, if the junky, non-converting sites are eliminated from the mix then Google’s grouped “Domain Ads” category’s conversion rate may go though the roof, thus showing the advertisers that the real “gold” is in the cream-of-the-crop parked domains and not necessarily Google.
Johnny B. Good
Hmmm…if domain ads convert that well, then I think Google would pump that up because it has so much of the PPC market for domain names. If it goes after more of the parked domains and shows they convert well it will earn more money.
One thing I don’t buy is that paid parking sites somehow ad more value to the user than a Google results page with organic and paid results. If that were the case, Google would only show ads. That may result in better conversions for advertisers, but a worse experience for searchers…resulting in people leaving Google altogether. If organic listings didn’t matter to the user then Google wouldn’t be #1.
Johnny B. Good says
I have been thinking for quite some time about what all this shadowy business is about with Google and Yahoo. It’s being done for a reason, most likely sinister, and I can’t get that notion out of my head.
If domains do convert better and the advertisers come to know this one day, they will by evolution in the marketplace, gravitate to the medium that is most fluid and aligned with the domain market, which currently is not Google or Yahoo since they have secretly kept our payout mathematics hidden. Thus Sendori or some other monetization scheme could steal some domain thunder if this is the case – especially if Google and Yahoo don’t wise up. Payouts for domainers could be much, much higher working more closely with the advertisers.
If the domains convert WORSE than regular search, and, say, Yahoo stopped syndicating ads to domains, then conceiveably Yahoo Search could convert better than the big Google “search umbrella”, giving them a “Higher Conversion” reputation and an advantage over Google. I don’t see domains as a whole converting worse, or domainers would have been marginalized some time back to FindWhat or something down the totem pole.
Also, if direct navigation is truely growing as implied by the behemoth domain companies, then direct navigation could become more popular than using a search engine. It’s logical. It cuts out steps in the search process, and let’s face it people are lazy, and that is also one reasion why short domains are popular:
1. Type in Parked Domain Name > Click on Ad Link > Search Site. Three Steps Total.
2. Type in Favorite Search Engine > Type Terms in Search Query Box > Click Search > Click on Ad or Organic Link > Search Site. Five steps total.
The generic domains are like going to the library and using and index card to find what you want. Search engines are really not even necessary. I also can totally see organic listings on many parked domains one day that have increased traffic because of the organic listings, and other enhancements, thus meaning higher revenues. Maybe a network where many domainers are a member and the public comes to trust the seal of quality on the sites.
I see Google and Yahoo becoming relegated to servicing domainers like the current domain parking companies are doing right now, but maybe with a bit more ingenuity extended to the domains, like Google Earth, Email, Maps, Personals, etc… all managed by them for you and I. If they don’t do it, someone else will for us 🙂
These problems, and much more regarding domains, are what I believe Google is scared of. How does Google tackle this if they are already king of the hill? This is how: You keep everyone in the dark as long as possible and you ride that gravy train until figure out a solution to that pesty little problem of the growing legions of domainers. Wait until there are one million domainers and half a billion parked domains, what then? Who’s stronger Google or the Domainers? If we can remove the traffic we can control the destiny, and Google then takes a back seat. The battle then begins, and thus the first real chapter of our saga!!! Stay tuned…..
Sorry I got a little excited and a little off the deep end in domain pondering! 🙂
Johnny B. Good
First, sorry for the late response. Your comment landed in my spam filter.
Your theory has merit, although I still point to the trademark issue as a plausible reason.
I also have one hole to poke in your “fewer steps” with parked domains comments. The parked domains only show ads, not organic listings. Often times ads are more targeted, but many times organic listings are (especially for long tail queries). Back in the days of GoTo, which was only paid listings, I would search its engine when I was trying to buy something. If I was just searching for something I would use another search engine.