So, today I happened to search for a “pump” phrase and saw something surprising in the paid results:
These ads look oddly similar, don’t they? In fact, they’re almost identical. They’re clearly all coming from the same advertiser. A look at the sidebar ads shows an even more alarming picture:
Pretty much identical ad text, format, everything. When I saw this, I wondered who would have the mind to do something like this. I mean, AdWords usually doesn’t like it when advertisers make a bunch of AdWords accounts targeting the exact same keywords with the exact same ad copy and just using different domains. Right?
So I clicked on all the ads. They’re all Dex. If you’re not familiar with Dex or DexKnows, it’s basically Yellow Pages with online listings. The advertisers have the option to advertise online, so Dex puts up a template site with some content around the description of the business and the business details, then runs AdWords ads to those sites. The sites, by the way, have “noindex” and “nofollow” rel attributes. So they don’t compete in organic search for the business listings on Dex’s own website.
To me, this doesn’t look great. The ad copy sucks. And since all the ads are identical, there’s no differentiation between the businesses. From Dex’s standpoint, that makes sense because they don’t want advertisers complaining that someone else’s ads are better. Plus, it makes automation really easy on Dex’s side. Still, the quality is low, the landing pages are thin and weak and the actual business owners don’t know any better – or don’t care.
It’s somewhat interesting that Google is okay with this. Of course, they make a lot of money on it, so why would they intervene? But I have a feeling that if a consultant like me, or even a small agency, was making hundreds of accounts with identical targeting and ad copy going to thin landing pages on hundreds of different domains all with the same owner in the whois… the AdWords team might have an issue with that.