A Good Reason Not to Advertise on Reddit

With the amount of problems with major platforms for advertising online, looking for better alternatives makes sense. Recently we have been trying out advertising on Reddit again, to see if running ads on there is a good idea now. When setting up ads with their system, one thing that seems rather significant is that by default commenting on ads is disabled. Considering that discussion is a major part of Reddit, you might wonder why that is.

While we haven’t enabled commenting to see what happens, we got somewhat of an idea of what might happen, based on a contact form submission we received. The subject of the message was “You Dumb?” and the body read:

You Dumb? Seems like it. WTF you doing advertising Magento websites on Reddit and get a drop-off link a MS FrontPage 98 website?

Bitch, please.

Beyond the childish tone of the message (though likely from someone well into adulthood, considering the reference to MS FrontPage 98), the criticism leveled doesn’t make much sense. If you want to criticize the look of our website, fine, but we were not “advertising Magento websites”, but upgrading them. That is both clear in the ad and the landing page. The look of our website shouldn’t be all that relevant, since an upgrade shouldn’t change the look of a website. We would have pointed this out to whoever sent this, but they provided a bogus email address. Are there a lot of advertisers looking to reach people that are spending time doing something like that at 10pm on a weeknight? Probably not.

We have also received multiple messages from people clicking through our advertising on Reddit looking for services that were only tangentially related to what was being advertised and not related to anything we offer. Some of these messages were also not totally coherent.

If you are running advertising looking to take advantage of people, based on this, then Reddit might be a good option, but for legitimate advertisers it looks like a lot of who you could reach, wouldn’t be who you are interested in reaching.

Microsoft Advertising’s Dynamic Search Ads Fail to Deliver on Claim of Reaching Relevant Searches

Yesterday, we wrote about Microsoft poorly auto-generating ad copy for customers of their search advertising system. While it appears they haven’t done basic testing, as many of the ads generated for us are incoherent, among other issues, they have started auto-apply these ads. That is part of a larger initiative by Microsoft to automate the advertising process, where even what seems like it should be a lot easier to handle than generating ad copy, isn’t even close to being where it should be before being widely available.

Another piece of that involves dynamic search ads. Microsoft describes those with the following:

Dynamic search ads provide a streamlined, low-touch way to make sure customers searching on the Microsoft Search Network find your products or services.

In marketing these, Microsoft also claims they allow you to “[a]utomatically target relevant search queries based on the content of your website” and that they “can help you find customers searching for precisely what you offer”. At least in our case, based on the ten “search queries that could trigger your ad” they show right now, that isn’t true at all.

Four of the queries shown are hosting related, despite us not being in the hosting business:

  • wordpress vimeo hosting sixt
  • web hosting wordpress plans
  • best wordpress hosting sites
  • wordpress hosting

With one of those, “wordpress vimeo hosting sixt”, we couldn’t find what that would refer to.

Another could probably be classified similarly:

  • wordpress com

Another is website builder related, despite us also not being in the website builder business:

  • best website builder

Three queries involve software that we provide services for, but someone searching for just the name is not “searching for precisely what you offer”:

  • wordpress
  • magento
  • woocommerce

Since the services we offer involve things for people already using the software, it seems unlikely someone searching just on the name of it would be looking for that.

Finally, there is a query that doesn’t seem like it would be related to something for sale:

  • wordpress login

Overall, it looks like they have combined, for the most part, common searches that are very loosely related to what we offer. Having us advertise on those things seems like it makes sense for Microsoft, since they can make more money that way, but not for us, since it would target searches that have nothing to do with our business.

The saving grace with these two automated features is that they can be disabled, that isn’t true of other parts of the search advertising that overrule what advertisers want.

Microsoft Advertising Now Generating and Automatically Running Incoherent Ads for Customers

The quality of Microsoft’s search advertising system has gone down over time, as has Google’s, as they have taken more and more control away from advertisers. At best, they greatly overestimate the ability of their system to produce good results. At worst, they are intentionally doing things to increase their revenue, knowing that they are increasing costs for their customers while producing worse results for them.

About a month ago Microsoft announced they would start automatically running ads for customers generated by Microsoft, without the approval of customers. That seems rather ill-conceived idea, as they are putting words into the mouths of their customers. But much worse, looking at ads that have been generated for us, the implementation is even more ill-conceived, as the ads are often not even coherent.

When customers go to the Microsoft Ads web interface, they might now notice a somewhat vague message about this:

We’ve created recommended ad(s) which could improve your performance. Please review these recommendations as they may be eligible to automatically apply at a later date.

From there you can see up to 50 ad suggestions. While a few of the ones currently suggested to us are decent, most are not close to that. Here is one where the ad text looks like it mixed up the words install and upgrade:

Let Us Help You Install Your PrestaShop Installation to the Latest Version.As written, it doesn’t make sense.

In another example of this, this text seems like it should refer to second best instead of second chance:

Don't Settle for Second Chance. Call Us Today to Learn More!Somehow they are messing up phrases like that.

This ad text combines an incoherent message with this odd capitalization of a word with an apostrophe in it:

If You Can't Find a Better Price, We’Ll Give You the Best Price.It would appear their system isn’t advanced enough to understand not to add capitalization there.

Sometimes the headlines and ad text don’t go together, this headline makes no sense in the context of the service being advertised or the ad text:

Don't Trust Your Mediawiki | Until You Read Our Reviews - If You’Re Looking to Upgrade Your Mediawiki Installation, We Do the Rest.The ad text of this one claims we provide an alternative to something that isn’t a thing as far as we are aware:

Our Moodle Upgrade Service Is the Most Affordable Alternative to Existing Plugins.Others advertise services we don’t offer, like this one offering to install PrestaShop:

Let Us Take the Guesswork Out of Installing Your Prestashop. Call Today!Here is the ad text for another one, which, among other issues, emphatically claims we do something, which we don’t do:

If You Can't Find a Better Price on Concrete5 Installation, We Do It!Probably the worst ad though suggests we get websites hacked:
Don't Go Scammed | We Get Them HackedIt doesn’t look like Microsoft did basic testing before rolling out these generated ads.

Despite them creating this content, they have a notice in the documenation for that says that it is the customer’s content:

Any ads or content created by Microsoft Advertising as part of this program are subject to editorial review, and will remain your “Content” as defined by your Microsoft Advertising Agreement.

Bing Ads’ Unhelpful Information on Disapproved Price Extensions

Microsoft’s search advertising platform Bing Ads recently added a feature that has been available for some time with Google’s AdWords, price extensions. Those allow showing prices for various offering as part of ads. It looks like Microsoft is rolling out access to that over time as they launched last week and they were only available in our account earlier this week. After creating some, we had to wait several days for them to be reviewed. The result of the reviews was that all of them were disapproved. The explanation for those disapprovals was as follows:

The policy those extensions are apparently violating is the vaguely named, Ad Extension Policy Violation. Following the link takes you to a page that currently contains no information on price extensions.

Without any information related to them we have no way of knowing if there is actually some issue that we should be resolving before asking for them to be reviewed again.

The launch announcement did mention a couple of requirements for them, which the price extensions we created are in accordance with:

  • Prices used in Price Extensions must be available and visible on the landing page.
  • Description cannot be duplicated in the header. For example, “Women’s haircut” cannot be used for both the header and the description.

We contacted the Bing Ads’ support and let them know of the missing information, so hopefully that will be resolved before too many people run into this. In the meantime we wanted anyone else running in to this mysterious disapproval to know that they are not alone in that.

It would be an improvement if Microsoft would provide more clear information as to why something is disproved instead of just pointing to a broad category that encompasses a number of different issues.

Yahoo and Microsoft Receive Regulatory Clearance for Search Pact

Yahoo and Microsoft announced today that they had received regulatory clearance from US and European regulators. Under the pact Microsoft’s Bing search engine will power Yahoo Search and Microsoft’s AdCenter search advertising service will provide search ads to Yahoo Search. The companies had announced the pact in late July and reached a finalized agreement in December. The companies have set a goal of serving results from Bing in Yahoo Search in “at least the United States by the end of 2010”. The transition to serving ads from Microsoft’s advertising service in Yahoo Search is planned to occur “prior to the 2010 holiday season, but may wait until 2011 if they determine that the transition will be more effective after the holiday season”. They expect a full transition by early 2012. According to the companies, Yahoo will build its own “search experience” on top of Bing’s search results by “integrating rich Yahoo! content, enhanced listings with conveniently organized information about key topics, and tools to tailor the experience for Yahoo! users”

Online Advertising Dropped 5 Percent in First Quarter

Online advertising revenue was 5.5 Billion U.S. dollars in the first quarter, a decrease of 5 percent over the same period last year, according to a report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. This is the first time since 2002 that there has been a year over year decrease in revenue. First quarter revenue was 11 percent lower than the fourth quarter of 2008.

Google Adds Features and Introduces Ads to Google Suggest

Google has added features and tweaked its search suggestion tool Google Suggest. The tool, which was introduced last August, suggests search queries in a box below the search box as searcher begins typing in text. The tool was previously only available when making searches from the home page and has now been added to results page. On the results page, the few suggestion show relate to the current search query. For searchers that are logged into a Google account and have Web History enabled, Google may show some relevant past queries.

Google has also added and removed information that is shown in the suggestions box. To help the searcher scan the list the portion of suggested queries that searcher has not typed into the search box will be in bold text. If Google thinks that a searcher is looking to navigate directly to a website a link to that website will shown in the suggestion box. Google will also begin to show AdWords text ads in the suggestion box when they “detect that the most relevant completion for what you’re typing is an ad”. The ad will be shown at the bottom of the suggestion box in a colored box and identified as a “Sponsored Link”. Finally, Google will no longer include the result count for the suggestion listed in the suggestion box.

Microsoft Updates adCenter Tools, Content Ads Service Comes Out of Beta

Microsoft has released a number of updates to tools for their adCenter online advertising service and taken the Content Ads service out of beta in the United States. Some of the biggest changes occurred in adCenter’s campaign management tools. Customer targeting and incremental bidding can now be set campaign wide and default bids can now be set for ad groups. Microsoft also made updates to it account management tools and the adCenter Desktop (Beta) software.

The Content Ads service, which has been available to some advertisers since its beta release in 2006, places text ads on content websites in the same way Google’s AdWords service provides the option to show ads on the it’s Content Network. Currently the service only displays ads on small number of partner websites, including WSJ.com, RunnersWorld.com, and across the Microsoft network. Google’s Content Network reaches a broader set of websites but also include lower quality websites.

Google To Allow Trademarks in AdWords Ads

Google has announced that they are changing their policy on the use of trademarks in the text of AdWords ads in the U.S. Currently Google will show advertisements for words and phrases trademarked by other entities, but does not allow ads to use those trademarks in the text of ads. Beginning on June 15 the restriction of using trademarks in ad text will be removed as long as the ads meet certain criteria in both the Search and Content Networks. Those criteria require that the ads use the trademark in a “descriptive or generic way” or if the ads use the trademark in nominative way the advertiser must resell the trademarked good or service, sell “components, replacement parts or compatible products corresponding to a trademark”, or be an informational website. The new policy is comparable with the policies of Yahoo and Microsoft advertisings programs.

The change comes as Google faces continued legal challenges over the display of ads on searches for trademark words and phrases. The New York Times reports that a class-action lawsuit has been filed in Texas that challenges the policy. Legal experts told the New York Times that this was the first class-action lawsuit against Google over the policy. Another case, filed in 2005, related to the policy was recently reinstated by federal appeals court, reversing a decision by a district court. Google has previously reached settlements with a number of Companies, including American Airlines and Geico, over the policy.

Click Fraud Rate Dropped Significantly in First Quarter

Click Forensics today reported that the overall industry average click fraud rate for pay per click (PPC) advertising was 13.8 percent in the first quarter of 2009, down from 17.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 and 16.3 percent in the first quarter of 2008. The lowest rate in the past four quarters was 16 percent, in the third quarter of 2009. The president of Click Forensics, Tom Cuthbert, said that the drop in click fraud appears to be due to “the drop in keyword Cost Per Clicks (CPCs) and the progress Yahoo! and Google made blocking click fraud from botnet sources”. Click Forensics reported seeing an increase in click fraud from malicious JavaScript programs in the first quarter, with ad networks being especially vulnerable to attacks. Click Forensics gathers it’s data from online advertising campaigns for both large and small companies from both major search providers and over 300 ad networks.