When an in-house search engine marketer lovingly crafts a new paid search ad, spends time testing multiple ad texts, labors over search term lists to pick the perfect words, the last thing the advertiser wants is to have all that work help another site’s search engine optimization efforts. And yet, increasingly, I see AdWords ad text influencing unpaid search results for Google’s partner sites.
Here’s an example:
The Viator.com text snippet that is showing up in the natural search result description for TripAdvisor is actually an AdWords ad from Viator that is displaying on TripAdvisor, a Google search partner.
If it happens once it’s news, twice it’s a coincidence and three times, it’s a trend. I’ve seen this issue cropping up more than a few times now, and launched on an exploration of how to fix it.
Marketer and partner try to solve the problem
The site and category exclusion tool in Google AdWords only allows for excluding content network sites, not search partners. At the campaign level, it is possible to target Google search only and exclude search partners, but that change would significantly impact all search partners, not just the partner gaining search engine optimization benefits. As an advertiser, I don’t think its fair that I’d have to lose all search partners to solve the issue of my content appearing on one of them.
Even if I could exclude a partner, frankly, the targeting is not the issue; the problem is that advertisers don’t want the sites their ads are showing on to derive SEO benefits from the advertiser’s marketing work on writing a relevant, keyword rich ad, not that advertisers don’t want their ads on that partner’s site. The advertising relationship is great, advertisers just didn’t sign up for the SEO relationship. I want to keep Viator’s ad appearing on TripAdvisor, I just want it to stop showing up in the search results text for them.
Can TripAdvisor (the advertising partner) solve the problem? The travel vertical is a small world and we know TripAdvisor, so we reached out on the issue. TripAdvisor was happy to chat and pointed out that they have implemented the AdSense API according to Google’s instructions and aren’t trying to derive any additional SEO benefit out of the paid search copy. In fact, they have spend a lot of time working on optimizing their site, including writing optimized meta descriptions, which they’d much prefer to show up in the search results rather than broken snippets of AdSense text.
Both advertiser and partner agree that the paid search results should not be used in any way to determine or display natural search rankings, but it seems neither party can directly resolve the issue.
Over to you, Google
Perhaps Google should have addressed this issue from the start. Google solidly claims that paid search and unpaid search are totally separate entities and never the twain shall meet, but in this case they seem to be uneasy bedfellows. How different is a paid search advertisement from a paid link (a practice Google does not condone for SEO) on someone’s site?
If a paid link represents trying to buy your way into natural search rankings, doesn’t a paid ad from AdWords that impacts natural search results represent something similar?
In-house search engine marketers should assess if this is occurring for their AdWords ads. If so, is it impacting their paid search program performance or the performance of their company’s natural search results?
Now that I’ve noticed the trend, I see examples more and more, but I don’t think the issue is yet at a pandemic level. The bottom line is that Google should be excluding its AdSense API, or really any advertising, from natural search results.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.