22 April 2008

Google - it's all about money

Grrr! That must be the tenth automated email I've had from Google Adwords this morning. Same as yesterday and the day before.

I use Adwords from time to time to run short ad campaigns for Travel-Lists. I pay a lump sum in advance by BACS transfer and when it runs out (usually in a month or two) I top it up, or not.

Of course, like most businesses, Google hates this. They want me to set up a direct debit so it just keeps feeding them cash. Hence the deluge of emails reminding me to "update my account details" or pointing out that my ads have been suspended.

I'm struck by the contrast with my own business approach.

In recent weeks I've been adding a hidden comment about 'Google link condoms' on my list pages at Travel-Lists as I update them. (You can see it if you go, for example, to my list of visa & passport agencies and press the 'view source' button on your browser.)

Why is it hidden? Well it is just for the interest of people who like to check the source code of pages, and one of the most common reasons for doing that is to see how a site deals with links - are they counted or followed by search engines? Do they have a commission-earning affiliation code on them?

Google is hunting down links that are paid for (good idea) and its primary hunting grounds are any online directories with an e-commerce page.

Eek! That's us!

The only way to avoid being dumped from Google is to use their link condom code (rel="nofollow"), which in effect says "don't count this link as a vote for the target site" - the primary reason to sell/buy a link.

Well, I'm not too bothered about that. The site is not built for travel companies, it is built for consumers. I'm not selling links. But I am selling my time to people who want to be reviewed. What they get is traffic (ideally like the operator who tells me he sold a £40,000 package from a Travel-Lists referral, or the one who dithered about submitting and then, when he did, got his first sale within 24hrs). Less than 2% of the listings on Travel-Lists arrive there through a submission, and 12% of those who submit are not accepted.

So, in effect Google, by default, wrongly accuses me of selling links for money......while spamming my intray with emails pestering me for money for their paid links.

Like I say..... Grrr!

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