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December 13, 2005



Chris, how much will you pay us not to click on your ad?

Dave Jackson

Unfortunately, you haven't accomplished anything of value to visitors to the search engine. Branding never occurs because your ad gets associated with something the visitor doesn't want.

It's like the proverbial junk mail you always toss but never take time to read.


what you can do is check for keywords that people are looking for ,really cheap market research exercise

Ken Evoy

Hi Chris,

I'm a huge fan. You have affected my thinking, which affects hundreds of thousands of our customers. The Long Tail has a whip to it, it would seem. About today's post...

Careful, you're playing in the land of "Internet marketers." ;-)

Chris, there are folks who do nothing but drive Google mad with stuff like this. Unlike you, who do it for fun and the intellectual thrill, they do it for money.

Your fun little experiment pointed out just one of Google's many under-publicized problems. This one is pretty small, yes, but, folks do spend a lot of time (below minimum wage if you worked it out, I'm sure) on how to get brand value in exactly this way.

But Google's biggest under-publicized problem is their single monetization model (so far), even if that income is driven by the long tail of small business advertisers. Click fraud is bigger than anyone is letting on. Yet the stock market sees only Google's upside -- a classic bubble.

Chris, there's a lot about the Internet that the big media either doesn't see or chooses not to, I'm not sure why. For example...

There's a soft underbelly to the Internet that "big media" doesn't tell the world about, from the risks of investing in Google, to VISA and Mastercard and AMEX who don't give a hoot if merchants are defrauded regularly. We were hit last year by a sophisticated gang of credit card washers (they buy your cheapest digital item and never download it -- they drop the cards that fail, they buy high-ticket items with the ones that work). We handled them the way Google would have, I'm proud to say -- we used them as testers to improve our entire order-taking and fraud-prevention system. But here's the truly revolting part...

We also reported every single fraudulent (but real, right down to the full IDD and CVV) credit card. Hundreds of them. No one at VISA, MC or AMEX cared, didn't want them! Why?

Because the merchant gets hit with the chargeback AND even, of course, covers what the customer would have lost. The media, who loves publishing how consumers get the shaft, don't care about how business is the one that takes the total hit on "Internet fraud," including the ridiculous negative publicity about how dangerous it is to buy anything on the Web via credit card.

Anyway, I could rant on and on.

All this to say, Chris, that you have just spotted a very slight break in the Matrix. Ask me to tell you some day about the "invisible" Internet that you don't see, not the "neat one," but the one that you don't want to see. We're running our own spider right now and the number of manufactured/automated porn pages, "burp blogs" (those who report every burp and random thought in their blogs) and other stuff that merely litters the Information Superhighway is stunning.

Chris, the blue pill or the red? Careful, all is not as it seems.

Somehow, through it all, it works. What a wonderful time to be alive. Thank YOU for adding to the wisdom of the Web and stimulating me every time you post.

All the best,
Ken Evoy

Zach Tirrell

I've been reading your blog for awhile now. Your thoughts about the long tail are great. This post however doesn't stand up to the rest...

You have not hacked Google or discovered a "loophole". In terms of internet marketing, no one pays attention to impressions in units less than 1000. In fact, CPM or ECPM is measured in 1000s.

All you've become is one more unsuccessful Google advertiser. Also for reference, if you were to buy ads from some other internet marketer, at a CPM rate, you could probably buy in easy at $2.00. That means $2 for 1000 impressions, and those would potentially be targeted to your actual audience.

You've placed an ugly bumper sticker on a rarely used bathroom stall.

Chris Anderson

I'm glad some of you noticed that I was joking with my title and conclusion--I do realize that this little exercise was trivial and probably produced no actual economic benefit. It's just a tiny little consequence of pay-per-click; if it were a big loophole I'm sure Google would close it.

But to those who have criticized this as "untargeted" advertising, a quick correction. It's highly targeted. The keywords I picked are relevent to the subject matter and likely to be entered by the sort of sophisticated searchers I'm trying to reach. I won't say what those words and phrases are, because I really don't want people to click on the ads, but you can probably guess at some of them.


Chris, Wait for a few weeks and you will see your minimum CPC to get bumped to $4 or so...By that time, taking into account the occasional click your effective CPM (cost per 100 impressions) would be adjusted to a fair market value!.

Chris Anderson

I wonder if all those "Buy Golden Gate Bridges [or any other search term, no matter how inappropriate] on Ebay" ads are actually taking advantage of this phenomena of free impressions for brand-building. I can't imagine many people clicking on them.


No Chris, thats not brand building as most of those ads are run by ebay affiliates and trust me they have little interest in branding...

Those affiliates normally compile several million keywords and dump them all into their adword accounts and since ebay sell some gazellion items somehow many of those keywords would be relevent. They non-relevent keywords will be removed slowly (thro automated methods suing API's) by comparing the CTR/conversion data.

Zach Tirrell

CPM is 1000:

M is latin, but Gopi is entiely correct in that over any reasonable amount of traffic, your ECPM will end up pretty much fair market value.


Zach, sorry it was a typo!...Thanks for noticing.

Chris, Actually this may be new for you but there are many people who try to trick adwords for free branding but with little success.

There is another related trick where people try to sell high ticket items like say credit cards against low cost high volume keywords . As far as i know this is also very tough to sustain profitably long term (BTB long term in the SE marketing world is a month or so).

Brian Turner

You haven't outsmarted Google - you just rediscovered an old banner advertising model not everybody knew about who should have. :)

Tom Evslin

This loophole actually benefits Google AND its advertiser when an ad runs on a blog and gets free exposures on the blogger's site in return for a pittance of click revenue (from the blogger's POV)- all of which revenue aggegates to Google from the long tail of blogger's inventory which Google doesn't mind giving away most of the time in order to collect click revenue some of the time.


Love the blog, analysis, etc.

I don't see why this is a "loophole." This is like remnant space in print advertising - the publisher is much more willing to take a flyer on maybe making some money on the space than letting it lie fallow. Not coincidentally, remnant or less-desirable space/airtime is also the most common place to find PO or PI deals for advertising in "old" media.

Similarly, if there isn't anybody offering better CPC and more-relevant ads for a given search or content page, what's the opportunity cost for google (or the publisher) to serve up "bad" ads? The potential that they _might_ be clicked seems to outweigh the value of having white space there instead.


I'll add that Google's days as a wonder tool for small business are over. Both Adwords and Adsense performance has gone through the floor over the past 18 months. You can read a long list of posts on this topic starting here http://smartstartup.typepad.com/my_weblog/2005/12/my_new_nongoogl.html


I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading this article very much. As a new adsense publisher it helped me take a look into the almost invisible underbelly of Google, the one that never gets reported.

It was said a few messages above but stories like these never get out, possibly for the fact that it would damage a lot of people if it did. It seems in the internet world just as the real world that problems are swept under the carpet as long as they aren't causing too much of a fuss.


I'm not sure this would work anymore - maybe Google changed something. I just did an experiment with adwords to see if they could be helpful promoting my music (which is pretty far down the long tail!).

They seem to jack up the price pretty quickly if you don't get any clicks.

Details in my google blog entry if you're interested.

Mark C.

I "cheated" Google a couple years ago and I was banned for life from Adwords with no comment or explanation ( though I know the reason, of course). I knew a handful of people who also knew this method. Let's just say it resulted in 1000s of actual free clicks due to a Daily Budget Loophole.

I knew Google Adwords was worthless for me ( if paying full price) as a PPC because of the actual supposed value of the clicks.

federico-hans magnusson

Sorry to say this, but funnily enough it seems to me that what you have discovered here is nothing else than a long tail effect, rather than a Google loophole.
Displaying those ads costs virtually nothing to Google. Even if they barely receive a couple of clicks now and then, still those clicks make a little profit for Google. And of course, the number of such ads/advertisers is so huge that, all combined, they significantly improve the quarterly bottom line. If I was Google I would definitely refrain from removing such a 'loophole', especially after reading your great book.


I ran a legitimate operation buying Ad Words ads and plugging them straight into my amazon associates account for referrals. This worked great for 2 quarters making $300 and then $1000 profits respectively... then the third quarter it went south. I was about 1/2 way through the quarter on track for about $3000 profit and Amazon shut me down. They e'mailed I was in violation of their trademark but I never registered Amazon or any variation with the search engine and, in fact, had amazon as a negative keyword so that if someone searched for it specifically my ads would not pop up. Amazon killed me without warning, deleted my account, confiscated my accrued commissions (over $1400.00) and has not responded to any correspondence.

After paying for the AdWord's clicks I broke even over-all but I really think Amazon's handling of this was pretty crappy. I created and paid-for quality qualifying ads that were driving quality traffic to their site within the terms of the Amazon Associate's operating agreement and they shut me down and won't even respond to e'mails.

Score one for Golliath, I guess.


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The Amazon affiliate AdWords campaign you ran for a shot period is an interesting case. In my opion, that AdWords campaign was not a loophole at all or even a way to skirt the established system. As a reseller of a reseller, you were competing in the same advertising space as Amazon. Their unfair treatment of you was a strategic reaction to a downward margin spiral. Not only did they have to pay more in Google for their own key word buys, but they had to pay an additional percentage of each sale to you. Further, imagine the chaos at Google if that continued unabated. Anyway, Amazon is not the only reseller that was financially hurt by your AdWords practice.

Affiliates still have profit potential but it will not be as easy. An Amazon affiliate can still make cash if they buy a highly-targeted domain name, publish some content and then link to individual buy links. For example, if you had "StephenKingTitles.com" you could list all of that author's titles on the home page that are currently being sold and then link to the buy pages of your affiliate status at Amazon. Then, you would buy Key Words in Google and link to your homepage at "StephenKingTitles.com". When the key words purchased match the domain, amazing click-through percentages happen. The only problem is, there is not enough internet real estate to go around and the traffic to highly targeted key words is minimal. Long tail indeed!!

Perhaps the above is stating the obvious because its old news: Google killed affiliate advertising early last year. The entire affiliate marketing model was at risk if Google allowed that practice to continue. In my opinion, there were enough big resellers like Amazon who may have complained to Google....

jeff paul

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Can anyone help me with this question? An advertiser gets 1000 impressions with NO clicks, but accrues $300 in spend. What happened?

Kingston Memory

I'm not 100% positive but it looks like you exceeded the value that was allowable for that variable. Even if the programming´╗┐ language you are using doesn't require explicit variable type declarations (in other words, isn't strongly typed) the compilers whether working on the fly have to set an internal variable range which could easily break the program if exceeded. If you're interested in programming, you should check out some C tutorials. This all would make a lot more sense.

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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