Say Goodbye to Google Garbitrage
It's about time. Many (not all, but many) of these sites have been a thorn in my side for a long time now. I've been forced to reduce content network bids to a few pennies in many cases, and have had to shut off content entirely for a few ad groups. Doing that basically amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater - but I didn't have another option, since (until recently) I couldn't see what sites were sending us content traffic, and I couldn't afford to pay for the garbitrage. Legitimate, converting publishers were inevitably cut off in the process.
I was thrilled to be asked a couple of months ago to participate in the beta test of Google's Placement Performance report (explanation and screen shots at Marketing Pilgrim). From this, I discovered that our ads were appearing on over 7,000 content sites. 95% of the sites are no problem at all - either they convert, or they don't send us any measurable traffic (which is fine). However, there was a handful of sites that were performing extremely badly, and I was able to quickly eliminate them via Site Exclusion after reviewing the report. Better yet, I've been slowly increasing my content CPCs for better positioning. I can do this with confidence now, knowing I can find the deadbeats quickly and easily, and block them.
Giving the garbitrage sites the boot was a logical step for Google. They know which sites are being excluded by significant numbers of advertisers. And, as Brad Geddes at eWhisper surmises, the timing is interesting at a minimum. It appears Google decided to proactively remove the bad sites before releasing the Placement Performance report to the masses, saving us all a bunch of headaches (and probably greatly reducing the load on their Site Exclusion server).
Bravo, Google. Once again you have set the bar for the competition, and once again they are moving at a snail's pace compared to your warp-speed rollout of new and useful features.
This news has been pretty well covered in the SEM blogs. Some good summaries are at Search Engine Watch, JenSense, Search Engine Roundtable, and of course Webmaster World (better grab a cup of coffee and some snacks if you want to read the entire thread, as it spans 16 pages at the time of this writing!).