Why People Hate Us


needle_in_haystack_small.jpgDM CONFIDENTIAL — A few years ago, I remember having a conversation with the folks at affair of ad:tech. At this particular show, they were explaining to me one of the more recently launched products aimed at content owners who wanted to leverage search to drive more visitors. It was especially geared towards newspaper sites who produce timely and ever changing material. I believe the client they had at the time was the NY Times (or a similar publication), and I thought it was a great application of their technology and expertise, along with a way to generate truly relevant ads. Part of being a content publisher is mindshare and expertise. For better or worse, you can’t always rely on organic listings for that, but for many, trying to push ads on a regular basis manually would be daunting and unwieldy at best.

I was reminded of Reprise when reading my Gmail earlier this week and seeing the following ad.


RIP George Carlin.


George Carlin Has Passed Away But Will He Be Remembered? Vote Now


The above, though, is definitely not Reprise Media, and judging by the ad copy, it’s most likely not any large content publisher. A quick visit to the root domain confirms that the site isn’t in the news business, as nothing but Google Analytics loads. From the copy to the call to action, though, this ad has performance marketer written all over it. If you had to make a guess, what would you say the end goal of the site would be? The topic doesn’t have a political edge to it or a self help angle so popular with frequent AdWords and quiz/survey advertisers NewsMax.com and LifeScript respectively. The ad does want you to vote still, and there’s a certain segment of the performance-based advertising industry that has in the past liked to try and create an emotional response and drive a call to action. Let’s see about this ad.

Clicking on the ad confirms this as it takes you to the following landing page –

Those familiar with arbitrage will recognize the look and feel of this page right away. Chances are that a number of you had a pretty good idea that the ultimate aim of the site would be driving conversions for an incentive promotion offer just from reading the ad text. In case you still had some doubt, the proof is on the landing page, as it says, “Get a free gift just for participating” and “Enter your zip code on the next page to continue.”  A click on either yes or no leads you to the next page, a World Avenue fka The Useful run site.

Note: The affiliate frames this page, so you wouldn’t know that it’s a World Avenue site unless you viewed the bottom frame in a separate tab/window.

Unlike some, my surprise at this ad didn’t have to do with its obvious use of a passing comedic legend to make a quick buck (probably $250 if I had to guess). No, my surprise came from the fact that this ad and landing page combo still ran and garnered impressions at a cost-effective (read: Quality Score effective) price. The quiz ad+lander are part of a dying breed of search strategies to promote incentive promotion offers. As mentioned before, there are a few other sites still leveraging the quiz format in their ad text and landing page, but they are larger content sites who don’t have a directly visible revenue engine driving it. With this style, Google has done a pretty effective job of shutting down similar thin affiliate sites.

Sites like these used to work well up until about the middle of 2006 I believe. I remember a period around that time when one affiliate network offered a huge price increase on a Blockbuster offer. Within days, the search results were littered with thin affiliate pages, each slightly different from the next, some with basic site infrastructure and technological underpinnings, others not. When looking at Votethenews, it seems like they might have some infrastructure. The page design screams template (not always a bad thing, i.e., potential sophistication if automated). The linking structure seems automatically generated as well. Look at the bottom and you see George Carlin Information | Bio | News | Privacy Policy | Disclosure Information | George Carlin on Wikipedia. The first two and last look as though they get swapped out automatically based on the template. It wouldn’t be too far off to think that the company behind this, Traffic Ignite (according to whois information) has built hundreds of similar pages.

Clicking on a few of the links, though, suggests something different.

  • They have the right link structure (http://www.voteonthenews.com/carlin/google/info.html), but unfortunately the content is for another one of their survey pages – an Iraq War Poll.
  • In structure, it looks just like their phony voting system, which judging by the link – http://www.voteonthenews.com/carlin/google/vote.php – would seem as those they conduct an actual poll. Clicking on the vote.php page simply frames the incentive promotion offer. With the “info” page, there isn’t a framed page simply the wrong content. It was rushed, sloppy, and lazy.

On a whim, I changed http://www.voteonthenews.com/carlin/google/info.html to http://www.voteonthenews.com/iraq/google/info.html and it returned the expected page, the “poll” for the Iraq War. Another sign of their sloppiness is at the bottom of the page.

  • On the Carlin page, you will find this under the links:

Disclaimer: this website is not endorsed by, nor does it have any connection with, Tila Tequila, or any of the individuals, parties, or organizations named or quoted herein. This poll is for entertainment only and is not scientifically valid.

  • The Iraqi page has the following:

Disclaimer: this website is not endorsed by, nor does it have any connection with, Beyonce Knowles, or any of the individuals, parties, or organizations named or quoted herein. This poll is for entertainment only and is not scientifically valid.

Votethenews.com isn’t just a question of thin affiliate. It’s a glaring example of why Google hates affiliate marketing and is all too happy to create policies that wipe out legitimate affiliates, ones who have built out full content sites, real trivia functionality, and have expenses beyond one person’s time for an hour while they modify a page for the latest newsworthy keyword. I support affiliate marketing and am a big fan of arbitrage. But, execution like this is taking the easy way out and damaging legitimate companies, because in Google’s eyes, they look the same. It doesn’t help our cause that the subject matter is a sensitive one and that the end goal is an unrelated offer makes the performance industry as a whole look tactless. This isn’t something we can police, nor would it be wise, but if you ever wonder why we don’t receive the respect we might think we should, all it takes is a few of these.

As for the George Carlin ad run by a newspaper, that I found by doing a search on Google itself –

George Carlin: 1937-2008

The New York Times remembers

the ground-breaking comedian


Courtesy of DM Confidential.


  1. Jay,

    Thank you for pointing out non-compliant offers being run by our affiliates. The affiliate running those promotions was terminated for failure to abide by our policies.

    We value feedback from industry experts and commentators like you and invite you to contact us directly at Communications@TheUseful.com with any questions or comments.

    Thank you,
    Linda Parlon
    Corporate Communications Manager


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