U.S. readers will probably recognize “Consumer Reports” more than folks in other countries, but over here they’ve got quite a reputation for unbiased reporting and product testing as well as consumer advocacy.
On June 9, I will be speaking at a conference sponsored by Consumer Reports WebWatch titled
Trust or Consequence: How Failure to Disclose Ad Relationships Threatens to Burst the Search Bubble.
The discussion will center around the idea that search engines risk their credibility for the sake of short term gain, when they fail to fully disclose paid advertising relationships. I won’t go off on a long rant about why in the heck the words “Sponsored Listings” would be displayed in light gray text, because we all know why.
What I do plan to bring to the conference is a bit of perspective from advertisers. As much as searchers may be misled, deceived, or simply confused by what’s shown on the SERPs, what PPC providers don’t disclose to advertisers is just as disturbing in many cases.
How many PPC advertisers think they’re targeting search, when in fact a high percentage of their ad displays and click-throughs come from expired domains (or for a couple hilarious weeks, mistyped domains), pop-ups and pop-unders, adware/scumware, etc.? Do the PPC providers openly disclose this side of their distribution network, or do they sort of admit to “having a partnership” when they get cornered? Do they give advertisers any real control over it?
For those who are interested, a study from WebWatch on how and what search engines actually disclose: