Google has removed an adword on its search engine placed by a competitor to its Gmail service.
AlienCamel, an Australia-based email service (full disclosure: I use the service), applied to have the word ‘webmail’, along with several others, inserted into the ‘sponsored links’ section of Google’s search pages when people entered the search ‘webmail’. After initially accepting the ad, AlienCamel’s Sydney Low says, it was removed without explanation. Other keywords — white list, virus, spam, spamming etc were accepted. “It’s so arbitrary,” Low says.
(Low says an ad for the keyword ‘gmail’ was also rejected out of hand; this could be explained as a trademark issue, though Low points out that Google has stated that it will not adjudicate trademark issues. But I won’t get into that here.)
Any search for ‘webmail’ on Google throws up only one ad for —– Gmail. Google decline to comment on specific cases, but a spokesman replied to my query about the ‘webmail’ query thus:
As you may know, Google AdWords ads have a performance threshold to ensure relevance and protect the user experience and help advertisers get the best return from their advertising spend. That is, if an ad doesn’t receive a minimum click-through rate it is disabled. Again, I can’t comment on specifics but this often happens with general keywords like “webmail”. The advertisers has the option to revise keywords or ad text to continue to run.
In other words, if the advertiser is not getting enough clickthroughs from an ad, Google suspends it. But apparently, without telling them. But even if this were the real reason, is it true in AlienCamel’s case? No, says Syd Low: “They ran my ad on 1 day, between June 8th and 14th, gave it 841 impressions and then killed the ad.” The ad got one clickthrough on that day. Not great, but not awful in the first day. His point: he’d like to see how many click throughs the Gmail ad for the same keyword got. “I bet you it wasn’t any better. My point is that they are negatively favouring their own ads and not applying their own policies.
I would have agree that Google’s answer seems lame. Can it be that no one — AlienCamel aside — wants to advertise on the word ‘webmail’, or if they did, that they can get enough clickthroughs from it to justify the cost? Even the words ‘web mail’ hav some sponsors — I get five on my Hong Kong-directed Google search, three from Hong Kong itself, one Google and another more global. And if this is the correct explanation, why wasn’t AlienCamel told? (At time of posting they have not received any answer to their request for explanation.)
Given that the adword ‘webmail’ does not fall into any of the categories that Google lists as unacceptable content, and it does not constitute a trademark term, which might otherwise have explained Google’s removal of the term, one might be forgiven for suspecting that Google is using its position to elbow out potential competitors to a parallel service it offers. I think Google owes AlienCamel, and us, a better explanation.