Do we need to go “Back to Basics”?

8 05 2012

When did we lose our way in the PPC xml ad network industry? Right now I see disarray as everyone tries to regroup after the latest Google algo change or study saying the glory days are over. Plartforms are making changes to protect their bottom line while PPC’s continue to drop and advertisers continue to protect their assets by committing reverse fraud.
The numbers we are using are all being supplied by a company that has a huge conflict of interest in the numbers it is reporting yet no one seems to care. Advertisers know they will be protected by this company because they need them to keep their reputation as an industry leader so everyone else walks off the edge of the cliff blindly following the numbers provided because they are the industry leader.
Meanwhile everytime an advertiser steps out of line and complains they are seeing abnormalities in the numbers we create a new filter to catch the suspected fraudsters while at the same time blocking some of the good traffic in an over zealous attempt to please the advertisers.
When did we get away from the basics of this industry and forget why the advertisers came to PPC in the first place. Here is the basic idea I was trained to understand back in the early stages of PPC xml. I came from a broadcasting background so much of this made perfect sense then. See if it still does to you now.

Online advertising and most notably contextual advertising came to be whenYahoo and Google fired the first shots with the AdSense and AdWords products. Both were an easy way for advertisers to display their listings in a “premium” manner next to organic results as “paid advertisements”. These quickly spread to websites, blogs and other sites wishing to monetize their traffic and content. The boom had started and enter the fraudsters and “competitive clicking”. Because this was in the early days, click reports looked like three or four column spreadsheets that displayed website visits, clicks and revenue generated per click. The advertiser paid and everyone as happy. Soon after that someone got the idea to track the clicks and place “cookies” on the visitors computer so they could then contact them again with follow up offers and begin to collect a database of visitors to their site and ads.These could be a goldmine of targeted customers. But something interesting and ugly came from this. It was found that for some of the ads the clicks were coming from competitors trying to deplete ad budgets and get the ads off the internet by running out the budgets.Worse was that some of the website owners displaying the ads or ad networks acting as middle men or agencies began creating “bots” to click on the ads to run up the revenues and depleting the budgets.
Enter the Filters – thus began the creating of user agent filters, mouse movement filters, later it was screen size filters, then cookie filters to detect if the cookies were able to be placed, the javascript filters and more. As the filters got more sophisticated so did the fraud. Pretty soon Advertisers were yelling “wolf” at everything that didn’t convert. This is where other markets like CPA or CPE came into being. Different action required for the site owner to get paid for the action or execution by the visitor. It is also the place where it all began to lose its way.
In a move to “protect” the site owners and give marketers something to take to CEO’s and CFO’s to show ROI metrics were born. How many site visits, how long are they on, how many pages do they view, what are their click patterns, plus the filters, plus conversion rates, bounce rates, etc.
Most if not all of these being brought to you by a company with more at stake in the numbers than anyone. It would be like doctors saying if you want to be healthy and strong they think milk is the best drink for you. Then telling you the only data you can use to back this up or dispel this is data from the dairy farmers association. But the Dairy famers associations numbers are incomplete so you have to get the numbers from Bob’s Dairy. What do you think the numbers are going to look like? Of course Milk works and “does a body good”. But not just ANY milk….Bob’s Dairy milk is the BEST! Now so as not to make it look too tainted they will follow up with any milk will meet the minimum requirements but Bob’s dairy gives you just a bit more quality. Even worse every three to four months Bob’s Dairy will change the criteria it uses to show how it is doing wonders for your body making sure the numbers that are highlighted are their best numbers compared to everyone else, virtually putting everyone else out of business because they begin not to meet the minimum requirements based on the criteria Bob’s dairy chooses.

Let’s go back and compare this to what advertisers used to have. Newspapers which were failing miserably but are beginning to do a bit better as an electronic media.They went strictly by circulation or how many people actually bought newspapers that month. That quickly went to subscribers which newspapers quickly had a number in mind as to how many subscriptions they could give away to still be profitable while trotting out higher numbers to use to charge advertisers more.
Advertisers then moved to broadcast media.They still wanted to reach large audiences and broadcast was a great way to do it. But how do they show how many people watched their ad and how did they know if the money they spent helped sell their product? Enter one of the first true third party measurement companies. Neilsen would send diaries and pay the respondents to fill out the diaries with their daily viewing and listening habits and send them back. Results would be tabulated and “books” with ratings would be released. It became common practice for TV and Radio to run contests and promotions during “sweeps weeks” where books would be collected soon after in order to get their number of viewers or listeners up.
Yet in the end it was all about eyes and ears and numbers were calculated and dissected by age and ethnicity, region of the country etc. so as better to target the ads. At the end of the day advertisers really want your picture and a complete list of products by brand and how many times you bought those products, how much you paid, why you bought, how many people in your family and how much you make in order for them to be happy. What they get becaus eof privacy laws is that you saw their ad, that you moved your mouse to click on it or not and where you came from, type of computer and operating system you used and where in the country you are. After that there is very little personal and useful data to them. The data they do get is basic and one can only make assumptions on what you are really bringing to the table for them.
In the next installment we look at the information just presented and how we lost our way based on what has just been mentioned.

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