Running a PPC campaign in order to support spam and scams seems rife. After all, even on highly competitive terms, the costs are little if the ad brings the results you require. Before you are banned. The Farmer / Panda update may have targeted organic results, but there are still issues within PPC. Especially for the following type of scam.

This weekend, I endeavoured to do a simple task – quickly create a Follow Us on Twitter button. Obviously Twitter offers Follow Me Buttons but Twitter’s solution didn’t figure for any of the obvious searches in the first two pages. So, I thought I’d explore some of the other options. There were two PPC choices and several first page organic results that fit the search.

The first PPC choice is twitterflash.net. (No link, don’t go there, read on and see why). Obviously, in the top PPC position, with 60,500 monthly searches on the term, this ad is getting some eyeballs.

You choose your button and are then asked to enter your Twitter username to generate the correct code for your Twitter button.

However, it does not matter what code you insert into that box asking for your Twitter username, this is what you are asked to copy and paste into your page.

<object type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”
data=”http://www.buzzbuttons.com/BUTTON0/twitbutton.swf” width=”100″
height=”80″><param name=”movie”
value=”http://www.buzzbuttons.com/BUTTON0/twitbutton.swf”></param><param
name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><param name=”menu”
value=”false”></param><param name=”wmode”
value=”transparent”></param><param name=”flashvars”
value=”username=your_id_here”></param><a
href=”http://www.gamblinginsider.ca” title=”gambling insider”>gambling
insider</a><embed src=”http://www.buzzbuttons.com/BUTTON0/twitbutton.swf”
type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” width=”100″
height=”80″ menu=”false” wmode=”transparent”
flashvars=”username=your_id_here”></embed></object>

Spot the problem? I didn’t immediately on entering that page, but I did fairly quickly when I pasted that code into the page I was adding it to and the word Gambling appeared instead of a nice neat button.

[I also believe that AllowScriptAccess is a problem – can anyone clarify this please?]

The real problem is that you have just potentially exposed a Twitter username to spambots; Twitter is rife with them. However, it also comprehensively breaks Google’s T&Cs which forbids PPC ads for gambling.

Which raises the question: what is Google doing to prevent such ads being placed in top spots?

(Interestingly, the second PPC result threw up this:
so a small company of web professionals are, sadly, wasting their own money on PPC ads that lead to a 404 page – have YOU checked your PPC campaign recently??).

Google is making money from these types of ads that feature spam and scams; yet, reporting such an ad is, as I discovered, quite difficult, although I eventually tracked down the Complaint Report form for Google AdWords. It seems that others, such as Ben Edelman, have looked into this and the implications for Google far more deeply than I. In a post from 2006 entitled “PPC Scams”, many of the problems were exposed.

Little appears to have changed, although I hope a reply from Google may prove otherwise.

Whilst on this particular term there is little competition, it is likely that on other keywords and phrases, genuine advertisers are being forced to pay a higher price for their PPC ads than would be required if there were not scammers sitting in top spots. Who wins? Google. It is high time Google resolved this issue of relevancy and quality in the SERPs – organic and paid.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology