Pay-per-click Advertising Can Cost More Than You Bargained For.
By Steve Plunkett

First, the good news. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising with major search engines can generate lots of traffic to your website. Now the bad news - choosing the wrong providers for your PPC advertising can get your website banned from major search engines. It sounds confusing at first, but let me clarify.

There are two basic types of PPC ads: the kind on search engines like Google, Yahoo! and MSN and the ones that appear anywhere else, places like ordinary websites, blogs, spam blogs (splogs), domain placeholders and link farms. Running PPC ads on search engines is no problem. But relying on the second group can get a little sticky. These types of PPC providers are called affiliates or downstream partners. Search engines provide affiliates and downstream partners with code to run their own PPC programs. Unfortunately some of these providers have learned to exploit the PPC system.

These nefarious providers retrieve the top-paying PPC keywords each week. Then, using ingenious programming, they build thousands of websites per night, each page filled with top-performing PPC ads. These pages are linked to more pages on other sites, maybe ones that were built the night before or the night before or the night before. The intent is to link all these thousands of sites together through the most popular PPC keywords, weaving a "fictitious" web of linked pages. This is called a link farm. Until recently, companies using PPC advertising on link farms enjoyed very high search rankings, primarily because search engines perceive "spidering" as an important consideration. But this is not true spidering. The link farms are messing with the integrity of the search engines. And the search engines don't take kindly to that.

A few weeks ago, Google decided to do something about it, and many companies that unknowingly trusted link farms for PPC advertising are paying the price. Their Google page ranks have dropped from lofty numbers to zero and/or their organic search engine rankings fell off a cliff. They've been left wondering what happened. Google sniffed them out, that's what. When links to their websites showed up on 10,000 pages on 1,000 websites, a Googlebot took notice, and Google gave them the smackdown.

Search engine optimization isn't as simple as it used to be. Now it's no longer just a matter of linking to the most sites or having the most sites linked to you. In addition to popularity, it's a matter of credibility.
Being linked from a link farm is like hanging around with the bad kids at school. No matter how good you are, you'll often be found guilty by association. The same goes for trading links with other websites. Because you have no control or knowledge of the other linked parties on the site, you can't say for sure with whom or what your website will be associated.

Remember, PPC advertising is a great way to get you to the front page of a search engine's results until you can get there organically. But to avoid guilt by association, make sure to restrict your PPC ads only to search engines. Also in your PPC account, be sure to uncheck the boxes that allow your PPC ads to show up on websites other than the search engine itself.

Now, go out and play with PPC. Just stay away from the bad kids.

E-mail the author: Steve Plunkett

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