Google Ads Misfire on Xenky.com

March 27, 2017

I have a site which I use to provide information to those who attend my law enforcement, intelligence, and security lectures and webinars. The site also has information about my books written specifically for law enforcement and intelligence professionals.

I don’t recall when we included Google ads on the site, but it has not been an issue until today, March 26, 2017. Google helpfully displayed for the visitors to the page for my new Dark Web Notebook:

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Yep, an ad for Hot Latin Beauties Online. I understand that Google’s robot parsed the text about the book, which you can read at this link. That does not mean that I find the ad appropriate for my audience. Even the Jeff Bezos information service has figured out the disconnect.

The ad, appearing on a page for enforcement officials, sparked several thoughts:

  1. Google is really working overtime to burn up its advertising messages for the purpose of generating revenue. (No, I did not click on the link.) The ad’s presence illustrates what happens when concept matching simply does not work very well.
  2. The need for revenue is only part of the problem for the Google. Search has not been much of a concern for many years. The public statements about Google revisiting its systems and methods is talk. The presence of an ad which I find amusing illustrates that the company is happy to do some PR and merrily continue displaying content mismatched to the content on a Web page. Okay for me and my audience; maybe not so okay for a person uncomfortable with one click to Hot Latin Beauties Online.
  3. Google’s ability to fix this type of mismatch is going to be expensive and time consuming. The company has wrapped its search and retrieval core in layer upon layer of “smart” software. I am not sure the young Xooglers laboring on the various teams have the expertise or the motivation to figure out how the Rube Goldberg machine works.

My hunch is that one shot fixes will be the order of the day. Longer term, the GOOG has to either make the effort to work the concept disconnects or get in the hand-crafted rule business. Either way, the expense of making a meaningful fix is going to put pressure on the Google’s CFO “mom.”

Now if the GOOG can’t match ads with their software, what’s that suggest about Google’s ability to match on point, useful results to one’s query?

Answer: Google’s precision and recall is not too good. Exciting for “expert” Google searchers and the conclusions these folks draw based on access to the world’s information.

Hey, the Google is free. Stop your complaining. Yes, sir. By the way, Dark Web Notebook points its readers to far more interesting information than a link which generates this helpful message for Google’s paying customer:

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High value click. Lucky Google advertiser. Spending money for this stuff. Clever, clumsy, tricky, or something else? Decide for yourself, gentle reader. Oh, the Dark Web Notebook is available only to those who can verify their employment with a law enforcement or intelligence agency of the US or one of its allies. Hot Latin ladies, sorry, not available no matter what Google’s term matching suggests.

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2017

Google, Query Relaxation, and Advertisers

March 23, 2017

Most folks don’t know what a query relaxation process does. Think of a noose around your neck. If someone pulls the noose tight, you elicit a very specific result. If I remove the noose, you can frolic on your mobile device. Now substitute strict Boolean queries for a free text search. The Boolean search pulls the result set tight; that is, you get results in which the indexed words match the Boolean query. If a vendor tosses in semantic expansion which drags in concepts, synonyms, and inputs from other users’ queries, the noose is relaxed. You can breathe again.

Search vendors dependent on advertising control the scope of the result set. Yandex, we noted, is relaxing its queries. The reason? Relaxed queries allow an ad matching system more leeway. The idea is that if I search for “Kia Soul 2011 P22545R18” tire, an outfit like Google has to match with ads its system has been told want the keyword “Kia” or “Soul.”

But if the query is relaxed and expansion methods are in play, “Kia” becomes “car”, “vehicle,” “SUV” and “Soul” becomes “auto parts” and maybe “religion.”

Instantly, the ad matching system can go to the advertising pool and start putting more ads into the search results. Some of the ads may be helpful; for example, “auto parts.” Others for a Zen weekend might not be germane to a person looking for a set of radials.

Pretty boring stuff, right? The problem is that as the number of queries sent to old school desktop computers goes down, the opportunity to use ads goes down too. The fix?

Query expansion. Looser queries, more opportunities to display less and less relevant ads. Who is going to notice? Well, that’s a good question.

Now navigate to “AT&T, Other U.S. Advertisers Quit Google, YouTube over Extremist Videos.” The write up points out:

AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson and other major U.S. advertisers are pulling hundreds of millions of dollars in business from Google and its video service YouTube despite the Internet giant’s pledge this week to keep offensive and extremist content away from ads. AT&T said that it is halting all ad spending on Google except for search ads. That means AT&T ads will not run on YouTube or two million websites that take part in Google’s ad network.

On the surface, the allegations suggest that Google’s smart software is not smart enough to prevent an ad for a mobile phone company from appearing as a sponsor of a video the advertiser finds offensive. From my point of view, this is an example of what happens when revenue drives query relaxation. With relaxed queries, the advertiser’s message is “close enough” to the results list. Bingo. Google books revenue and the advertiser’s message is displayed.

In the good old days before mobile devices decimated the GoTo.com/Overture.com model, less relaxed queries and ad matching worked reasonably well. Today, relaxed queries are an easy way to generate revenue.

The counter argument is that relaxed queries are what “usage data say searchers want.” Right, that assurance an a dime will buy me what? Not much.

Net net: Buy ads and make sales is a mantra from a time past. Today’s world of search is filled with relaxed queries and less relevant result sets and less relevant, context aware ads.

Google will have to figure something out. Relaxed queries and ad matching is now big news and costing my favorite free online search outfit a lot of money. My suggestion to Google: Relax less. Embrace relevance, precision, and recall.

Users want an answer to their question. Advertisers want to make sales. Google wants money. Dare I say, “Pick two.”

Stephen E Arnold, March 23, 2017

Is This Our Beloved Google? Ads and Consumer Scams?

March 20, 2017

I admit it. I want to believe everything I read on the Internet. I take this approach to be more in tune with today’s talking heads on US cable TV and the millennials who seem to cross my path like deer unfamiliar with four lane highways.

I read what must be an early April Fool’s joke. The write up’s headline struck me as orthogonal to my perception of the company I know, love, and trust: “Google to Revamp Ad Policies after U.K., Big Brands Boycott.”

The main idea is that someone believes that Google has been indexing terror-related content and placing ads next to those result pages and videos. I learned:

The U.S. company said in a blog post Friday it would give clients more control over where their ads appear on both YouTube, the video-sharing service it owns, and the Google Display Network, which posts advertising to third-party websites. The announcement came after the U.K. government and the Guardian newspaper pulled ads from the video site, stepping up pressure on YouTube to police content on its platform.

Interesting. I thought Google / DeepMind had the hate speech, fake news, and offensive content issue killed, cooked, and eaten.

The notion that Google would buckle under to mere advertisers strikes me as ludicrous. For years, Google has pointed out that confused individuals at Foundem, the government of France, and other information sites misunderstand Google’s squeaky clean approach to figuring out what’s important.

The other item which suggests that the Google in my mind is not the Google in the real world is “Facebook, Twitter, and Google Must Remove Scams or Risk Legal Action, Says EU.”

What’s up? Smart software understands content in context. Algorithms developed by the wizards at Google and other outfits chug along without the silly errors humans make. Google and other companies have to become net nannies. (Hey, that software worked great, didn’t it?)

I learned:

The EU also ordered these social networks to remove fraudulent posts that can mislead consumers.

If these write ups are indeed accurate, I will take down my “Do no evil” poster. Is there a “We do evil” version available? I will check those advertisements on Google.

Stephen E Arnold, March 20, 2017

Three Deadlines in October and November Mark Three Strikes on Google

November 11, 2016

The article titled Google Is Getting Another Extension to Counter EU Antitrust Charges on Fortune begs the question, how many more times will the teacher accept the “I need more time” argument? With the potential for over a billion dollar penalty of Google is found guilty, the company is vying for all the time it can get before answering accusations of unfair treatment of rival shopping services through its search results. The article tell us,

The U.S. technology giant was due to respond to the accusations on Thursday but requested more time to prepare its defense. The company now has until Nov. 7, a European Commission spokesman said. “Google asked for additional time to review the documents in the case file. In line with normal practice, the commission analysed the reasons for the request and granted an extension allowing Google to fully exercise its rights of defense,” he said.

If anyone is counting at this point, the case is now 6 years old, meaning it has probably graduated kindergarten and moved into the First Grade. The article does not comment on how many extensions have been requested altogether, but it does mention that another pair of deadlines are looming in Google’s near future. October 26 and October 31 are the dates by which Google must respond to the charges of blocking competitor advertisements and using the Android operating system to suppress rivals.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 11, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Funnelback: October Advertising

October 11, 2016

Interesting note. Funnelback, owned by Squiz, is displaying in line, personalized advertising. Today is October 10, 2016. Funnelback’s ad is:

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Timely. I think about Valentine’s Day in October. Money well spent?

Stephen E Arnold, October 11, 2016

Watson Ads for Branded Answers to the Little Questions of Life

September 6, 2016

Here is a potent new way for brands to worm their way into every aspect of consumers’ lives. “IBM Watson Is Now Offering AI-Powered Digital Ads That Answer Consumers’ Questions,” we learn from AdWeek. Watson Ads will hook users up with answers to their everyday questions—answers supplied by advertisers. Apparently, IBM’s Weather-Company acquisition supplied the tools behind this product. Writer Christopher Heine explains:

IBM’s relatively new ownership of The Weather Company’s digital properties is coming into play in a serious fashion: Watson Ads will first appear on Weather.com, the Weather mobile app and the company’s data-driven WeatherFX platform. Later, IBM plans to allow them to appear on third-party properties.

Campbell Soup Company, Unilever and GSK Consumer Healthcare are some of the brands that will run the ads in the coming days. Watson Ads’ pricing details were not disclosed.

Jeremy Steinberg, global head of sales, The Weather Company, described how they work, stating that ‘machine learning and natural-language capabilities will allow it to provide accurate responses. What we’re doing is moving away from keyword searches and towards more natural language and well-reasoned answers.

Heine outlines Campbell’s plan as an example—their Watson Ads will present “Chef Watson,” the helpful AI which suggests recipes based on criteria like available ingredients, the time of day, and what the weather is like. Those recipes will be pulled from Campbell’s existing site Campbell’s Kitchen. Not surprisingly, their ingredient lists rely heavily on Campbell’s product line (which goes well beyond soup these days).

Another Watson Ads client is GSK Consumer Healthcare, which plans to use the tech to help users make better real-time health decisions—a worthy project, I’ll admit. I am curious to see how Unilever, and other companies down the line, will leverage their digital voices of authority. See the article for more details on the project.

Cynthia Murrell, September 6, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Alphabet Google Factoid: Media Spend Control

May 31, 2016

I noted “Google Now Controls 12 Percent of All Global Media Spend.” My immediate reaction was, “Just 12 percent.” I assumed that the Alphabet Google thing had cornered much more of the media spend. I learned:

Alphabet controls 12 percent of all global media spend, which primarily comes from Google and YouTube’s ad sales. The company collects $60 billion in U.S. ad spend—a figure 166 percent larger than No. 2 ranking The Walt Disney Company. To compare, Google’s ad revenue was 136 percent larger than Walt Disney last year. Alphabet’s overall ad revenue is up 17 percent year-over-year.

Google is not without competition. I love “competition” in the online digital world. The write up points out:

Facebook in particular continues to become an advertising juggernaut. The social network jumped from No. 10 in 2015 to No. 5 this year, making it the fastest-growing company on Zenith’s list with 65 percent year-over-year growth. Chinese Internet company Baidu is the second fastest-growing company, with ad revenues up 52 percent.

I am not an ad expert. I certainly don’t know anything about media spend. After 15 years of slogging, the 12 percent figure strikes me as interesting. It seems that in a shorter time period, Facebook has been the hot item. Search or social media? Which is the “winner”? Both? Who are the losers?

Traditional media. Another surprise?

Stephen E Arnold, May 31, 2016

CBS Jargon Meistering

May 20, 2016

I don’t pay much, if any, attention to the antics of network television giants. I noted this headline “CBS Chief Leslie Moonves Takes Aim at Competitors Dubious Ratings Claims,”  and I read the article. Perhaps the CBS top dog was referring to outfits like Yahoo?

I highlighted these words and phrases as “interesting.”

  • out-of-context data points
  • scatter market
  • out-of-the-box swing
  • stock-in-trade brand.

I am uncertain of the meaning of these phrases, but I understood this statement:

“We see money coming back to network, not that it ever left.” But when it comes to digital, he added, “The bloom is off the rose.”

Ah, a reference to Robert Burns. That I understood. I also understand bologna.

Stephen E Arnold, May 20, 2016

Forget World Population, Domain Population Is Overcrowded

April 5, 2016

Back in the 1990s, if you had a Web site without a bunch of gobbidly-gook after the .com, you were considered tech savvy and very cool.  There were plenty of domain names available in those days and as the Internet became more of a tool than a novelty, demand for names rose. It is not as easy anymore to get the desired Web address, says Phys.org in the article, “Overcrowded Internet Domain Space Is Stifling Demand, Suggesting A Future ‘Not-Com’ Boom.”

Domain names are being snapped up fast, so quickly, in fact, that Web development is being stunted.  As much as 25% of domains are being withheld, equaling 73 million as of summer 2015 with the inability to register domain names that would drive Internet traffic.

“However, as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has begun to roll out the option to issue brand new top-level domains for almost any word, whether it’s dot-hotel, dot-books or dot-sex – dubbed the ‘not-coms’ – the research suggests there is substantial untapped demand that could fuel additional growth in the domain registrations.”

One of the factors that determine prime Internet real estate is a simple, catchy Web address.  With new domains opening up beyond the traditional .org, .com, .net, .gov endings, an entire new market is also open for entrepreneurs to profit from.  People are already buying not-com’s for cheap with the intention to resale them for a pretty penny.  It bears to mention, however, that once all of the hot not-com’s are gone, we will be in the same predicament as we are now.  How long will that take?

 

Whitney Grace, April 5, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Paywalls Block Pleasure Reading

April 4, 2016

Have you noticed something new in the past few months on news Web sites?  You click on an interesting article and are halfway though reading it when a pop-up banner blocks out the screen.  The only way to continue reading is to enter your email, find the elusive X icon, or purchase a subscription.  Ghacks.net tells us to expect more of these in, “Read Articles Behind Paywalls By Masquerading As Googlebot.”

Big new sites such as the Financial Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal are now experimenting with the paywall to work around users’ ad blockers.  The downside is that content will be locked up and sites might lose viewers, but that might be a risk they are willing to take to earn a bigger profit.

There used be some tricks to get around paywalls:

“It is no secret that news sites allow access to news aggregators and search engines. If you check Google News or Search for instance, you will find articles from sites with paywalls listed there.  In the past, news sites allowed access to visitors coming from major news aggregators such as Reddit, Digg or Slashdot, but that practice seems to be as good as dead nowadays.  Another trick, to paste the article title into a search engine to read the cached story on it directly, does not seem to work properly anymore as well as articles on sites with paywalls are not usually cached anymore.”

The best way, the article says, is to make the Web site think you are a Googlebot.  Web sites allow Googlebots roam freely to appear higher in search engine results.  There are a few ways to trick the Web sites into thinking you are a Googlebot based on your Internet browser, Firefox or Chrome.  Check them out, but it will not be long before those become old-fashioned too.

 

Whitney Grace, April 4, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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