Google’s Anti-Competitive URL Policy

The other day I logged into my Adwords account and I had one of those nifty alerts waiting for me:
Google's URL Policy Alert

Looking at my current campaigns, I don’t think this will affect me much; however I’m interested if others out there think this is a good or a bad thing. I frequently run afoul of Google’s URL policy with one of my ads – it is for an affiliate program where I link directly to the merchant’s site. Google won’t let more than one ad run with the same base URL. For example, 123.com and 123.ca can run side by side; however 123.com and canada.123.com are not okay.

The problem with this as an affiliate marketer is that if someone beats you to the punch by staking out an ad to the main domain, you’re basically out! At that point, because they’ve got a pre-existing spot in there, and are deemed “more relevant” than my hasn’t-run-yet ad, they get to keep their spot and I don’t get to run my ad unless I can find an alternate domain to send traffic to, and then convince them to carry on to my main offer. Where is the survival of the fittest in this scenario? It’s more of a survival of the first.

IMHO, Google should at least let my ad run for a few days, to see if it outperforms the incumbent ad. Some of the ads you see out there are so terrible you just know you could make a better ad that would be deemed more relevant, but we’re not even given that opportunity because of Google’s repressive regime.

In Vancouver BC where I live, there is this one intersection on Robson street (one of the busiest areas downtown) where there are no less than three Starbucks coffee shops! Out of four corners available – three are occupied by the same store! These three stores have been there for several years now, which tells me that each is profitable in its own right. If city council legislated that this wasn’t relevant enough for the average visitor to Robson street, then these stores would be denied a business license. How well do you think that would fly? Would Starbucks complain? Would the clientèle complain? Hmm.

I understand that Google doesn’t want an entire page of ads for 123.com, however if all those ads are outperforming ads for 456.com, why not? Markets will organize themselves; however Google likes to play divine architect and dictate what they should look like. Any Economics 101 professor will tell you this kind of intervention leads to inefficiencies in the marketplace and should be avoided.

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