Who Should Be Careful With Google and Search Arbitrage

Google is known for cracking down on low-quality sites and content. This has been true for a long time for both the organic search results, as well as the paid side of the spectrum – Google AdWords.

However, in some mysterious way, Ask.com still manages to go “unnoticed” and continue utilizing their search arbitrage practices on a larger scale. How’s this possible and can we see things changing anytime soon?

Google and Their Quality Score

Officially, search arbitrage is a forbidden practice as pointed out by Google. They said that any site doing this will be penalized, and Google’s own definition of an arbitrage site is as follows:

Arbitrage sites that are designed for the sole purpose of showing ad.

One more forbidden practice is double serving – having more than one of your ads displayed on a single search results page.

Now, rules are rules, and whether we agree with them or not, they are understandable. Ask.com, however, seems not to mind them at all. Two reasons:

  1. Search arbitrage has been the main monetization model for Ask.com for years.
  2. After their acquisition of About.com, Ask.com started double serving similar ads pointing to very similar landing pages located under their two main domains – ask.com and about.com.

Although there’s no way knowing for sure what Ask.com’s business model is exactly with all this (whether it’s standard arbitrage or not), it surely does violate Google’s rules.

Ask.com gathers a huge amount of data testing out their campaigns, and Google either fails or chooses to fail to notice the bigger picture.

What This Means for Us

The way Google works really hasn’t changed in years for the small players. If you want to be doing something that Google is not exactly “cool with,” you need to make sure to disguise it under a couple of layers of other site elements and content.

The big players are in an entirely different game, like they have always been. It’s been shown time and time again that not all Google rules apply to all sites.

Let’s keep in mind that above all else, Google is still primarily a business, so if what some big site is doing is in a way beneficial to Google’s bottom line, it will go unnoticed. However, if a small player decides to do the same, they will go down.

So the lesson is simple, if you see a big site taking part in some questionable practice, this doesn’t mean that doing the same is worth risking.