We manage search engine marketing campaigns for our clients. Primarily, these are Google AdWords campaigns. Some of our clients also pursue secondary campaigns on what is now Microsoft Search Advertising (aka Bing + Yahoo search). Both Google and Microsoft offer search and advertising opportunities through partner networks. We’ve never had a problem with Google Search Partners (e.g. aol.com). The issue rarely comes-up because almost all traffic comes by way of Google’s own properties (Google.com and Google.ca). Microsoft is another story.
Part of our search engine marketing retainers involve us compiling monthly reports on campaign performance and reviewing the data with our clients. This last month, I noticed that Microsoft charged one of our clients for 44 clicks, but that the Google Analytics account only showed 9 referrals from Yahoo and 5 from Bing. I should note in passing that Microsoft has great phone customer service (sorely lacking with Google) and that they spent considerable time investigating the discrepancy. Turns out that the other 30 clicks came by way of Microsoft’s “syndicated search partners.” And just what sites are referring the clicks? Amongst others, try:
A quick review of these sites reveals that they resemble something between link-farming and domain squatting. I do not consider them to be legitimate sources of traffic for our clients and have since turned-off syndicated search partners for all our campaigns.
Neither Microsoft nor Google offer lists of their search partners because they argue that these lists are constantly changing. More likely, they don’t publish the lists because there is practically no quality control. I can’t possibly approach clients and tell them I want to create ads for them but that I won’t be able to tell them where the ads will appear. Its an absurd situation.