Joseph Arthur
Nov 30, 2023

Google has been quietly running brands' search ads through problematic websites, report claims

A fresh report from Adalytics alleges that the search giant has been serving major brands’ advertising on inappropriate and sanctioned websites via its Search Partner network.

Google has been quietly running brands' search ads through problematic websites, report claims
Google has allegedly been running search ads through several problematic websites, including hardcore pornographic, pirated content and sanctioned Iranian and Russian websites, among others.
According to a new report from transparency and advertising performance optimisation platform Adalytics, hundreds of these undesirable websites have had their inventory sold via Google’s ‘Search Partner network’, a tool which extends a brand’s search campaign’s reach beyond Google’s core search product via a network of third-party websites.
Google’s Search Partner network is a tick-box option that needs to be opted-out of should brand’s not wish to utilise it in their search campaigns. Unless it is a Performance Max (PMAX) campaign, whereby brand’s can’t opt-out from using the product.
Adalytics’ report suggests this auto-opt-in format has led to many brands unknowingly signing up for the Search Partner network. The report claims to have seen advertising from government entities, Fortune 500 companies, and both US and European politicians, among other major brands, served on these problematic websites.
The report further alleges that through a revenue sharing agreement with Google, many of these undesirable websites will receive money for hosting the adverts, making the potential implications of these claims all the more significant for advertisers.
Should the allegations be true, brand’s may pull their ad spend away from Google in favour of more transparent partners that give them control over which websites host their ads and won’t see them inadvertently contribute to monetisation opportunities for troublesome websites.
This isn’t the first time Adalytics has gone after Google and claimed it has been misleading advertisers, releasing a similar report in mid-June.
“A track record of publishing inaccurate reports”
In response to this latest report, Dan Taylor, Google's Vice President of Global Ads told Campaign's sister publication, Performance Marketing World: “Adalytics has established a track record of publishing inaccurate reports that misrepresents our products and make wildly exaggerated claims. We’ll of course review the report, but our analysis of the sites and limited information already shared with us did not identify ad revenue being shared with a single sanctioned entity.
“The examples shared are from our Programmable Search Engine (ProSE) product, which is a free search tool we offer to small websites so that they can present a search experience directly on their sites. Ads may appear based on the user’s specific search query; they are not targeted to, or based on, the website they appear on. Websites who merely implement ProSE do not get any ad revenue from those ads.
“Moreover, ProSE represents a miniscule amount of our Search Partner Network. Adalytics' revenue implications related to small sites like the examples we've reviewed are frankly absurd.”
Google further said it is committed to complying with all applicable sanctions and has disabled its Programmable Search Engine widget on the adult websites it was alerted to.
Performance Marketing World

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