Live.com tragically forgotten by Adsense engineers

There’s been some buzz lately on the disappointing results of the Live.com search, further loosing market share to Google. Even to the point that Microsoft is going to revive the MSN brand ( see this NYT article). Adding insult to injury, Live.com has been overlooked so far by Adsense engineers in their quest for contextual ad relevancy…

What am I talking about?

Try this search: tax policy agriculture on european-democracy.org. Click through on the result “Reformed CAP even…”. In the blog header, you’ll see Adsense ads on “policy” and “tax”:

Google adsense Ads after search on tax policy

And now this one: export subsidies on european-democracy.org, click trough again on the same article “Reformed CAP even…”. Notice you’ll get different ads, now on “export subsidies”:

Google adsense Ads after search on export subsidies

So Google’s contextual advertising not only takes into account what the web page is about, but also the search query with which you came to that page… The examples I show here are link units, but it also works with “classic” ads (pointing directly to the advertiser), as pointed out earlier in this blog post by Peter Forret.

Now here’s the funny part: Adsense ads also adapt themselves to search queries on Yahoo (try export subsidies and tax policy), MSN (tax policy and export subsidies) and even Ask.com (tax policy, export subsidies), but if you use the Live.com url (tax policy, export subsidies), the ads are no different from a page view not referred by a search engine

Google Adsense Ads not referred by search engine
Not sure for whom this is most embarrassing: the forgetful Adsense developers, or the Live.com rebranding effort that remained unnoticed by (part of) the competition :-)…

Some more on the Adsense mechanism…

Displaying an Adsense ad on a page you visit, happens in 2 phases:

  • your browser downloads and executes this bit of javascript: showads.js
  • that javascript writes an <iframe> into your html code, wich makes your browser display a bit of text that again is downloaded from the pagead2.googlesyndication.com server

The showads.js javascript makes sure that it attaches a lot of parameters to that second request: format and layout of the ad, as determined by the publisher, but also the referring page (from the document.referrer property in javascript).

The ad producing algorithm at pagead2.googlesyndication.com analyses that referrer url, extracts the search keywords if the referrer was a search results page, and serves you the most relevant ads, i.e. the ads you are most likely to click on… mixing in the search keywords you just used as well as the content of the page.

[tags]adsense, contextual advertising, contextualadvertising, live.com, msn, ask.com, yahoo, search, searchengines, referrer, google[/tags]

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