Google has been very aggressive over the last year at promoting the content network (AdSense) to advertisers. One of the best innovations they’ve developed as a result is “placement targeting“, which enables advertisers to bid on a specific site (or a specific section of a site), rather than just buying the keyword “widget” and hoping that Google’s algorithm places their ads on the right sites.

Google’s placement targeting tool is very good at helping advertisers discover sites on which to advertise – they even have a mini-directory of top categories like “beauty” and “games” where you can immediately get a list of hundreds of category-specific sites.

But here’s the really weird thing about this category directory – there’s no category (or sub-category) for consumer finance. The very advertisers who practically power AdWords – insurance, credit cards, mortgages, pay day loans, debt consolidation, credit reports, banking, stock trading, etc, etc – you can’t find them in Google’s placement-targeting directory.

I cannot think of any reason of the top of my head why Google would want to hide this category from potential advertisers? Considering the billions they make off these advertisers on AdWords, it seems logical that they’d want to drive a lot of revenue through AdSense from these same advertisers.

I am certain, however, that this is not just an accidental omission – there is a good reason that Google has left these off the list, but what it is I don’t know. If anyone has any ideas, please post a comment with your theory!


  1. Philip John September 9th, 2008

    Have you tried Google Groups, or asking AdWords Support?There MIGHT be a logically reason (though I can’t think of one)…unless they’re scared of click fraud/arbitrage?

  2. David Rodnitzky September 9th, 2008

    Good point Phillip – I’ll write Google Groups – I’m betting that I don’t get a straightforward answer though . . .

  3. Anonymous September 9th, 2008

    They are selling the organic rankings results positions for these keywords on a CPL basis :)Marc

  4. Anonymous October 1st, 2008

    Any idea why Google doesn’t catch more heat for making so much money off predatory lending? Perhaps restricting adSense content is a way for them to contain reputation problems. If people saw a bunch of ads for debt consolidation, payday loans, etc “brought to you by Google” in a context where the viewer wasn’t immediately seeking those services, it might not rub off very well. I suspect they want to keep this kind of copy limited to those who key in “cheap payday loan” to the search engine (where no doubt, the number one organic SER is a Wikipedia page).Again, I’m surprised that this issue isn’t a topic for discussion with Google stock analysts, given the current environment.

  5. David Rodnitzky October 1st, 2008

    That’s not a bad theory, though I think you could apply this to dozens of other categories that Google allows people to promote via AdSense (example: fad weight loss schemes). Plus, it seems like the negative PR would be much greater when users are searching directly on Google, no?

  6. Anonymous October 1st, 2008

    Yes, it’s more egregious, I believe that they are targeting people who actively seek out these products, but less conspicuous than if the advertiser list was revealed through AdSense. Revenue yield is probably a lot higher for lending products than fad diets, and reputation risk I would think is greater in the area of lending.Like I say, I’m surprised that this hasn’t attracted more attention. Perhaps it’s a similar issue to state sponsored gambling — morally sketchy, but not controversial.

  7. David Rodnitzky October 1st, 2008

    Actually I think the FTC has started to investigate this sort of advertising, so it may only be a matter of time before Google gets smacked on predatory lending.

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.