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Over the last few months, I’ve exposed several AdWords advertisers’ clever tricks. For example, there was the wrinkle cream site that used “Yahoo Answers” as their display URL, and then the “American Anti-Aging Association” that Photoshoped their name on a big corporate building to make them seem legitimate.

Today I discovered yet another clever ploy. We’ve all seen ads on TV urging consumers to ‘turn their unwanted gold into cash’ and a quick review of leading lead generation networks shows that as an affiliate you could paid $10 to $15 for every qualifying lead. Not surprisingly, the competition on AdWords is pretty fierce for keywords like “cash for gold.” In fact, Google suggests a bid of $2.50 just to show up on the bottom of the first page of results, which implies that a top five position will cost you $5 or more per click.

So imagine my surprise when I saw an ad from MarketWatch.com showing up in position #4 that read:

Gold Seller-Read This 1st
Don’t Get Cheated on Gold Value
Read Article Before Selling Gold.
MarketWatch.com/article

I’m all for content sites trying to use AdWords to drive traffic to their articles, but at $5 a click, something didn’t make sense. So I click the ad, expecting to end up on a typical affiliate site. Shockingly, I actually ended up at MarketWatch! The article I landed on was entitled “Gullible Consumers May Get Gored on Gold Price: Sellers Beware.”

I still didn’t get what was going on here, but as I started to read the article, I started to notice that there was an awful lot of complementary mentions of GoldFellow.com, a cash for gold Web site. For example, here’s a paragraph from the article:

“The owners of GoldFellow are the most honest and ethical dealers I have had the pleasure to do business with,” says Carla Stern who first tried to sell her unwanted jewelry to two other internet gold buyers. “GoldFellow paid me $1800 for the same package I had sent to a highly advertised on TV and Internet dealer, who tried to pay me only $310,” explains Stern.

Scrolling to the very bottom of the page, I found the answer to my skepticism: the source of the article was GoldFellows, and the ‘article’ was actually distributed to MarketWatch via PR Newswire, a press release distribution service.

Consumers are getting more and more skeptical of text ads on Google, so what better way to overcome wary shoppers than to write a fake article and send consumers to a link on a legitimate Web site? The fact that these guys are paying $5 or more per click is evidence alone that this strategy is clearly working!

But wait, the scam gets even better! MarketWatch is showing up in position #4. Guess who is showing up in position #5? Anyone, anyone? Bueller? Here’s the result: