It’s no secret that Google is virtually printing money with its contextual advertising business. If you’ve read The Search you know that Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were originally adamantly opposed to selling advertising alongside Google’s search results. It was only after Google developed a way to deliver advertising that was relevant to the context of a user’s search that Brin and Page embraced advertising as a business model.
With this in mind it’s kind of strange to notice that Google is currently running ads promoting the Da Vinci code on literally every results page, regardless of what is being searched for. Take a look at the bottom of the page, right below links to the ‘next results’.
The Da Vinci Code Quest is a series of puzzles that can be plugged into your Google home page, and of course, it’s also designed to promote the new Sony Pictures release.
So the question is, does this promotional link violate Google’s pledge to only run relevant advertising alongside search results? It could be argued that the link is also promoting a Google service (I suspect the Google home page doesn’t have nearly as many users as My Yahoo). If that was the case, however, why would the link be buried so deep on the page? It’s sort of like Google wants to experiment with non-contextual ads, but they don’t want anyone to notice.
And just how much is Sony paying for a promotion like this? They’re likely to get hundreds of millions of page views, but how many of those users will ever see the link?
It may not look like much, but that small link could represent a major shift in Google’s ‘contextual’ advertising business.