The Price of Unwanted Ad Clicks

Some advertisers on Google Inc.’s search engine say a little-known feature of the company’s AdWords ad system is causing them to overpay.

The advertisers, including high-end medical professionals, said their ads for services such as cosmetic dentistry or plastic surgery are showing up even when Google users search for unrelated topics such as haircuts or limo services.
Some of the advertisers said when their ads were placed next to search results for unrelated topics, Google users were much less likely to purchase their product or service after clicking on the ads. Advertisers pay Google each time a user clicks on a search ad.

Jeff Dorfman, a cosmetic dentist in New York, said the issue—known in industry parlance as “session-based clicks”—has cost him approximately $3,000 in wasted ad spend of the total $40,000 spent on AdWords ads since late 2009.

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