For years I have been telling publishers who are running a business selling a product or service that they should be very wary of using Google AdSense on their sites for a number of reasons. First, people using the site that might be purchasing from you are going to wonder why you are trying to pawn them off on a paid ad instead of doing what they expect – selling them your product/service. Second, because of the way AdSense targeting works, you WILL have competitor’s ads appearing on your site.
Ryanair is a perfect example of this… and since Ryanair has denounced all bloggers as lunatic bloggers, I don’t have to worry about them reading this 😉 (Here is one of the many stories if this is the first you have heard of it).
I was on Facebook tonight when I noticed someone posted a link to RyanAir Showing Adverts for EasyJet on FlightBlogging.com. And sure enough, when you search for a flight on RyanAir, along with showing you their available flights, they also show you – you guessed it – Google AdSense ads. It is worth noting that the AdSense code they are using is custom, however they have a regular publisher ID, not a premium publisher ID.
Now, if I was a Ryanair shareholder, I don’t think I would be very happy to see Ryanair trying to send the customers off to BMI when they search for a Ryanair flight. This was what I saw when I searched for a flight to Edinburgh (first picture is the first ad in the ad unit, then below is the full ad unit, click thumbnail to view full size):
It makes you wonder if this is how RyanAir is planning to subsidize all those cheap flights. But it has one big problem… along with BMI and EasyJet, they are also showing all kinds of competitive comparison shopping type travel and flight sites too, such:
- Trip Advisor
- and many more!
And you know once the word spreads that Ryanair is using Google AdSense ads, competitors will be specifically site targeting their ads on the site to drive the traffic and flight purchasers away from Ryanair. And with the number of competitors and the flux within the ad space of that industry, blocking competitors will be a timely job, not to mention the fact it will dramatically reduce the income.
Now, is this a smart marketing strategy for Ryanair? Only if they are planning to get out of the flight business and into the ad publisher game. Because otherwise all they are doing is sabotage their own sales… why show other sites that will drive their customers to go and seek out pricing elsewhere, when many of those people might have been fully prepared to plunk down their credit card and order a flight online when they saw available flights? By not only including their own flight information, but also AdSense ads with competitors, it will only result in fewer bookings… and I am fairly certain that those ad clicks won’t equal the lost revenue. The only fortunate thing is that they have very poor ad placement.
At the very least, Ryanair should get someone on board so at least the ads shown can be targeted yet not sabotaging their business, such as hotels in the chosen destination or car rentals… but right now, showing competitor’s ads will do nothing to help Ryanair’s business… nor do anything to keep their shareholder’s happy.