February 16, 2011

A Clever Adwords Hack: How to Get Your Advertorial on MarketWatch.com

Good PR is priceless. But if you’re willing to skirt some ethical boundaries, you can get it for a couple hundred dollars, plus $1.89 per click.

Here’s the Google search results page for “Current Gold Prices”:

Google results for 'current gold prices,'

Notice anything odd? There’s an ad from Marketwatch.com, the financial news site. While they do talk about gold, they make their money through ads. They’re not the kind of company that can easily monetize Adwords traffic, especially for a term like “Current Gold Prices,” which costs $1.89 per click. It’s rare for media companies to advertise their stories like this. (The only other case I’ve seen was Vanity Fair promoting a profile of Sean Parker on Facebook.)

Click through the ad, and you land on this page on Marketwatch (Edit:: MarketWatch took down the page. Here’s a backup). While it’s technically on MarketWatch.com, it’s not their content—it’s a press release, put out by the company paying for these ads.

This is one of the smartest advertorials I’ve seen in a long time. To a less savvy Internet user, it’s just a Marketwatch article endorsing a particular gold-selling company. To PR Newswire, it’s just another self-aggrandizing press release. But to GoldFellow.com, the advertiser, it’s, well, an ad.

(It’s a fairly misleading ad, too. The ad claims that “[GoldFellow.com's founders'] company grew to become the largest karat gold jewelry manufacturer in America, culminating with a sale to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway in 2007.” That’s true—GoldFellow appears to be run by Michael Gusky, who sold his previous company to Berkshire Hathaway in 2007. No word on when he left— or why. The ad also violates some of Google’s technical guidelines, by redirecting visitors through GoldFellow.com even though the display URL is “marketwatch.com”.)

This is not especially expensive. PRNewswire is cagey about their prices, but it looks like it might cost less than $1,000 to get a press release out. Compare that to the cost of hiring a PR firm to get your company mentioned in Marketwatch—and mentioned so positively—and it’s obvious why GoldFellow made this move.

But it’s probably not a smart move in the long term. Who’s going to trust a company that pulls this kind of stunt? The sad part is that they may very well be a good company. Their ad copy works great—as ad copy, not as an advertorial. And it’s incongruous for a company to play up their “higher level of trust,” and “transparent business practices,” when they’re running deceptive ads.

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I’m currently the Co-Founder and CEO of a startup providing equity research and M&A due diligence to investors analyzing online businesses.

  • Guest

    Even better PR is having someone to write a blog post about this and submit it to ycombinator ;)