Note: This is part 3 in a series about what I’ve learned as a Google marketer. Look for part 4 soon.
“Redirection” is a catchall term for a form of bait-and-switch deception used by Google marketers. A helpful ad on Google will match a searcher’s keywords with a relevant landing page, but redirect ads provide counter-messaging and often alternative destinations that go against the search words.
For example, if you search Google for “iPhone 6S,” you’re predictably going to be shown an ad for the iPhone 6S. By clicking that ad, you’ll probably land on a page where you can buy one. A redirect ad, however, might twist your search and prompt you with something like this for a Galaxy S6 instead:
In this example, Samsung is trying to swerve the searcher’s intent with counter-messaging and is betting the searcher will question their brand loyalty, click the ad, and convert from Apple to Samsung.
It’s one thing to (fairly obviously) redirect an ad in a smartphone search. But what if the redirection was a bit harder to detect? Let’s say the ad and the landing page seemed to validate your expectations and you didn’t realize you’d been redirected until long after you’d parted with your money.
Here are two examples where the switch is tougher to spot:
- An ad promises Jill neutral information about a new cryptocurrency she’s had her eye on. Instead, her click delivers her to a series of landing pages full of fake news that obscure the advertiser’s actual intention to manipulate the coin’s price.
- Brad searches “Hillary Clinton is awesome” on Google and then browses the web. He clicks on an ad and ends up on a page containing language that subtly provokes racial and religious tensions. (This is what happened leading up the 2016 U.S. presidential election when redirect ads by anonymized hyper-partisan websites that partnered with Google diverted people who clicked on them to imposter or mirror sites that contained falsified or heavily biased stories.)
Successful marketers know that high-profit redirection is a long game. It can unfold over weeks or months and cross from online to offline worlds.