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Modern businesses marketing products and services have more tools than ever at their disposal. Despite the many ways in which it’s possible to “get the word out” and reach critical mass, though, one platform continues to wield disproportionate influence: Google Adwords.
For better or worse, this centralized behemoth dictates the terms under which countless businesses reach customers online. But perhaps there’s a better way.
Despite its enormous popularity, the world’s biggest seller of online ads isn’t exactly universally loved. In fact, complaints from advertising execs have led to investigations into its anti-competitive and monopolistic nature.
While alternatives to Google Adwords will have their work cut out, demand for a fairer, more transparent system is rising. One alternative might be a blockchain-based advertising platform, one purpose-built to tackle Adwords inefficiencies.
Everyone knows Google. But only businesses – and to a lesser extent customers – have a sound working knowledge of Google Adwords.
Essentially, Adwords is a paid advertising platform that pushes articles and landing pages to the top of search results. Advertisers pay Google on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis for the privilege of reaching more viewers.
In the final quarter of 2020, Google’s revenue surged to $56.7 billion, up from $46 billion in the preceding quarter. Over the course of the year, ad revenue alone was around $123.8 billion, with Google continuing to dominate the search engine market.
According to Statista, Google has a market share of 85.86%. While many companies continue to devote time and resources to search engine optimization (SEO), it is becoming more difficult to make an impression organically.
As a profit-oriented business, Google naturally looks to compel businesses to buy ads rather than attracting customers for free.
As useful as Adwords can be, though, it’s not without flaws. The pay-per-click model, for instance, is no guarantee of conversions, and rates have risen significantly in recent years, pricing out many SMEs.
Believe it or not, Google can earn as much as $50 per click from the most coveted PPC keywords. And if you’re paying $50 per click, you’d better be damn confident it leads to a sale!
The expensiveness of valuable search terms inevitably makes it difficult to compete with large companies, while the limited number of characters allocated to each ad makes it difficult for certain businesses to market their products.
What’s more, certain perfectly legal enterprises are prohibited from advertising on Adwords in the first place: businesses selling fireworks, tobacco, or VPNs, for instance.
The increasingly censorious nature of Google (and Big Tech more generally) could also push people and institutions to explore Adwords alternatives.
Imagine, for instance, a company CEO is “cancelled” and Google takes steps to remove the firm’s advertising, citing policy violations. Theoretically you could appeal – but there’s no guarantee of having your ads reinstated.
So, how might blockchain-based advertising represent an improvement on the current paradigm, and help publishers and advertisers reach a wider audience?
Now we don’t have to speculate: we have a working example out in the wild to illustrate the benefits. AdEx Network is a privacy-focused, censorship-resistant decentralized platform for advertisers and publishers that features real-time reporting and tools to limit low-quality traffic and reduce ad spend.
Last year, the adtech firm exited its private beta and began to facilitate the trading of advertising space and time, combining peer-to-peer technology and cryptography.
In its first year, AdEx has on boarded over 6,200 publishers and advertisers (including the world’s leading VPN provider, NordVPN) representing annual growth of 3,800%.
It also supported close to 900 advertising campaigns in 2020, a figure it expects to easily surpass in 2021 as awareness grows.
Built atop blockchain technology (AdEx Core), the protocol offers multiple benefits when compared to Google Adwords. For a start, it only counts ad impressions if the browser spends at least five seconds on the page containing the advert.
The emphasis is also on high-quality traffic rather than apathetic web users who won’t convert. Advertisers and publishers can choose to pay in either fiat currencies or digital assets such as bitcoin and ether, while privacy protections ensure that data is never collected on users.
What’s particularly nifty about AdEx is that users won’t necessarily be aware of the platform’s existence – unlike with Google. Thus web browsers will see ads but not the AdEx branding, making for a non-intrusive experience.
Publishers, meanwhile, can avail themselves of the sort of targeting offered by AdWords, based on things like interests, geography, age, etc.
Campaign payments are automated using smart contracts while layer-two scaling solutions enable transactions to be made quickly, off-chain. Advertisers also benefit from low fees and no withdrawals thresholds.
AdEx has multiple use cases including for affiliate networks, with publishers able to earn a share of revenue from every purchase of a product.
Currently AdEx is making inroads into the decentralized finance (defi) space, with staking pools, automatic compounding, and built-in insurance. By staking native ADX tokens, users provide stability to the platform and stand to earn rewards in return.
Not so long ago, Google Adwords was the only show in town. But like fiat currencies, its influence is waning as blockchain-based alternatives come to the fore.
Unlike the highly politicized Big Tech cartels, decentralized advertising platforms remain true to the founding principles of the open internet, facilitating fair and transparent online commerce.
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