Blown To Bits

And the Winner is: “John McCain”

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

No, not John McCain, the candidate; “John McCain,” the words. Politico reports that it costs twice as much to buy “John McCain” on Google AdWords as “Barack Obama.”

As we explain in Chapter 4 of Blown to Bits, the text ads that appear on the right of a page of Google searches are brought up in response to the words you’ve searched for. Since there is only so much real estate on the screen, there is a continuous auction for words, with the ads for the highest bidders being displayed. The advertisers set a budget and every time one of their ads is clicked on, the budget is decremented by the bid amount. That’s how Google makes its money. Particular terms can go for anywhere from a buck a click, to thousands.

According to the story, McCain’s name costs up to $470 per click, while Obama’s tops out at $250. Why? Perhaps because McCain’s campaign is itself bidding up the price. Apparently it also buys “Barack Obama” clicks — with ads reading “Obama for president? Why not learn more about John McCain for president?”

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