Google Charged with Selling Ads to Parked Domains

Lawyer Hal Levitte filed a California federal lawsuit against Google last week for allegedly selling advertising to parked domains and error pages.

The complaint argues that Google is guilty of "unjust enrichment" for promising high-quality ad placements and then serving a substantial portion of ads on low-quality sites, ARS Technica reported Wednesday.

Levitte launched an $887.67 ad campaign back in 2007 to promote his law practice's website, hoping the click-throughs would produce a surge of new business. Unfortunately, a significant number of traffic came from parked domains and errors.

According to the lawsuit, 16.3 percent of all the clicks throughout the campaign originated from such sites, but not a single one led to a conversion.

"These websites result in a lower conversion rate than standard search traffic or websites with actual content on them," says the complaint.

The suit claims that it was difficult to opt out of having ads placed on such sites until March 2008; after that date, Google provided a way to opt into third-party sites while excluding error sites and parked domains, but this option was buried "four clicks deep within [Google's] interface, where many advertisers would not notice it," according to ARS Technica. 

Levitte maintains Google never informed him that his ads would appear on error sites and parked domains and that the company is accountable of deceptive advertising. Upon contacting the search giant, Levitte was told that the company had looked into the situation and determined the clicks which had come from said parked and error sites were legitimate, despite them resulting in no conversions.

Despite an alteration to the policy and the meager amount of money Levitte spent for the campaign, he is seeking class-action status for everyone in the U.S. with an AdWords account over the last four years, presuming at least one ad impression appeared on a parked or error site.