Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ads on Google: Who's paying to sell Common Core?

Who is paying Google to sell Common Core stuff?

You may have seen one of the many the good lists available of the folks who received Gates money to promote Common Core.

Here are a few:

What you may not have noticed, is the growing cadre of publishers, software companies and a host of others who are paying Google (and other websites) to promote Common Core and/or to peddle lots of stuff:  software, books, lessons plans, workbooks, videos, practice tests, etc.

There was also this ad on Craigs list looking for Common Core writers:

One easy way to see who may be profiting from Common Core (or trying to, anyway):  Do a simple search on Google and look for the ads.

Below is a search on Google for "common core" done 12/28/13 from California (the ads change frequently and change based on your location).

The paid advertisements are shown in the Orange boxed areas and are usually labeled as "ads"...

While we do not have direct pricing data, it is likely that these folks are paying Google probably in the range of $2 to $10 every time anyone clicks on their ad.

Scholastic appears to be one of the more efficient advertisers (not showing in this search results page) and are likely paying an advertising agency to manage their ads.  Yep, check the lists above to see that Scholastic also received ~$6.7M in Gates money.

Scholastic appears to be using a technique in search engine advertising called "negative exact match."  With this setting, they are likely not placing any ads for searches of the exact "common core" phrase.  Rather, they are only placing ads when another word or phrase is also used in the search.  For example, Scholastic's ads do not show up when we searched for "common core."  However their ads did show when we added one or more words to the search, for example, when we searched for "common core stinks" or "common core is dumb" (or other less family-friendly words and phrases).

See below example below:

Scholastic (or its agency) is likely doing this to avoid the throng of crowds driving up the price on the exact phrase "common core."  Note that Google's "pay per click" ad system is a bidding model where competition for search terms increases the "per click" ad price.

Scholastic also appears to only be advertising this way in California or they have dynamic or custom state-specific web pages.  This shows some sophistication that only comes with paying someone (probably to the tune of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per year), just to manage these ad campaigns.  However, since their paid ads show for things like "common core stinks," it appears whomever they hired is not doing their job well.

Another interesting Common Core ad spender leads to a site called "Get to the Core" (, put out by the Stand for Children advocacy group.  Think they might be on the Gates money list?  Yep.  Appears they received ~$8.4M from Gates for Common Core.  Perhaps they are spending a chunk of that money on these Google ads.  At least they do not try to obscure their mission, which appears to be "defending" Common Core (see pop-up below from their website):

With the Google advertisers, many appear to be buying ads nationwide, even in states like Texas where Common Core was not adopted. With these ad placements, they are mostly wasting their time and money.

The ads appearing for these searches are likely costing these companies millions per year, just for Google advertising.  The costs are sure to increase next year when Common Core is rolled out widely and parents and teachers will be searching online for help.  If these companies are spending millions to promote Common Core on Google, imagine they are expecting to make tens or perhaps hundreds of millions in return.  Or they may just be looking for places to waste, er um, spend Gates money.

Click the links below to see who is buying ads in your state or location:

If you see anything interesting, odd or funny, please take a screenshot and come back to share it with us here in the Comments section!  Thank you!

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