Google AdWords Landing Page Quality Scores

Google AdWords updated their landing page quality scoring algorithm. I have got quite a bit of email on the issue, although people are still working through what all Google is doing.

In much the same way to how Google has clearly stated their hatred for low quality affiliate sites in the organic SERPs some of that pure hate is crossing over into their AdWords relevancy algorithms, where they are looking at the landing page quality (and other factors) and squeezing the margins on many business models. I believe if you spend huge money you probably get a bit more of a pass than smaller ad buyers, but the clear message with this update is that Google does not like noise even if you are willing to pay them for the privilege of displaying your noisy message.

Many people liked PPC because they felt it was far more stable and more predictable than SEO, but for many PPC just started to look ugly quite quickly. If you are dealing with search marketing you have to evolve with the market or die. That is true with organic search and is true with paid search.

The brutal part with this Google update is beyond providing these general guidelines they failed to define what qualities they are looking for when they test landing page quality. Some of the things Google might be looking for

  • if your AdWords ads redirect

  • your account history (are you a large reliable spender that has been spending for years? are you new to a saturated market? do you have a spotty past checkered with 20,000 unrelated keyword uploads? do your ads get a strong CTR?)
  • history of competitors with similar keyword selections
  • if your landing page links to known affiliate hubs
  • if your landing page has redirect on outbound links
  • if your landing page has many links to other sites or pages that are also advertising on the same or similar keywords
  • if your page has duplicate or limited content (or conversely if it has a huge number of links to external sites on it)
  • time on site
  • rate which people click the back button after landing on your site
  • outbound ad CTR on your landing page (especially easy if you are arbitraging AdWords to AdSense)
  • conversion rate if you use Google Checkout, Google Analytics, or the AdWords conversion tracker

Don't forget that Google not only has a huge search engine, the largest ad network, and an analytics product, but they have their toolbar on a boatload of computers and can track track track their users!

Andrew Goodman reminded advertisers that one shouldn't be too reactive to this change

As [Googler] Nick Fox suggested, there are rarely any gray areas, implying that it's generally seriously misleading ad campaigns and scam offers that are being targeted. Yes, there are landing page factors now in the mix.

But these will generally not affect accounts of long standing which have good CTR's established. You need to continue optimizing your landing pages for corporate goals and profitability, conversion rates, ROI, etc... not based on what you think it will do to your minimum bid in AdWords.

As Google Checkout and other direct merchant incentives (and affiliate disincentive) spread you have think that Google is going to make many PPC affiliate marketers cringe.

If you are already well established though this might improve your margins since it raises the barrier to entry to the AdWords market while wiping out some of the arbitrage players and some of the less sophisticated or lower budget merchants and affiliates. Some of the larger players in the space are seeing a significant rise in traffic as the squirrel population dies off.

In the same way Google trusts older websites maybe it is worth starting up an AdWords account just to learn the medium before it gets any more complex, and with any luck to build up a level of trust that can be leveraged if you ever have a sudden urge to advertise a time sensitive message down the road.

I have had a couple search marketers tell me that they have a couple high spend low maintenance PPC clients just to have the account spend necessary to have pull with the engines.

Published: July 17, 2006

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Comments

July 29, 2006 - 2:39am

GOOGLE BANS PIZZA MAKING GRANDMOTHER FROM GOOGLE CONTENT NETWORK

Last week Google sadly banned a pizza making grandmother from advertising on the Google content network by raising her minimum bids to between $5.00 and $10.00 per click.

This is incredibly sad, as tons of cutomers were extremely happy with this product and sent glowing testimonials regularly.

The only response Google will give the author of the pizza course is "your page is low quality." Obviously visitors to the site disagree, and anybody looking at www.PizzeriaSecrets.com with their own two eyes would also surely disagree.

This is a very sad day for Google when they're prohibiting honest advertisers from selling quality products on Google... Obviously the "Google Quality Checker" needs a serious overhaul...

Brad Switzer

July 29, 2006 - 2:54am

Hi Brad
Maybe if that site was more than a single page salesletter they might think it was of higher quality.

December 7, 2006 - 2:35am

Can someone please tell me the best software to do landing page split testing. My site does have a lot of traffic but our conversion rate is very low, so I am hopping to start doing changes and need to test my landing pages. Do you guys recommned any software?

Manny (the ab-crazy guy)

December 7, 2006 - 3:15am

Try Google Website Optimizer.

Marc
August 6, 2007 - 11:09am

Very interesting article and good food for thought. I am a small time advertiser and I just use Adwords to market my products as they come in -- one product at time so I have a really small store front. I never experienced a problem like this but I believe the landing page quality score thing has screwed up everything. Now my CPC bid has been moved up to $5 or $10 dollars a click from $.35 (what I used to pay). My landing page http://www.righteousrodent.com/Blueturfmouse.asp has done really well in the past but not now. I think the relevancy is good and I think it is pretty targeted to the right audience.

I have seen reports that maybe .asp will cause the problem but it never seemed to before. Frustrating for us little guys.

July 30, 2006 - 1:52am

Aaron
The Pizza site might be a little cheesy (forgive the pun), but, so? I mean, that sort of thing appeals to a lot of people out there. Shop in any small town in the mountains and you will see plenty of folksy charm working for shops.

Google is a bit vague over what "quality" is. If they don't want people doing arbitrage, say, no one is allowed to just redisplay CPC listings. If they don't want affiliates, they should say, no affiliate marketing. By not being clear on what they are looking for it looks like they are just being tough on the little guy while giving ebay a free ride, even if ebay is advertising for "dead squirrels"

July 30, 2006 - 5:43am

That page was not a folksy warm atmosphere. It was a "hard close or go F yourself" page by a person that has MANY of those types of sites. Their comment spamming and misrepresenting themselves as a poor grandma is at best pathetic.

Google is about making information accessible. A site that converts well (say 5% or so) still means that 95% of the people are dissatisfied with the experience if they are only offered the close or go F yourself options.

If the site was more than a salesletter maybe Google would think it was of higher quality.

I do agree with you though on the hypocrisy of allowing the big accounts to do things that are wrong for smaller advertisers to do.

July 17, 2006 - 4:28am

I'm still testing, but size of site seems to be a fairly large component. I had some keywords disabled that led visitors to a particular landing page on a smallish site. I moved the same landing page to another site that is pretty extensively indexed by Google. The keywords were all re-activated without the previously required increase. The bias towards large sites seems to match their approach towards organic results.

July 17, 2006 - 3:41pm

Probably this is not only a landing page thing. The german AdWords advisor said that the whole website should be user friendly, not only the landing page.

Ben
July 17, 2006 - 7:01pm

Matt,

How long did it take Google to re-activate your ads after you switched them over to the larger site?

Thanks for your input.

July 18, 2006 - 7:01am

Bah. They surely have thought about not-so rich and tech-savvy people like mom and pop businesses, right?

A typical mom and pop business isn't an authority site, lacks a lot of content and clear product descriptions. Hence some may try to use AdWords. But noo! They will pay through the nose to get the clicks because they didn't consult a SEO/marketer/usability person to improve their pages!

Of course that's not the only type of people thwarted by the upgrade and I, for myself, welcome the change, but still, the bitter residue remains ;)

August 1, 2007 - 11:44am

Great article guys, and some fascinating insights.

I've actually just finished writing my own article on this issue on my blog - http://ppc-outpost.blogspot.com/.

My main reason for writing it was a number of my clients have been stung by landing page quality score recently, and the main issues seem to be - using images to display their site content and having robots banned from their landing pages in their robots.txt file. Check these two issues first - if either of these are happening, it should be a relatively easy fix!

Chad
October 25, 2006 - 4:24am

Well, this has been very insightful due to some recent changes to my landing pages. Thanks for the information.

Matty Wolfe
September 19, 2006 - 8:36pm

Anyone who knows anything about Google, seo, or "ethical" non-spam web marketing can see exactly why the pizza site was banned.

July 20, 2006 - 12:16pm

it's a good thing that there is a new algorithm beacayse there where to many mfa sites in the adwords results, ... Now you need to have a "good" site if you want to have some profit of the adwords system

July 20, 2006 - 9:26pm

Does anyone have examples of sites and or keywords getting punished?

Wardy
June 11, 2007 - 11:31am

Some of my landing pages have been hit (yes maybe deservedly so), I have been meaning to get them made into real sites for a while but nio got round to it so this is the kick up the arse I needed!

Anyway, once I have changed my landing pages into real full sites etc how long should I expect to get my sites re-scored? Is there someone I can contact to get them to run it through the system again and my bids reduced?

July 25, 2006 - 7:32pm

Well, Google can do pretty much anything they want, but they should be vary of Yahoo and MSN.

Changes like these effect a large number of advertisers and might not be welcomed by most of them.

Well for now Google is running the show.

July 25, 2006 - 7:36pm

Well, Internet is a big place and there are many people in the affiliate market place making their bread and butter though buying adwords and selling their traffic for a profit.

They are the middle men or resellers if you look to the offline counter parts.

Google does not like sharing their piece of the CAKE.

All we ask is a small slice of the CAKE.

Google wants to bake their cake and eat it too.

zoomer
July 25, 2006 - 11:22pm

Landing page quality? A bunch of propaganda bunk, designed to let them use smoke and mirrors to adjust things in the background to suit their economic goals.

Let's consider that landing page "quality" aspect with my recent experience.

I run a top 3 ad on google. And I have a top 3 corresponding ad on yahoo. Costing plenty!

Some bottom feeder then puts up NOTHING BUT a "top 5 links" page on google adwords...running only yahoo paid links without any content...and of course my ad shows up on his page.

This means that if a surfer clicks my ad above his, I get charged. And if they then come down to his page advertised below, and click my yahoo content ad on there, I get charged.

What about REAL content? I called google and yahoo both and they said they couldn't do anything about that. Google rep says some advertisers would welcome that "extra exposure". I said if I wanted the extra exposure I would just put up another site and run another ad and have 100% of the viewer's attention from that same click.

There have always been content-ad sites but in the past most have had some content, however trivial. Here we have an instance of one LARGE operator right out in the open with literally NO content whatsoever. I am just amazed that google wants this clutter.

Technically, I know I can turn off the yahoo content ads...but only in their entirety...you cannot yet turn off a specific site you don't want your ads running on.

So when I read this stuff about "landing page quality" and so forth, I just laugh. Because a page with NOTHING but ads is NOT quality, and certainly not real content.

Eventually the PPC marketplace will be split many more ways....MSN is just for starters...and the "this is the way it is" mentality and inaccessibility of support for advertisers will be a thing of the past.

Hope all those earlybirds plan on cashing in their stock options by then, because memories don't fade.

July 26, 2006 - 5:46pm

This is killing my business, what is good landing page anyways? google is getting out of hand, I wonder if they will ever think about the small guy.

October 31, 2009 - 5:18am

I agree completely with zoomer on. We have a large Google Adwords account (hundreds of campaigns) and have had it for years.

We now have a client with hundreds of subscribers each with their own google campaign and duplicate lead generation landing pages.

All of our campaigns were shut off due to "low page rank". Upon calling Google, we were told that they're "trying to provide a quality user experience" and since all of our pages were the same they deemed it a low quality user experience.

I asked how they determined that the user experience was poor? I told them we had a 1 in 7 lead conversion rate and asked if the the visitors thought the page was that bad, would our conversion rate be that high? DUH!!

Meanwhile, most of the campaigns were only purchasing 100 clicks or so at a time and our keywords were generating literally millions of searches. So it's mathematically impossible for everyone searching for what we're promoting to satisfy all the sites because the clicks are used in a day or 2 max.

Needless to say, we've taken a good portion of our business elsewhere because we refuse to produce one of those junky bogus "content" cluttered sites that delivers nothing real and gets no conversions.

October 31, 2009 - 5:09pm

That is the same argument that is often made on the organic search side as well. If 15% of people are converting then certainly you have to be doing something right. How can it be spam and of no value if it is a legitimate offer and converts well above normal industry conversion rates?

If your company was a well known brand then Google would encourage split testing your conversion-oriented landing pages with their website optimizer...how is that any different than you running a number of lead generation pages in parallel?

Meanwhile Google is starting to create their own low value comparison pages WHILE EXPECTING advertisers (other than Google) to increasingly act like publishers and add more content to the pages they are advertising.

Google: Do what I say. Not what I do!

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