Last month, on April 1, Google AdWords made a policy change for display URLs for all AdWords advertising. Google claims this came about in response to advertiser and user feedback and is in an effort to eliminate the “switch-and-bait” advertising that delivers one ad, and serves up a completely unrelated landing page. The policy is design to provide more relevant advertising results and a better user experience, according to Google.
So what does this mean at the advertiser level? Well, not much if you were doing things on the up-and-up. This change pertains to, but is not limited to, redirects and vanity URLs. It means that Google will strictly enforce the requirement that your ad’s display URL match its destination URL.
Tracking URLs will work fine within this system. Adding ?source= to your ads will have no affect on the domain you use. The most important aspect is to make sure your landing page matches your display URL.
Page names, etc. in your URL will be allowed without a problem. You just need to make sure that the top-level domain (www.topleveldomain.com) matches the URL of your landing page.
Google still encourages everyone to make updates and changes to their URLs, just to make sure that those changes fall into line with the new policy. If you use any redirected URLs in your ad texts, you should take notice – your quality score and cost per click will suffer if you are redirecting users from one TLD to another before serving content.
Here’s an example, if an advertiser’s destination top level domain is www.somesite.com, the display URL or the ad’s landing page top level domain should be the same.
Landing page contains:
Landing page is at:
Included in the FAQs on the policy changes were concerns about quality scores. Google admits that if you make changes to your display URL, you might see changes in the minimum bids of your keywords. This happens because Google AdWords treats any edited ads as new ads, therefore they have no performance history on which to base a “quality score.”
Quality score is a “grade” Google assigns to each of your keywords. It’s calculated using a variety of undisclosed factors – and a few that have been disclosed. Factors we know about are: relevancy of keyword to landing page content, Top Level Domain compliance, click through rate, and historical performance of the keyword and account. There are a lot of things we DON’T know about Quality Score. Luckily AdWords tells us the quality score of each keyword, so we know if we need to improve.
Quality score influences your ads’ position on Google and the Google Network and can determine the minimum bids of those keywords. In general, the higher the quality score, the better your ad position and the lower your minimum bids and cost per click.
Quality Score is used to help ensure that only the most relevant ads appear to users on Google and the Google Network. The system works best when the ads displayed match closely to the users’ needs. Relevant ads tend to earn more clicks, appear in a higher position, and bring you the most success.
Google suggests confining your URL changes to one account to to minimize the effect of complying with this policy. This means you shouldn’t make a big effort to start a new account – or start again from scratch. The experts at Google AdWords suggest that you should make changes to the ads with your highest-performing keywords first.
There was some concern for large companies who manage local PPC advertising for their clients, such as Reach Local. Google has made an exception for these large advertisers who have close working relationships with AdWords. It appears as though that ReachLocal’s ads haven’t been affected and continue to display URLs that are different from the landing page.
According to a post by Bill Hartzer on the Vizion Interactive Blog, Reach Local is an exception to this policy.
The changes being made by Google are subtle, but should be noted by all AdWords users. Google states that no immediate action will be taken on existing ads, but do strongly urge advertisers to make the necessary changes to all their ads within your accounts. Google goes on to say that this would be necessary to ensure that your ads run without being disrupted by any future disapproved ads related to this policy enforcement. Rest assured if Blizzard is managing your PPC accounts, we have always complied with the Google AdWords best practices and your accounts are running smoothly.