Avoiding The 'Google Slap'

by , Nov 22, 2010, 7:00 AM
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The dreaded "Google Slap" is common fear among marketers today. If you're not familiar, the term refers to Google significantly lowering the Quality Score of AdWords advertisers, or banning them from advertising on AdWords outright.

Quality Scores are Google's way of balancing the interests of all parties in the online advertising ecosystem, including Google, its users and advertisers. Google believes anything short of delivering high quality, relevant ads to users will harm the overall Google experience. They see ads as additional information, and those ads help in their mission to organize all of the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. They would rather show no ads at all than show ads that provide a low quality experience for users. Google views their job as never done and they seek to constantly improve the quality of ads.

So why does the Quality Score matter? Your Quality Score will determine whether your ad is eligible to enter the auction for a particularly query, the relative position of your ad in relation to other ads on that result page, and if your ad is of high enough quality to show Ad Sitelinks. A better Quality Score also reduces the price you need to bid to maintain a given position. Additionally, only ads with high scores are eligible to appear above the natural search results or to use Dynamic Keyword Insertion.

Many factors contribute to Quality Scores, the first being the always-important Click-Through Rate (CTR). Quality Scores are also affected by the relevancy of an ad. Google uses relevancy signals to inform quality predictions. Then there's the landing page quality. Google uses the landing page quality to measure the quality of an ad in ways that go beyond ad performance, which is merely a proxy of quality that can be manipulated.

In the early days of Quality Scores, Google result pages were sometimes filled with ads from a single advertiser, and advertisers used seemingly relevant ads to direct users to low quality content. Google implemented policies to counteract this, but advertisers still seemed to find loopholes. Under the current system, landing page quality (LPQ) measures signals about the quality of a website and advertisers who provide a bad user experience will be penalized.

Sites sure to have a low LPQ include data collection sites that offer free gifts or subscription services in order to collect private information, arbitrage sites that are designed for the sole purpose of showing ads, and malware sites that knowingly or unknowingly install software on a visitor's computer. Others at risk of low LPQ are ebook sites with frequent ads, "get rich quick" sites, comparison-shopping sites, travel aggregators and affiliates that don't comply with affiliate guidelines.

Those looking to improve a low Quality Score can do so in a number of ways. The best way to improve a score is to focus on your key metrics. Organize your account for maximum effectiveness, choose relevant keywords, create straightforward and targeted ads and point users to a landing page with relevant, original content and quick load times. Still, there are many common misconceptions about Quality Scores:

  • "There can and should be ads on all Google results pages." Not so, says Google. Google wants to show users the most relevant content on search results pages. Sometimes the organic results are so relevant that few or no ads meet the relevance threshold required to be shown.
  • "If an advertiser is the only advertiser on a page, the ad will be cheap." The fact is that Google prices ads based on the relevancy of the ad to the query, not on the number of competing advertisers. Names and generic terms are often difficult to advertise on and "forcing" your ad on a query can be expensive, so looking at your performance data will tell you which queries are working well for you.
  • "Changing keyword match types can alter your quality." The truth is that the Quality Score for minimum bids is calculated every time a search query matches your keyword on Google. For instance, [red flowers], "red flowers" and red flowers have the same Quality Score when used with the query 'red flowers.' You can see the differences in your account stats, because different match types result in a different query mix.
  • "Showing up in a higher position will benefit a Quality Score." Quality Scores are normalized to compensate for natural differences in performance for ads in different positions. An ad in a higher position on the right side is predisposed to get a better CTR, and ads above the search results is even more predisposed to get a better CTR.

Advertisers can avoid the Google slap by follow easy guidelines and keeping their ads relevant and targeted and direct users to high-quality landing pages. ClickBank is committed to providing its affiliates and vendors with the information needed to grow successful business, and working side by side with Google is part of ensuring that success.

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