With all of the AdWords policy talk lately—see recent entries on policy troubleshooting, issue prevention, trademark policy, and online pharmacy policy—it wouldn’t seem right to close out the discussion without touching on one final, at times very frustrating, policy-related topic: landing pages.
If you’re an affiliate advertiser running ads on behalf of someone else, a business owner new to the online marketing game, or someone who’s ever been caught in the confusing web of landing page quality (LPQ) problems, you may want to check out a few of my thoughts on the topic. I can’t promise to fix anyone’s LPQ issues, but I might be able to provide some quick tips on what to keep in mind when creating or revamping landing pages for your account that just might help to keep you from the wrong side of LPQ. As always, since I think that other marketers tend to be the best source of good information, I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of these issues as well.
So, without further ado, a checklist of dos and don’ts for your online advertising landing pages:
- Do: make sure that the top-level domain, which appears in the URL in your ad, matches the top-level domain of the URL on the page where the user lands after clicking. (This isn’t really a landing page-related policy, but is one of the easiest ways to get disapproved [or simply denied during the ad creation process] if you break it.)
- Don’t: redirect or take users to a different landing page briefly after they click on your ad. It may sound innocent enough—taking users to a page with a matching domain when they click, and then redirecting them elsewhere so that you were technically operating within the above-mentioned policy, but this is not recommended. Google doesn’t like it when you try to trick their system, and they may kick you out. For good.
- Do: make sure that your landing page contains relevant, unique content that directly relates to what was being advertised in your ad copy.
- Don’t: use a landing page that has no purpose other than to take the user elsewhere. What do I mean? Come on…we’ve all seen them: an ad that takes you to a landing page with little or no content on it, aside from a link (or multiple links) to a separate site that actually contains the content or product you were looking for. This is just a bad experience for the user.
- Do: highlight the features that make your website unique from others in your particular industry. For example, if you’re a travel site, chances are that there are tons of other sites very much like yours showing up for the same keywords. Do you have unique offers? Perhaps you offer more results due to partnerships with specific vendors? Anything that sets you apart from the crowd should be prominently highlighted on your landing page, so that users (and Google) can see what makes you different.
- Don’t: offer a landing page whose main content is advertising and links, or content that is contrived to mask the fact that the page is serving to drive traffic elsewhere.
Essentially, from my experience I’ve found that what Google is looking for is landing pages that are real, useful websites. This can be observed time and again when advertisers are brought down for what Google considers to be ‘Bridge Pages.’ What exactly is a bridge page? Exactly what is mentioned in #4 above. Many times used by affiliate advertisers who are running ads on behalf of a parent company in profit-sharing type of endeavor, these are created so that the affiliate has their own landing page and therefore does not have to use the domain of the parent company in their ads. As one might expect, if they weren’t using a separate page they’d be competing in the ad auction against the parent company, which wouldn’t result in their advertising being worth much either to them or the larger entity. Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you’re not an affiliate this doesn’t apply to you, though. I’ve seen plenty of bridge page-type landing pages set up by a company simply because they feel as though they’d like to have multiple landing pages available to them for different ads, all leading back to their main page.
So, does this make things more difficult for affiliates whose actual business means that they must direct traffic to the parent company site? Absolutely. But aside from what many believe, I think that this is less an attack on affiliates and more in the interest of the user. What I’ve heard time and again from Google representatives are these simple questions: why would a user want to visit your site when they could go straight to the parent company? What added value are you offering on your site that makes it worth their time to go through what is essentially an intermediary? These are the questions that you should ask yourself as well, if ultimately a user will need to click to a different site to reach their goal. It isn’t impossible for landing pages that drive traffic elsewhere to succeed, but the key is to make it worth the user’s while to be there—offer multiple link choices. Information that cannot be received elsewhere. Anything that makes your landing page more than an obstacle in a user’s path to getting to their destination.
Once again, I can’t stress enough that the above information will not necessarily fix landing page problems. I can’t define exactly what is being viewed as ‘useful information’ or ‘unique content’ by the reviewers, but hopefully the above information can help someone new to the online advertising world understand a little bit better what to keep in mind when formulating landing pages. Any other tips or experiences to share? Please share them in the comments!