It’s true. My fight is over.
They got me too. It was crafty, it was cunning, there was nothing I could do, and they made it seem like my fault.
After where I left you on the last post, here’s what happened, in short:
1. The guy wrote back to me as though he finally understood what was going on. He says to me, (and I paraphrase)
“If you are able to fix up these sites: X, X, X, X, I can submit your account for re-review”
2. I get ecstatic. Particularly so because 8-10 sites he mentioned weren’t any longer active so I didn’t need them, And the other 2 I wanted, but could live without. This is it, I thought, I’ve won!
I went and simply deleted all the campaigns he mentioned, leaving only my most important ones (that they didn’t have a problem with)
I wrote to him and said “Ok, all the problem sites you mentioned, I have deleted them from my account. Most of them were inactive, I never need to use them again and I won’t ever advertise them on Adwords in future.”
3. He writes back and tells me that deleting the campaigns of those sites isn’t enough. If I want him to submit the sites for re-review, I need to go back through and fix all of them, even though their campaigns are deleted, even though I don’t want to use them or advertise on them ever again. If they are in my account history and still look the way they do, my account won’t get accepted on the re-review.
4. I write back and say “So you’re telling me that I have to go back and change 10 inactive sites, change every page, (some sites had as many as 30 pages of content), based on guidelines that are completely ambiguous, just so you can CONSIDER re-activating my account?”
5. He replies (in more words than this): That’s correct.
Pretty good huh?
Now it seems like I could have gotten the account back if only I wanted to jump through the ridiculous hoops of fire and waste half my life in the process. It’s my fault now, you see.
So that’s it for that Adwords account.
Now here’s what we can learn.
I’m going to paste here what he pasted to me. I believe this information is online somewhere, I just hadn’t seen it before.
Basically, they said that some of my sites were Arbitrage sites, and some were Bridge Pages. The 2 big No-Nos for affiliates. They define these as below. See my notes in bold.
Google’s position is that high ad quality and landing page quality are important for providing a positive user experience. Therefore, Google AdWords doesn’t permit ads directing to landing pages that were specifically made to show additional ads (a practice known as “arbitrage”). Furthermore, we’re extending the definition of arbitrage to include websites that are primarily occupied by display ads.
The ratio of ads to unique, non-ad content is measured to determine if a landing page violates our arbitrage policy. We measure this ratio by looking at content above the fold (i.e. without scrolling) on a display that measures at least 1024 x 768 pixels with a maximized browser window. A landing page is not considered arbitrage if all of the following conditions are met:
1. 30% of the browser display area consists of unique and relevant content.
This excludes search boxes, headers, navigation links, logos, etc.
Specific, well-organized commercial offers (such as those found on retail sites) may count as unique and relevant content as long as they provide significant user value.
2. The browser display area used for ads cannot exceed the browser display area used for unique and relevant content. For example, if 30% of the display area consists of unique and relevant content, there may be no more than 30% of the display space used for advertising. If 50% of the display area consists of unique and relevant content, up to 50% of the display space may be used for ads.
[ANDREW:] I really don’t know about this, because the site of mine they mentioned doesn’t look like they describe here at all.
But what I took from it, is to be careful with banners that sit above your fold, as you could unnecessarily be setting off filters. That goes for Adsense ads too.
That means, if you have a blog, banners above your first post, banners in your header, or at the top of your sidebar.
It also matters then how thick your header is, according to this. If you have a thin header, and more of your sidebar and post content are showing above the fold, it might change your ratios.
In general, I don’t use banners above post content anyway. They rarely get as good CTRs as those integrated into content, or at the end of content anyway. And as for top of the sidebar… Maybe we can move our sidebar banners down a little… put them below one other widget, like a calendar, about me, or recent posts? It’s a shame because this is such valuable real estate on your blog, as I’m sure you know. [/ANDREW]
3. The site must have user value other than providing ads. For example, Google provides web search, news sites provide regularly updated original content, and other services.
To check that your website complies with our arbitrage policy:
1. Open the site in a new browser.
2. Expand the browser to a minimum of a 1024 x 768 pixel display.
3. Make sure you have minimal browser menus and your font is set to medium or normal.
4. Scroll to the very top of the page, as evaluation is based on what appears above the fold.
5. The site is considered compliant if the area of ads is less than or equal to the area of content.
Please use the instructions above to evaluate your entire website and, if necessary, bring it into compliance with our arbitrage policy. If you’re not in compliance, you may receive a low landing page quality score, which can negatively affect your Quality Scores, cost-per-clicks, and ad positions.
[ANDREW:] Pretty interesting huh? I never knew THAT was how they analyzed it.[/ANDREW]
Google does not permit ads for bridge pages that are solely intended to direct the user to another website with the same or similar information. We’ve found that when a page has multiple ads that to the same site, the results are less relevant and users have a lower-quality experience.
[ANDREW:] See “Multiple ads to the same site” – That is a big one. That doesn’t even say not too many affiliate links it means not too many links to the same URL regardless. That means unlike some people think, that putting up no-follows will make Google ignore your aff links… that might not be the case.
In general it means whatever you’re doing, don’t use too many affiliate links. That means careful with a sidebar banner and an affiliate link in the post going to the same product etc.[/ANDREW]
To comply with our policies, the options below are available:
Option 1: Refine your web page so that it contains a substantial amount of original content.(ANDREW: We pretty much knew that right?) This content should be related to your ad text and should stand independently of the links on your page that redirect users to other sites. (Stand independently – like position wise? Not having affiliate links blended in to your content? It’s hard to tell what that means) This includes any affiliate links on your site. In addition, the site should have an overall unique look and feel.
Examples of original content include, but are not limited to:
- Tips and information for consumers considering the product or service
- Competitor pricing and feature comparisons
- Unique and informative reviews and customer feedback
- Links to relevant articles
This content shouldn’t be derived directly from other sites or a parent site.
Option 2: Redesign your web page to offer multiple, competing offers from different companies for related services. For example, a webpage promoting a specific book could have links to four online bookstores from which one could purchase the book.
[ANDREW:] (So they’ll like you more if you take a review style approach and include information about multiple products… maybe…)[/ANDREW]
Option 3: Link directly to the end site, using the appropriate display URL.
[ANDREW:] They are talking about in YOUR content here. Use the appropriate display URL on your links. This COULD be referring to using affiliate links that are redirects but we don’t exactly know.
As you can see, the frustrating thing is that it’s both more specific, and less specific at the same time.
Finally, here are some points that this brought to my mind, particularly when I think about the sites that they DIDN’T have a problem with based on these guidelines.[/ANDREW]
What I Learned:
1. I think the days of being able to send traffic (free or paid) to a site with just one piece of content, one “landing page” are pretty much over. Alot of sites still do it in the organic listings, but with paid search, it’s over. The more unique content your site has, the better you’re going to be viewed.
2. Too many links to the same place. I’ve even thought about adding in some blended colour links to other websites just to mix up the ratio of affiliate links to other links on my site. I’ll let you know how that goes.
3. Affiliate links: One thing I came near to concluding was that linking to a page on your own site, which is a redirect to an affiliate link (like yourdomain.com/go-now) is better than linking to the aff program direct. It means your page code doesn’t have an affiliate link in it which MAY cause Google to view you less suspiciously. The site that they didn’t have a problem with was using this strategy. BUT, ONE (just 1 of 10) of the sites they listed as bridge pages, had this format too… so I can conclude nothing. In any case this is only for Adwords at the moment but it’s not hard to imagine Google employing these standards to view sites in the organic SERPS at some point in the future.
4. Longer articles: Considering that G tells us that they are analyzing the ratios of content to advertising on your page, it seems to say that, at least if you’re an affiliate and using affiliate link, up to a certain point a longer article is better.
This is important for conversion too. A longer article with more of the information that the prospective buyer wants, the better you’ll usually convert. I think the days of slapping up 300 word articles on your affiliate site and hoping for conversions are pretty well over.
Anyway, that turned into a bit of a “think out loud” ramble, but I hope it’s given you some food for thought.
I’d love to hear if any of you have experience with any of these factors and can tell us how they influenced your campaigns, traffic or conversions.