Avoiding The Google Quality Score Slap

Avoiding The Google Quality Score Slap

I thought I’d take the chance to reveal some of my AdWords Quality Score research. Take it with a pinch of salt. This is small sample stuff.

I know a lot of people rely on AdWords to send traffic to their CPA offers. It might not be the best service, and it’s certainly not the most liked – but AdWords remains the number one PPC solution in terms of sheer volume at your disposal.

The trouble is, absent of any real competition, Google has long since decided to get picky and bitchy over the types of paid ads that it’ll allow.

Basically, this isn’t 2003 anymore. You can’t throw any old squeeze page on to the web and expect Google to suck it up to your plastic. Neither can you whore thousands of $0.05 clicks to a site that looks scammy, and probably is scammy.

If you’re just getting started with PPC, there’s a fat chance you’ve added an AdWords campaign only to see your Quality Score knocked to 1/10 after a set period of time. You’re probably wondering what’s gone wrong, what’s changed, what’s happening. The answer is nothing. Your campaign was always going to get hit eventually, it just took a few weeks for AdWords’ manual reviewers to pull their fingers out of their asses.

If we look at the exact guidelines, we’ll see this on the black list:

Redirect URLs: Ads that contain URLs that automatically redirect to the parent company.

Bridge Pages: Ads for web pages that act as an intermediary, whose sole purpose is to link or redirect traffic to the parent company.

Framing: Ads for web pages that replicate the look and feel of a parent site. Your site should not mirror (be similar or nearly identical in appearance to) your parent company’s or any other advertiser’s site.

So yeah, sucks to be an affiliate marketer, right? Not quite.

I spent a lot of time setting up different vehicles of promotion to find out what Google deemed to be a “bridge page”. I mean, where is the line drawn? A sales letter? A review page? A fake testimonial?

Well depending on the offer that you’re promoting, it can be extremely difficult to pass ANY of those through the manual account review. But interestingly enough, I ran in to a few strange patterns.

My testing involved setting up 12 almost identical campaigns across 12 different AdWords accounts. The only difference was the local country of the account. I ran my campaign through the USA AdWords, the UK version, the Canadian version…and so on…

To my surprise, there were some distinct variations in how the quality checks were performed based on the account reps doing the checking. My America-based campaigns were shot down in a matter of days rather than weeks. Here’s how it averaged out after some extended testing.

USA AdWords – QS dropped after 12 days.
UK AdWords – QS dropped after 15 days.
Canada AdWords – QS dropped after 27 days.
South Africa AdWords – QS dropped after 56 days.

Now I’m not saying placing your cheap ass campaigns on a local South Africa based AdWords account is going to save the day. As you can see, they got to it eventually. But it got me thinking, and hopefully it gets you thinking too.

I’m based in the UK so my main AdWords account is managed by UK reps. I decided to run a couple of identical campaigns and tweak them so that they were only active between 6pm and 7am. Why this time period? Well, common sense says the working day for most office employees is 9am-5pm.

If the manual review team are asleep in their beds, my ad is going to slip under the radar. Baring in mind that I have no clue how Google operates internally, this was all just pure speculation. I thought it was worth a shot.

Sure enough, the campaign avoided a Google slap for more than the original average of 15 days. It’s still running today – over 3 months after I carried out the research. I just pause it during the hours when I’d imagine a manual reviewer to be actively trolling accounts.

And hey, if you want to know what time was “peak” for getting the slap – every single one of my UK based campaigns was slapped between 11am and 3pm on Friday afternoon.

Could it be pure coincidence? I’m not gonna lie, it probably is. But then, I don’t particularly care.

A campaign that risks getting the Google slap is absolutely no interest to me. I like long term stability – and the only reason I run with a quick squeeze page is to split test an offer, or to test the profitability of a new niche.

If you want to truly succeed in avoiding the Google slap, you’re going to need to offer value for content. A fake testimonial or a non-discrete review blog will both draw the wrong kind of attention under the gaze of a manual review.

But there are techniques out there that work. I’m not going to reveal my most effective method – because it’s massively underused and I’m reaping the profit from it. The ultimate goal is to create a page that looks as if it’s going to give the reader an unbiased opinion. I’ll drop a hint in saying that two-way communication is the best place to start.

I know a lot of guys have success with cloaking, but that’s not something that I dabble in.

If you try everything and still can’t sustain a long term profitable campaign on AdWords, maybe you need to start looking elsewhere. Both Yahoo and MSN AdCenter provide excellent platforms for PPC advertising. They’re also slightly cheaper and vastly different in the markets that they reach. I’ll have a separate post on that later. Until then, happy getting slapped.

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