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Thursday, November 09, 2006

AdWords Landing Page Quality Score Impact, on Content Bids

Yeah, even the headline makes it sound confusing. Google assesses Landing Page Quality to determine whether your ads should be shown at a normal bid or a higher bid. Now, that assessment will affect your ad distribution even in the content network.

Google is clarifying, for starters, that the Landing Page Quality portion of their assessment of overall Quality does not affect ad rank - just minimum bids. In other words, it doesn't govern the overall auction, it's more of a punitive measure that creates an on-off mechanism much as editorial policies did in the past. No one's getting a bonus for having a "really awesome landing page."

How clear is that? Not really clear enough. Such explanations seem to come out as if they were obvious facts, months after they were implemented quietly or not fully explained. Translation: often, I feel dumb - yet somewhat vindicated in my earlier fumbling explanations, which were roughly accurate.

If there is a possible interpretation of that, it goes something like this: a lot of arbitrage and affiliate type players were shut out of showing AdWords on Google Search on their first go-round. Although this is not official verbiage, I believe at least one Google staffer has referred to this as a "sweep".

So the next place you'd see those ads showing up, as the "swept" began to react to the change, is in the contextual ad space.

Not exactly a minor issue, because users are still going to be ticked at some of those old familiar ads designed only to send users to go click on more ads.

Example: one place I see a lot of weird contextual ads is in GMail and in Google Groups. I have a junk GMail account I use to assess a bunch of autoresponded offers and marketing schlock. Some of that stuff is selling something, and sometimes that something is really junky. But none of it is selling anything of an adult nature. Yet some of the contextual ads that were sneaking in were pretty obscene. Oh, the words weren't obscene. But the meaning was.

Personally, I don't care! But you get the feeling a lot of GMail users might care.

So - the thinking at Google seems to be: we'll do anything to make sure that there are plenty of our ads showing up all over the web, in contextually relevant places. But we also want to make sure that they are niiice, respectable ads, with niiice, user-friendly landing pages.

They won't say precisely what kinds of landing pages they're targeting as low quality. Instead, we get helpful hints like "put yourself in the user's shoes." Well, what if that user isn't wearing any shoes, or pants? Drum roll. Ha ha. They really mean "put yourself in your grandmother's shoes when she is sitting and the computer next to her grandchildren." Or something along those lines. And yeah I'm kidding. Because I'm conflating taste/obscenity related concerns, and user experiences more broadly. What Google is targeting in the greatest numbers is something very identifiable: ad links from Google that go to pages full of additional ad links, from Yahoo or maybe Google (not to a page that is selling something, or a page that has quality content in addition to ads). Secondarily, they're after data collection and email squeeze pages that don't fully disclose the nature of the offer or the business behind the offer. And of course the evil popups and such from days of yore. Sure, there may be a number of other usability and transparency issues being looked at, but those would be your low hanging fruit. It's not like they genuinely have a bee in their bonnet about every single tiny issue with your site.

So it's arbitrage and data-collection-without disclosure that seem to be in G's laser sights. You know it, I know it, the American people know it, we're on track, a thousand point of light.... what, you say, it's happy hour already? Thank God.

Trying to disseminate (and assimilate) info in this industry is stretching me like Gumby. On one hand, 400 reactions to some minor change by Google are dutifully launched out into the blogosphere by industry watchers... many of whom add very little commentary (sadly, unless you're rather loquacious, this refusal to offer insight and mere regurg. of the news tends to be the nature of blogging).

On the other hand, in the more productive part of life, I have to explain in simple terms - whether it be to a fairly savvy new client or an advertiser who attends a seminar, and is very new to the space - how I tend (or intend) to deal with issues like budgeting, keyword research, and reporting.

If you see less and less up-to-the-minute commentary about all of the various minor developments in features and policies at the search engines here going forward, it's because energy seems better focused on the bread and butter stuff... (Cue famous movie trailer voiceover guy)... in a world... where 58% of corporate marketers still know or care very little about search... we have a lot of work to do. Outblogging the planet seems to be less and less viable as a parlor game, so... on November 10... starring Kevin Costner... Robert de Niro... Jessica Alba... and the Professor and Mary Ann... it's Attack of the Implementers. Rated R.

Translation: outside of fun reports from conferences, or self-interested plugs, posting will be very light here for the balance of the month.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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