It appears that Google’s recent changes to its landing page quality assessment has many advertisers up in arms. The search-related forums are buzzing with accounts of advertisers that have had hundreds of keywords deactivated by Google without warning, with keywords that formerly fetched pennies per click are now suddenly $10 or more.
At least some of this fallout seems to be intended by Google, as a means of purging its network of “made for AdSense” (MFA) sites. According to a product marketing manager blogging on the company’s Inside AdWords site, “We realize that some minimum bids may be too high to be cost-effective — indeed, these high minimum bids are our way of motivating advertisers to either improve their landing pages or to simply stop using AdWords for those pages, while still giving some control over which keywords to advertise on. Although it is counter-intuitive to some who hear it, we’d rather show one less ad than to show an ad which leads to a poor user experience — since long-term user trust in AdWords is of overarching importance.”
The problem many advertisers have is that Google attaches a quality score with an entire site or domain, so one bad landing page can sabotage an entire campaign. Besides that, there are several reports of AdWords reps having no information and no answers for long-time advertisers whose business is being severely impacted.
Several people have been critical of the way Google went about implementing this, with little communication with advertisers. To be fair, Google announced in December that changes would be coming, but they did not enumerate the kinds of pages that the program would be targeting, and seem to have underestimated the number of advertisers impacted.
As one poster put it, Google is “using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito.” While some of the affected sites are MFA sites, others use image-based or Flash-based landing pages; or other low-text UIs, which are being judged by the AdsBot as low quality and are being penalized.
Some advertisers are supporting Google’s actions, saying that reducing or eliminating search arbitrage will improve the quality of AdWords for users, leading them to click on ads more. A growing number of advertisers are beginning to weigh in on the forums with reports that their eCPM, CTR and pageviews are all up since Google began implementing the changes. It’s likely many of these gains will be lost once more advertisers figure out what Google’s AdsBot is looking for, but that would still accomplish the company’s goal of encouraging “higher quality” landing pages.