Google’s New Ad Policy to Affect Affiliate Marketers

Google is making changes to its AdWords program that will limit the number of sponsored links on results pages that point to the same URL, a move which will have the most significant impact on online merchants and their affiliates.

The new policy, which will be implemented over the coming weeks, is intended to create a cleaner interface for users, increase the diversity of merchants represented in the links, and reduce duplicate ads, all while recognizing the important benefits affiliate marketers bring to the table, said Salar Kamangar, director of product management at Google.

“Affiliates are an important part of our third-party ecosystem. They bring users to valuable content and drive traffic to our merchant partners,” Kamangar said. “We need to balance the positives they bring with the negatives of users seeing the same ads over and over. Our focus is on maintaining the quality of the ads.”

The problem, as Google sees it, arises when multiple affiliates of a merchant bid on a keyword, leading to multiple similar ads pointing to the same merchant.

To counter this, for each search query, Google will no longer display multiple ads that link to the same destination page. This means an individual merchant won’t be able to dominate the results for a given search query by having its affiliates bid for the same keywords and link to the same landing page. Google won’t give preference to merchants over their affiliates, but will show the link that has the highest ad rank, a rating calculated by Google using the cost per click bid and the click-through rate of the ad.

Some in the affiliate community speculate the policy change might result in a proliferation of special landing pages tailored for individual affiliates.

Google will continue to let advertisers use a destination URL that doesn’t match the actual landing page’s URL. Many advertisers use a unique URL for tracking purposes that redirects to the final destination page. This process makes it clearer to users where the link will take them, Kamangar said.

Advertisers will still be allowed to link to sub-pages within a site, where appropriate. There could be an ad that points to an eBay search for an item as well as an eBay store that sells that item, Kamangar said.

As part of the changes, Google will no longer require affiliates to include the “AFF” designation in their ads. The former policy required it, so that users would be able to differentiate affiliate links from merchants’ links. Since there will now only be one link to each destination site, there will not be a need for the designation, he said.

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