Google Adword Landing Page Ranking Isn’t Perfect

September 11, 2007

With the launch of our new church goods site, we thought that posting AdWord ads on Google would be a good, quick way to get our name out. We were wrong. The site launched almost a month ago and until last Saturday we were unable to get any ads to run on Google because every landing page we created was labeled as “poor” and every keyword we tried was going to cost us $10 a click!

I spent hours creating new ads and new landing pages, chatting with and emailing tech support and posting on forums. The only reply I kept getting from tech support was information cut-and-pasted from the quality landing page documents. I kept asking the Google techs to point to anything in the these guidelines that we weren’t doing correctly and not once did they ever provide an answer.

I then compared their guidelines to the ads running for the keyword phrase “clergy shirt” and found that more than half of the ads and landing pages were not following the guidelines and not just in little ways. Two of the sites running ads didn’t even sell clergy shirts or mention them anywhere in their ads or website. Three of the sites are comparison shopping sites that just run a search when their ad is clicked and pull up results from people who pay to be in their listings. One of these came up with no results but did display the same clergy shirt ads found on the Google website. Talk about double-dipping. The rest of the sites were basically the same as ours – a list of clergy shirts for sale. However, we had more to offer and actually had partial descriptions of each shirt on the page while others simply had a single link buried in the mass of other links to their clergy shirts.

As a test I copied an article on choosing a chasuble from the new site and dumped it into an item page for the St. Rita DVD on our Aquinas and More site. I tried creating ads for both. The Catholic Church Supply ad was $10 a click and “poor” quality while the ad for the Aquinas and More site was .10 a click and “great” quality, even though the article was on a page that still had information about the St. Rita DVD on it. It was obvious that Google had “slapped” our whole church supply domain as some kind spammy thing and wasn’t going to give us reasonable ad rates no matter what we did.

After two weeks of ranting at Google, our landing pages suddenly became “Great” quality and our click cost dropped to about .20. I also received a note from Google saying “I would like you to know that I re-consulted the issue since my last correspondence with you, and confirmed that your page was not correctly evaluated by our system; since then, we’ve fixed this error.”

Google really needs to own up to its problems and actually explain what it thinks is wrong with a domain instead of hiding behind documentation that actually justifies the advertiser’s outrage. Considering its importance in the online advertising world, it has to be transparent about its calculations in order to maintain its credibility.

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