Does Google Hate Affiliate Advertisers?

Yesterday I was forwarded a message from a distressed fellow reader who discovered all his campaigns were disapproved for violating Google’s terms of service.

Here is his story (as posted in comments):

Scott Phares • Jan 31, 2009 @2:49 pm

Hi Jim – Google changed the rules yesterday. All my ads were disapproved or their Quality Score went so low they won’t ever display. I called an 800 number I have for Google and spoke with one of their adwords reps. Google no longer considers network marketing, affiliate marketing and MLM businesses as “valid” businesses.

Yesterday I was forwarded a message from a distressed fellow reader who discovered all his campaigns were disapproved for violating Google’s terms of service.

Here is his story (as posted in comments):

Scott Phares •  Jan 31, 2009 @2:49 pm

Hi Jim – Google changed the rules yesterday. All my ads were disapproved or their Quality Score went so low they won’t ever display. I called an 800 number I have for Google and spoke with one of their adwords reps. Google no longer considers network marketing, affiliate marketing and MLM businesses as “valid” businesses. As a result, they have disallowed all ads forwarding to affiliate links/sites, bridge pages that then forward to an affiliate site, and any site that contains or mirrors all or portions of a parent company site. Even my ads for my own personal site landing page and home business web sites went down. They did not disapprove them, but they lowered my Quality Score so low that the ads never display. So be prepared, you may not see this happen until you edit or create a new ad, then Goggle will review all your campaigns, that’s when all your MLM, home business and affiliate ads will drop. I moved all mine to Yahoo last night until we all can come up with a solution to this.

This is going to shut down every ad anyone has running on Google as an affiliate for the Magnetic Sponsoring products. See http://www.perrymarshall.com for his video on Google Tightening the Screws Again, he is having a live call on Monday at noon CST concerning this, don’t know if he will have a soluton or not.

I went to investigate immediately…could it be true? Is Google shutting down affiliate advertisers for good?

Should we panic?

It’s unlikely.

Two years in the online advertising game, the rules have changed many times for me before too. People predicted doom…businesses shut down because they couldn’t generate traffic any more, people were angry, fingers got pointed…

And yet, online marketing lived on. Fortunes were made by others.

In fact, I was only a small-fry for many of those changes. Yet, here I am today: Still generating tons of Google Adwords traffic, still making sales, and still in Google’s good books. So far anyway 😉

I gotta admit, though, Scott’s message sure made me nervous.

First thing I did, was to get in touch with Adwords support. I asked for the latest policy on affiliate advertising.

Don’t click the link yet, but here it is: http://adwords.google.com/support/bin/static.py?page=guidelines.cs&topic=9271&subtopic=9280

Let me save you the distraction of clicking through to the policy page. This is the first line you’re going to read:

We do not allow data entry affiliates to use AdWords advertising, but all other affiliates may participate in the AdWords programme.

And don’t beat yourself up about not knowing what a “data entry affiliate” program is. Although Google’s help links the text to a dead page, I saw this very rule back in April of 2008. So nothing has changed there. NOTHING at all.

Data entry affiliate programs are dodgey. You guys are a good bunch and I don’t recommend you get involved in such things. (If you’re involved in dodgey stuff, you’re disowned ;))

Most of you here have your own legitimate business (info marketing business, small business, network marketing, mlm, direct sales). The-other-most-of-you promote affiliate products from sites like Clickbank, Commission Junction, and maybe Hydra and NeverBlue. You guys are all safe.

The sentence i ripped out of the adwords policy basically translates to:

“You Are Allowed To Use Google Adwords To Advertise Your Business”

Next, on the above policies page, Google says that they “monitor” and “don’t allow” the following:

 

  • Redirect URLs
  • Bridge Pages
  • Framing

 

I don’t remember the last two items on the list because it’s been some time since I’ve revised this page. But if you’re a PPC Domination customer or you’ve been doing Adwords for any length of time you know by now that redirected URLS (also known as URL forwarding) are not allowed.

This means, you can’t register a godaddy domain and use its URL-Forwarding option to redirect its visitors to your affiliate URL. Adwords imposes this rule by insisting that you use the same top-level domain on both your display and target URLs. That’s nothing new, that’s why I told you guys to use the masking option too (we’ll get to that in a second).

Until yesterday, I’d never heard of a “Bridge Page“.

A quick definition search on Google uncovered these definitions in context for a “Bridge Page”:

 

  • is similar to a “Doorway Page”, because it is an entry page into a website designed to target keywords that are usually absent from the …
    www.websight.net.au/search-engine-optimisation/marketing-terms.asp
  • Another term for a doorway page.
    www.simply.com.au/glossary.php
  • Also known as a doorway page, an information page, or spam. A web page created for the sole purpose of ranking well in the search engines. …
    www.corporatewebsitemarketing.com/search-engine-marketing-glossary.html
  • These are keyword specic pages made specially to rank well in search engines. It acts as an entry point through which visitors get in to the main …
    www.searchenginegenie.com/search-engine-glossary-b.htm
  • Like a “Doorway Page”, a specifically designed entry point to a web site.
    www.spiderseo.net/SEO%20Glossary.html

 

A quick skim of the above reveals that a bridge page is a piece of internet spam. It’s a page whose purpose is JUST to bullshit Google and other searches into believing that relevant content exists on this site. Does that sound like a nice thing to do?

No. We’re marketers here, guys. We don’t want to trick anyone to click our ad. It costs us money for untargeted traffic. So I hope you’re not using nor were you contemplating using a bridge page.

And finally, framing.

Here is where we run into trouble. Because I’ve advised many beginners to use URL masking/cloaking to avoid creating landing pages for adwords. This had, for some time, been a valid alternative to using domain forwarding on the merchant’s page.

Masking or cloaking works by using an HTML element called a “frame”. It’s a way you can embed one webpage inside another. Usually, you take the affiliate page from the merchant and embed it in a single page on your own domain so it appears like the affiliate page actually came from your domain.

Let’s be straight up here…URL masking is a deceptive practice.

I only suggested it as a temporary solution for people who wanted to start advertising in adwords. Unfortunately, the recent banning of “framed” landing pages makes your life a little harder–Particularly if learning to make landing pages was something you planned to put off till later.

On the upside, you were going to have to create your own landing pages eventually.

Effective and profitable Pay Per Click advertising really requires that you have several different landing pages to better match each keyword you bid on.

I know that not everyone’s tech savvy–but it’s easy enough that anyone can learn it. Yes, even you grandma–I mean, hey, we’re internet marketers! Roll up your sleeves and learn it. Or if you got the money to hire someone to do it for you, go for it.

If you guys ask for it, I might have to release a simple guide for technically challenged people to create their own landing pages.

Anyway, the Adwords Affiliate policy page continues with suggestions of what Google would like to see on advertisers’ landing pages. Consider these, not just as suggestions, but as an exact formula for getting dirt cheap advertising on Adwords. Following this advice will qualify you for Google rewards of cheaper click costs, more exposure, and higher profit.

Consider these guidelines as the rule book for staying in Google’s good books, even if the policies change.

And by the way, in case you were wondering, I’ve checked on my affiliate campaigns–and they’re all running. I’m getting cheaper clicks, more leads, for less bucks. Do you know why?

Because Google’s policy change has thinned the herd–again.

So, “Thank You Google for changing your affiliate advertising policy!”


To learn more of Jim’s PPC advertising techniques, check out PPC Domination.