One of the hottest stories of the weekend without doubt was Armand Morin revealing that a Google Adwords rep had told one of his affiliates, in an email, that he needed to fix Armand’s site or remove it from the internet for unacceptable business practices, or remain with his Adwords account suspended.
Armand revealed that another client had a sales letter leading to a Clickbank order form get banned.
In both cases the Google Adwords terms being violated was supposedly using a bridge page.
This is crazy stuff, and you can join the 170+ commenters in expressing your outrage.
I will come back to this momentarily.
Google Adwords Elite
The Google Adwords team seem to practice the 80:20 rule, favoring their big advertisers (and themselves).
Adage today for instance has had some advertising data leaked to them by someone.
Lets grab some yummy data to play with:-
June 2010 Adwords Spending
|Company||Adwords Spend in $ USD Millions|
|AT & T Mobility||8.08|
|Walt Disney||< 0.500|
|Eastman Kodak||< 0.500|
Adage also state:-
While the search-spending document obtained by Advertising Age is not a complete list of advertisers on Google, the accuracy of its data was verified by multiple sources with direct knowledge of spending levels.
Adage’s story concentrates on BP Advertising so I am not going to touch on that at all
Top 10 in document accounted for 5% of US Revenue for the month
47 advertisers > $1M
71 advertisers $0.5M to $1M
357 advertisers $0.100M to $0.500M
These are all direct bill not self serve advertisers
Google Total global annual revenue $23000M ($23B)
Lets Do Some Math
I am going to assume totally flat distribution to make my
rudimentary inadequate accounting skills look good.
Top10 Total = $44.63M
37 Advertisers also do $1M+ thus 37 * 1.5 = $55.5M
71 advertisers 0.5 to $1M thus 71 * 0.75 = $53.25M
357 Advertisers $0.100M to $0.500M thus 357 * $0.200 = $71.4M
(ok I cheated on that one to flatten the long tail a little $0.3M would be the mid-point)
475 Advertisers spent $224.78M
June would be a fairly quiet month compared to the run up to Christmas, but with total revenues of $23B globally, and allowing for the statement by Adage that this list is not comprehensive, I think it would be fair to assume that the long tail of Google’s total revenue is worth more to them than 20% of total revenue.
You could imagine if 80% of Google’s revenue came from just 100 advertisers that the long tail customers would be less important, but it could well be that 40-50% of revenue from search advertising comes from smaller advertisers – though a lot of those would be managed by agencies.
Back To Armand & Secret PPC
Secret PPC is a training course for Google Adwords Display Advertising teaching how to get clicks that convert into sales for as little as $0.01
I have seen and even paid for similar courses from other marketers (such as one from Alex Goad) thus just by watching the intro video from Armand I can tell that the training is probably a viable method, 100% sustainable and isn’t breaking Google’s Adwords terms of service.
This was being promoted with a launch price back in January 2010 – I don’t know whether the complaint was from that period, or from ongoing promotion at the higher price.
The affiliate sending traffic to Armand’s site would be using a link such as this one
Here is a clean link http://www.SecretPPC.com/ but you can’t test the redirects yourself with that one.
That is a real affiliate link, I signed up to Armand’s affiliate program years ago and as often happens never promoted anything, but I still have 5 years worth of emails in my archives. Also as I mentioned in my comments on Armand’s post I have seen him speak, I also spent a fortunate 30 minutes with him as a “fly on the wall” in London at a conference with him discussing presentation closing strategies with another notable speaker – I learnt a lot in 30 mins.
That link redirects through another one of Armand’s websites, generatorsoftware.com which is Armand’s central shopping cart and affiliate management system.
http://www.secretppc.com/x.php?af=428465 GET /x.php?af=428465 HTTP/1.1 Host: www.secretppc.com User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-GB; rv:220.127.116.11) Gecko/20100722 Firefox/3.6.8 Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8 Accept-Language: en-gb,en;q=0.5 Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate Accept-Charset: UTF-8,* Keep-Alive: 115 Connection: keep-alive HTTP/1.1 302 Found Date: Mon, 06 Sep 2010 08:11:40 GMT Server: Apache/2.2.14 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.2.14 OpenSSL/0.9.7a mod_auth_passthrough/2.1 mod_bwlimited/1.4 FrontPage/18.104.22.16835 PHP/5.2.9 X-Powered-By: PHP/5.2.9 Location: http://generatorsoftware.com/pro/go.php?428465/147 Content-Length: 0 Keep-Alive: timeout=1, max=150 Connection: Keep-Alive Content-Type: text/html ---------------------------------------------------------- http://generatorsoftware.com/pro/go.php?428465/147 GET /pro/go.php?428465/147 HTTP/1.1 Host: generatorsoftware.com User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-GB; rv:22.214.171.124) Gecko/20100722 Firefox/3.6.8 Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8 Accept-Language: en-gb,en;q=0.5 Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate Accept-Charset: UTF-8,* Keep-Alive: 115 Connection: keep-alive HTTP/1.1 302 Moved Temporarily Date: Mon, 06 Sep 2010 08:11:43 GMT Server: Apache/1.3.42 (Unix) PHP/4.4.9 mod_log_bytes/1.2 mod_bwlimited/1.4 mod_auth_passthrough/1.8 FrontPage/126.96.36.19935 mod_ssl/2.8.31 OpenSSL/0.9.7a X-Powered-By: PHP/5.2.14 Location: http://www.generatorsoftware.com/pro/track.php?username=gs&affiliateid=428465&trackingid=&productid=147&trackingid=&test= Keep-Alive: timeout=15, max=100 Connection: Keep-Alive Transfer-Encoding: chunked Content-Type: text/html ---------------------------------------------------------- http://www.generatorsoftware.com/pro/track.php?username=gs&affiliateid=428465&trackingid=&productid=147&trackingid=&test= GET /pro/track.php?username=gs&affiliateid=428465&trackingid=&productid=147&trackingid=&test= HTTP/1.1 Host: www.generatorsoftware.com User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-GB; rv:188.8.131.52) Gecko/20100722 Firefox/3.6.8 Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8 Accept-Language: en-gb,en;q=0.5 Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate Accept-Charset: UTF-8,* Keep-Alive: 115 Connection: keep-alive HTTP/1.1 302 Moved Temporarily Date: Mon, 06 Sep 2010 08:11:44 GMT Server: Apache/1.3.42 (Unix) PHP/4.4.9 mod_log_bytes/1.2 mod_bwlimited/1.4 mod_auth_passthrough/1.8 FrontPage/184.108.40.20635 mod_ssl/2.8.31 OpenSSL/0.9.7a P3P: CP="CAO PSA OUR" X-Powered-By: PHP/5.2.14 Set-Cookie: gs_tracking_cookie=0-428465; expires=Tue, 06-Sep-2011 08:11:44 GMT; path=/ Location: http://www.secretppc.com Keep-Alive: timeout=15, max=100 Connection: Keep-Alive Transfer-Encoding: chunked Content-Type: text/html
Thus there is a specific chain
Affiliate Link >> GeneratorSoftware.com >> SecretPPC.com
Then the Google Adwords rep is saying a link from SecretPPC.com to GeneneratorSoftware.com as the shopping cart makes SecretPPC.com a bridge page.
There is even another specific connection between the sites within the legal links at the bottom of the page.
There are lots of people being pulled up for this… all those small business owners who want to sell something instead of giving away the farm.
This is what Google state
Relevant and Original Content
Relevance and originality are two characteristics that define high-quality site content. Here are some pointers on creating content that meets these standards:
- Users should be able to easily find what your ad promises.
- Link to the page on your site that provides the most useful information about the product or service in your ad. For instance, direct users to the page where they can buy the advertised product, rather than to a page on your site with a description of several products.
- Feature unique content that can’t be found on another site. This guideline is particularly applicable to resellers whose site is identical or highly similar to another reseller’s or the parent company’s site, and to affiliates that use the following types of pages:
- Bridge pages: Pages that act as an intermediary, whose sole purpose is to link or redirect traffic to the parent company
- Mirror pages: Pages that replicate the look and feel of a parent site; your site should not mirror (be similar or nearly identical in appearance to) your parent company’s or any other advertiser’s site
- Provide substantial information. If your ad links to a page consisting mostly of ads or general search results (such as a directory or catalog page), it must also provide additional, unique content.
It’s especially important to feature original content because AdWords won’t show multiple ads directing to identical or similar landing pages at the same time. Learn more about this policy.
That seems simple in practice, but I love this quote Curt Snow paraphrases
According to Google, you need to give John lots of relevant information about blue shoes. You need to tell John all about the history of blue shoes. You also need to do some market comparisons of different brands of blue shoes. And, while you’re at it, you might as well tell him how to lace up and tie those blue shoes. Then, and only then, will Google begin to think that you’re giving their precious users a good experience.
Here’s how Google defined it to me on the phone and in an email.
A user should want to visit your site even if they are not buying something. If a user visits your site and you give them something of value, such as information, then the user will be happy and Google says that this is a good user experience.
Note: That article from Curt is almost 2 years, so some of these issues are not in any way new.
But in the past these rules were typically directed and thought to be intended for “thin affiliate” sites that purely existed to drive traffic to a vendor’s sales letter.
Google is attacking otherwise legitimate vendors now
What is new is this interpretation that a vendor’s own sales page can be looked on as a bridge page to their own shopping cart on another domain.
You Are Not Safe With A 3rd Party Solution Either
Armand has a private affiliate management system, but one of the cases he highlighted was someone selling a cat product through Clickbank, and my friend Lee Duncan recently received a warning maybe related to this… but possibly more because of a lightbox/thickbox style popup.
The problem is that Google are frequently ambiguous in their notifications – small business owners are constantly looking to improve their conversion rates, and rules are constantly being applied differently to them compared to larger competitors.
Google have this fun rule about data collection – they don’t want advertisers sending traffic to squeeze pages. That is why in many cases someone might use a blog, but also use some kind of DHTML popup.
Re: Google’s prohibition of “Data collection sites that imply delivery of free items, etc., in order to collect private information”
When I google “local customers” I get an ad for this thing called Google Places.
It offers me a free local listing in exchange for me giving my private imformation (email address, etc.) to create an account.
So I take it google are going to ban themselves?
Lets look at that in detail:-
Lets pretend to be Google Adwords Reps
- That is a bridge page driving traffic to Youtube
- That is a bridge page driving traffic to Blogspot
- There is a link to a really unfriendly for browsers PDF file for the testimonials link
- It seems the primary intent of the page is for data collection, not providing information
- No postal address or phone number
Google obviously should be driving paid traffic to their content on Blogspot or Youtube directly, not to a landing page possibly in breach of their own rules.
The criticism is a little tongue in cheek – of course we trust a major brand like Google thus they can have different rules to the rest of us, and of course it is their rules, so they can interpret them any way they want to.
Drive traffic to a content site Prepackage the content over a number of pages Use Google Checkout
Maybe with Google their interpretation of a “bridge page” is more to do with the amount of free content spread over multiple pages than the link to a 3rd party shopping cart.
If that is the case, they need to get a lot more specific with their guideance to Adwords advertisers.
Not what they say in emails or on the telephone, but print in public for everyone to read.
This has a major effect on driving traffic to any product launches certainly in the Internet Marketing space where you might have a series of content made available to visitors for the “launch event”.
Google are killing the concept of sales funnels
Ultimately I need to get back to my headline for this story…
I think these are the issues
- Lack of clear communication from Google
- Different rules for different players
- Different penalties for different players
I actually have my own stake in this as well..
I sent a very reasonable question to Google Adwords a couple of months ago regarding remarketing, and I immediately received a reply that my account had been compromised and limited.
It took me a week to get my account reinstated, but that killed momentum for me, and they still haven’t come back to me with a reply to the questions I asked.
Whilst I should really chase Google for an answer to my questions, to be honest I am scared to death of recommending anyone does anything even slightly adventurous with Google Adwords and actually pay me for the training and tools I might provide.
When someone is paying you for information there is a threshold you cross of additional trust – they are paying for expertise.
If someone pays you money and you get your account with Google Adwords switched off there is a certain additional level of responsibility/liability.
Some of the strategies would certainly have problems with Google’s bridge page interpretation, because they have an effect on the way you can present a sequence of “content events” within a sales funnel, and severely limit what can be achieved by a smaller business owner compared to bigger rivals.
I have been digging into some more coverage of Armand’s video.
Ryan apparently was sent a final warning by Adwords – he has tons of content on his site an apparently all that content was available navigating from the page.
The final warning apparently was the first warning he ever received.
In the comments there is a comment from Shawn Lebrun who apparently had a similar warning last week, the first warning being a final warning – his lifetime Adwords spend he say is over $1M
I’ve spent over a million dollars with google up to this point. I’ve always used straight forward, direct response techniques with all my sites I’ve run on adwords.
I got the same “final warning” email last week… and they canceled the account the next day without any other warning and without telling me ANYTHING about what I did wrong.
It was a crippling issue, since almost all of my business is from referrals… but clients of mine that had this happen to them… their businesses have been greatly effected.