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Invalid Display URLs - Costing Me Money
Google seems to be turning a blind eye...

 2:55 am on Dec 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

In the last couple of months, Google appears to have given up checking the validity of Display URLs. It's impossible to tell if this is due to a lack of staff, cost-cutting, or because allowing Invalid Display URLs increases the number of ads showing, and consequently increases Google's revenue.

For most advertisers this would be a rare problem. But for affiliate marketers it is rife. Google's rules are:

We'll only display one ad per search query for advertisers sharing the same top-level domain in the display URL. This means that if you're an affiliate advertiser, your ad may not show for a query because another affiliate or the website that runs the affiliate program also has ads using the same (or a similar) domain in the display URL.


Display URL

Display URL must be accurate.

* Your display URL must accurately reflect the URL of the website you're advertising. It should match the domain of your landing page so that users will know which site they'll be taken to when they click on your ad.


Lately I've noticed as many as 5 invalid Display URLs for one search term - all of which lead to the same page on the merchant's site. Typically the affiliate using the correct Display URL is in #1, with the others below.

The end result is:

1) The affiliate using the correct Display URL is paying more than what they should
2) Google is making more money
3) The merchant's brand name is looking spammy
4) Searchers waste time clicking on ads that all lead to the same page

Until a few months ago, Google took action when I reported an Invalid Display URL to them. Now they say "no need to contact us, it will be caught when we review the ad".

Either they are taking weeks or months to review ads, or they aren't checking Display URLs any more.

These rules have been in place since 2005. Everyone was forced to agree to new terms and conditions when they changed the "one ad per search query for advertisers sharing the same top-level domain in the display URL" rule and lately Google's lack of care is literally costing me hundreds of dollars each week. With Google having a market cap of $213B is it necessary to cheat hard workers like myself who follow the rules?



 5:37 am on Dec 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

This issue is discussed periodically on WebmasterWorld. Here's the most recent thread:


 6:03 am on Dec 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

...and submit your wish here:



 6:53 am on Dec 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

From looking at earlier posts, it seems that AdWordsAdvisor steers well clear of this issue...

Apart from getting nowhere when emailing/phoning Google, is there any other avenue where this can be addressed?


 3:43 am on Dec 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

From looking at earlier posts, it seems that AdWordsAdvisor steers well clear of this issue...

What I have been doing, though, is passing these threads along to the right teams - and I see quite a lot of attention being paid to them.



 6:09 am on Dec 7, 2007 (gmt 0)


No word can describe how we feel about wrong display URLs.

Let me repeat myself (from some of my earlier posts):

Not just that they go through with invalid display URL, but in many cases, they get better QS. An affiliate that is 100% in line with the rules, suffers bad QS, while an offender gets "great" with minimum bid of 2 cents. That is double wrong!


 10:35 pm on Dec 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

Perhaps Google could provide a form for reporting naughty ads?

This idea has just been implemented for reporting malware sites:

It surely wouldn't be difficult to compare reported ads with those that have been through the review process - I'm guessing all the "9X2AdTC6haQ7UkIABABaoBHUdHR0xiK0dHvJHIZKPGUS" in an ad link is a unique identifier of sorts.

That way Google could use people power to clean up ads in the same way they are using people power to clean up SERPs.

But then again that might advertise a flaw in the review process?


 11:40 pm on Dec 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

HACKERS are running rampant on Google using fake ads with illegitimate credit cards and getting paid from affiliate programs. I'm not sure if this is the case here but they are everywhere and Google is home for the weekend without a care.


 1:26 am on Dec 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Perhaps Google could provide a form for reporting naughty ads?

Reporting ad violations is the easy part. Getting Google to review them in a timely manner is an exercise in frustration. On the weekdays, it usually takes a day or so for the naughty ads to disappear...that's bad enough. But as mortgagemax has been saying, there's virtually no support from Friday night until Monday morning -- about 2.5 days (1/3rd of the full week!).

In the meantime, the fraudulent ads can completely kill the impression count and/or CPC and/or CTR and most definitely the ROI of legitimate advertisers. Some businesses that rely on AdWords are severely crippled one-third of the time.

One would think that a company that makes billions of dollars could afford to have a handful of customer support staff available 24x7. Or better yet, they should get just fix the programming in the AdWords engine so it catches these problems when ads are created.

[edited by: Rehan at 1:31 am (utc) on Dec. 10, 2007]


 7:24 pm on Dec 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Or better yet, they should get just fix the programming in the AdWords engine so it catches these problems when ads are created.

That is what I have a cannot understand. Even today, after so many years, it seems you can put whatever you want in url destination on a keyword level.

Few days ago, I was testing some tracking tool through ad with keyword that would never be typed by a real user. At some point I changed destination URL, but not the display URL (in ad text). A day or so later, I got disapproval.

So, Viva Google! it worked, and I was happy for it.

Still, I see that folks that do it intentionally, almost always do it on keyword level which seems to be working for them, very well.

Out from this, we end up spending time in figuring why we suddenly pay more than on previous days, and spend hours on chasing those, reporting them, and then going through frustration of waiting for results.


 10:29 pm on Jan 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

Today, I came across result with six ads in total of which three were with invalid display URL, one of them in yellow area meaning it was originally approved with its invalid display URL.
I wonder when will Google improve its system so it is capable of comparing display URL to the destination (landing) URL within the same ad?
We all pay more than we should, yet we cannot claim any credit. Mistake is 100% on Google's side. If those ads were disapproved at the first place, our advertising cost would be much lower, 50% in some cases.


 2:55 am on Jan 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've noticed as many as 5 invalid Display URLs for one search term

If google can't catch invalid display urls, how dare they to say that they can determine the quality of an ad/landing page?

Threads like this one make me feel very offended...


 11:01 pm on Jan 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

What happened to the ad policy team at Google? Did they quit? Find better jobs? Still on vacation? I've seen very few invalid ads disapproved over the last couple of weeks.


 1:31 am on Jan 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

What I have been doing, though, is passing these threads along to the right teams - and I see quite a lot of attention being paid to them.


While it is good to hear they are paying attention to them, hopefully they are taking actions to reduce or eliminate the problem. If you have not already, indstead of passing along the endless number of incidents where this is occuring, why not pass along a permanent solution to the team such as simply verifying the display domain matches the final destination domain during the ad submission process. Viola problem solved, well meaning customers happy, customers trying to cheat your system stopped, Google support staff releived of having to unecessarily review ads that are supposed to be not allowed in the first place.


 4:47 pm on Jan 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

this is so widespread it's not even funny. When google brings 1 ad down 3 more are spawned later that week. It is very frustrating.


 12:49 am on Jan 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

It is very frustrating. I think that Google should be paying more attention to multiple offenders.
Everyone can make a mistake and typo or even say I did not really read all the rules.
The problem is that some people make those “mistakes” too many times without punishment. That is what encourages them to continue doing it.
Some folks are really basing their whole business on invalid display URL model.


 4:44 pm on Jan 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Google "ringtones" in the US right now and you'll see all eight ads on the right side by the same advertiser. The ads are identical except for the display URLs, each of which has dashes thrown into different places to make it "different" from the others. It's totally ridiculous, and it happens just about every other weekend.

Incidentally, the advertiser who runs these ads posted in another forum that he used to play by the rules until he got fed up. In his own words:
"To start, I once was a compliant advertiser, however, after seeing my competitors violating the rules constantly, I had a choice to make, either find a way to compete and dominate them, or quit."

As you can tell, he didn't just quit.


 7:42 am on Jan 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I just tried to find a site with a post where AdWords advertiser told a story about getting his account “punished” because of invalid display URLs. I saw it long time ago and unfortunately did not bookmark it.

Anyhow, as I could remember, he decided to test how many times he would be able to submit an ad with invalid display URL before he would get contacted “personally” or get account terminated.

It took around 20 times before he got nailed.

No warranty on this post as it is as my memory could serve. I do remember that post looked honest and not as imagination only.


 12:19 am on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

There are some murmurs in the blogosphere that Google is implementing on April 1 some policy changes related to the display URL.

What I've observed over the last few weeks is that enforcement of display URL violations has been even worse than it was in Q4 2007. Hopefully the new policy changes are not all talk.


 3:41 am on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Rehan we are not allowed to post actual terms but that one you posted is truly amazing how can they not automate that to some extent? The algorythm to determine if the display url matches the actual url does not seem at all hard to me.

Am I that bad a programmer or is there some overwhelming thing I am failing to see?


 10:44 am on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I recently came across this search on Google.
Two ads on one page, identical destination urls, different display urls.

So in short:
Ad1 leads to [company.com...]
Ad2 leads to [company.com...]

I reported this search to Adwords support. They said they would look into it. So I asked a week later, and guess what. It's ok , it's allowed!
I've reported ads like these, dozens of times over the last couple of years. Each time Google responded and removed the faulty ads within a day. But for the last few months this has not worked, as many of you have seen. Display-url can be www.what-ever-i-come-up-with.com.

So go on! If it's alright to have 2 ads, why not have 11 ads leading to the same company on the same result page? Monopolize the search results!


 11:55 am on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Rehan, the rumors are correct. Google said they will crack down on this starting April 1st. I have received official confirmation from Google on this.


 5:32 pm on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I truly hope they'll do it right and that we will see that reflecting in a lower cost, in some cases.

I also hope that innocent people will not get caught into that. So many times, new rule slaps nice guys, too.


 3:44 am on Feb 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Looks like this post has paid off - all will apparently be good on April Fool's Day:

I suspect that some automated checking tool was meant to be ready last year, and they stop doing it manually before the tool was ready...


 5:58 pm on Mar 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

does this mean that if my display URL does NOT match the destination url it will get removed, even if the display url points to a valid page of my merchant which has the same domain name?
display url= company.com/index.html
destination url= company.com/hop7=blahblah
will not be valid?


 7:47 pm on Mar 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

ildarius - your example is 100% valid, nothing to worry about - but only if your destination URL example is where the link ends. If it redirects to a different domain, it will be invalid. If it stays at company.com, it is valid.

(your hop7=blahblah suggests a redirect...)


 11:09 pm on Mar 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

Is it April 1 yet? No?! *sigh*

The line that I consistently get from the Adwords reps is "all ads are reviewed before they appear". So either the reviewers are blind or the CSRs are lying. Which one do you guys think it is?


 1:34 am on Mar 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

All Adwords reps sound like they went to law school first.

This last time when I called I interrupted the young lady on the other side of the phone and told her I could “sing” all those sentences they tell me every time.
She stopped and stayed silent.

I think those front row folks are under great pressure between clients and those that are responsible for invalidities appearing in the system.
In addition, those at the back row seem to be ignoring our submissions like they are expecting the system to take care of it.

Ad with invalid display URL should not be approved if it goes through manual process, period. I simply cannot believe that live human being can do that, except for the small percentage where we can count on “human error”.

It is just that I cannot figure how reported ad can survive two or more weeks. They say “it was maybe submitted again and coming from different advertiser”. No way - I copy destination URL and see it is the same all the time.

It is so hard to understand why all that is as it is.

What if CSRs get qualified so they can take action against reported ads?


 2:57 pm on Mar 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

lol, they do sound like they went to law school!


 6:48 pm on Mar 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

I wonder why they don't enforce this or just leave this field blank. I mean come on, if destination is www.widgets.com/my/widget/widget.html why can't google automagically regex widgets.com as the page?

Then you could specify in the control panel how you want them to display such as www.widgets.com or widgets.com or widgets.com/ or whatever pattern you want or even allow you to use KeWoRD type pattern regexes to change the case like you can with pattern matching keywords and stuff.

This 33 message thread spans 2 pages: 33 ( [1] 2 > >
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