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Websites That May Merit A Low Quality Score

For the first time, AdWords Gets Specific (sorta)

     
3:11 pm on Sep 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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From the Inside AdWords Blog, dated 09-18-2007:

Types of websites that will be penalized with low landing page quality scores:
  • Data collection sites that offer free gifts, subscription services etc., in order to collect private information
  • Arbitrage sites that are designed for the sole purpose of showing ads
  • Malware sites that knowingly or unknowingly install software on a visitor's computer

( ... )

The following types of websites are likely to merit low landing page quality scores and may be difficult to advertise affordably. In addition, it's important for advertisers of these types of websites to adhere to our landing page quality guidelines regarding unique content.

  • eBook sites that show frequent ads or install malware
  • 'Get rich quick' sites
  • Comparison shopping sites
  • Travel aggregators
  • Affiliates that don't comply with our affiliate guidelines

Entire blog entry here:
[adwords.blogspot.com ]

3:46 pm on Sept 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Wow! that is a lot of information from Google. Unexpected but welcome. We had guessed most of it, but nice to have a confirmation.

I think it is also most significant that they will no longer announce QS updates in advance, but keep doing it on regular basis.

If arbitrage sites have a low QS, how can the pure MFA's advertise? There must be some flaw in the algo?

5:51 pm on Sept 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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If arbitrage sites have a low QS, how can the pure MFA's advertise? There must be some flaw in the algo?

Well, much like the mentioned 'affiliate guidelines', official rules are only effective if they're enforced. We'll see if this announcement means that many as yet unenforced rules will now be for MFAs and others...

6:18 pm on Sept 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Data collection sites that offer free gifts, subscription services etc., in order to collect private information

What about honest newsletters?
One of my sites is a weekly newsletter about a certain craft.
I advertise it as a newsletter and the only thing on the landing page is the description of the newsletter and the signup box.
There are sites that force you to enter your e-mail (and agree to receive promotions from "partners") to get some free gift. But that's not the kind of site that I run.

I guess they just generalize, which sucks.

eBook sites that show frequent ads or install malware

Hmm, that doesn't make sense.
What do ebooks have to do with ads or malware?

I have plenty of sites where I sell ebooks, not about making money, or diet, or bad credit, or anything else that comes to mind when one thinks about ebooks. There is nothing fishy going on. PDF files is just a cost-effective way to deliver information, which also happens to offer instant gratification to the customers.

I guess they just generalize, which sucks. Hmm, I already said that.

6:52 pm on Sept 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Comparison shopping sites

Half of the top listings are comparison shopping sites..

Also, arbitrage sites seem to outperform almost everyone..

It seems Google is having trouble enforcing their own guidelines.. the algo is too easily gamed and manual review of millions of sites is impossible..

9:49 pm on Sept 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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eBook sites that show frequent ads or install malware

Hmm, that doesn't make sense.
What do ebooks have to do with ads or malware?

Seems pretty clear to me. Google has obviously discovered that some ebook sites are loaded with ads or install malware; those ebook sites are the ones that need to worry about low quality scores.

10:04 pm on Sept 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I think if Google doesn't pracice what it preaches we'll be having them.....

That means it's gonna cut the big boys...

Let's see what they do.

Big statments today

10:04 pm on Sept 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Google has obviously discovered that some ebook sites are loaded with ads or install malware

There are joke sites that install malware, for example. So why not single them out like that?

Or what about screensaver download sites?

As a matter of fact, the kind of sites that install malware need to have high traffic. To have much traffic, you need to have content that's appealing to many people. Any type of "kill time" stuff is a good candidate. That's the opposite of ebook sites, which are mostly after tiny niches and need highly targeted traffic.

those ebook sites are the ones that need to worry about low quality scores

Does that mean sites that don't promote ebooks but install malware are fine as far as quality score goes?
Of course not, so why single out ebooks?

I really don't care about the wording on that page. What worries me is the fact that that might be the reflection of general attitude at Google when it comes to ebooks.

11:13 pm on Sept 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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cat is amongst the pigeons. Who's running Google again? Bigger than my wildest dreams if they are saying all that. 2000 usd a share here we come then.
1:33 am on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I really don't care about the wording on that page. What worries me is the fact that that might be the reflection of general attitude at Google when it comes to ebooks.

Why turn a straightforward, unambiguous statement into a Rorschach inkblot when it's simpler (and more reasonable) to take it at face value?

2:03 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I guess they just generalize, which sucks. Hmm, I already said that.

Pay them enough per click and they will un-generalize, plus up your Q score.

Hows that for "do no evil"...

[edited by: Web_speed at 2:03 pm (utc) on Sep. 20, 2007]

2:21 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Pay them enough per click and they will un-generalize, plus up your Q score.

One wonders if they're trying price differently based on potential site profit. Forget the "quality score" debate and just look at the effects of whatever it is they're doing:

E-Commerce Sites (Low Margins): Pay Little
Good Content Sites Like Newspapers (Low Margins): Pay Little

Arbitrage Sites (High Margins): Pay Lots
eBook Sites (High Margins): Pay Lots

It's an interesting pricing strategy if they're thinking that way...

3:06 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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bakedjake, you hit the nail on the head.

[edited by: Web_speed at 3:12 pm (utc) on Sep. 20, 2007]

3:15 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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bakedjake, hmm, that's a possibility. That would suck, but it makes sense.
3:19 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Why turn a straightforward, unambiguous statement into a Rorschach inkblot when it's simpler (and more reasonable) to take it at face value?

It doesn't seem straightforward to me. That's why I posted about it.

3:50 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Seems pretty straightforward to me. By far and away the majority of the sites I run across that fit the bill as described above are what I would consider to be a poor user experience. Google is already on record about how they feel about poor user experiences.
4:21 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I don't like the use of Quality Score to try to enforce Google policies.

So, if you are willing to spend enough, you can distribute malware? It's certainly implied. These sites "may not" be able to "afford" to advertise!

Many of the types of sites they mentioned need to be outright banned, not monetarily penalized.

Google's reasoning here is flawed.

It may well be worth the money to a malware author to pay a high price, given the potential profit they can make from the malware.

And what if the malware is being distributed by a foreign government? Think there are a few out there who would spend some bucks to get malware installed in the right places?

Oh, this is good... look at the FAQ linked-to from the blog. "eBook sites that distribute malware" is listed under "Business Models to Advertise with Caution". Really gives me a warm feeling as a consumer. Slap, slap! Don't get caught! Use caution!

4:46 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I don't like the use of Quality Score to try to enforce Google policies.

It's all about scalability and human psychology.

- The obvious alternative to an automated quality score would be automated banning.

- Saying "Your landing page sucks and you're outta here" is less likely to encourage desirable behavior and retain advertisers than saying "We're raising your minimum to the point where you can't afford to advertise, but you can pay less by providing a better user experience."

5:03 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I don't like the use of Quality Score to try to enforce Google policies.

It's all about scalability and human psychology.

I don't buy that (at least not for everything).

I realize that not everything centers around the malware issue, but if a site is distributing malware, why would you want to retain them?

Let's be honest. A site distributing malware shouldn't be allowed to advertise, but Google, whose company motto is "do no evil" is basically saying "Ok..you can distribute the malware as long as you pay us enough".

There motto and their actions seem in direct conflict here wouldn't you say?

I agree that the QS solution is likely a good solution for Google in many cases, but in this particular instance, it seems at odds with how they like to portray themselves.

5:14 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Ads that create consumer expectations and then fail to deliver squarely on the plain languge of the ads are a form of deception. That, to me, is what this category of practice, policy and policing is all about: A choice to engage in a form of consumer protection.

IF ever I saw an arbitrage ad that said "Click on this ad to see more ads about Widgets", instead of the classic/standard "Click on this ad to buy Widgets now!", I might feel differently. That's just not the case.

I know that there's a large grey area of advertising. I know that a new car isn't going to make me hip, sexy and wildly popular. The problem with Adwords is that the ads don't offer the space, the message opportunity - the "communication broadband" - to sell sizzle, so some Adwords ad take the short route. No time for sizzle? Well, just build consumer expectation by bending the truth. It's not too hard to see where the content of the ads veers off from the consumer experience in this cases - the ones they outlined.

5:23 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Ads that create consumer expectations and then fail to deliver squarely on the plain languge of the ads are a form of deception.

I'm 100% for that. But they generalize and screw a lot of people in the process.

I have one site (I already mentioned it here), a newsletter.
The title for the Adwords creative states something like "Free Widgeting Newsletter". (In my case, the name of the niche fits that to 25 characters exactly.) The description fields of the creative state what they'll learn in the newsletter.

The landing page contains the description of the newsletter and the signup box to enter your name and email to sign up.

Result?
$10 min bids for most keywords.
$1 min bid for a keyword [free widgeting newsletter].

I understand that they try to prevent poor user experiece, and I'm all for that. But G kills off a lot of good business models, just because the bad guys out there happen to be pretending to use such models.

5:35 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I find it very interesting that they consider shopping comparison sites low-quality. I remember seeing lots of bizrate, shopping.com, etc bidding on keywords. I agree with Google that these are really just arbitrage sites who are passing the traffic along to the merchants who advertise with them (at a premium). To me this seems like a great change which will benefit online retailers, who I am assuming (am I correct?) are AdWords' major customers. Shopping.com et all were just driving up bid prices and making it unprofitable to advertise.
6:09 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Arbitrage sites that are designed for the sole purpose of showing ads

I just hope they do enforce it.

Well, I mean, this time. They do enforce it this time.

I really hate to see all those Adwords>YPN or Adwords>Parked arbitrage sites. In my opinion, these were never allowed. Up to now they just tolerated it because they need the money so urgently...

6:10 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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"Arbitrage sites that are designed for the sole purpose of showing ads"

Hmm does that include ASK and Excite then who are arbing spam all over adwords like there is no tomorrow or are these guys simply ok as they fall into the 'special pals club'

Nothing like sending out mixed messages then and no doubt flouting a few fair competition laws along the way! Sorry, make a rule fine but stick to it across the board, don't cherry pick according to the size of the wallet.

"If we receive complaints about ads for websites of this kind, they will not be allowed to continue running."

So are these sites going to be getting their marching orders then?

6:25 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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It's great to get more information, Kudos Google.

If arbitrage sites have a low QS, how can the pure MFA's advertise? There must be some flaw in the algo?

There isn't but MFA site advertisers, even the ones who use AdWords, are untouched by the quality score since they advertise on the network. The "your keywords are inactive for search, raise the minimum" etc only applies to search, not the content network.

- my one complaint is that a new site or new webpage that hasn't been indexed yet seems to receive an extremely low quality score right off the bat. Just because Google hasn't indexed a site doesn't make it low quality. Otherwise, great steps forward Google.

6:33 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Also - from the current affiliate guidelines page on Google.
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. Also, your site should not mirror (be similar or nearly identical in appearance to) your parent company's or another advertiser's site.

One of my sites has some affiliate products for sale that are related to the topic of the site. It's not a pure affiliate site by any means and I write my own copy for the items, and use my own templates, and receive extremely favorable results. I used the affiliate copy on one item when in a hurry a week ago with plans on updating it later, the quality score couldn't be lower. 10.00 minimum. I updated the page and the quality rating improved drasticly.

I'd say thats pretty impressive of the algo to sniff out on a page per page basis, don't you?

[edited by: JS_Harris at 6:34 pm (utc) on Sep. 20, 2007]

6:41 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Quality Score in a way is a ranking system based on AI artificial intelligence (algorithm).
Unfortunately, I havenít heard of any AI having intelligence or decision making proficiency above 5th grader. Even if it is 100 PHD scientists developing it. I donít think googleís algo is any different. Personally, I get offended when my sites are being ranked by such means.

This is exactly why we still see plenty of bad ads around and also why some good ones are being penalized!

About malware sites Ė they do have the session features associated with good ads. High CTR, no back button used, no repeated refined searches after the ad selection, time spent on the site, and many more indicators that look positive to the adwords algo. Result - higher quality score and boost in ranking and in traffic. Iíve seen it multiple times!
(yes I have statistics - its not a speculation it is a fact)

I report the malware any time I see it. I reported it 3 different times, only 1 was taking down after 3 month, which by the way I find very inappropriate and unprofessional. I believe now that google employees have very little decision making rights. Only 5th grade algo does. Keep up the good work!

What now? Now I decided to invest more in natural ranking and less in adwords. And for my finance vertical I am hitting top page for my most profitable exact matches. I will buy more PR7-8 links, yes BUY and google will never be able to spot it. When I hit number 1 natural rank I will shot down adwords and google will feed me even more traffic for free!

Cheers!

7:03 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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{quote]I updated the page and the quality rating improved drasticly.[/quote]

Would you mind sharing how exactly did you update the page?
Also have you made any new ads changed display url or destination url?

What is drastically? What are your min bids now?

Thanks

7:50 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I'm a bit short on time at this point in my day, but as I see this thread getting increasingly active, I do want to jump in with a couple of comments and clarifications.

First off, my thanks to netmeg for noticing the blog post, and quoting it here. However, one really key point was not included in her excerpt - and I'd like to quote that part of the introductory paragraph myself, with emphasis added by me:

Our landing page quality guidelines have always stressed the importance of directing users to easily navigable landing pages that are transparent about the advertiser's business and that contain relevant and original content. In our ongoing effort to provide advertisers greater transparency about our approach to landing page quality, we recently created a new FAQ in the AdWords Help Center outlining the types of business models that users have consistently commented on as providing a poor experience. [...]

This is key. These are types of sites that our users have tended to complain about over time - having landed on such sites after clicking on an AdWords ad. They are not types of sites which AdWords has somehow decided to 'target' arbitrarily.

A few other comments:

What about honest newsletters?

If it's a site that provides an excellent user experience and which doesn't offer free gifts, subscription services etc., in order to collect private information, I would predict no problem.

What do ebooks have to do with ads or malware?

Simply stated, many users have complained about ebook sites that show frequent ads or install malware.

Seems pretty clear to me. Google has obviously discovered that some ebook sites are loaded with ads or install malware; those ebook sites are the ones that need to worry about low quality scores.

Exactly. This is based on feedback from users who have not been happy with their experience after having clicked on an AdWords ads. In the long run a bad user experience is not to anyone's benefit.

There are joke sites that install malware, for example. So why not single them out like that?

As mentioned above, the types of sites mentioned in the FAQ are those which received complaints from users over time.

Seems pretty straightforward to me. By far and away the majority of the sites I run across that fit the bill as described above are what I would consider to be a poor user experience. Google is already on record about how they feel about poor user experiences.

Exactly.

[...] Oh, this is good... look at the FAQ linked-to from the blog. "eBook sites that distribute malware" is listed under "Business Models to Advertise with Caution". Really gives me a warm feeling as a consumer. Slap, slap! Don't get caught! Use caution!

Thanks for bringing this up, and I see your point. What you're seeing here is a problem of language, not of intent. The authors of the FAQ thought that they had made the point about malware being taken very seriously in the previous section which covered sites which would be penalized. As I read it now, I can see how the "eBook sites that show frequent ads or install malware" line could easily be misinterpreted to mean that malware is somehow acceptable. After I finish this post, I'll talk to the writers about clarifying the FAQ, and perhaps the blog post as well. This may take a while, as the FAQ is localized in something like 40 languages.

Finally, I've already made sure that the right teams are reading this thread - so you may be sure that your comments are being heard.

AWA

<edit> Fixed unclear sentence. I can't seem to write something this long without at least a few typos and glitches. </edit>

[edited by: AdWordsAdvisor at 7:55 pm (utc) on Sep. 20, 2007]

7:57 pm on Sept 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Google built its business on search results that provided a superior user experience than its competitors. If they allowed their paid results to turn into all garbitrage, eBooks, affiliates, comparison shopping sites, "free" sites that gather private info, etc. then they run the risk of poor user experience. This is the biggest threat to Google's stranglehold on the search market. Also, if all paid ads lead to these types of sites, people will eventually stop clicking all paid ads and Google will make less money.

Bottom line is that sites that add little to nothing of value to the end user are always going to be under scrutiny. If your site is adding nothing of value, its going to be harder and harder to sustain your online income for the long term. You will have to find new and more creative ways to market your site.

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