Why the AdWords Landing Page Fiasco Won’t Hurt Bloggers

What a terrible morning it was last week when many Google AdWords advertisers woke up to find that many (if not all) of their sweet low-cost-per-click bids had been disabled, and minimum bid requirements enacted that killed any chance for a return on investment. Turns out Google tweaked its landing page relevancy algorithm, with disastrous results for many big-spending AdWords players.

Scott Karp has been on top of this issue, mainly from an affiliate marketing standpoint, and I agree with him that a transition from pay-per-click to cost-per-action is beneficial to both Google and advertisers. But the reasons for the recent trauma may not be all that nefarious, and instead simply a reflection of the way Google tends to evaluate relevancy.

Other than affiliate marketing, landing pages are employed as lead generation tools. Sometimes called “squeeze pages,” these landing pages are laser-focused on one thing — obtaining opt-in permission from the visitor so that repeat contact can be made via email. This follow-up, whether by an autoresponder sequence or your regular blog posts, is crucial to higher sales conversion rates. I discussed this strategy previously here.

I personally wasn’t affected by the changes, and I was a bit puzzled as to why. Word around the campfire from the Perry Marshall private brain trust seems to provide a plausible explanation.

You Need Content… The More the Better

The advertisers that got nuked seem to have shared two criteria:

  1. The keywords were very low cost; and
  2. The landing page domain had very little available content.

Let me explain. The ideal lead generation landing page, as mentioned above, is focused on one thing only — getting the opt-in via email. You offer a valuable free incentive, plus a subscription to your regularly-published content in trade for the sign-up.

So, many people use single-page “mini-sites” for this purpose. They literally have a single page on a domain, with no links to other site content (there isn’t any), and of course no outbound links.

What people are finding is that landing pages on domains with other available content were not hit, especially if there were a few visible links at the bottom of the opt-in pitch. Further, single-page domain landing pages that have been moved to content-populated domains have seen the original low-cost bids reinstated.

It’s my guess that the new Google landing page algorithm evaluates relevancy in part by not only how much content can be crawled on the landing page domain, but also by how many people end up hitting the “back” button on the browser. It’s not that the subject matter of the affected landing pages is necessarily irrelevant, it’s that about 80% of clickers will not opt-in, and their only option is to go back to the search results and try again.

A 20% opt-in rate for advertisers using this strategy is perfectly fine with low-cost clicks. But Google sees things differently, and Google makes the rules.

What’s This Got to Do With Blogs?

As you might have guessed, I use blogs for most of my online marketing projects. I still use landing pages, but I employ them within the blog content architecture. My overall opt-in rates have remained steady even though visitors are allowed the opportunity to click around a bit, although the path by which they opt-in sometimes varies.

I didn’t know that Google was going to do this, so in that regard I’m an “accidental genius.” But I am even further convinced (if not completely sold already) on the benefits of having a blog as your “command center” for all of your Internet marketing efforts.

The real lesson to take away from this Google shake-up (which will be simply one in a long series, I promise you that) is diversification. Blog content brings in traffic naturally from search engines and from other blogs, helps you generate content for article marketing, and now it seems blogs are a great place to direct PPC traffic as long as you stick with the general pay per click landing page copywriting strategy.

You can offer mini-courses, free reports, teleseminars, podcasts and video from your blog in order to nudge people along the sales process. But the blog is central, and that won’t change even when we just start calling them websites.

For more tips for affiliate marketing under the new AdWords rules, click here.

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Comments

  1. Here’s the pitch…

    Whoa, and it sails high over the batter’s head!

    I’m sure they’d have eaten this up on threadwatch, tho ;)

  2. Yeah, I kinda got that impression when I heard all the crickets chirping around here.

    Time to start polling the audience for topics. :)

  3. Actually, great post.
    I’ve been putting checking your blog in my feeds for a couple weeks now. I know when I come here I will want to read everything closely. I’ve been short time.
    I’ve got at least another half hour of reading to do here.

  4. Brian,

    Here’s the problem — many of the AdWords users who go hit, like Graywolf ( http://www.wolf-howl.com/ ) were running very profitable affiliate programs, which would suggest that, despite how Google evaluated the landing page, it was converting just fine.

    It’s fine for Google to advocate principles that lead to better converting landing pages, but to penalize landing pages that ARE converting for not adhering to these principles feels awfully suspicious to me.

    Maybe a bunch of “innocent” pages got caught in a poorly tuned filter.

    But remember, Google has a history of making significant changes, i.e. Florida, that benefit their bottom line and at the same time seriously damage other people’s businesses.

  5. Scott, I totally agree that Google seems to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. The fact that it appears as if Google’s algorithm somewhat simplistically equates “lots of content” = good, and “single landing page domain” = bad doesn’t seem very sophisticated, but it may not be pure evil.

    This may be the first step, however, in their implementation of the larger CPA strategy you’ve been talking about on your blog.

    The key to living with Google will be constant adaptation and learning to diversify traffic streams. I don’t think Google will ever really listen to what the “little guy” marketer says, even though individual livelihoods are severely disrupted by algorithm tweaks.

  6. Not such a bad thing. It should help with better ROI if you have a relevant landing page

  7. Yeah, I kinda got that impression when I heard all the crickets chirping around here.

    Time to start polling the audience for topics

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