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Quality Score and the Google Slap


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Quality Score and the Google Slap

In 2006 there was a huge shake-up of Google's PPC system and many affiliates businesses were almost wiped out overnight. This lesson shows you why and what you need to watch out for!

In this lesson we're going to take a look at the Google Quality Score and the Google Slap, why they exist, how they affect you and what you can do to avoid them!

What is the Google Quality Score?

Google's reputation rests on its ability to match users with the best and most relevant content for whatever they are looking for, so they can't afford to have people clicking through to shallow sites, or put off by trashy ads — otherwise the whole system would quickly crumble and both Google and advertisers would lose out.

To ensure people who click on ads have a positive experience, Google checks the quality of each and every ad and the site that it links to. This means that if either your ad or landing page are found to be wanting, Google will give you a low quality score and punish you with what is vividly dubbed the 'Google slap'!

Google Slap

What is the 'Google Slap'?

Unfortunately, the 'Google Slap' is every bit as nasty as it sounds. The 'Google Slap' is when Google deactivates your keywords until you either pay a hefty 'penalty' cost per click, or make some changes to increase your quality score.

A penalty cost per click means that instead of paying (for example) just 20 cents per click, you can be forced to pay anything between 1 and 50 dollars per click; at the same time, the position of your ad drops significantly.

Getting slapped by Google is a bleak situation: it can take two to three months to get "un-slapped" for that keyword, sometimes even longer. If we at Affilorama get slapped (which is very rarely) we usually just set the landing page up on a new domain - it's either that or wait indefinitely.

How Google Determines Your Quality

To prevent the Google Slap, you need some idea of how Google determines it's Quality Score for your advert. Some of the factors that appear to influence the score include:

  • Your ad's click-through rate — that is, how many times your ad is clicked on compared with the number of times it is displayed. If your ad is served 70 times during the day, but only clicked on once, that could suggest to Google that it isn't what people are looking for, and therefore low quality.
  • The relevance of your ad text. Does the text advertise the product accurately?
  • The relevance of your keywords to the ads in your ad group.

However if you check out Google's own proclamations on the subject, you'll soon realize that they don't reveal everything; Google is constantly tweaking how the quality score works, so although we can get a fairly good picture of how best to achieve a high quality ad, it is very difficult for anyone to know the precise criteria.

Google uses three different methods to test quality score:

  • The Google ad bot.
  • The historical performance of your ad. Google gives you the benefit of the doubt to start with, but if your ad doesn't get many clicks it will swiftly move down the ranks and each click will start to cost you more.
  • And, finally, a human editorial review.

(Learn how to write a good quality ad in our lesson on Writing and Placing Google Ads)

A Good Landing Page

The final significant element that affects your quality score is the quality of your landing page; in addition, our experiences have led us to believe that not only does Google look at the landing page, it also looks at the entire website that the landing page is on.

These days there are several factors which seem to affect the the mark of a landing page. 

Your Keywords

On a basic level, a good quality landing page must have the important keyword phrases in the title tags and H1 tags. These are not only the things your visitors will see first, but also the items the bots seem to place the most emphasis on.

 Ideally you should also have your keywords in your domain name, as this will also affect your 'relevance' score.

Customer Value

These days it's not enough for a landing page to be relevant to the ad; it must also provide good value to the visitor. Google's definition of good value is relevant and original content, transparency, and navigability.

This means that one-page landing sites will gain low-quality scores; as far as Google is concerned, a one page website doesn't provide much value for visitors and certainly doesn't meet the criteria of content and navigability. 

If Google sees a landing page that is essentially a one-page website, they are going to give it a low-quality score, because a one-page website doesn't provide much value for visitors, and it certainly isn't going to meet the criteria of content and navigability.

We recommend that your website has at least 10-15 pages, even if it's a landing page connected to the rest of the site through a small link at the bottom of the page. Sites with more pages are less likely to get slapped.

"Options"

Google partially appears to determine the value of a website may making sure the visitors have "options" when they arrive.

There is evidence to suggest you get a higher quality score when you link to at least one other website. The reason for this seems to be that Google prefers pages that don't suffocate the user; in other words, pages that provide options. So it's helpful to have a link to another website on your landing page — it could be something like Wikipedia or another affiliate site.

Sitemap

Finally, part of Google's ranking is determined by how easy it is for the Google Bot to 'spider' (go through) your entire site. Having a Google Sitemap will make this significantly easier on the bot, and will boost your scoring; conversely, sites without it will lose points.

Example: Worldofwarcraftblackbook.com

Let's take a look at this example: WorldofWarcraftBlackBook.com

As you can see, there are a number of informative articles here — more than enough to be deemed a 'quality' site by Google.

If we now take a peek at the pay-per-click landing page, you can see that it doesn't have the regular menu that the other pages on the site have. This means that the site owner doesn't lose conversions from people getting distracted and clicking through to other articles. However, the page is still linked back to the main site - just very subtly; scroll down to the bottom and you'll see a link to the homepage.

This landing page is a good example of how to achieve a happy compromise between what Google demands for quality and what is required to get high conversions.

Avoiding Duplicate Content Penalties

Landing pages work best when they are targeted to a specific keyword phrase, which is why most marketers use landing page duplicates for different ads, with the only difference between them being the keywords they are optimized for. The problem with doing this though, is that Google's spider will flag these pages as duplicate content.

To get around this issue, it's very important that your landing page includes 'no-index' and 'no-follow' tags. This tells Google to avoid indexing these pages and you'll (hopefully) be able to keep your good quality score!

Read more in our lesson about the Duplicate Content Penalty!

Lesson Summary

In this lesson we've looked at how Google calculates the quality of your ad and landing page, what the 'Google Slap' is, and how to avoid it. Some of the qualities Google assesses about your Ads include:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR)
  • Relevance of the Ad's text
  • Relevance of your keywords

Some of the aspects that Google evaluates your Landing Page on include

  • Locations of keywords
  • Value to the visitor
  • "Options" available
  • Existence of a Sitemap

 

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