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At a seminar we ran last week for Edinburgh web developers, I talked about the not-so-new AdWords landing page algorithm.

A straw poll demonstrated that awareness of the algorithm is still very low. It therefore seams worthwhile providing a quick overview here.

What is the Algorithm?

It is Google’s method of automatically detecting the quality of the web pages AdWords’ advertisers are sending Google searchers to.

Google wants searchers to have a good experience when they click on a sponsored link. The logic being that, if it helps a searcher, that searcher is more likely to use Google again.

Why is it important to Advertisers?

In simple terms it could mean you end up paying more than your competitors for the same advertising.

The algorithm is part of the equation used to determine your minimum bid on the search network. So if Google deems your landing page to be poor, you may find yourself having to pay more before your advert appears to searchers.

In some cases it may cause your minimum bid to rise to a few pence or tens of pence. In this situation, the chances are you won’t end up paying any more as you will already be bidding higher than your minimum bid to ensure you hold a reasonable position on the search results page.

At the other end of the spectrum though, you might find your minimum bid increased to 10.00, effectively pricing you out of the auction and resigning you to no exposure until you provide what Google considers to be a quality landing page.

At this time, the algorithm does not affect your position on the search results. So, as long as you are paying more than the minimum bid you are given, the landing page algorithm has no impact on you.

This is not the case on the content network where the amount you pay per click, is already in part, determined by the landing page algorithm. You also have to wonder how long it may be before the algorithm will be used as part of the equation for determining position on search.

So, at the moment the impact is negligible for most advertisers, but is likely to increase in importance in time.

Interpreting the Google AdWords Landing Page Quality Guidelines

Google does not reveal the inner workings of the AdWords Landing Page algorithm. In seeking to understand it, the best place to start is with the published landing page quality guidelines, and then speculate using what is known about how Google assesses web pages for its main results.

If you go through that process, you should be able to pick up the nuances that are particular to your business. Here, however are some overriding principals that apply to all:

  • Include your keywords in your landing page (and make sure that they are machine readable). There is no need to overdo it so don’t fret about keyword density.
  • Create an “accessible” site. This will allow Google to understand what your site is about but they may also reward sites that seek to address the needs of “disabled” users.
  • Focus on usability – make it clear what the purpose of your site is and have a clear path to an action point (e.g. a purchase or subscription)
  • Add a privacy policy to your site (and call it that so Google is left in no doubt what it is!). Make sure you link to it from your landing page.
  • Have an about us page which includes your address (again in a format that a machine can recognise as an address)
  • Make sure your content is unique (a common mistake is the use of manufacturers product descriptions – no harm in using them per se, but if you do, make sure you have plenty of additional content)
  • Don’t force downloads or attempt to take over someone’s web browser without getting their permission.

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