Google Updates Display URL Policy

by Martin Perron

If you’re currently running an AdWords campaign and have been actively testing various combinations of destination URLs and display URLs that differ from your actual landing page URL, you may need to review your campaign and update it to make sure your ads keep running.

On February 19th, Google announced an upcoming update to their display URL policy in response to advertiser and user feedback. Starting April 1st, Google will be strictly enforcing their existing policy that requires that a display URL match it’s destination URL.

Why are they doing this?

Many advertisers often use techniques such as vanity URLs with page redirects to try to increase CTR on their ads. When the user clicks on these ads, they are redirected to a completely different landing page under a different domain. Using this technique, an advertiser could test a multitude of URLs while simply funneling all the traffic to a single site. Although testing this type of strategy can lead to an increase in CTR, these exceptions that Google used to make did leave some risk for deceptive practices and may risk frustrating users and their confidence in the messages they see and the pages they are directed to. This change is clearly inline with improving relevancy and user experience.

Here’s an example from Google’s post for basic illustration of what is acceptable and what is not:

Acceptable:
Destination URL is www.google.com
Display URL must also be www.google.com.

Not Acceptable:
Display URLs is www.google.com
Any of the 3 Destination URL scenarios:
www.google.co.uk – this is a different site
www.gogle.com – the URL redirects to www.google.com but still violates the policy
www.gooogle.com – the URL leads to a page showing content identical to www.google.com and you’d have to change the Display URL to www.gooogle.com to comply.

What about tracking URLs and sub-domains?

No problem here as long as the Top-Level Domain (TLD) of the landing page or the sub-domain match the TLD of the Display URL.

Acceptable:
Display URL: www.google.com/adwords
Destination URL: www.trackingurl.com/google123
Redirects to: Landing page URL: www.google.com

Not acceptable:
Display URL: www.google.com/adwords
Destination URL: www.trackingurl.com/google123
Redirects to: Landing page URL: www.trackingurl.com

What should you do?

On average, most advertisers probably will not be affected by this update however it’s a good idea to review your campaigns. If you’re not sure if this update affects your campaign, we recommend that you take a second look at your campaigns to make sure your ads will comply before the April 1st deadline. As a start, make sure to read Google’s policy and once you have a clear understanding, go through the campaign and update any ads that will be in violation. Make sure that the TLD (top level domain) of your Display URL matches your actual landing page URL TLD.