Google Updates AdWords Display URL Policy

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As of April 1, Google will be making significant changes to their enforcement of display URL policies. The “Policy Team” has taken a stricter stance on the relationship between display URLs and destination URLs — and they will be allowing few exceptions to their rules. In short, if your destination URL is, your display URL must be Just to alleviate any confusion: display URLs are what is displayed in your ad text – destination URLs are where your ad text leads post-click.

Google’s changes are subtle, but worth noting by all AdWords advertisers. The first change affects anyone who has a display URL such as “” but actually uses a “.com” destination URL. This rule will target all generic top-level domains (gTLDs like .biz, .net, etc.). If you use any redirected URLs in your ad texts, take notice. Google will no longer accept display URLs that are actually redirects of a primary domain (i.e. Display – which is a redirect to Destination – The other firm example from Google deals with the use of multiple domains or vanity URLs. In other words, you will no longer be able to use two different URLs that point to the same content.

In the notice that I received, some FAQs were mentioned. The first of which dealt with the use of tracking URLs. Using custom tracking URLs (destination) that deviate from your display URL will be OK if, and only if, the URL of the landing page matches the display URL. The rule breaker would then be if you have a custom tracking URL that leads to a landing page with a URL that deviates from your ad. The following will explain this in more detail:

  • OK display: >> destination w/ custom tracking:{customstuff} >> landing page:
  • NOT OK display: >> destination w/custom tracking:{customstuff} >> landing page:

Also included in the FAQs on the policy changes were Quality Score concerns. Google admits that after making changes to your display URLs, you could see changes in your minimum bids. To limit these changes they suggest that you confine changes to one account – in other words don’t transfer your efforts for a new account and start over. Additionally, they suggest that you make changes to the ads associated with your highest-performing keywords first.

As always, there are still exceptions. The aforementioned changes will not affect your AdWords account if you fall under one of these categories:

  • Shopping platforms with shopping carts on a different domain.
  • Direct pharmaceutical manufactuers (laws allow them to work around Google’s policies)
  • Adult websites where the domain is prohibited due to explicit content.
  • Any domain that is longer than 35 characters in length: that’s just too darn long!
  • Resellers with standard hosting (i.e.

Today’s post was just a heads up for everyone currently using AdWords. My suggestion would be to begin writing your ads with these new policies in mind, if you don’t already. And remember that you have until April 1st of 2008 to get your ad texts prepared. Personally, I have a few “multiple domain” issues to correct that I will be taking care of ASAP!

Please leave me a comment if you have any questions.

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40 thoughts on “Google Updates AdWords Display URL Policy

  1. Kyle

    Hi John. I’m a little confused by this update. Do you basically mean that the actual domain name itself as well as the domain extension that you display in your ads have to match the landing page that the visitor would eventually land on?

    You didn’t mean that you have to display the “www.” part of the URL correct? Also, what about using your keywords in the subdomain or subfolder of your display URL? Such as “” or “”. Will that still be accepted?

    Thanks for clearing up any confusion at all.

  2. JB

    I’m wondering about the same things as Kyle. Previously, Google wanted to make sure the display and actual had the same root domain.

    All of these below were considered fine. I’m assuming that hasn’t changed:

  3. michaelportent

    The Googlebot just had to clamp down on our rule-breaking fun, didn’t they?

    Still, subdomains being disallowed would be awful, I hope that’s not the case. There’s many times where we’ll test a lander at, but really don’t want to include promo in the display URL for the ads. There’s gotta be an exception for that.

  4. JohnJohn Post author

    Thanks for all the comments! I’ll do my best to answer your questions in as brief a manner as possible…

    First of all, I received this information in an update from my Google Agency Rep.

    You will still be able to choose between ‘’ or ‘’ The meat of this update is stricter enforcement of the core domain (example) and the generic top-level domain (.com, .biz, .net, etc). I frequently use keywords after the slash (, and my understanding is that this will still be OK.

    It seems I confused everyone with my tracking URL example where I listed the example of {customstuff} !!! What I was insinuating there was how various analytics packages use tracking URLs to pull in your keywords, creatives, etc. and they vary widely. What matters is – if your display url is, the user should arrive at a landing page url of You can use a tracking URL that deters from this domain as long as you return to your root domain on the landing page.

  5. Michal Goc

    I was always under the impression that the display domain had to have the same TLD as the destination domain. Of course I saw many people displaying and sending to .com, but I myself got some ads rejected for this very reason.

    So like you wrote, it does seem that what’s changing is the enforcement, not the policies themselves.

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  7. Tom Livingstone


    What’s with the enforcement from April 1(there’s still time for it). No one else seems to be talking about this. The ones who are, have either referred to you or to their own “personal” Google Agency Reps. The “stricter enforcement” seems to suggest that breaking Google’s policies is a lesser crime before April 1.

    Can you help the folks with more info ;-))

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  10. JohnJohn Post author

    Hello to all… Sorry for the delay in responding to everyone’s comments.

    As the discussion has unfolded since I broke this tid-bit last week, more information has come to light:
    Google’s Official Announcement:
    Search Engine Land right-up:

    In short – the “change” to the policy is really in the enforcement of the rules. April 1st (not an April Fools joke) is the date Google set to begin their stricter stance.

    Tom –
    I suppose that you could consider yourself a “free man” until April 1st – breaking the rules until that point. Though I would strongly recommend against it. The whole purpose of this forewarning was to give advertisers the time to make the right changes to their ads. If you change now, your ads won’t be shut off after the first of April. Does that make sense?

    Megan –
    Google clarified quite a few points in their official announcement – one of which is in regards to sub domains. As long as the “top-level domain” is intact (i.e. or, you can substitute the sub-domain as you wish (,,

    Thanks for the comments and trying to understand this update with me!

  11. Mark Curtis

    John, I really enjoy your posts. Thanks.

    A word of advice: When you change an ad (even if it’s just the Display URL), Google sees it as a brand new ad, not a modified one. For this reason, you DO NOT want to do an account-wide find and replace for the Display URLs and just post the changes. Why? Because when you do this you are tossing out your ad history and starting fresh. This can negatively effect campaign performance (hence Google’s warning on QS). So, for anyone who is changing display URLs throughout their accounts, I strongly recommend the following method:

    Duplicate your ads that are currently running, changing the URLs on the new ads to conform to the Display URL policy, and run them side-by-side with your current ads for several weeks. This way, the new ads gain history WHILE maintaining the history of the old ads. Then, as you get closer to April 1st, pause the ads with the bad display URLs. By this time, your new ads will have some exposure, some history and will be trusted more than a couple of brand new ads flying solo.

    Search Engine Roundtable explained the details of this last month:

    You have 6 weeks. That’s plenty of time. Trust me, you do not want to make account-wide bulk changes to all of your ads…unless you’re my competitors 😉

  12. Chris


    Question then regarding sub-domains. If I were using affiliate sub domains like: to to to

    And they all ended at the same exact starting domains as illustrated above HOWEVER each domain had the very same content with the exception of minor changes.

    Would this be legal?

  13. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Chris

    According to the official documentation at Google, mixing and matching sub-domains is allowed. As long as the top level domain remains the same, you will be fine.


  14. Darlehen

    @ Chris

    Could help you BUT a subdomain Google’s sees often as a complete new domain. So better work perhaps with sub-directories that keep a bit of value…

  15. website design

    Hello go through following references

    What about tracking URLs?
    We do understand that many advertisers utilize tracking URLs within the destination field of their ads. Therefore, if the URL of your landing page matches that of your display URL, your ads will be approved.

    For example:

    Display URL:
    Destination URL:
    –> Landing page URL: would be acceptable

    Display URL:
    Destination URL:
    –> Landing page URL: would not be acceptable

    hope every thinnk get clear

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  17. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Confused,

    The AdWords editorial process isn’t perfect. It’s possible that this advertiser was able to push through some ad texts that haven’t been flagged (and disabled) by AdWords’ editorial system.

    No advertiser should be using any URL shortening service as their display URL!

  18. Tom Hale

    HI John,

    I am not going to have any problems with any of the ads for my clients. I have been abiding by the rules all along.

    I was just expressing some jealousy that you seemed to get tipped off by your rep prior to announcements going public.

    Kind of insider trading in the AdWords blog world 😉


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