Google Updates AdWords Display URL Policy

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 www.example.com, your display URL must be www.example.com. 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 “.co.uk” 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 – exemple.com which is a redirect to Destination – example.com). 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: www.example.com >> destination w/ custom tracking: www.trackingurl.com/{customstuff} >> landing page: www.example.com
  • NOT OK display: www.example.com >> destination w/custom tracking: www.trackingurl.com/{customstuff} >> landing page: www.trackingurl.com

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. reachlocal.biz).

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.