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Google AdWords’s New Landing Page Quality Policy…Your Ads May Be Totally Shut Down

There are certain people whose email you open immediately. I don’t care who you are, but if you receive an email from someone with an “” address with the subject line “IMPORTANT: Your Site May Be Flagged and Affected For Policy Issues” – open it. Here’s the email I received on May 10th:

A little freaked out, I emailed and called our AdWords Rep to get the scoop on these changes. Here’s what’s happening.

On May 17th Google will be rolling out new landing page quality guidelines. Right now they are sending out mass communication to inform people of the change, but they really have no idea if your site is in violation at this point or not. The goal of this mass communication is to inform people of the change, and (in my opinion) scare people into really looking at their sites to address the issues ahead of time. The AdWords Policy team is beginning to review sites and will be reaching out to those in violation of the new guidelines in order to give you some time to address the issues before your ads are shut down. If you are an account with small budgets and low amounts of spend (aka…don’t have a rep), you may or may not be informed ahead of time. Time will tell, but you will most likely be given some buffer to address the issues before your ads are shut down…but no promises.

According to the email and policy:

“Google AdWords prohibits websites that don’t have a clear privacy policy and solicit personal information from users in circumstances where it’s unclear how the information will be used. Additionally, Google AdWords prohibits the advertisement of websites that offer a free gift in exchange for personal information and websites that request personal information to get the results of a survey or quiz.”

However, it does also say:

“Examples of acceptable websites:

  • Websites that request personal information for legitimate lead generation or business purposes and have a clear privacy policy
  • Websites where actual purchases and/or transactions take place”

Depending on how strictly you want to take it, just about every website could be classified into either the Unacceptable or Acceptable buckets based on the vagueness of these statements. After talking with our AdWords Rep, here is the key: Google is going after people who don’t fully disclose to website visitors how they will be tracked and communicated with (most likely due to lawsuits against Google for invasion of privacy). To be safe, you need to make sure that every AdWords landing page you use that contains a form has a privacy policy. If you are asking someone to fill out a form, then you need to have that privacy policy clearly available before the user submits information, and the privacy policy must now clearly state:

  1. Clear, accessible disclosure before visitors submit personal information
    Our existing policy requires you to clearly describe how any personal information you solicit will be used. Soon, we’ll require that your description must also be easily accessible before site visitors submit their details.
  2. Option to discontinue direct communications
    In the same description of how personal information will be used, you’ll also be required to describe how people can opt out of future emails, phone calls, or other direct communications.

If the landing page is purely informational then you are in the clear. If you are asking for a purchase/transaction, that page must now have:

  1. SSL when collecting payment and certain financial and personal information
    Many websites use what are known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connections to encrypt sensitive information that travels between the user’s browser and the website’s servers. To help ensure user safety, AdWords policy will require all advertisers to use SSL when collecting payments and certain financial and personal information (like bank account and social security numbers).

So, with all of that said, my suggestion is to do an audit of your account and find all of the landing pages you are using for your ads. Review all of these pages to determine whether they are informational, forms, or transactional. If they are informational, then no new changes are necessary. If they contain forms, make sure you privacy policy is readily available, and make sure the policy addresses all of the above items. If they are transactional, make sure you are using SSL in your e-commerce system.

Hopefully this helps clear things up a bit, and reduces the likelihood that your ads are in violation come May 17th.

Have any additional info on the landing page quality guidelines update? Have any of your pages been flagged? Ads shut down? Let me know.

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