There has been a bit of chat on various forums over the last couple of days about Google AdWords tweaking its landing page algorithm, see here and here.
So with that in mind I thought I would publish a guide on how to create a landing page that will comply with Google’s guidelines. I’ve been marketing online using landing pages and Google AdWords for around 6 years now. Over that time I’ve seen many developments and changes and have been in constant touch with various members of the AdWords team directly. Below are the results of my experiences. They may work for you and they may not, but if you follow them, you should be able to market effectively using landing pages.
First things first though, experience tells me that landing pages are no longer an effective way of marketing on AdWords. So why am I writing this then? I hear you ask. Well, traditional landing pages that contain a few links, a paragraph or 2 of pre-sell text/product reviews are dead and buried. Don’t even try it, Google will catch up with you eventually and raise your bids to silly prices. Take this example of one of my old landing pages, Google banned this about 18 months ago.
If Google thinks the only reason your landing page exists is to funnel users to another site then its a landing page, and they will penalise you accordingly.
Landing pages now have to be incorporated into a fully functioning web site with lots of original content. So yes, you can still market with landing pages but the landing pages must be within the context of a full site. Here’s the rules as I see them:
Your landing page website should contain the following pages as standard:
1. Sitemap - this should be accessible from all pages of your site.
3. Terms and Conditions - as above, here is a good resource.
4. Contact Us - with full physical postal address and telephone number.
5. About Us - description of what the purpose of the website is and the business operating it, i.e. you.
OK now that you have these basic pages, consider adding these pages too:
1. News - add a page where you regularly update with newsworthy stories related to the niche you are promoting.
2. Blog - like a news page but you can also add editorial comments here and opinions.
3. How To or What Is Guide - pages/pages with detailed unique content describing the product/service you are promoting and how they work. I.e. if you have a coupon site then add some pages describing what coupons are and how they work, an idiots guide really.
4. FAQ’s - think of every question related to the product/service you are promoting then list them and answer them here.
5. Glossary - every industry has its own terminology, create an A-Z of industry specific jargon here and define it.
6. Deals/Offer pages - again everyone has specific deals and offers, so list the ones relevant to your product/service on their own page.
7. Individual product/pages - likewise the chances are that your product/service will have different components. I.e. a certain brand of credit card will have a gold card, platinum card, reward card etc. So build pages for each product containing very detailed information, more so that you would find on a traditional landing page.
8. Submit your review - offer your users the opportunity to submit their own product/reviews. Not only does this create stickiness but it gives you free content.
So, you now have the structure of what the site should look like. Now for the landing page, first thing to do is to look at the AdWords guidelines for landing pages, it contains some good advice:
Link to the page on your site that provides the most useful and accurate information about the product or service in your ad.
If your site displays advertising, distinguish sponsored links from the rest of your site content.
Try to provide information without requiring users to register. Or, provide a preview of what users will get by registering.
In general, build pages that provide substantial and useful information to the end-user. If your landing page consists of mostly ads or general search results (such as a directory or catalog page), you should provide as much information as you can beyond what your ad describes. For example, if your ad mentions <’Free travel information,’ your landing page should feature free travel information (versus links to other sites that do).
You should have unique content (should not be similar or nearly identical in appearance to another site). For more information, see our affiliate guidelines.
So, if you follow my suggestions above and Google’s own advice then you should have the perfect landing page website. As long as you have all of this structure in place then the actual landing page itself shouldn’t present a problem, here’s how to structure it:
1. Create unique product/service reviews for whatever you are promoting. Do not just cut and paste text straight from the merchants site.
2. Include some users reviews on the page too, as well as your own.
3. List some comparable products/services from competitors.
4. List some special offers, unique discount codes on this page. This is perceived as extra value to the visitor.
5. Add some links to other products/services that are related but not the same as you are promoting. So lets say you are promoting Plasma TV’s. Add some links to DVD players, specialist cables, remote controls etc.
Thats it really, as I have said there is no magic formula and the landing page doesn’t have to be that complex. It simply must contain original content and be of value to the visitor. So a landing page with the above 5 elements that is presented within a full site of other original content will withstand the Google AdWords algorithm. Noy only that but you will have actually built a decent quality website that you can maintain and build up with content for years to come. You never know, it could even end up being indexed well with the natural serps so you don’t even have to rely on AdWords for traffic!
Almost forgot, with regard to affiliate links and masking them, my advice is to always mask them. The main reason for this is to avoid certain anti-virus software which has been known to make them invisible. I don’t think it has a major effect on the AdWords algorithm but I would say to mask them, just in case.
Below is a screen shot of my broadband providers site. Despite not containing all of the elements I mentioned above it has been passed by Google and meets all of their landing page guidelines.