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This morning Google sent an email to AdWords users announcing some changes to their policy. The update specifically targets the abuse of duplicate site links on Google ads, which Google says they’ll be taking a more proactive role enforcing. Sitelinks are additional display URLs that you can append to a specific ad to provide more click-through options to your web visitors. Sitelinks have been a success – they improve user experience, click-through rates, and consequently revenues for Google.

Sitelinks must be unique, meaning each one should redirect users to a different landing page with unique content. Apparently Google has noticed an increase in sitelinks “created with the same landing page or the same content“.

It’s a bit nonsensical to me as to why someone would intentionally use duplicate sitelinks – unless of course it’s by mistake. Ah, the importance of good SEO!

If you’re not familiar with sitelinks, the image below shows an example of sitelinks for the query “apple”.

Google Sitelinks. Credit: Blindfiveyearold.com

Google Sitelinks. Image Credit: Blindfiveyearold.com

Below is the full email notification I received from Google this morning.

Dear AdWords Customer,

 We’re making a policy enforcement change that could affect the performance of any AdWords campaign that uses sitelinks. If you use sitelinks now, or plan to use sitelinks in the future, please continue reading to understand the changes and suggested steps you can take to avoid any negative impact to your campaigns.

WHAT ARE SITELINKS

Sitelinks make your ads more valuable by showing additional direct links to specific web pages that you want to promote. Users get to specific destinations on your web site more quickly. And, on average, you’ll see a higher clickthrough rate for your ads. That makes sitelinks a great way to improve your campaign performance. To see images or learn more about sitelinks, please see this AdWords Help Center article (http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?answer=2375416).

EXISTING SITELINKS POLICY

To ensure that users have a good experience with ad sitelinks, our existing policy requires each sitelink in a campaign to link to a different landing page URL with unique content on the landing page. That means a user can expect a meaningfully different landing page experience for each sitelink.

ENFORCEMENT CHANGE

Recently, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of sitelinks created with the same landing pages or the same content. So in the coming month, we will begin more proactive enforcement of our existing policy. Initially, we’ll focus on new and recently changed sitelinks. As your ads are being served, our systems will verify that your sitelinks meet the policy standards. Sitelinks that don’t meet the standards will be restricted from appearing.

IMPACT ON PERFORMANCE

Having fewer eligible sitelinks could keep your ad from showing in the larger 2-line and 3-line formats, where more eligible sitelinks are required. Remember, larger formats are more visible and typically have higher average clickthrough rates (CTR). And if you don’t have enough eligible sitelinks in your campaign, then your ads may not display sitelinks at all.

FUTURE ENFORCEMENT

We realize that manually checking and fixing duplicates for your existing sitelinks and landing pages might take some time and coordination. So we’re delaying more proactive enforcement with existing sitelinks for a few months. But don’t wait until the last minute. And remember, any sitelink that you add or change will be subject to proactive enforcement right away.

SUGGESTIONS WITH EXISTING SITELINKS

To increase the chances of having more sitelinks shown with your ads, we recommend having 6-10 unique sitelinks in each of your campaigns. 

If you already have campaigns with sitelinks, we’d suggest reviewing each campaign to verify that it has 6-10 unique sitelinks. You’d probably want to start with the campaigns that show sitelinks most often. Usually, this would be a campaign with keywords like your business name and its best-known products and services.

Here’s how you can work through this using the AdWords interface.

1. Log into the AdWords interface and click on the “Ad Extensions” tab.

2. Select “Sitelinks Extensions” from the drop down menu.

3. Sort your sitelink extensions by impressions or clicks by clicking on the column header.

4. Click on each sitelink in the top campaign and follow it through to its landing page (there’s no charge for these clicks).

5. Fix any duplicates you find in each campaign by hovering over the extension area and clicking the pencil icon.

QUESTIONS?

For more information about sitelinks policy, please visit the AdWords Help Center (http://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/bin/answer.py?answer=1054210).

You can also contact AdWords support with questions about this policy change or anything else related to AdWords (http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?answer=8206).

 Thanks for your help keeping ad sitelinks unique and valuable for end users. We wish you continued success with AdWords.

Sincerely,

The Google AdWords Team

(C) 2012 Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043

Barely two centuries after the Industrial Revolution, another revolution of innovative ideas is sweeping the globe, fueled primarily by a seemingly never-ending resource called the Internet.  Long gone are the days of the steam engine that catapulted Western Europe, most specifically Great Britain’s manufacturing dominance in the 18th and 19th centuries and introduced mankind to the power of coal. Now the world is welcoming a new era, one of Cloud Computing (a technology of which I am particular fond), Mobile Apps, and Social Media. Like most people around the world, I love the Internet. The Internet pays for my mortgage, my food, my car, my clothes, my travels, and all the other things I am privileged to enjoy in my life. But most importantly, I love the Internet because of the wealth of information it possesses, good or bad, and because it allows me to express my thoughts like on this blog and share them with the world without incurring any financial cost (technically not true … I pay for my domain). What would have been my options 15 years ago? Pretty much, write a book.  However, unlike many people I see a very dangerous side to the Internet. A danger that goes well beyond online child molesters, identity frauds, and hate sites. I see husbands and fathers unable to provide for their family because they lost their job and its never coming back because a computer can do it faster and probably better. I see single mothers drowning in sleepless nights wondering what to do next so their children don’t spend another night starving. Two months ago, that job at a call center was enough to make ends meet but then came VoIP. Yes, I see a new kind of poverty. One might say, “Well why don’t they go learn something else? How about nursing? We always need nurses?” That latter question actually addresses another fundamental lapse in our society but let’s save it for another post. Shall we? Let’s go back to the idea that people who lose their job can easily retrain for something else. That held true 30 or 20 years ago but not anymore. The 21st century shall be remembered as one of constant shift – the world around us just keeps moving faster and most of us will not catch up. That’s life? Perhaps.

The beauty of the Industrial Revolution was that it happened at a time when it was really needed. The world’s demand for manufactured goods was higher than what was being supplied and therefore companies needed a way to increase output. The raw material being exploited from colonies was abundant and practically free (excluding lives lost from the oppressive regimes of colonization). So although a man had lost his job to a coal-ingesting machine he was merely assigned different responsibilities, which he learned while on the job, earning the same if not a higher salary because productivity was still lagging. This is how the Middle Class was built. Technological Revolution, brought by the Internet, in the other hand is a bit more complicated. The beauty of the Internet, I believe, has been lowering the barrier of entry into the playing field for non-aristocrats and slashing to non-existing levels the transaction costs that had successfully kept people from achieving gigantic leaps through the social strata. Consequently, brilliant regular folks came up with revolutionary technological ideas, mainly around automation, that allowed them to gain a considerable amount of wealth, cash that is, and the social status that comes along with it. This at the expense of not-so brilliant regular folks who have lost their jobs and are having a hard time finding one that’s not already being done by a computer. Ironically, if there’s a part of the world that stands from truly reaping the benefits of the Internet it is the developing world. Indeed, as companies in the developed world turn away from increasingly saturated markets, the developing (third) world will once again carry the prosperity of the modern civilization on its shoulders.

So what’s next? As you might have already heard, artificial intelligence has found its way to cars and soon you’ll finally be able to nap on your return to LA from that crazy Vegas weekend! Thank you Google!

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