It seems to happens without fail every time I leave my office for a significant stretch. Before we left on our little affiliate jolly I said to Duncs, “Well? What’ll it be this time darling???”
“What do you mean?” He said, looking up from his packing with the usual confused look he bestows upon my frequent random outbursts.
“What will go wrong when we’re away? What lovely little surprise will Google bestow upon us right at the point when we’re totally unable to do anything about it?”
Thankfully It’s Not PPC Armageddon
I’ve just returned from a blissful 10 days going internet cold turkey to discover that whilst I was gone my Australian underwear site has had a review and found a polite note from Google pointing out that my humble offering was in “violation of our Landing Page and Site Policies” and “the site is disabled within your AdWords account.”
Well gee thanks guys – my holiday was wonderful thanks!
But it Didn’t Stop There…
Upon closer examination I discovered that Blokes Undies had also been given the old QS thumbs down no less than 6 weeks ago and I simply didn’t notice (no dear John letter about that one though!).
Happily the reason for this was that the PPC was only about 15% of the site traffic and the slap coincided with a nice organic boost… so I actually ended up with a profit increase during September and subsequently didn’t investigate why the PPC traffic was 50% down in September. It was only today when doing my stats I realised that during October I’d had hee haw from Adwords and that every keyword in that campaign was wearing a shiny “rarely shown due to low quality score” badge.
Tightening The Noose?
I’ve always prided myself on adding value to the user and creating pages I didn’t consider to be “thin” pages. I’ve come through the various affiliate culls over the last 2 years totally untouched. Until now that is.
Does this mean Google is tightening it’s rules relating to affiliates, or have I just been lucky in recent times? I’m pragmatic enough to realise it could be either or neither of those two options.
One thing I do know about Google is that whenever you start to see such things appearing in your account it’s rarely a one off. Considering how much similarity in structure, content, and strategy the affected sites have to others still lucky enough to be blessed with Adwords traffic my days as a PPC affiliate may be numbered.
Am I Surprised?
Not at all. I’ve been preparing for this type of eventuality for quite some time and with some degree of urgency since I asked a very experienced PPC manager if I had anything to worry about with all the affiliate bannings that went on this time last year and got back an e-mail that basically said “be very, very worried if you rely upon PPC for your livelihood”. That was me told.
Since then, I’ve been feverishly working at building organic traffic whilst refusing to add any more to my Adwords account. My logic being that every adgroup and new domain added a greater element of risk for getting a ban.
Do You Think It’ll Never Happen?
Think again. Those two black marks on my account could well be reason enough for Google to slap me with a nice Adwords ban next time they decide to give a few more affiliates the shove. Far fetched? Not at all. I recently had a conversation with someone who had an entire account banned as a result of one long forgotten, ill conceived thin landing page. He’d fixed some dodgy old pages they warned him about after his “last chance” e-mail, only to cop a ban for the long forgotten page – which they hadn’t.
Draconian? Unfair? Probably, but this is Google we’re talking about and anyone who thinks common sense will prevail when dealing with them is clearly deluded.
What Will I Do Next?
Well, precisely what I’ve been doing already. I’ll continue to create decent sites that add value to the user and constantly strive to improve them. A majority of the PPC traffic I have relied upon in the past is getting too expensive for my margins anyway, so I’m no longer prepared to spend time and resources dancing to the Adwords tune.
For the last year I’ve been running my business on the basis that I will only continue to have Adwords traffic available to me in the short term rather than on a permanent basis. I’m happy to say that PPC now only accounts for around 16% of overall traffic to my websites. This time last year it was closer to 60% and a massive liability to my business.
Prior to leaving Australia I’d already started work on a brand new organic site to replace my now doubly slapped offering. There’ll be a slight gap until we can get home to do the 20% work remaining to get it up and running, but I’ll replace the PPC traffic with organic within a few months.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
So Adwords, like a selfish lover I’ll take what’s on offer for as long as you continue to provide it. But if you finally decide you’ve had enough of me I’ll walk on without breaking step and hope that your brother who provides me with lovely organic traffic doesn’t find out about our broken affair and give me the push. 😉