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Google Adwords Traffic

The Google Crash of 2006

Back when the stock market crashed in 1929 — or more recently in 1987 — a lot of people lost their livelihood, their savings and their businesses. And from reading the Internet Marketing blogs and forums these days, it seems that a lot of people are going through exactly the same thing. Where they used […]

Back when the stock market crashed in 1929 — or more recently in 1987 — a lot of people lost their livelihood, their savings and their businesses.

And from reading the Internet Marketing blogs and forums these days, it seems that a lot of people are going through exactly the same thing.

Where they used to be able to spend a dollar and make two, now they’re being asked to spend $10 to make $5.

And that’s not something you can fix with more volume.

Regular people who provide good content, good service, and good products are now losing their ability to earn a living based on Google’s new rules. . . rules that were designed to increase a user’s search experience.

Google realizes that without searchers, there is no search marketing. Their billions of dollars depend on a good user experience and repeat visitors. Unfortunately, Google isn’t fessing up about what they consider a “good user experience”, so its up to us — internet marketers like you and me — to figure out what that is.

Some things to keep in mind before you post your own comments here.

1) Google has multiple data centers, and not all of them get updated with the new code at the same time. Further, not all websites have been reviewed to the same degree. (What that means is that in addition to dealing with user reports, we have to be aware of the signal-to-noise ratio.)

2) What you see is not all that can be seen — by Google. Two identical sites, or two identical Google Campaigns are not the same in Google’s eyes. So, you aren’t seeing what you think you see. (Take everything you observe and learn with a grain of salt. Including this post.)

3) You should know that Google *does not* hate landing pages, or squeeze pages. What they seem not to like are sites with no content outside of the direct sales effort. What they HATE are sites that are built exclusively for the purpose of displaying more advertising.

4) The determining factor does not appear to be solely the landing page itself, but the overall quality of the domain, too. (At least, that’s what we’ve observed – so far.)

I’m putting together a series of recommendations — or at least things to try — which I’ll publish based on my findings. Still doing a few tests, but I’ve got some relatively simple things brewing that should help out quite a bit.

To help out the research, please post your own user experience. If you’ve got a website where the cost per click has gone up significantly, let us all know. Includ the URL of your landing page, too, and any other relevant info you can volunteer.

If you’ve got a site where the CPC has remained low — or even dropped — PLEASE post that too.

One client of mine had his minimum bid jacked from 15 cents to $5 and $10. I suggested a few tests and we got those rates dropped back down to 15 cents just a few minutes later.

What we don’t know yet is if those better rates will stick, or for how long.

I’ll post findings here, but the more data we all have, the better our results will be.

Will you help?

–Mark Widawer, author
http://www.LandingPageCashMachine.com

38 replies on “The Google Crash of 2006”

My CPCs went from an average of 12 cents to over $2. One is at $5. Sure would like to know what’s up. With the conversion rate I have, currently (about 3 %) I can’t afford to get traffic this way.
Help!

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but it is still early and too soon to really tell what the lasting effects of this shift will bring.

Speculation being like opinions, it’s probably best to wait, a bit.

While none of my campaigns have yet to be affected, I have as others have heard some of the nightmares. But I’ve also heard a few more that seemed more reasonable.

Perry Marshall and Frank Kern discussed this in a phone conference, and Perry’s testing seemed to show him that the sites affected, most affected anyway, were single page sites, sales letter only sites, sites with no content of value (spamvommit), sites with the sole intention of getting visitor information before providing anything else, and site’s that were as you said appearing to be only for the sake of displaying more advertising.

He also said if you could, try setting up your landing pages on domains that did meet that criteria, and also linking to sitemaps of your main sites behind your squeeze page.

He mentioned a specific test where one of his clients saw bids of several dollars when directing the traffic to his own url, but as a test the client pointed the ads to one of his competitor’s sites and the bid prices dropped to around 15 cents. (Of course, spending any money to send visitors directly to your competitors doesn’t seem to be a good investment 🙂

One other thing he mentioned was to do a quick site:yoursite.com check to see how many pages your sites have in the Google index. If you have several hundred, and they’re quality content, maybe, just maybe, you’ll be okay or only slightly affected.

While Google’s stated reasons have been that they want to provide the users with the content they’re searching for, when it comes to sales pages coming up after some one clicks on ads… wow, who would ever have thought that?

Do you think that this is a permanent change, Mark, or that it’s just an overadjustment as Google experiments with yet another in its ceaseless parade of tweaks and fiddles to its algorithm?

I’ve been out of PPC for a while but the only theory as to “why” that seems to make sense to me is that Google will be starting cost per action advertising and the best way to make hungry customers for that new service is to end the other options for squeeze page, sales page owners etc. It’s also a good way to destroy the business model for the ad arbitrage people, which Google perceives as diminishing their search quality, which is job #1 at Google.

Allen,
I don’t think that hundreds of pages are at all necessary. I’ve got a client with a 20-page site, only two of which are indexed by Google. Traffic there is much cheaper than to his sales-only site. . . even if the exact same page is posted there.
But I agree with you. . .if someone is search for a product or service, and they get to a website selling that product or service, it does seem as though Google is penalizing that site for sellling the information, and using good online marketing tactics to do that.
On the other hand, I’m certain they’re not expecting that all information be free.
But somewhere in the middle, they have an idea of how things ought to work. It’s just our job now to figure it out.
–Mark

Dave,
Yes, I think it’s both. They make a change and there’s an uproar as a response. Then they tweak and fiddle and things calm down a bit — at least as it relates to that last change.
And users adapt as well.
For example, about 8 months ago they made another change where CPCs shot up overnight. The uproar subsided as people learned better what Google wanted. And at the same time, I think that Google tweaked their algorithm to better achieve the results they wanted to give their users.
–Mark

David,
It’s all related. But I think what you’ll find, over time, is that your impressions and clicks will rise over time — assuming you’re giving users what Google thinks they want.
Those that provide “low quality” experiences for their users will be pushed out of the market by the high cost of clicks. That will leave fewer advertisers and fewer advertisements — and eventually a higher proportion of clicks for those that remain.
–Mark

I had the keywords from a couple landing pages all go to $5 and $10. I moved them to another domain, using the exact same pages and some of my keywords actually went down in price. Google – go figure!

My experience has been the same as David Beroff’s – no change in prices or position, but fewer clicks. However, about 3 weeks ago, I had one keyword (out of 23 in one campaign) show up with a $5 minimum bid, up from 11 cents. The keyword wasn’t peforming very well so I deleted it, without any negative consequences thus far.

Are you guys talking about selling actual physical product in boxes?
I’m completely unaffected – advertising on google uk.
I’m selling products – actual things in boxes that i post out. google see my conversion rates. overall say 1%.
I’ve always thought that google was hopeless as a searcher if you’re looking to buy product – until adwords came along. Now, you can find what you want at close to the cheapest price (it would be the cheapest price, but you have to pay google!)

If i’m searching for product, i don’t even glance at the natural listings!

A thought – I assumed that froogle would become the cheapest price, because you don’t have to pay google to advertise. froogle’s not catching on yet with the punters, but anyway, ebay is by far the cheapest place to buy.

$5 and $10 per minimum bid for a click is common across the board in my campaigns. Nearly 98% of my keywords were affected by the upward pricing Google threw into the mix. I have been marketing through PPC for over 3 1/2 years with great success (an average PPC cost of 6 cents and an average conversion of click to action of 2.98%).

What I find interesting is over the past month I had noticed intermittent activity that seemed like Google turning the ads on and off at their will. When the high bid requests came, I took action to try and figure out what could lower the minimum bid requirement.

One action I took was to go step by step through the editorial guidelines Google has and check it against my own site. I have done this in the past and have paid close attention to the keyword relevance to the ad relevance to the web content relevance. I believe this was one reason my average cost per click stayed low over the years, yet I was in higher rankings for where my ad word ad was placed.

I recently redid my website to include many more links to free reports and articles on my own site. While I believe too much info will confuse the buyer and that advertising is different from just free info resource listings, I did make these changes. This is all content originally written by me and contained on my own site.

In addition to the changes of content, I also set up a new campaign in my Google account. I also went through my site ensuring the key words and phrases were also within the content of the site. The result? All 237 keywords and phrases in this new campaign were tagged with a minimum bid request of $10 and a few $5 ones. Even my own name ‘Jeff Zalewski’ had a minimum bid of $10.

However, this past week I have noticed Google turning on and off my ads. Interestingly, where they temporarily turned on the ad, I had some key words pull in a 17% to 18% CTR and I was only charged an average of 7 cents a click. Oddly, they shut off the ads requiring a minimum bid of $10. I double checked through a number of ad groups in my account and confirmed a few days where Google temporarily turned on the account ads at the lower bid.

I do feel Google is testing software changes and I caught in the crossfire. Sometimes it does seem if you raise the daily budget or increase bids, the software automatically triggers to want more. This is the tricky part because I believe I have an honest and real business. I earn a great six figure income and am knowledgeable about marketing. I do not feel Google is being fair or even ethical. This creates a challenge because for the crooks and those who know the manipulation tricks and use them, there sites go virtually untouched by what many of us experience.

I do see where relevance is important for Google. I also see where they can not physically review every site or ad. This is where the software does the work for them often in an unfair and unexplained way.

Google has had the easiest and most comprehensive PPC system out there to use. For this reason, it had been my main PPC engine I tapped into. Other PPC engines do not perform as well and I do believe in time Google will get back on track allowing us to effectively market. I just hope they don’t destroy what was a good thing in the process.

My website targets the home business (direct sales, network marketing, mlm industry). I am a trainer and Business Success Coach and teach in a non-hype nuts ‘n bolts style. My site is http://www.leadsandtraining.com
Take a look and let me know if you have any ideas that can break through the $10 barricades.

One thing I plan to try is to create a new domain site and set up under a new ad group. Other steps of thought are to close my account and open a new one. the biggest concern is the loss of the 3 yrs of tracking and time to set it all up again. But again, maybe that is the next step.

I am going to test some variables that will utilize two and possibly three page optimized content pages with an optin link that sends them to the email capture page.

Example: 2 or 3 paragraphs of optimized content (Including h1 Header) with a link at the end of the last paragraph that says.. [continue to page 2]

Then, on the next page I will pick up with another header at the top and start asking for the reader to take action. I am going to make the action link a direct path to an optin page that has a header and more supporting sales content.

I think this will satisfy google and hopefully (if done correctly) build anticipation for the targeted prospect.

At this time, I am looking for some existing examples that I will model after. If I do not see any that I think are acceptable, I will build from scratch and put the test results back on Mark’s blog so we can all share.

Ian,
Could be physical products in boxes or digital info products.
I hadn’t even thought of Froogle. That sounds like a great thing to investigate. But don’t give up on Adwords yet. There is definitely a way to find those 5 and 10 cent keywords still.
–Mark

I run several campaigns for myself and for some clients and I didn’t see any big changes so far. One client only had the bids going up. I was hosting his page under my domain( which has very good traffic). I moved the page and everything went back to normal. Now, what I found weird today, one campaign had 2 clicks at 0.01. I thought the lowest it could go would be 0.05.

Great post Mark!

I too got hammered with the latest Google Update and had 99% of my keywords min. bid amounts go up…From 10-cents before to now 20-cents to $10/click.

I only increased my bid on 1 of my keywords…One that they wanted 20-cents/click for. The rest I left alone until I could figure this all out.

Recently, Frank Kern and Perry Marshall got together and discussed some strategies to dealing with the latest changes that Google made.

Well, I’m excited to say the changes I made tonight worked!

I went from $1/$5/and $10 min. CPC to the 10-cents I was using before.

Here’s everything I tried tonight and my synopsis at the end is what I did that worked and recommend you try.

First some background info.

My domain is: http://www.SimpleFlyFishing.com

It went to a squeeze page where I collect opt-ins. When a person fills out the form, they are redirected to my salespage. I only have 7 pages indexed by Google with that domain. No content, just salesletters and namesqueeze pages.

I also have a blog that has about 70 Pages indexed by Google.

The blog is a Blogspot blog that I have linked to the domain:

http://www.FlyFishingBuzz.com

The main blog address is: http://fly-fishing-tips.blogspot.com

I have two adwords accounts…One newer one and one older account. The older account has the campaign that’s been affected.

Okay, so check this out…

One of the things I did was searched at Google for the term “fly fishing”. Then I selected a domain that I thought would have a lot of indexed content (a fly fishing magazine site…FlyFisherman.com).

======================

Commence Test 1:

Old Account, New Adgroup, Changed Display URL from SimpleFlyFishing to FlyFisherman.com

Min. CPC Dropped From $1-$10 to only 20-cents!!!!

However, that wasn’t good enough so I kept testing…I wanted to see if I created the same adgroup in a different account if that would drop the Min. CPC.

======================

Commence Test 2:

New Account, New Adgroup, Display URL: FlyFisherman.com

Min. CPC Still at 20-cents…Good but not good enough…

======================

Commence Test 3 (Check New Account with Old Display URL):

New Account, New Adgroup, Display URL: SimpleFlyFishing.com

Min. CPC Still $1-$5…The $10 keyword dropped to $5.

So then I had the ah ha moment and decided to try and see what happens when I substitute FlyFisherman.com for my blog domain FlyFishingBuzz.com as the Display URL.

======================

Commence Test 4 and 5:

New Account, New Adgroup, Display URL: FlyFishingBuzz.com

Results: 10 – CENTS PER CLICK ACROSS THE BOARD…All 1000 Keywords in this Adgroup are now active at 10 CENTS/CLICK!!!!!

I then decided to try the same with the Old Adwords Account (the one that’s been affected) and what do you know…SAME RESULT!

All Keywords are active for that adgroup!

======================

So here’s what I’ve concluded…

SYNOPSIS:

1. Create A New AdGroup in either your existing or a new Adwords Account.

2. Use a domain (hopefully one that you own) that has multiple pages indexed by Google as your Display URL in your ads. The URL to your blog seems to work well for this as the Google bot appears to love blogs! Blogs the way they are setup are indexed easily by the robots.

3. Set your CPC at 10-cents max cpc

RESULT:

Your Keywords WILL be ACTIVE!

Hope this helps a few folks out…

===========================

A big lesson I learned from all of this is that Google wants content. Also, I learned that I need to have smaller adgroups with tightly related keywords. My website and account doesn’t have this right now but they will.

I’m not sure how long the changes I made tonight will hold but I’m going to keep a close watch on them and see…

If something changes, I’ll be sure to let you and your folks know.

All the best,

Michael Conquest

Michael,

Thanks for the great details and precision. I’m sure everyone who reads what you wrote will benefit.

What you’ve explained is exactly what we’ve also seen. I have a few comments, though.

1) Google will absolutely disallows using a display URL that is not yours, or not associated with your website. Eventually, the user should get to the domain mentioned in the display URL. Google will stop your ads if they don’t.

2) One of the reasons that I recommend people putting blogs on their own domain, rather than using a service like typepad or blogspot, is that you get no ” Google Juice” (ie an SEO benefit) from great content on a domain that doesn’t actually belong to you. The other reason is this one. . . all this great content that belongs to you is on a site that doesn’t belong to you, and you can’t use it! You can’t put your sales page on this site. Nor can you leave your display URL set to this site. (see above). So, ultimately you’ll be stuck.

3) The reason your bids went from 20 cents to 10 cents with the new Adwords account is that your older account has a low quality score. That’s right. Campaigns get quality scores, ads get quality scores, landing pages do, as do domains. Lesson here is to do a better job with narrowly targeted adgroups like Perry teaches and I teach as well.

Take a look at this website of mine:
http://www.AtkinsDietHelp.com

It’s a site I started back in the 90s all about the Atkins Diet. Used to be on a really bad forum system, and earlier this year I converted it to a WordPress blog.

Note that it’s on MY OWN domain name.

Note also that it’s a REAL website. I’ve got real recipes there, real advice, and real questions and answers from real people.

I am building a list of Atkins Dieters by running an Adwords campaign. Want to know where I’m sending the traffic? A squeeze page.

Check this out:
http://www.AtkinsDietHelp.com/FreeAccess

It’s a plain old squeeze page, just like the ones that other people say Google doesn’t like any more. But Google has no probelm with it at all. . . at least so far.

If the page were on its own site, it’d probably be $5 to $15 a click. But here, on this high quality site, it’s just seven cents.

Same as it ever was.

Did the site have to be a blog? No, but I’m sure it helps. But what really matters is that there are many pages of good content. How many does Google want? I dunno. Maybe just a few.

Is the good content on the landing page itself? No, but at this point, it doesn’t seem to be a requirement. (It may be in the future, though.)

I’m still refining my prescription for a High Quality Landing Page, and I’ll be publishing it in the very near future. But what I’ve posted here — and what you’ve posted, too, Michael — is a clue as to the direction that we all need to go.

–Mark

I’m unaffected so far. But I was affected by exactly this kind of thing about a year ago. I was bidding on words like Plato and Free will – things that had very high search impressions but no-one advertising (at least not a year ago).
My min bids went from 3p to £5.
I followed all google’s editorial about relevance etc. I discussed with them when they would answer my emails.
It made no difference what I put in my ads or in my landing page. Their editorial was – to me, at least – just a lie.
They didn’t want my ads there.
The only way i could get a sensible min bid was to have a much less-searched for phrase like ‘plato and free will’.
Google would show my ad.

I thought about it a long time and decided that for terms like Plato, maybe google shouldn’t be showing ads.
What really upset me was that you’d still see an ad from ebay saying ‘Buy Plato on ebay at best prices’ – which just shows you what idiots google can be!
There’s obviously a very interesting relationship between google and ebay. Ebay seem to be able to buy an ad for almost any keyword you can make up.

Anyway, I left the ‘plato’ keywords at the 3p that I was prepared to pay and I noticed that google would very occasionally run them. I assumed they were checking my ctr and if I got a high-enough ctr they’d show my ads. But I don’t think this is the case. I don’t think they’d show them if I got a 50% ctr on Plato.
I can only guess that they have some algorithm based on the number of impressions and the amount that an advertisers is prepared to pay – that’s how they know if it’s a genuine product that people are looking for.
The thing with product is that the natural listings wont give you the cheapest price. If you get to the top of the natural listings, you can up your prices becuase, unless you’re competing with adwords, you’ve got a monopoly that’s difficult to beat. Which is a very poor search experience.

This is now about a year ago and google still only very occasionally show my Plato ads.

Interestingly, I think they show them all the time on content.
Which makes sense. They don’t mind my low-brow ads appearing on other people’s sites – they just don’t want to see them on the main google page.

Thanks Mark…A quick follow-up…One of the 5 adgroups that I made this change to listed my ads as disapproved after a few hours. The reason is because my Display URL didn’t match my Destination URL. So, I corrected that and things seem to be ok for now…Fingers are crossed.

What I did was create a redirect page on my blog URL and that goes to my split tester (1shoppingcart) which then goes to my Namesqueeze page located on my sales site.

So, we’ll see if that holds…If it doens’t I’ll post.

Mark, about your comment 3 above…When I created a new adgroup in that account and campaign with the new Display URL my bids all dropped to 10-cents…So I really think this is a matter of the amount of content on your website…At least I hope so…

Crossing fingers 🙂

-Michael

What I don’t understand with all of this is the common courtesy of advising one’s clients of changes in rules.

There is no other advertising medium in the world that just arbitarily changes their rules and let their customers strugle to ‘figure’ out what happened. Any other advertising medium would have had the internal integrity to announce in advance changes and allow those changes to be incorporated into customer advertising approaches prior to the ‘change date.’

Google does not understand its customer, or perhaps have arrogantly thought mistreatment and the business of their customers is of little value to their ‘noble’ cause.

SEO will die in the next few years. PPC could as well, unless Google can muster the integrity it takes to run a professional and equitable advertising business for everyone. This constant ‘discovering’ what the rules are is not a good concept for sound business relationships.

Some of my sites were affected, but I’ve taken the necessary steps and things are almost back on track.

I noticed a very interesting thing.
Yes I was affected like all others even with very high CTR and Conversion Rate.

However, when the Crash hit I was in the middle of a product update so not really concerned about traffic amount other than for leads. Had nothing to sell.

So I let it ride, did not touch a thing with most of my keywords disabled.

As time goes by, my keywords went from $ 14.00 down to about $ 4.00. I will give it a week and will see if they are down to normal.

Very interesting.

P.S. Has anyone done any testing to have your “Squeeze Page” info condensed on the top of the right column of your main page.

This would eliminate a “Squeeze Page”. Perhaps making Google happier.

One would think opt-in rates would drop unless very good copy is written in that right column.

If Google is secretly keeping score of site and URL performance, do you think that a redesign of a site that may have previously received poor quality marks from Google would be effective or do you think that putting the redesign on a completely new URL would work better?

One thing that people don’t seem to realize is that if a user clicks your ad and goes to your page, G can track how long the interval is between their ad click and when they return to the Google SERPS. If your page causes them to come back almost immediately (as many squeeze pages do, because they are designed to weed out the buyers from the non buyers, and 97% of visitors are non-buyers), then Google lowers the quality score of that ad.

Mark,

Here is what I had – http://www.cj.com/widgets. All the keywords got bumped up to $5 and $10. I copied the keywords to notepad and deleted them in my adgroup. I then moved my site to http://www.freesite.com/widgets. Same exact site just different url. Put this in the ad in that adgroup, put my keywords back in and everything was OK again. I even lowered some of the keyword bids.

I also had a few that I am sending straight to the merchant site for now and that corrected the problem. But a few i sent to the merchant site kept the high bids.

Darell,

I can’t help but agree with you. . . but, there is a method to their madness. Google can’t tell you *exactly* what to do because then they’d along with telling all the good guys like you how to run good, legit ads, they’d be telling all the bad guys how to get around them.

Now. . . would you care to share what you did to get things back to normal?

Jaco,
Will you report back in a week or so? We’d all be ver interested to hear if things change further for you.
I’m no sure what the benefit of positioning your squeeze page text the way you mention. Can you elaborate?
–Mark

Scotty,
Test it!
First, fix the old site. Go register with Google Sitemaps, get a sitemap on it. That oughta get Google to revisit your site and re-evaluate it.
Should take a few weeks, at most.
See how that goes. . . And if nothing changes, then try the new site.
–Mark

Thanks, Bill.
Never thought for a moment that Google would be measuring that. My first thought is “I wonder what strategies we can use to keep people on a site longer?” But, a few seconds later the answer became clear.
Good content! Benefit the Users! Do Good!
Make lotsa good reasons to stay.
–Mark

CJ,
That’s pretty consistent with what we’re seeing. The display URL is what matters, at least initially. But my guess is that eventually, your campaign will be re-evaluated. If you’re doing ‘good’, providing good content, and playing by the rules, you’ll be fine.
–Mark

I have been doing extensive split testing of ads and also URLs (purchased about 20 different .com names to see if they make a difference) and just driving to a squeeze page with a sign-up form asking them to register for more info, etc…

All of our new adgroups are now requiring $7 and $13 bids to activate the keywords. No way Jose, if a lead costs $500-$1000, we can pack our bags and go home…

So, I just just changed 1 adgroup to point to their main site (which has been around for quite some time) and created a new landing page, targetted at the appropriate keywords.

One of the main reasons I originally moved the clicks away from the main site was to minimize distractions to the visitor from the links and so forth on their main site. That seemed to work well until the G-slap happened.

So, now I am back to testing using their main site again, because at least it has plenty of indexed content and links to sitemap, privacy statement, etc etc etc.

I have not changed the bids yet. Just left them as they were for the last week, and deleted all off-site ads and added 1 new ad with a link to the landing page on their main site.

Sorry I can’t mention the URL of the site or the client’s name, but I will drop back in here & let you know if this works.

Appreciate everybody’s feedback and comments. This has been a major pain in the derriere for us, so I really hope we can get it whipped. Google certainly can make your life difficult somedays, and when I am thinking of moving across to Overture in preference to them, that’s a really SAD state of affairs… 🙂

Here’s a thought from the other side of the coin.

I do a lot in the way of Adsense publishing, and even though people are paying significantly more for clicks in some of the arenas where I publish, I haven’t really noticed much increase (if any) from the clicks on the ads where publishers are being charged more per click.

Is Google keeping the difference?

Is the latest version of your Landing Page Cash Machine up to date as far as how to build landing pages now that Google has changed the rules?

Terry,
Funny you should ask. . . I’ve just released “Googleicious – 6 Steps to Make Your Website Irresistible to Google’s Spiders, Bots and Quality Staff and Lower Your Minimum Cost Per Click by 90% or More”.
And, you’ll be happy to know it’s Free (at least for now).
You’ll find it here: http://www.googleicious.com
It will explain what’s most important to do on your landing page, what’s important to do for your website, and what you need to do in your Adwords account.
And then some.
I hope that helps.
–Mark

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