Google’s Landing Page AdsBot

Since when has Google become landing page experts? Google is claiming that their artificial intelligence AdsBot will determine what users will think about a landing page. This determination will impact your rank and cost-per-click that until now have only been affected by your own bid settings and searcher interest in your ads. Really they are only determining what Google thinks about your landing page. This kind of siloed thinking is dangerous.

Google has, “improved how we review and measure landing page quality,” and “landing pages with useful, informative content related to your keywords and ad text are considered to be of higher quality and will receive higher quality scores.” Here’s the problem with that. The relevance (and thus use) of landing pages is directly related to the goals of users, not their keywords and not even the ads. No AdsBot can discover the goal of a keyword query. Most searches, especially on the high CPC terms are not specific enough. Also throw in the fact that most ads are displayed using Broad Match and Expanded Match and it makes goal definition that much harder to decipher.

There’s really only way to judge landing page effectiveness. That is conversion rate. Here’s where Google is in a pickle. Using Google Analytics as a measurement tool for AdRank will punish most of their leading advertisers who use other platforms so this can never happen. Google couldn’t possibly punish advertisers for not using Google’s measurement tools…or could it? Possibly, this focus on landing pages is being used to persuade advertisers to enable conversion tracking within the AdWords reporting system. This would be a goldmine of data for Google. Google couldn’t possibly punish advertisers for not enabling conversion tracking…or could it?

What Google is doing is flexing some muscles with AdsBot. If you pay Google money to advertise and choose to block the bot from your page you will be punished. Sounds like something you’d expect from Google China and makes me think the other strong-arm tactics above could happen at some point.

So how does the bot work? For some unknown reason Google has decided to black box this algorithm. When coupled with the punishment for not allowing spidering, this is something I have a serious issue with. How can Google really be trying to improve the overall experience for their users if they will not provide more guidance then the nine words above on how a page will be scored? It sounds to me like the bot will do nothing more than provide some basic usability feedback.

What we do know about AdsBot is that it will not be able to judge content presented in any kind of RIA (Rich Internet Application). That includes Flash and more importantly Ajax. How will it score a page that like this one rich in flash from American Express? This is one of the better uses of RIA I have seen. How can you punish such great use of content delivery and UX via RIA? AdsBot is a classic case of instant obsolescence. Considering what else is being done at Google with 2.0 this is dumbfounding.

I think the bot will be an abject failure. I don’t think it will ever work well enough to have any impact on AdRank and its potential for causing friction with top advertisers and easy money for black hats is not worth the risk/reward of giving it any real influence in AdRank. Google will go back to focusing on generating inventory and optimization pros will keep improving conversion rates for their clients. And that’s an algorithm for great user experience for all.

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