Google AdWords Landing Pages – how to build a page that won’t get banned, with examples

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.
2. Privacy Policy - lots of resources on the web to create one of these, just Google "privacy policy". If you are in the UK then consider applying for the Data Protection Act. It only costs around £35.
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

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.

Broadband Providers

I do hope this guide has been useful, please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or further ideas on how to make a successful landing page for Google AdWords.

What I'm listening to right now: Digital Underground - "Doowutchyalike" - anyone remember this from 1999?

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115 Responses to Google AdWords Landing Pages – how to build a page that won’t get banned, with examples

  1. Great article again Kieron. Really good list of what to include.

    Interesting that you still call these ‘landing pages’ when they’ve evolved into a fully fledged content site.

    How much time do you spend each month on updating a site like that?

  2. Kieron says:

    Hi Stephen, thanks for your comments.

    The point of my post was really to say that landing pages as we know them now just aren’t enough to get passed by AdWords. The landing page has to be part of a larger website offering unique content that is of value to the user, otherwise it will be penalised.

    Ideally I should be spending a few hours a week updating a site like that, doesn’t always happen though :)

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  4. Mary says:

    Great post as usual Kieron, i have to agree the days of throwing up 1 page and tweaking to improve CTR is long gone.

  5. Do you create the landing pages yourself, if so, what software do you use to create them?

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  11. KirstyM says:

    Great post. I must confess, all my own landing pages aren’t as good as what you describe here… but they haven’t been affected *yet* and I know exactly what I have to do, so I am working towards it.

    I find it amazing that people on the thread you posted to simply don’t want to listen to your advice. If it’s not what they WANT to do, they ain’t gonna go there. Google is wrong, not them. Time for a reality check people. Either shape up to the new regime or ship out.

    More room for my ads that way, lol ;)

  12. Mike says:

    I think this is good advice for any website, although I haven’t bothered doing it on my own sites. BTW, I like the new blog design.

  13. daminc says:

    nice article indeed!

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  15. Jesse says:

    Great article and great advice

  16. Very helpful guide. Something I will very likely use myself and have linked too from my blog also.
    I’ll add this blog to my reader.


  17. Trevor Edwards says:

    Remeber me

    well google has just slapped 5 a click on all my top keywords

    i was spending 7000 a year to make 25000 with google the keywords were only between 0.03p – 0.06p
    and i had no compertion
    now its goner overnight to say im gutted is a understatement.
    looks like im going to have to try and work hard on seo.
    and look for a job
    sadly its all agency factory work. back to a 40 hour week for peanuts.
    im not giving up its just made me realise not to put all your eggs in one basket and put your trust in google

  18. Very nice simple guidelines for an effective site you listed, would be great for newbies and experienced people alike to create a template framework for future sites.

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  20. James says:

    I have just been “Google Slapped”. Is there a way back by using these guidelines or should I start a new site?

    Does Google check for these items on a site using a bot or is it manual?

  21. Are they trying to bite off the hand that feeds them, they must earn millions from affiliates and now if they put us out of business or make it hard for us to operate, how are they meant to get our money? I understand that they want people to go directly to what they are searching for, but on spelling mistakes etc. that just may never happen, we help the customer get what they are looking for, google should be in favour of our actvitys.

  22. julian says:

    Nice summary Kieron.

    Here is a summary i did sometime ago about how to improve your adwords quality score, it maybe of some help:

  23. Wardy says:

    Superb article Kieron!
    I’ve had a few of my landing pages hit and to be honest they are lacking having an SEO’d site behind them and are pretty much just landing page.
    I obviously need to get these now fully owrked on and up to standard, you got any idea on when have sorted them how long till they will be re-checked and bids to sensible price?!

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  26. Kieron says:

    Wardy, if you have an account manager at AdWords just call them and they will get them reviewed in a couple of hours. Even if you don’t still call up and hassle them to review your site, they will :)

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  28. Dazza says:

    do you think single page websites are dead and buried as far as Adwords is concerned? I notice that some of your own sites are quite sparse in terms of their content eg.

    Are you able to run PPC campaigns for these sites?

  29. Kieron says:

    Dazza, I ran a campaign for that site earlier this year and it worked fine. However it would probably get banned if I was to try it again now. But like everything with Google there will be sites that slip through the net and may last a while before getting banned. My advice is to follow the steps I outlined above and plan for the long term.

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  31. TomG. says:

    Nice article. I must say that as much as I am annoyed at Google’s interference, I am much more tired of going to MFA sites that offer absolutely no useful content. I will not be sorry to see them go. I will also not be sorry to see sites with small articles that aren’t even human readable because they are so keyword stuffed. Enough of this crap. Put up a good website, spend some time researching, email your list when you have new news(weekly or so) and you will do well and provide a service to the community.

    Best Regards,

    TomG. – CEO, TMG Computers, Inc.

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  33. Kieron,
    Congrats on this article.
    This is a great summary of landing pages how to.
    One quick comment though, the landing pages guidelines change by language, and while your article is correct for English, I know that some parts of this are not checked for Hebrew landing pages at all.

  34. Brad Walker says:

    Great post and I’m now applying your suggestions. Will see how it goes. Thanks!

  35. Goh says:

    Hi Kieron

    Just would like to ask what would be the effect if we were to include some of the standard items listed above? Would google approve it?


  36. Kieron says:

    Goh – yes they should do but chances are that without all the elements I listed then you will get banned pretty quick.

  37. Wardy says:

    Just to update, on a coupel of my sites that were banned I did complete change and phoned up for re-review but got a negative response back.

    What I have done now is to leave one of the sites as it is on the same domain with all the new content and see if it does naturally get re-reviewed and then on another site I have re=-created it with all the new content on a new domain. Currently the site on the new domain is getting listed but will be interesing to see if the one left on the original domain recovers or not.

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  39. Goh says:

    Thanks for your quick reply.

  40. Dell says:

    This is some very good advice you’ve provided here. Thanks ALOT for this as this post has given me quite a handful of ideas to increase my quality score.

  41. Steve says:

    Google is overstepping its mark by trying to build the web in its image. And an inconsistent image at that.
    If I search for a product I don’t want to delve through pages of padded out trash made to please Google. I know what I want, just show me the damn product & the price.
    What next, fluffed 3 pages of content to sell a tap washer? All to please Google. No thanks.

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  43. Jason says:

    This post was very helpful. I did have a lot of out-dated information on creating landing sites but just hadn’t tried it yet. Thanks for the info.

  44. jess says:

    great article! my one question is, what are the chances of the google police actually finding your landing page? Is there a monetary trigger for the adsense folks look into who is making all this money?

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  48. Guadagnare says:

    What if I use a page within my blog as a landing page?
    Will that work?
    Is still better to have a separate website for each affiliate campaign?

    Thanks for the advice.

  49. Hi Kieron,

    Good post. I think Google would be pleased this sort of discussion is going on. If landing pages need to be ‘real pages’ then that is a good thing for the Internet in general.

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