Many an affiliate has seen their revenue from AdWords marketing disappear, often overnight. Initially, Google decided that an affiliate running an ad alongside the primary merchant was a “double serving” violation, in which case the affiliate was almost always excluded from purchasing the word in question. Then Google added affiliates Web sites to their list of “types of sites that may receive low landing page quality scores”, which meant that even if an affiliate wasn’t buying the same term as the primary merchant, the affiliate could still get kicked off of AdWords.
More recently, affiliates who run “review sites” have also been attacked by AdWords, with Google alleging that these sites were merely “thin affiliates” – sites that were created predominantly to get around Google’s attack on direct-link affiliates.
Indeed, if you read Google’s QS guidelines today, here’s the definition they use:
We do not allow data entry affiliates to use AdWords advertising, but all other affiliates may participate in the AdWords program. However, we monitor and don’t allow the following:
- Bridge Pages: Ads for web pages that act as an intermediary, whose sole purpose is to link or redirect traffic to the parent company.
- Framing: Ads for web pages that replicate the look and feel of a parent site. Your site should not mirror (be similar or nearly identical in appearance to) your parent company’s or any other advertiser’s site.
If you’re an affiliate and are paid to send traffic to another site or a distributor, the company you’re promoting may also require you to comply with their own terms and conditions.
Please note that we’ll display only one ad per search query for advertisers sharing the same top-level domain in the display URL. Learn more about when affiliate ads show.
To make a long story short, it’s virtually impossible to run affiliate marketing through AdWords.
Apparently, that rule doesn’t apply if Google is the affiliate. That’s right, amazingly, Google is now using the Google Affiliate Network to run direct link affiliate ads on AdWords, and the affiliate getting the commission is Google itself.
How does this work? Well, my friend Brian Smith at ComparisonEngines.com has detailed it in all its glory – basically Google takes your Google Merchant feed and – if you are running your affiliate program via Google Affiliate Network – they run your feed in AdWords and get commission from any sale.
They even posted a blog about this on the official AdWords blog. The primary benefit of the program, according to Google, is:
Pay only for results: Product Listing Ads are charged on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis, which means that you only pay when a user clicks on your ad and completes a purchase on your site. Because Product Listing Ads is charged on a CPA basis, it offers a risk-free way for you to reach a larger audience on Google.com.
That is indeed a benefit, but that pretty much sums up the benefit of allowing affiliates to send traffic directly to your site as well, a policy that Google has specifically banned!
I’m shocked by how brazenly Google has entered into affiliate marketing in AdWords, and equally shocked that the affiliate/lead gen space isn’t up in arms over this clear double-standard.