• How to run Google AdWords ads and ensure zero conversions

    by  • November 19, 2007 • Google, Pay Per Click • 13 Comments

    Sometimes I click on a Google ad when searching for something and run into a perfect example of a landing page that offers zero chance of converting, no matter how you slice or dice it. Usually it is an attrocious design or some sort of coding error that causes those 0% conversion landing pages to show up. Then you get the really, really bad 0% landing pages, the ones that not only won’t convert, but that also send those first-time visitors hitting the back button as quickly as humanly possible… because…. wait for it… the landing page is one that is threatening to report first-time visitors to the authorities with possible legal action being taken. The reason? The site is flagging completely legitimate clicks as fraudulent ones, and sending them off to a special landing page threatening legal action. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to shake the webmaster and say “What on earth were you thinking???”

    Here is a perfect example of one of those landing pages (click for full-sized):


    My friend sent this to me, wondering what she possibly could have done to get this kind of message accusing her of fraud after simply clicking a Google ad… because while those in the industry know what this means, Joe Surfer does not know what an “IP address” or what “fraudulent click activity” is, and instead focus on the part “reported to the proper authorities” and “legal action may be taken”. So of course, I think maybe there was a slow response and she inadvertantly double or triple clicked the ad. And since I am moving soon, I tried the same search: Victoria movers and clicked on the moveit.ca advertisement (that link is to the site’s homepage not a click through the ad), which happened to be the first on the list, sitting above the organic listings, being careful to only click it a single time. And sure enough, I was greeted with the same warning threatening me with legal action. Now, I have a static IP, and have had the same IP for eons. I have never searched for Victoria movers and have never seen the site before, yet I got this same warning message. The URL seems to automatically forward from http://www.moveit.ca/?cd=gle to http://www.moveit.ca/security.htm

    Now, any click fraud detection system that is set to ship new users visiting a site for the first time off to a click fraud warning page is definitely flawed. I am on a fairly common Canadian ISP, so it is not an issue with multiple people from an obscure ISP possibly hitting the page multiple times. And with a static IP address, there shouldn’t be any issue with that tripping any click fraud detectors.

    There are definitely lessons to be learned, especially for those pay per click advertisers who are concerned about click fraud and are using an automated solution to deal with it that might be too powerful or too outdated, either of which could be the problem in this case.

    First, never send your pay per click traffic to a webpage threatening legal action unless you are 110% sure that person you are sending is truly engaged in click fraud, such as isolating a competitor’s IP address that seems to hit your site 5 times every morning at 9am and sending that one person off to that landing page. But when you threaten innocent surfers, you will discover that your seemingly low conversion rates in your Google AdWords pay per click campaigns are not because your landing page sucks or you have a high number of invalid clicks, it is simply because you are sending them to a page that is threatening them! Trust me, the vast majority of people really don’t like to be threatened, especially when they are in the role of customer! There are too many competitors out there vying for that customer to lose them this way. Remove the warning page and your conversions will go up since you won’t be alienating so many visitors from the very first page view. I can only imagine the stats for the number people who have landed on that threatening landing page in error.

    Second, you are paying for the traffic through AdWords regardless of what landing page you send the visitor to… so you might as well send them to a page that has a chance of converting into a customer (which it likely would have done so with my friend) rather than having those people click the back button as quickly as they possibly can for the fear of having the authorities showing up!

    Third, make sure if you use click fraud detection software that it isn’t wrongly flagging legitimate clicks. And likewise, ensure that your pay per click expert who is handing your campaigns actually knows what he/she is doing and is not sending people off to that threatening landing page in error (like is definitely the case in this instance!). When your click fraud detection software isn’t correctly identifying what is possibly invalid click activity, it will make applying for credits with Google, Yahoo & MSN much more difficult since there are so many legitimate clicks mixed in. In this case, I am guessing someone handling the detection software went and added a major Canadian ISP to the filter, and effectively blocked a huge % of Canadian web surfers, including a very high percentage of those who would be doing a search for “Victoria movers”.

    Fourth, this could definitely cause issues with Google AdWords and the terms of service when you are not only sending visitors to an incorrect landing page, but also threatening those legitimate visitors with legal action. Not to mention the nasty things it can do to your quality score if the click fraud detection software sends the AdWords bot off to that threatening landing page too!

    And fifth, remember that everything you present to a visitor makes an impression and doing something like this makes a big one, and not neccessarily the kind of impression most business want to make! As a result, my friend will not use MoveIt.ca to find a moving company, and neither will I. And I am open to suggestions for a good moving company in Victoria 😉

    Anyone else run across any AdWords/YSM/AdCenter ads that you know have zero chance of converting? Some of my favorite ads are the ones that were clearly done by people training others on creating AdWords ad, with “example” or “sample” used as the title and in the text, but with the company’s URL used because you know someone forgot to turn off the campaign after training was over :)


    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    13 Responses to How to run Google AdWords ads and ensure zero conversions

    1. November 20, 2007 at 3:01 am

      Jennifer, don’t you think that they did it on purpose? My idea is as follows:
      * if you don’t remember the address of an interesting web site, you try to remember how you got there – you searched for a phrase and clicked on an ad next to results,
      * if one’s lazy, one follows this pattern each time,
      * this might be the way to show them that it’s better to type the url or favorite it, though noone says anything about adding it to favorites.

    2. Jenstar
      November 20, 2007 at 6:39 am

      I could see maybe doing it the fifth time someone has gone to a site by clicking on an AdWords ad. But there is something to be said for saying it “Hey, we noticed you find our site by clicking on a Google ad. Why not bookmark us so you can find us easier next time?” instead of threatening legal action. But regardless, this should never be done for a first-time visitor to any site.

    3. November 20, 2007 at 6:41 am

      Maybe they thought that it’d had a more intense effect on the visitor. And they’re right — it does. 😉

    4. MsWebWriter
      November 21, 2007 at 7:48 am

      Maybe it was a bug, or maybe they read your blog and fixed it, because I followed the steps today (clicking on your link to the search and then the ad) and was greeted by a normal page.

    5. November 25, 2007 at 11:18 pm

      I tried the same search and clicked on the same ad,It went properly to the page Get a Quote.Seems they might read your blog or someone woke up :)

    6. December 14, 2007 at 2:00 pm

      Bookmarking websites is still very new for most people Jenifer.
      The Adwords team will make these things easier in 2008 from what I have read.
      I have only recently found out the best method for bookmarking all my favourite sites after spending years trying to refind stuff I liked before.
      It is improving all the time though and becoming easier.

    7. January 31, 2008 at 8:59 am

      Hi Jen, i liked your post and it inspired me to do a search for similar pages and I found them! I wrote up the results in our blog, http://www.eIMR.blogspot.com and included a link to your blog. Hope that works for you.
      BTW, I like your ideas and we have cited you in an upcoming issue of our print publication, the Internet Marketing Report. I’ll be happy to send you a copy (for free of course) when it is printed. Next week sometime. Thanks again, and any feedback form an experienced blogger like you on our blog would be greatly appreciated.

    8. February 23, 2008 at 6:57 am

      That’s a really odd tactic, though it’s possibly better than the adwords campaigns that point to non-existent pages :) (though only just!)

    9. January 29, 2009 at 2:03 am

      Jen, it looks totally ridiculous to me! The customer is always wrong? Altho.. some Adwords campaigns and some I ran at Miva got me zero conversions and I DO strongly suspect that ONLY other affiliate marketers were intrigued and were clicking on my ads. Perhaps this PPC universe is full of affiliate competitors. Geoff D.

    10. Pingback: Jennifer Slegg - Search Engine Marketing Consultant » Blog Archive » Preventing competitors from seeing your AdWords ads

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