Google Makes Exception To Display URL Policy For Large Advertiser?

Bill Hartzer has written an important post explaining how Google’s display url policy will effect large local search marketers like ReachLocal. Bill shows a good example of how ReachLocal’s advertisers could be adversely effected by the policy change.

However, it doesn’t appear that ReachLocal was effected by this change at all; as they continue to display URLs in Adwords that are different from the landing page URL. Here is how ReachLocal is currently displaying the url in an adwords ad:

Here is the URL on the landing page:

Here is Google’s policy as quoted from the Inside Adword’s Blog:

What about tracking URLs?
We do understand that many advertisers utilize tracking URLs within the destination field of their ads. Therefore, if the URL of your landing page matches that of your display URL, your ads will be approved.

For example:

Display URL:
Destination URL:
–> Landing page URL: would be acceptable

Display URL:
Destination URL:
–> Landing page URL: would not be acceptable

Inside Adword’s Blog further clarifies this point as it goes on to say:

Yes, the use of sub-domains and additional text within the display will continue to be acceptable provided the top-level domain matches the URL of your landing page.

As you can see, ReachLocal is plainly in violation of this policy. The top-level domain is clearly, yet this is what is happening today, April 5th, 5 days after the policy has taken effect.

Here is a screen shot of the display url, please double-click the thumbnail to view the image. The Adwords ad has This screen shot was taken today:

Display URL of ReachLocal AD
I will not show a screen shot of the ad, though I have it, because I believe it could adversely effect the advertiser. For that reason, I have blurred the business name in the URL, as well.

My only question is whether Google has made an exception for ReachLocal or has Reachlocal taken more time to get in compliance with the policy? And if the latter is the case, which seems naive to believe, why are the ads currently running?

If an exception was made, which seems to be the most likely scenario at this point, we are all at a disadvantage. Most small businesses that advertise on Google are in competition with ReachLocal. If they are granted an exception, how are we supposed to compete?

This is an enormous issue and I hope that it is resolved quickly and in a way that is fair to everyone.

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11 Responses to Google Makes Exception To Display URL Policy For Large Advertiser?

  1. MiriamEllis says:

    Hi Tim,
    That’s really interesting. It’s not unprecedented that Google treats large businesses in a special way – think of the inside search and expanded listings big businesses get in the organic SERPs. But, I wonder if that’s what’s happening here, or if it’s a matter of Google not noticing what is happening.

    I wonder if you’ll hear from someone at ReachLocal. It would be interesting to hear more about this.


  2. You’re certainly right about that Miriam, but I can’t help feeling this is different. Because of the importance of click thru rate. This will directly effect the pocketbook of anyone competing against a ReachLocal advertiser.

    Assume, that setting up the display URL according to the policy, negatively impacts the ctr of their ads(a fair assumption, why else would they do it). That means that every single advertiser that appears above a ReachLocal advertiser will pay more for their ads. Maybe a little… maybe a lot… but more.

    So, Google would end up benefiting from this, too. I truly hope everyone does the right thing here.

    Thanks for weighing in on this Miriam… I really think this is important.

  3. Sean says:

    The policy is for new ads only I think.

    Maybe Reach local is getting a break, but perhaps you’ve just found an existing ad?

  4. Nice catch Sean… I just went back and re-read… here is another quote from Google..

    “This policy will be strictly enforced for new ads, regardless of previous exceptions.”

    So, it could be that current ads are grandfathered. Wow… that’s interesting. No wonder there is so much confusion. That point, IMHO, was not very well clarified on the Adwords blog.

    Thanks again Sean for stopping by and providing that insight.

  5. Dan says:

    I went to read Bill’s blog and it is different than the one you linked. Apparently he updated the blog with different information.
    It appears Reach Local uses a proxy technology for tracking, that is why they are granted an exemption.


  6. Thanks for the info Dan… I recommend anyone interested in this to click through the link in the previous comment.

    It appears that Google has not enforced the change yet. And that there has been NO grandfathering of existing ads.

    And also that ReachLocal has indeed been granted an exception.

    Again, I recommend that you click through the links provided on this post to Vizion Interactive; Bill Hartzer has provided excellent coverage of this story.

    I can’t, however, help feeling a little disappointed with the apparent outcome.

  7. Erik says:

    I’m not understanding why you think this is so unfair. If you can beat RL’s ads with your own tech (or manually), the display URL shouldn’t matter. Your advertising should succeed based on its own merits, not that of somewhat arbitrary disadvantages placed on the appearance of competitors’ ads.

    And as Dan pointed out, this isn’t as simple as an exception, it has to do with the reverse-proxy method RL uses, which is technically different than a hosted copy of a website.

    This isn’t affiliate advertising or any other type of deceptive tricks that ReachLocal’s trying to pull, it’s technically necessary for advanced things like phone call tracking.

    You should be trying to beat RL in terms of your superior ability to manage PPC campaigns, not on unnecessary disadvantages placed on your competitors.

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  9. Kim says:

    Wouldn’t ReachLocal also be able to “cloak” landing pages, like in the good old day on SEO, using keyword stuffing etc. to increase quality score?

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