While discussing the type of sites Google does not like some people may think of the (allegedly) leaked quality rating guidelines that (allegedly) came from the search engine. However, Google does publicly discuss the type of site it dislikes.

There is a document in circulation in the search industry which people claim to be a copy of Google’s 2007 guidelines to their quality testers. Google does use humans to rate the quality of the search results. Google argue they do not use humans to change the search results.

In this document, if it is real, Google encourages its quality testers to mark sites as “Spam”, “Maybe Spam” and “Not Spam”

The search engine includes “thin affiliates” as a type of spam site. Thin affiliates are defined as affiliates which simply link through to the merchant site without offering any extra value.

Luckily for some of the largest brands on the web price comparison is considered a service of value (as are product reviews, recipes and lyrics).

Interestingly, price comparison sites do not do so well with Google’s PPC quality beliefs.

Google openly publishes guidelines on landing page quality score issues. Quality score is that factor, when combined with CPC, which helps determine how much prominence the search engine will give the paid search ad.

In these guidelines Google says three types of sites will always be penalised. In fact, should Google receive complaints about such sites, their ads will be banned.

The unlucky three categories?

  • Data collection sites – those who offer freebies, competition entries, etc, in return for the collection of private information.
  • Arbitrage sites – those which simply show ads back to the visitor
  • Malware sites – those who knowingly or unknowingly install software on the visitor’s computer

In addition to these three unfortunate categories there are five types of sites that Google suggests are advertised ‘with caution’. Google suggests these types of sites will sometimes suffer from low landing page quality scores and may be difficult to advertise affordably.

What are these five ‘advertise with caution’ types of sites?

  • eBook sites
  • ‘Get rich quick’ sites
  • Comparison shopping sites
  • Travel aggregators
  • Affiliates

Wow. Some sweeping gestures in that list!

Just a few months ago eBooks may have been the preserve of multi-level marketing schemes but with the growth of Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s eBook Reader it is easy to imagine that eBooks will become more mainstream. Will Google continue to harbour doubts about eBooks?

The caution around ‘get rich quick’ sites is understandable. The worst of such sites would likely fall into the ‘data collection site’ bracket anyway and face tougher quality score challenges and the threat of a permanent ban from Google’s AdWords.

Many people will be surprised to discover Google has doubts over comparison shopping sites and travel aggregators. Some of Google’s largest spenders could be classified as one or the other. There’s no explicit mention of personal finance comparison sites but these do fall into the comparison shopping site category.

Finally, affiliates will not be surprised to see that Google suggests they advertise with caution. This is perhaps the worst example of tarring too many people with the same brush that appears in any of Google’s guidelines. The truth is there are very many different types of affiliates.

Is a pizza, car rental or hotel franchise an affiliate? Will a brand using affiliate technology to run a CPA PPC model with an agency be counted as an affiliate? Is a webmaster driving traffic to a content portal that features CPA banner ads an affiliate?

Experience answers these questions. There are certainly techniques to run very successful retail, travel or finance comparison / aggregation PPC campaigns on Google.

The lesson here is that all of us – experienced or not – need to keep a close eye on the list of website categories Google is cautious about advertising. If you are unfortunate enough to run a site that falls into one of these categories then you may just have to work that much harder.