New Rules for AdWords Display URLs

As of April 1, 2008, Google has tightened their rules on Display URLs.

There’s been a lot of confusion about what the changes will mean, because as my colleague Bryan Todd points out, the new rules look an awful lot like the old rules. So what we may be facing here is a serious attempt at enforcement.

Basically, here’s the deal:

Your display URL must use the same domain as your actual landing page.

So if you’re testing 3 different domains, how on earth can you do that? Each ad only gets one landing page. Sounds impossible, right?

Fortunately, there’s a way to pile multiple domain names onto the same website. For example, let’s say I want to test the following URLs:

And I want to send the traffic to

I don’t need to set up three different websites. I just create the page at, and do a neat trick called aliasing. Basically, it’s telling the internet to assign different names to the same IP address.

Once I’ve set up the aliases, the following pages will all contain the exact same content:

And that will be true for every page I set up at after that. No need to do any extra work.

I was going to spend a couple of hours creating a really clear tutorial on how to do the aliasing, but thankfully, Bryan Todd beat me to it. Check out his comprehensive guide to Aliasing, the Universe and Everything (well, that’s a big of an exaggeration, but I’m a little giddy at the thought of all the work he’s saved me.




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10 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • Garrett Todd said on April 3 2008:


    I have tried this technique (using Bryan Todd’s advice using the link above) and it appears to work perfectly.

    Good thing too!

    Garrett Todd

  2. #2 • Gil Kreiter said on April 3 2008:

    There was some controversy on a call with Bryan Todd and Perry Marshall if this technique would lead to duplicate content problems with Google which would drop the page’s rank. What do you say about that?

  3. #3 • Howie Jacobson said on April 3 2008:

    Gil – I know very little about the mechanics of SEO. Let me run this by a couple of experts and see what they say.

    You can certainly run an AdWords-fed domain and then use what works in an organically-fed domain.

  4. #4 • Peter Altuch said on April 3 2008:

    What advice do you have for measuring adwords campaign success as far as the click rate and conversion rate goes? Some ads have slightly higher click through rates and slighter lower conversion rates, other ads…lower click through and higher conversion rates. How do I determine which ad is performing better? I’ve heard multiplying the click rate X conversion rate. Is that the appropriate mathematical calculation??

  5. #5 • Hans-Jochen Trost said on April 3 2008:

    I haven’t launched a campaign yet but am planning to do so with beginning of May. This URL rule issue raises the question, will your capitalization variation still work, e.g., in the display versus in the link URL?

  6. #6 • Howie Jacobson said on April 5 2008:

    Peter – always think inputs and outputs when measuring effectiveness.

    Input: impressions
    Output: sales / leads / signups / etc.

    If you can do ecommerce, compare two ads by the formula Profits/Impressions*1000.
    (Profits = Sales – Cost)

    Hans – capitalization doesn’t matter at all in an AdWords ad. Neither does it matter for the root of a domain. You’ll get the same result whether you type askHowie or asKhowie or ASkhowie. Only characters that follow the .com are case sensitive.

  7. #7 • Chris said on May 14 2008:

    Cool technique, but…

    “Following our site guidelines will help improve your landing page quality score … Your site should feature unique content that can’t be found on another site.” ~ Google.

    I wonder if this technique would hamper QS because of the “duplicate” content?

  8. #8 • said on November 21 2008:

    Good Information, helped me a lot.

  9. #9 • Bill Sheldon said on April 27 2009:

    If I’m not mistaken, this works best if one has ALREADY done split testing of display URLs prior to April 1. In order to do it post-April 1, doesn’t one have to pay $10 to GoDaddy et al to procure the alias domain name for the privilege of split testing it? In other words, one could easily spend hundreds of dollars buying domain names to accomplish what used to be free, right? Not that a few hundred bucks is a pricy investment, but there’s also the extra time required. Am I missing something?

  10. #10 • Ace Media said on October 4 2010:

    Its done basically to avoid advertising on other brand names and using fake names.