Google Ads And Affiliate Marketing: How to Use it Like a Pro

Many affiliate marketers think of Google Ads as something to “get around” when they need to raise the visibility of their affiliate link. Whilst it’s certainly true that Google may not especially ‘like’ affiliate marketing (when done badly and against it’s policies…), it’s a solid choice if you want quality traffic.

In this post, I’ll show you how to get more clicks and sales from Google Ads and how to (disclaimer: no promises!) increase the chances of getting your ads approved. 

I’ll also show you a few tips on what to do when your ads get rejected. 

Table of Contents

What Are Google Ads?

Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords – if you’re old like me :P) is one of the most powerful and widely used online advertising tools.

It (mostly) serves text-based ads that appear above search results when a user is searching for something on Google. 

Like many advertising platforms, it’s a pay-per-click advertising tool.

This means that every time someone who is searching for something clicks on your ad, you get charged. That’s right, you only pay IF someone clicks on your ad. 

This makes Google Ads a very cost-effective tool, compared to something like Facebook where (some of the time at least) you are paying on a per-impression basis. 

Google Ads is great for building a profitable web presence. It’s easy to use and offers a lot of flexibility.

When you are using Google Ads, you can bid on specific keywords or even on phrases that contain your chosen keywords and make sure that your ad is only shown to those people searching for those phrases. 

As well as showing your ads on the Google search engine itself, you can also choose to show your ads on specific websites in the Google advertising network (this is another way people make money from Google by displaying Adsense ads on their website).

Google Ads allows you to target your audience by gender and age. You can restrict your traffic to people in a certain geographic location. You can choose to show your ads to people with certain types of internet browsers. 

If you want to let it, Google Ads will automatically adjust your bids based on how much competition there is for each keyword. It will make sure your ad is seen by as many people as possible, while still keeping your costs low.

Personally, I prefer to adjust bids manually until I have enough conversion data to run on a cost per acquisition model rather than pay per click BUT that’s a topic for another day… 

Good ads for affiliate marketing
Good ads and Affiliate Marketing

Why Use Google Ads For Affiliate Marketing?

This is of course just my opinion, but I think Google Ads are a great way to drive traffic to affiliate offers because this traffic isn’t just passive traffic. It’s traffic that is qualified and ready to purchase the products you’re selling.

Remember you can trigger your ads when someone searches for something incredibly specific. And better than that, you can gauge the intent behind that search. 

So for example you can make your ads show on terms like ‘(product type or product name) review’. If someone is searching for a review they are seriously in ‘buyer mode’. They already know about the product, think they want it, and just want some validation to tip them over the edge into purchasing. 

BIG NOTE: Always check the rules for any offer you are promoting, many products will forbid brand term bidding, and in some cases even forbid advertising on Google – ignore such rules at your peril…

This means you can REALLY target buyer traffic and this should increase your conversions significantly

Of course ‘review’ isn’t the only way to gauge buyer intent, but hey you need to do some of the thinking (not giving away all my secret sauce! 😉 ) 

Hopefully, by now you should be poised to set up your Google Ad campaign and thinking to yourself “why on earth have I never used Google ads for affiliate marketing before?!” – and you’d be right. 

Of course, life is never quite that simple…

Like any ad platform, Google has rules – and you can easily get your ads disapproved or, even worse, get your account shut down. 

So…

What Are The Things You Definitely Should and Shouldn’t Do On Google Ads (especially for affiliate marketing)?

To be honest you should read the Google Ad policies for yourself (I accept no liability for any choices you make on your ad account!) but from my own experience – and the experience of others that I know I’ll give a few pointers here. 

This is NOT an exhaustive list…

Seriously. Do not ever. EVER try and run a direct linking affiliate campaign on Google Ads.

You might (might) get away with it for a really obscure affiliate network (ie something Google won’t see as an affiliate link) but if you direct link to Clickbank, Max Bounty, Digistore etc you’ll be slapped with a ban hammer pretty much as soon you submit your ad. 

Google isn’t stupid – it knows what these sites are and doing this goes against it’s ad policies. 

(I did mention you should read the ad policies, right?)…

Always Have A Landing Page When Running Google Ads

So if you’re direct linking from your Google ad to the affiliate offer, where are you linking to? A landing page. YOUR landing page. Your landing page on your WEBSITE.

In Google advertising terms, this is you sending traffic to a site you own…which is definitely what you want Google to think (and know) you are doing. 

It is not enough to throw up a quick page with a headline and a big button linking to the affiliate offer. Not even close to enough. 

Google expressly forbids the use of ‘bridge pages’ – which are low content, low-quality pages whose only purpose in life is to get someone to click straight off to be taken to another site. 

But hang on, isn’t that EXACTLY what we want to happen if we’re doing affiliate marketing?

Yes and no…

In pure marketing terms, the landing page is your chance to presell the offer and warm the traffic up further before sending it off to your affiliate link. 

Look let’s be honest, if you’re running Google ads and doing affiliate marketing of course you WANT your landing page to behave like a bridge page…

But it cannot LOOK like a bridge page. 

It needs to look legit.

It needs to offer ‘valuable and unique content’ to the user that is relevant to the ad they clicked on. 

So you’re going to have to write some words. Good words too!

And the page is going to have to function well. 

IF you choose to link to the affiliate offer straight from your landing page then it’s going to need to be unique and not just a re-hash of the content on the offer page. 

Using A Lead Magnet

You might choose to collect email addressing on your landing page and then have an affiliate link on your thank you page (and/or email follow-ups). 

Building an email list is always a good thing to do (see this post) AND if you’re paying good money for the traffic you may as well use it to build an asset for yourself. 

Of course, this is up to you. 

But to make life complicated, Google also has some ad policies around ‘information harvesting’ so if you are collecting emails you need to make sure you are making it VERY clear on the landing page what the users will be getting by opting in. 

Get yourself a decent giveaway related to the offer in some way and you’ll probably be fine (I’ve personally never had an issue with that approach – but that doesn’t mean you won’t).

Make Sure You Have An Actual Website

Back to the points made earlier about bridge pages – having your landing page on an actual website about the topic you’re trying to promote is really going to help Google think you’re legit.

AND that you do actually have something to offer the user. 

Hell, if you’re lucky, maybe even that you might be some kind of authority on the topic!

It doesn’t need to be some sprawling website with thousands of pages, but even maybe 10 pages or so ‘adds some weight’ to the idea that you are a compliant advertiser. 

Real websites have privacy policies, terms of use, contact pages, etc therefore so should yours! 

You may wonder why it is important to include legal pages on your website. What exactly do these legal pages do?

These pages provide the information that you must provide to the users of your website. You need to make sure that your site is safe to use.

You need to make sure that the privacy policy is available so that people know what they can and cannot do on your website.

You also need to make sure that the terms and conditions of your site are available so that people know what they can and cannot do on your site. There are many other legal things that you must have on your website.

If you do not have any of these legal pages on your website, then it is highly likely that your ad will be disapproved.

As well as having legal pages, it is a good idea to have a contact page on your website. It’s good practice to tell people where they can get in touch with you if they have any questions or concerns.

Google WANTS to see you have all this in place. 

Make sure you don’t miss out on these or it’s highly likely your ad will get disapproved. 

If you use WordPress, there are some free plugins that can help with all this (just search for ‘legal pages’ in the plugin search). 

And if you’re not using WordPress (or don’t want to install yet another plugin) then there are plenty of websites that can generate policy pages for free. 

Don’t Try And Promote Dodgy Products On Google Ads

You’d hope this would be obvious, but given the posts I see in some of the Affiliate marketing Facebook groups I’m in – apparently, this point passes a LOT of people by…

Google does NOT want you promoting ‘BS’ products. Period.

If you try and promote some of the shadier products like ‘miracle weight loss pills’, ‘get rich quick schemes, etc – they are going to ban you quicker than you can press submit on your ad.

We all know the sort of products we are talking about here (don’t be tempted to think ignorance is a defense – it isn’t! Google isn’t interested in that, by submitting an ad you are agreeing to their terms and conditions). 

Do you see ads on Google for these types of products? Yes sometimes BUT for all you know the account has been running for one day and will get banned forever the next. 

Of course, it’s up to you, but you have been warned 🙂 

Don’t Make Misleading Claims In Your Ad Text Or Landing Page

You should know that Google will delete all or part of your Google ads if they find them to be in violation of their terms and conditions.

They have the right to do this and they use this power often. If you post a bad or even just controversial ad on Google, you could lose everything you have spent on advertising.

That means all your hard work will be gone forever.

So, be careful what you say in your ads.

Make sure they are factual and true. Don’t mislead people.

Don’t tell them something that isn’t true.

Don’t make claims you can’t back up.

This is a very important point and I think a lot of people ignore it.

They think that because they are not getting physical products that their ads won’t get deleted.

That’s not true. They WILL get deleted. It’s just a matter of how many and how much.

DO Spy On The Competition (But Don’t Copy)

This advice isn’t specific to Google Ads, but is just good marketing sense for any advertising. Make sure you understand what your competition is up to. 

Is anyone promoting the product you want to promote?

How long has the ad been running (you may need to use an Adspy tool to find that out – more on that below).

What sort of ad text are they using?

What sort of landing page are they using?

Does their site look legit? If so, why?

Take inspiration from what you find (if it looks legit…) but don’t just rip off someone’s ad and page – that’s a BS tactic. 

If you don’t know what your competition is doing, then you need to find out. You don’t need to spend hours trying to find out.

There are many tools you can use to help you. Google Ads itself actually has a few tools.

You should check out the ‘Keyword Planner’ tool.

This is a free tool that you can use to get an idea of which keywords your competitors are bidding on (I’d take the bid price info with a pinch of salt, however…)

If you’re not sure which keywords to target, you can use the keyword planner to find out which are currently being used and which have high search volume. You can use this information to find out which keywords you want to target.

A good purpose built ad spy tool helps give you an edge over your competition.

It will let you search for a keyword and return all the related ads, along with how long they have been running – and if you’re lucky – what volume of traffic they have been getting.

They will usually allow you to drill down to the landing page too – very useful indeed!

This allows you to find winning campaigns that have been tested with someone else’s budget – perfect! 

However these tools aren’t free, but if you consider how much advertising budget you can use up testing a campaign, it quickly becomes a no-brainer in terms of ROI. 

Personally, I use this ad spy tool which covers off Google and Youtube ads – it’s by far the cheapest I’ve found.

Of course, if you don’t want to spend money on a tool, you can just search Google and write down what you find.

You will be missing out on some key data if you do this though, so if you’re taking this approach I would strongly recommend doing this over a couple of weeks (or more). This will allow you to see the ads that are staying there day in day out (and therefore not getting banned – and likely making money!).

Consider NOT Using a Tracker (Really)

Now if you’ve read anything about affiliate marketing (ever) what I’m about to say is going to sound like CRAZY talk. 

If you’re running Google Ads for affiliate marketing you might want to consider NOT using tracking software…

Wait – what? Why?…

The Google ads policy is called ‘Circumventing Systems Policy’.

In a nutshell, if you’re using a tracker it will likely be doing a chain of redirects before ending up at the destination URL – this can flag with Google (and Facebook actually whilst we’re here…) as cloaking activity and you’ll get your ad disapproved. 

Now this won’t always happen – but it does happen a lot. 

Once I had an ad disapproved that was fixed simply by me changing my link from tracker A to tracker B. 

Other times I’ve had that refused to approve until I removed tracking links altogether from my landing page.

I’ve also found that if my tracking link was not at the top level (for example on a thank you page after an opt-in rather than the landing page for the ad) it’s got through fine even when the exact same link got disapproved on the previous try (where it was on the landing page itself). 

There are some trackers that focus on Google and Facebook that take a slightly different approach to tracking, so that’s an option too (I’ve been looking at Anytrak – but I haven’t used it yet, so I’m not recommending it). 

And of course, good old Google Analytics allows you some form of tracking via UTM and goals etc (not the same as a full of CPA focussed tracker I’ll grant you). 

Bottom line – experiment, but if you see your ad is disapproved for ‘circumventing’ then try taking out any tracking links and resubmit. 

What To Do If Your Google Ad Is Disapproved

To be clear, ads get disapproved ALL the time, the initial approval is NOT done by a human, and the algorithm can make mistakes – so the first thing to know is DON’T PANIC.

Just because your ad was disapproved that doesn’t mean it will NEVER be approved. 

You can review and make changes to your ad by going to the “Advertiser Approvals” section of the AdWords management console. 

This will also show you what the ‘violation’ was so you can go and read up on it in their policy (and do a bit of Googling too) and try and work out what you need to change. 

READ THE POLICY. I might have mentioned that once or twice now I think…

NEVER resubmit an ad without changing something – it will just bounce straight back. 

Another tip – if you get REALLY stuck you can actually speak to a human! 

Use the live chat support function – 9/10 times they will help you. I’ve even had people from Google call me on the phone and help me out. 

Google WANTS you to get your ad approved (as then you’re spending money with them) – so they will actually try and help you out and give you tips 🙂 

NOTE: If you’ve ignored my advice about a legit landing page on a REAL(ish) website and you’re trying to promote a ‘miracle cure’ maybe DON’T contact the Google Ad team…

Conclusion

In conclusion, Google ads is a great platform for affiliate marketers because you can create highly targeted and engaging ads.

And targeted traffic = more conversions which = more profits!

And the potential reach on Google ads is HUGE (and scaleable).

Google Ads are amongst the most widely used advertising medium on the Internet.

They provide maximum targeting capability and (if done right) can offer the lowest cost per conversion of any online advertising medium.

When used properly, they are an extremely effective tool for increasing the profitability of your affiliate marketing efforts.

There is just demonstrably no mileage in the idea that you can’t do affiliate marketing on Google ads. People are doing it every day and spending thousands and thousands per month.

Make good content on good pages for good products – its pretty much that simple!

Just make sure you do your best to understand and follow the policies and you’ll be fine.

If you haven’t used Google Ads before, when you sign up for a free Google ads account they’ll even send you a voucher you can use to get your first campaign going with campaign credit 🙂