Remember Google announced that they will be strictly enforcing the AdWords display URL policy a few months back? Well, they actually started enforcing the policy at the beginning of this month. Some advertisers who had display URLs that did not match their destination URLs were impacted. It appears that some of those advertisers are now cloaking their URLs in order to get around that AdWords policy.
How does this work? As Stephen Heise explains, some of these advertisers are detecting if Google’s AdBot is checking the destination URL and sending the AdBot one page and the actual end user (the searcher) a different page. After a few days of researching this issue with a reader, I noticed that Matt Cutts commented on the post saying the Google AdWords team is aware of the issue and said they are looking at ways to “shut down advertisers that do bad things.”
I don’t believe cloaking your AdWords ads is something brand new. It has many good applications but as you can imagine, it can be used to trick a bot or searcher. In the case mentioned at Stephen’s blog, it was used to trick Google into thinking that the site complies with the enforced display URL policy. I have seen dozens of additional examples of advertisers using this cloaking method to get around the AdWords policy.
It seems like it is just a matter of time until Google detects the issues and takes action against these advertisers.
I do not have an official comment from Google on this issue, as of yet. When I get something from them, I will let you know.