Google Angers AdWords API Developers By Revoking Access, Then Begins To “Provisionally” Allow Access Again

In a move that Google says was designed to “ensure quality, improve Google products and services and compliance with AdWords API Terms and Conditions,” the company earlier this week revoked access to the AdWords API to a large number of developers, raising the ire of many who complained about a lack of warning and communication, along with damage to their businesses and clients.

The reverberations of the apparent attempted clean-up has been significant, with nearly a hundred AdWords API developers reporting in a discussion group that their developer token had been suddenly revoked — though some had previously had access to the API for months, or even years — with no notice from Google.

“The Google API is a critical piece to many publishers – large and small – who make informative decisions based upon the investment they make in the AdWords program,” Jason Prescott , CEO of and, told me in an e-mail exchange. “Our marketing teams, customers, and numerous resources all become accustomed to a certain way of managing aspects of their daily duties. When a wrench is thrown, the rattling caused equated to losses that are not only quantifiable – but at times crippling.”

Originally, the problem was suspected to be a bug, but, later, Google confirmed that the action was a result of a periodic review of API activity, a spokesperson said.

To have their developer token reactivated, API developers must re-apply and include specific detailed information:

  • The uses of the API application or tool with specific examples. Is it for bid optimization or account management?
  • Who will using the API application or tool? People within your company or others to whom the application will be sold?

Google is also asking for screenshots of the API app or tool, or design documentation if the product is in development. Additionally, it wants a list of clients that will be using the API application or tool “in an automated way.”

So far, at least one API developer — Jason Prescott of and, who I quoted above — has been granted “provisional” access to the API again, after writing an e-mail and contacting a Google representative. Prescott’s company will have to provide all of the above information before September 23, and presumably it will have to meet Google’s requirements, before the access decision becomes final.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Google: APIs | Top News


About The Author: is Executive Features Editor at Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. She’s a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since 1998.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • laszlo

    Interestingly, Google’s own Groups Thread (cited in your article above) used to be public a week ago, but is now visible only after you sign in to a Google account. Hmmmm, interesting. What does that say about Google’s actions? (“Hurry, quick, we better seal that thread up before it spreads through the blogosphere and we get more bad press on our 13th birthday.”)

    Um, a little late for that.

    Cutting off data to developers and businesses that is offered for free, fine, I get that. Even Google had enough decency to give notice to SOAP API users well in advance that the service would be shut off. Did the Adwords API Team not get the same schooling as the other department. So…

    One would think that Google would be smart enough to at least give “courtesy” notice to those that have been PAYING for the data for years. There is this thing in the legal field called “bad faith” and a person or entity relying upon the behavior that was shown in the years past and I know a number of API developers that have relied upon Google’s past behavior for years.

    Besides, the fact that the usage was cut off without notice and then Google decided to give notice by email to developer AFTER they took action is documentary bad faith that shows their bad faith intentions.

    Someone slipped up big time. You see…

    It’s this kind of behavior that creates empassioned individuals to create a group that bands together filing a Class Action lawsuit against an entity.

    Bad faith actions carry punitive damages that can easily amount to many many millions of dollars to make an example out of the entity and assure that another entity doesn’t come along and do the same thing.

    Perhaps Google wants to be made an example on their unlucky thirteenth birthday so they can prove to the world that they “do no evil.” Perhaps this is their way of aching for a nice birthday gift.

    Besides the above, it is my understanding Google has failed to advise Adwords API users of any terms of use changes that may have occurred and that there would be any sort of quota imposed since their excuse to developers was low usage. If Adwords developers got together and compared notes and there was a huge influx of supposed “low usage” and that reasoning was found to be fraudulent, Google just exposed themselves to fraud (and further punitive damages). Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    In Google’s own slippery terms of service, it states:

    “Usage and Quotas. Google may, in its sole discretion, set a quota on your AdWords API usage based on, among other things, the AdWords spend history of the accounts under management by your Developer Token. You shall not attempt to exceed automated use-quota restrictions.” Wow — that’s being specific.

    California contracts (which their Terms of Service imposes) are supposed to be drafted with specificity, not ambiguity.

    “[M]ay… set a quota” is not actually setting one, thus, making the terms of service in and of itself Vague and Ambiguous that could lead to a court voiding the legal effect of that clause.

    Apparently, Google’s Legal Department was NOT involved here and actual employees made decisions that could have some serious ramifications should a civil class bubble up from somewhere. And I’m sure there are hundreds out there.

    And everyone has a copy of the email that Google Adwords API team sent to all of its developers that cite “low usage.” They even reinforced it with a follow-up email. Unfortunately, Google can’t recall that email back so they have committed to a “position” and that position could bite them in the butt more than they even care to know.

    It’s not like Google really needs any bad press on its, um, 13th birthday. And from what I heard, there is someone that is already in touch with a news station who wants to expose Google for being the careless wrecking ball they are. How unlucky for them…

    (And in the background, the crowd hears the Google paper shredders hum as they go into high gear.)

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide