Google Error Allowed BP To Violate Ad Guidelines

It’s well known to many at this point that BP has been advertising on Google to get its public relations message out. Today, it turns out that some of those ads have been violating Google’s guidelines — in particular, a rule that requires showing people the site they’ll be going to when clicking on an ad.

BP has been targeting many oil spill related terms over the past few weeks, including “oil spill” itself. But over at WebmasterWorld, it was noticed that the “display URL” in BP’s ad for “oil spill” didn’t match the site the ad actually took people to.

Here’s how BP’s ad targeting oil spill looked:

BP Ad & Google AdWords Policy

See how the ad was showing this URL:

That’s where it’s supposed to be taking someone who clicked on the ad. Instead, the ad lead over here to BP’s YouTube channel:

BP YouTube AdWords Destination URL

The practice of showing a different display URL than the actual destination URL (or site domain) is against Google AdWords display URL policy and shouldn’t be allowed. So what happened? A Google spokesperson emailed us that this was a mistake:

Our Display URL policy for AdWords text ads requires that an ad’s display URL match its destination URL. In this case, due to a combination of human and system error, the mismatch was not flagged. The error is being corrected.

It’s a relatively small error, and one that has slipped by in the past for ads by other companies, large and small. But that hasn’t been so frequent, recently. Plus, with all the attention on BP’s Google ads over the past month, it’s surprising that it wasn’t caught.

It also happens just a day after YouTube announced a special event on its site, in conjunction with PBS Newshour, to take questions live and have them answered by BP’s CEO in charge of the Gulf clean-up operation. To be absolutely clear, BP itself was not promoting that event with its ads nor sending people to where it will happen on YouTube’s CitizenTube channel. Instead, BP was sending people to its own YouTube channel.

Currently, the BP ad for “oil spill” no longer leads to YouTube but instead to the Gulf Of Mexico Response area on the site.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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.
  • tlainevool

    I’m not sure why you say this is Google violating their own policies. It’s BP violating Google’s policy and Google not catching them. After reading the headline I was expecting to see a Google ad for Google itself that was violating the guideline.

  • Danny Sullivan

    tlainevool, you’re right. In fact, I was following up on this as well. It was BP violating the guideline, not Google. We’ve corrected the headline and the story. Sorry for any confusion this caused.

  • davidrothwell

    Google has been violating it’s own stated best practices for many years!

    Whenever you create a new campaign, all networks and all devices are automatically included.

    This is against their recommended (and completely accepted by many AdWords practitioners) practice of at least keeping the Content Network (oops, I meant Display) as a completely separate channel.

    However, at my recent presentation on Conversion Optimizer at Perry Marshall’s AdWords Elite Masters Summit in Maui, I explained why I believe that is done, and what the benefits to us actually are …

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