Google Mass Bans & Warns AdWords Advertisers, But Why?

I have been watching ongoing complaints from Google AdWords advertisers for the past five days or so, in regards to Google both banning and warning of banning advertisers for having “poor quality landing pages.”

I first reported about the issue on Sunday at the Search Engine Roundtable. There are a few SEM threads on this topic, but the largest one is at WebmasterWorld, currently at 160 posts long. Normally, when you see this much discussion around such a change in AdWords, it means Google made some type of change in their algorithms.

I decided to wait it out and ask Google to look into the issue. I figured, it had to be some type of bug, where the algorithm was tweaked a bit too strong against the landing page quality. Google first sent us a statement that read:

Google is constantly working to ensure that we’re showing ads to our users that are relevant, in accordance with our ad policies, and safe for users. To that end, we perform regular reviews, using both manual and automated processes, in order to detect and disable ads that violate our policies.

That didn’t sit right with me, so I pushed on and asked them to dig deeper into these complaints. AdWordsAdvisor, the official Google representative at WebmasterWorld, replied to the thread last night. Unfortunately, the reply isn’t what these advertisers wanted to see, nor what I wanted to see. Here is the reply:

The suspensions and final warnings that are referenced in this thread are due to account level actions taken against advertisers who’ve submitted multiple sites that violate our landing page quality guidelines. This is an existing policy to discourage repeat offenders by taking account level action. These final warnings and suspensions were only applied to sites with multiple violations which were manually reviewed to ensure that our policies were being applied correctly.

Certain kinds of websites (ref1) are not allowed per our policies because the user experience is of low quality or we consistently receive negative feedback from our users about these kinds of pages. These sites include:

* Data collection sites that offer the false promise of free items, etc., in order to collect private information.

* Arbitrage sites that are designed for the purpose of showing ads * Affiliates who provide limited value by being a bridge page with the intent of solely driving traffic to another site or who are framing an affiliate site * Malware sites that knowingly or unknowingly install software on a visitor’s computer

You can find more information on this topic in the AdWords help center, under Landing Page Quality (ref2) Landing page checks happen continuously, even after an ad has been approved, through both manual and automated methods. You can evaluate whether or not your site is in line with our landing page quality guidelines (ref3) If not, you can make the appropriate changes to your site or delete all ads that point to the low quality sites. Paused ads will still accrue violations against them.

We apply the same standards to all the sites that we check so violations are evaluated regardless of spend, keywords bids or history of the account.

Also note, some accounts have both allowed sites and not allowed sites. For these accounts, if you received a warning please remove the low quality sites from your account by deleting the ads pointing to these sites.

We constantly try to improve the quality of the ad experience which we believe helps both the consumer and advertiser when users can trust the quality of the site they reach when they click on an ad.

I have no proof of this, but I really feel Google is missing something. Google often has bugs in their systems, heck, Google just fixed a bug that told advertisers they had a “low share of voice” problem. With these many advertisers effected and many of them being really old-school, old time, advertisers – it just seems wrong that this comes down to some policy that has always been in place and always been enforced.

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


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.

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  • http://Lashrito Brad E.

    Although I don’t discount the possibility of mistakes, Google’s reply seems like pretty clearheaded reasoning to weed out the types of results I hate seeing as a searcher/consumer. So until I see evidence/examples of your theoretical olde tyme, well-intentioned advertisers hurt by this, I say kudos to Google.

    And even IF some ‘old school’ folks are hurt, wouldn’t it be better for them to be forced into better/current practices (or forced out of the market) for the greater (consumer experience) good? The web (and especially search) waits for no one. Stay alert, stay alive.

  • Andrew Goodman

    I don’t see what is unclear about Google’s response. It’s been part of the AdWords world since Dec. 2005. Aggressive approaches to so-called website quality, that is.

    These things don’t generally come about as a matter of bugs, though the technology could potentially be inaccurate in certain ways.

    Whatever the Low Share of Voice bug was, the only times I noticed it coming up were genuine reductions in budget, CPA using Conversion Optimizer on content, or taking ad groups down in reach by pausing a lot of keywords. So subjectivity of the alert aside, I wouldn’t overplay the frequency of bugs in the system.

    There are a lot of things about the system that can be weird and some of them may even be described as buggy. It is a massive undertaking with many moving parts and complexities, to be sure.

    That being said, most landing page & website quality bans are 100% on purpose and yes they are targeting certain business models, deceptive practices, etc.

    If the affected advertisers would like to step up and identify themselves so we could judge whether it was an overtweaked algorithm or a recognizable violation, then that would go a long way towards shedding light on the issue. Unfortunately these “affected advertisers” rarely step up.

  • Online Guy

    I drank too much Google Kool Aid, got drunk, and bumped my head.

    Back in the day, when Google launched the Google custom search engine tool, their marketing slant was \be creative! We challenge you to do a better job than we do\. That was some yummy and refreshing Kool Aid. So earlier this year I decided to take Google up on their challenge, at first I built a “proof of concept” dating search engine which got my hand slapped by Google for having a link to a website they did not feel was appropriate. That was fine, I appreciated their feedback and immediately switched the site design to what closely resembled the Google business model – Simple header with just the website name, a few paragraphs of information explaining this was a custom search engine, a Google custom search box, and some AdSense ads. Over the next few months I spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars buying text links from what felt like every reputable 2nd and 3rd tier search engine on the net. By month three, things were going great and the sites were turning over nearly a 100% ROI. By this time I had opened 6 additional websites addressing different verticals and all following the “simple is better” methodology that made Google famous. Finally I received my first Google AdWords commission check and was on top of the world! With the websites working well and ROI going in the right direction I decided to share my ideas with my family who quickly wanted to get involved. Over the next week or so I helped my wife and father open AdSense accounts, gave them some of my custom search engines, and taught them how to buy text link ads from reputable sources. During our first month of full production we spent several hundred man hours and several thousands of dollars. All I could think was “What a glorious discovery I had made! If we work hard, we could turn this into a business that would help our whole family. Thank you Google!\

    The day before the payout for all of our hard work was issued, all of our AdWords accounts were shut down, all of us received the pre-canned legal letter from Google, and Google in its whimsical and infinite wisdom decided to withhold earnings which totaled over $7,000! This left all of us holding the bag of almost $4,000 in text ad charges (some from AdWords), hundreds of man hours lost, and many website which now did not function. Thank you Google!

    Ah the Kool Aid hangover. We filed appeals which were sparsely responded to with pre-canned and very vague justifications, with the only clear statement being that the AdSense agreement gave them the right to pull the rug out from under our feet, withhold all of the money, and there was nothing we could do about it.

    I am still Not going to say that Google is evil, too many Google dance T-Shirts in my closet for that one, but I will say that when it comes to Ad Sense, they make horrible business partners. Whatever happened to communicating with the business partners that make you money when you have an issue? There is no phone support for ad sense, no direct email addresses, no dedicated reps, and only one well hidden contact form to even reach the AdSense team. I can’t imagine any company that was not worth billions of dollars getting away with such poor customer service and such questionable ethics. I guess it is ok if you shroud your unethical business practices in the defense of “improving quality” but that excuse is wearing thin for many advertisers.

    Outside of the money, I have three points to make about the Google approach which upsets me.

    1) Our custom search engines provided more content than the park pages which Google makes millions on every month without objection. Double standard?

    2) Our sites were built purely from Google tools and advertising. What that says to me is: “You can use our free tools, just don’t make too much money with them or we will keep it.”

    3) I launched this project at a time when our economy was going south, when many You Tube AdSense advertisers were taken for as much as 90% of their profits, and days before the end of the worst quarter Google had ever experienced. Google barley made their margins, AdSense users lost tons of profits, and the juggernaut kept rolling forward. Is it ethical to make your margins at the expense of the publishers that make you all of your money? I say no, but I am only a voice of one against a billion dollar corporation that employs the best legal firm in the world. So I shut up and take it… for now.

    Is there anyone out there with the legal prowess to start a class action lawsuit? If so, count me in!!!

  • Tom Hale

    I really respect your opinion Andrew. Your stuff has been right on lately.

    But Barry is sounding a needed warning.

    I am seeing what would seem to be increased collateral damage the last few weeks.

    Sorting perpetrator from victim, and the witting from the unwitting, is hard enough even with 100% efficiency in systems.

    This is a clumsy/painful prequel to raising the AdWords threshold. AdWords is too complicated for the masses. Google is attacking that nut with the Local Business Center perhaps.

    The $5 dollar entry fee and Do-It-Yourself sales pitch is the root unintended evil. The fraudsters piled on, Google reacted late, and now the real war is on.

    Complete with talk of collateral damage and acceptable casualties.

    All in my most humble opinion of course.

    But on the small business front lines the pain and angst is real. If you stop the vehicle driving established income, and give reason in terms of wrong doing or some “relation” to wrong doing. You better be right, or be oblivious to the roar.


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