Spotted: Stunning AdWords Policy Violations That Facebook & Google Shouldn’t Be Happy About

Behold a brilliant display of Google AdWords advertising policy violations:

adwords ad violating ad policies

This ad was spotted by Luke Alley from Avalaunch Media. As it turns out, Alley unearthed a deep pit teeming with ad violations.

Search for “facebook support” on Google, and you’ll quickly see the ads are crawling with AdWords policy violations.

The ad above features “Symbols, numbers, and letters that don’t adhere to their true meaning or purpose” with the @ symbol in the headline and ad copy; a phone number gets into the ad copy (against policy since call extensions rolled out) apparently by using that @ symbol and Os instead of 0s.

Here is an ad I found when searching for “facebook support” that also uses Os instead of 0s to get a phone number in the ad — this time  in the headline — even though it also has a call extension. Notice Facebook’s trademarked brand name in the subdomain-jammed display URL (You won’t see it used in any actual ad copy.):

facebook support google adwords ad phone number in headline

This next ad inserts both a phone number and Facebook trademark brand name in the display URL. Also, display URL has 38 characters instead of the 35 character limit:

facebook support google adwords ad phone number in url

Things aren’t any better on mobile. There are phone numbers throughout the ad copy and (long) display URLs.  The second ad below might be the winner. It has a click-to-call phone number in the headline, a call extension (the Call button) and yet another phone listing in the ad after the ad copy. I can’t quite tell what’s happening in the copy.  Including the phone number line, the ad copy is 90 characters long. Is “1800-909-2298 tollfree” somehow displaying through an extension?

mobile facebook support ad policy violations

The flagrant ad policy violations aren’t just from companies hocking  ”Facebook support”. They’re also spamming ads for “Google support” and “Gmail support”. Here’s a look at ads appearing on a Google search for “gmail support”. Again, phone numbers appear in ad copy and in subdomain-packed display URLs.

gmail support ad violations

Beyond the ad violations there is a consumer online safety issue here as well. The ads are ads pitching “login/password support,” which raise huge, waving privacy red flags. One claims services from a “FB certified technician,” a certification that doesn’t exist.  Yes, these types of “technical services” has been around since tech entered our lives, but that these companies are able to promote bogus services and violate AdWords policy so blatantly while doing so is still shocking.

I did not click on any of these ads, but did call two of the numbers on ads promoting Facebook tech services. One had an automated message saying “Thank you for calling technical support,” then put me on hold for several moments before I hung up.  The customer service representative who answered my next call said their “systems are down” and that he would call me back on my number. He then called from a Palmdale, CA area number.  He said, yes, they could help me get my password back from Facebook. When asked how, he explained they have “technical teams for that and there is a charge for that service”. He then hung up. And he has my number.

Update: A Google spokesperson says they are currently reviewing and disabling ads that may violate its AdWords policies.

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


About The Author: writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting. Beyond Search Engine Land, Ginny provides search marketing and demand generation advice for ecommerce companies. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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  • Albert

    Thanks for sharing Ginny Marvin. Now they went to Gmail with @ on it.
    Checkout my detailed analysis here:

    They even have support for Yahoo Mail, Skype and many more. OMG Spammers coming in Ads also. :(

  • maxi

    Very interesting…and I laffd out loud at ur last statement…but I don’t u tink Googles knows about this?

  • James Hobson

    I’ve noticed similar tactics around automotive brands in Adwords. The bots don’t catch titles with tBMW and such. I believe “Blackhat PPC” would be afitting term.

  • Jerry Nordstrom

    Google has allowed this type of behavior since the inception of adwords.
    The latest round of ads are particularly aggressive and straight up obnoxious so I imagine the big G will actually turn their attention on them and wipe them away like a two cent pop under ad. Ginny – Are they now selling your phone number to other companies?

  • Tweed Solutions

    Yes, I’ve been noticing similar tactics playing out too.


  • daveintheuk

    If a newspaper or magazine repeatedly published scam adverts like these and made money from them there would be uproar…. why does Google get away with it simply because they’ve chosen a business model where doing the right thing and carrying out due diligence “doesn’t scale”?

    Regulators need to start imposing sanctions, and companies affected need to start taking legal action.

  • Aaron Levy

    This really isn’t anything new, just funny that people are getting away with it for BIG brands. In the past, “a few friends” who “someone” used to work with at “a place” used to sneak by like this:

    Phase 1: Google Cyrillic alphabet.
    Phase 2: Find easily replaceable letters that look the same in both (a, m, h, o are all good examples).
    Phase 3: Type the same word with the Cyrillic letter in place.
    Phase 4: Show trademarked ads. Profit!

  • Ginny Marvin

    So far I haven’t had any evidence they’ve sold my number, but time will tell…

  • Ginny Marvin

    So far I haven’t had any evidence they’ve sold my number, but time will tell…

  • LukeAlley

    Awesome digging Ginny!

    I looked at several of the landing pages and there are similar characteristics to many of them; privacy policy, phone numbers, disclaimers, and layout all looked the same. Points to the fact that it’s one company/person doing all this??

  • vikas lov

    yes, Google know about then very well.

  • vikas lov

    yes, Google know about then very well.

  • Matt Van Wagner

    By the way, in case anyone is curious to try these things, DON’T!

    These are totally black hat tactics and may to lead to banned acccounts and even more severly, banned PPC person / agency. You should be aware that your IP address is logged whenever you log in to manage (or mismanage) an account and for severe cases of black hat, Google has every right to look at the evidence trail and make you regret doing something so stupid.

    It may be that there are some previously blocked practices that are getting through as Google rewrites AdWords backend, but don’t expect that to last, and don’t expect them to let you slide if you try to cheat the system.

  • beulah752

    what Jane answered I am taken by surprise that a mother can get paid $5025 in four weeks on the internet. have you seen this site link w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • Luke Moulton

    It’s a problem for most software vendors in Australia, but even worse, it’s the customer who ends up getting ripped off. I’ve been arguing with the AdWords team about this issue for a couple of months now.

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