How Google Banned Me – And The Simple Way to Save Your Ass

I wish someone had told me this two years ago: Google associates your AdWords account to the domains that you advertise. Worse yet, they associate it to the domains and then refuse to break that association. Just to be clear: Its not the domain you have on the display URL or your tracking domain if its in the middle – its the domain -and the page- where the user lands. They keep track of where you are sending the users and the quality of your account becomes forever linked to the quality of experience those pages give the user.

It doesn’t matter if you delete the ads by over-writing them with blanks like I did. It doesn’t matter if you delete the ads, then the ad groups, then the campaigns and all the campaigns in your account and don’t do much of anything for a year. You might as well be advertising child porn to soccer moms during Christmas.

So now you know how to avoid getting banned. Simply put: Never, ever, ever, use AdWords to take users to a page you don’t control. They insinuate they let you get ‘unbanned’ if you correct the pages – which you obviously can’t do if you don’t own them.

Curious to know exactly what happened to my account? Here are the details. If you’re interested in more background, here’s a post with images from the first time they sent me a warning. Note that since about a month before the time of that warning, I haven’t ran a single impression, ad, click, or unpaused any campaigns – all I did was delete my campaigns several months ago and now enter new billing info in the form of a coupon they sent me.

The low-down

I used Google AdWords to advertise and (another site). Several months after I stopped all my advertising to those sites, on July 8th 2010 I received an e-mail from [email protected] letting me know those two sites violate the landing page guidelines. I had not advertised those sites for several months. They asked me to make changes to the sites. Which I can’t do – is not my property, so I agree to never advertise them again and delete those campaigns. I have not advertised anything on AdWords since July 2010. All my campaigns have been deleted for several months now. On May 18th I receive an e-mail from Google Adwords ([email protected]) with a $100 coupon, saying “Here’s $100 to come back to AdWords” it seems to be a coupon for people that have not advertised in some time. So I log in to my AdWords account and put the code. The code works fine – $100 is added to my account – and I don’t touch anything else on my account. On June 8th I receive an e-mail that states my AdWords account has been suspended forever. I call their support line and after describing the problem, then I get e-mail saying their decision is final, to not to ask them why or call again. I called them again on Thursday and on Friday I get the same “our decision is final” email with no information or recourse.

Adwords Support Sucks Flaming Ass

Reality check:

To keep the post at the “reality” level, lets keep in mind that all the Google policies and procedures are optional, they can be over-ridden by management, they can be applied selectively, they are defined in one meeting on Monday and changed around on Thursday. Just because someone tells you something is their process, it doesn’t mean it is a law of nature – It means the people you are talking to don’t know or don’t want to help you – it doesn’t mean things can’t be changed. Corollary: Everything changes, its up to you to find out how to make it change the way you want it.

What next?

Not sure. I’m not sure my time or money would be well spent getting this overturned. I haven’t used AdWords for anything for a year now. This is a problem I might have to solve when the need arises. Without an active income stream from them, its hard to justify spending time and resources on this when there are better things to do – I can see it having some strategic value, and it pisses me off ‘to infinity and beyond’ – yet it doesn’t seem to make much business sense to do something with it right now. So… Not sure.

Update 6/15/2011:

After posting on the blog I decided to cut and paste a chunk of this post and send it to Google via the BBB as a complaint. As Mike pointed out, the BBB is useless and powerless. Google had this to say today:

We write in response to {witheld}. We understand that your AdWords account was recently suspended. Paused ads for disabled sites are still subject to review by our team. Please keep in mind that pausing or deleting ads related to the disabled sites will not automatically re-enable the ads nor remove the violation history. Our team has confirmed that this suspension was correct. And the account will remain suspended unless the violating sites are brought into compliance according to our Site and Quality guidelines. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but unfortunately we cannot provide any further assistance in this matter. Google’s primary objective is to provide safe, relevant experiences for our users. The decision to suspend your account was made after careful review of your account and the low quality landing page experiences promoted through your ads. We do apologize that this issue came to our attention shortly after you received a promotional offer. Our Terms and Conditions, to which you agreed to when you signed up for AdWords, state that Google reserves the right to disable any ads when deemed necessary. You can review these Terms and Conditions here:
Initial Response Summary
We have reviewed the AdWords account and confirmed that the suspension was correct.

This is a standard mind-fuck response. In case you’re wondering what’s going on here: Its a set-up. They’ve pulled a process out of their ass that makes sure you can’t fix your situation, yet it sounds reasonable and they offer no alternatives. In other words, they do whatever they please – Like that was news.

So I wrote them a little response, really for the principle because I don’t want the BBB to say “Yay! Successfully resolved the case!” when what happened was nothing. My rebuttal:

The explanation about the internal processes of Google does not satisfactorily resolve the material facts: Google has taken permanent and continued action starting June 2011, based on events that took place at least a year ago, which merited a warning in 2010. Google has unilaterally escalated the perceived severity of past actions and provides as a possible way of resolution an avenue which Google fully understand is impossible to execute. While Google’s explanation seems rational, and it may fully fit within the processes Google has defined, that doesn’t take away nor satisfactorily explain nor resolve the material facts that Google has permanently suspended this account based solely on activity that took place a year ago.

So, next up should be where Google says “Lalalalalala I’m not listening! You are gone!” and case closed. Stay tuned.