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How Google Fights Ad Spammers and Scammers

Matt Brady
#Industry Insights
Published on February 9, 2017

We look at how Google fought malicious advertising in 2016 and offer some tips for how to avoid inadvertently violating Google AdWords policies.

Here on the Diagram blog, we like to say that where Google goes, so goes the internet. Google is the portal that most people use to find information online, which gives the company an incredibly important role, since what they do affects just about every user on the planet. Fortunately, Google works to keep those users’ needs in mind, constantly refining their technology and encouraging websites to provide the best possible experience to their visitors.

Much of the time, when we talk about Google, we’re looking at the world of search engine optimization (SEO), since website owners want to make sure that people can find them in Google searches. However, another Google service, pay per click (PPC) advertising, can be just as important, since the ads served through Google AdWords appear not just in Google’s search results, but also in Google Maps, Google’s search partners, YouTube videos, and on millions of websites.

Google recognizes the far-reaching aspects of their ad network, and they work to limit abuse of this system by constantly fighting against scams, illegal products, and misleading or harmful ads. In Google’s recently released 2016 Bad Ads Report, they looked at the ways that they fought these threats over the past year.

Protecting the Consumer

Google has a set of strict policies for what types of ads they allow, and in 2016, they took down 1.7 billion ads that violated those policies. This includes ads for illegal products or activities (such as pharmaceuticals and gambling), ads that mislead or deceive users, and “self-clicking” ads that can automatically force mobile devices to begin downloading apps. Google also noted a prevalence of ads for payday loans, which are not allowed in AdWords, and “trick to click” ads that disguise themselves as warnings or error messages in order to trick users into clicking them and downloading malware.

In 2016, the rise of “fake news” was an issue that had far reaching effects, and Google recognized that this trend was affecting people’s experience of their ads as well. Their report notes that 2016 saw a big increase in “tabloid cloaker” ads, which look like news headlines but actually lead to sites selling products which violate Google’s policies, like weight loss supplements or payday loans. Google not only took steps to take down these ads, but they also suspended thousands of accounts in order to prevent scammers from trying to game the system.

How Does This Affect Me?

While the majority of advertisers using Google AdWords aren’t trying to scam people or purposely violate Google’s policies, the increase in the number of bad ads over the past year means that Google is going to be monitoring ads closely. In order to avoid any problems, advertisers should make sure their ads aren’t violating any of Google’s policies. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Be honest – Don’t try to trick people into clicking on your ads. Be up front about what you are advertising, and make sure your landing pages are relevant, showing people what they expect to find after reading your ads.
  • Don’t violate trademarks – Google doesn’t allow advertising of counterfeit products, but even if you aren’t selling products that could be mistaken for something produced by another company, make sure you aren’t inadvertently using someone else’s trademark in your ad copy.
  • Be appropriate – Google forbids the promotion of websites, organizations, or products that encourage violence, harassment, or intolerance. Some advertisers may try to be edgy or attention-grabbing, but even if you want to push the envelope, make sure your ads don’t cross the line into bullying or discrimination.
  • Don’t try to cheat – One of Google’s primary goals is to create good experiences for users, so even if you’re not doing anything outright malicious, like infecting people’s computers with malware, you don’t want to be seen as trying to game the system. Don’t try to hide the destination people will be sent to when clicking on your ads, and don’t use a “gateway” page that redirects users to another page.
  • Be clear about data collection – If you’re collecting any information from your users, use appropriate security measures and make sure to include a privacy policy on your website.
  • Get the technical details right – Make sure your ads meet Google’s format requirements, and make sure the destination pages which people will be taken to when they click on your ads are functioning correctly.

Advertisers who follow these tips will not only avoid having their ads or accounts suspended, they’ll be able the get the most out of Google AdWords by providing the audience they are looking to reach with the information that is relevant to them.

If you’re looking to get started with PPC advertising, we’d be happy to help! Please contact us, and we’ll work with you to build the campaigns that will bring you success. Do you have any Google AdWords tips of your own? Please share them in the comments below!