Recent Bans Surface AdSense Publishers’ Complaints About Google

Two recent cases of AdSense publisher bans highlight publisher discontent about Google’s mysterious methods for determining when to ban (and when to reinstate) participants displaying its Content Network ads on their sites.

Acme Dropped, Reinstated After Public Attention

In the first case, well-respected netizen Jef Poskanzer, who runs the acme.com site, was banned from AdSense on January 15. Google’s explanation, in a form letter, was that “… we’ve determined that your AdSense account poses a risk of generating invalid activity. Because we have a responsibility to protect our AdWords advertisers from inflated costs due to invalid activity, we’ve found it necessary to disable your AdSense account.” Though Poskanzer appealed, Google denied his appeal. But, then, he blogged about it on his site.

Because Poskanzer is well-connected in the Internet world, Googler Matt Cutts posted on Google+ about the situation, saying he hoped the ad quality team would reconsider. Indeed, the intervention convinced Google to give Poskanzer another chance, and he was reinstated as of January 31.

“My fame is an advantage,” wrote Poskanzer, “but what really ought to matter is my 8.5 year relationship with the company, plus my demonstrated history of working with AdSense to resolve our prior issue eight years ago, to our mutual benefit.”

Poskanzer later noted that he understood why activity on his site had gotten Google’s attention, once he was again allowed access to his account and could analyze the stats.

“There was a big bulge in the stats between late November and early January,” wrote Poskanzer, “Views remained about the same while clicks rose by about a factor of eight. I had nothing to do with it, of course. But AdSense has to defend itself and its advertisers against stuff like this.”

Rusty Compass Back After Making Government Complaint

A second similar situation occurred to the Rusty Compass travel website, run by Mark Bowyer in Sydney, Australia.

On September 13, 2011, Google informed Bowyer that his AdSense account was being disabled for generating invalid clicks. He appealed and started a thread in the AdSense support forum. Like Poskanzer, his appeal was denied.

In December, Bowyer took the matter to the New South Wales’ Fair Trading — a state agency that enforces fair trade laws and provides consumer protections.

An article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald about the case and Google reinstated Bowyer’s account in mid-January, 2012. Bowyers has still heard nothing personal from Google, only receiving templated-style email communications.

Does Review Process Need To Change?

Though both Poskanzer and Bowyer got their accounts reinstated, the incidents sparked chatter about Google’s methods for banning sites without first issuing a warning, failing to communicate fully, and then — in these cases, at least — reinstating accounts when an Internet-famous person is involved, or when someone kicks up a stink with a government agency. The outcomes are often very different, online comments suggest, when a typical small publisher is involved.

As developer Yuri Nazayov put it in a Google+ thread, “If someone is a reasonably famous old-school hacker and other people raise a bit of a sh-t-storm, then an actual human will step in. If it’s just some dude, he gets a form letter.”

Internet marketer Ralf Skirr made the same point, saying, ” It would probably be nice for all customers (not only the ones you vouch for) who have wrongly been accused of click spamming if someone reached out and investigated. Google still is arrogant in this matter. If smaller businesses treated their customers/business partners that way, they would be out of business quickly.”

Multiple others weighed in, both on the Google+ thread and on Poskanzer’s site comments, saying they’d had the same thing happen to their account — including a denied appeal — and had finally been forced to give up.

On Bowyers’ AdSense support forum thread, Tsvaishnav Vaishnav, author of the Mind To Mint blog – billed as an “unofficial guide to AdSense” – told Bowyers, “If ur [sic] appeal was turned down google wont [sic] take a moment to deal with u [sic]. May sound harsh…but google works that way. And it really does not matter if it happened knowingly or not. It happened n [sic] that is enough for google to grab ur [sic] account. They are too strict.”

Google’s argument in similar past situations is that it can’t get into too much detail about its click-fraud monitoring, as explaining its methods would give would-be fraudsters too much information about how to potentially bypass the systems in place to protect advertisers. Additionally, Google seems to focus its attention on servicing AdWords advertisers — its customers — rather than AdSense publishers, who are partners, rather than customers.

Google did issue a statement about Bowyers’ case, saying: ”If we determine that an AdSense account may pose a risk to our advertisers or the experience of individual users, we may disable that account to protect the health of the network. If a publisher feels that the decision to suspend their AdSense account was made in error, and if they can maintain in good faith that the invalid activity was not due to the actions or negligence of themselves or those for whom they are responsible, they can appeal the disabling of their account. Accounts will be reinstated on a case by case basis.”

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising | Google: AdSense | Google: Display Advertising | Google: Partnerships | Top News

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About The Author: is executive features editor of Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. She’s a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported on, written about and worked in digital media and marketing for more than 10 years. She is a previous managing editor of ClickZ and has worked on the other side of digital publishing, helping independent publishers monetize their sites in her work at Federated Media Publishing.

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  • http://twitter.com/brandondud Brandondud

    I have recently had a blog that I work with banned from adsense. I really have no clue what was the reason and am confident that no click fraud was present as very few clicks at all happened. I wrote a meaningful appeal and got non response. Hopefully, they can rework the process.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1701960919 Bibiano-Jr Wenceslao

    I’ve been working on my blog for two months now, writing at least a post or two every week. I’m not sure if it’s still premature to sign up for AdSense or, as what I’ve googled on the web, I should allow at least 6 months of regular blogging before I apply for the ads. Patience is never a problem with me. The thing is that I’ve also started this small community on my blog’s Facebook page with members who voluntarily joined in because they probably thought my blog has been and in the long run will be of help to them. I also have a small crowd following me on Twitter. The thought that scares me is that referral traffic from Facebook (and/or also from other social sites maybe) “might be” considered “unethical” by AdSense law. 

    In simple ways, I do understand the intent of having ads (relevant to site’s content, etc.) on the Google Display Network (publishers in this case) as I’ve understood about AdWords so far. Visitors will click on ads that interest them. Unless someone (or a group of trolls) has the intent of really messing up with the site owner’s AdSense eligibility thus spending some hours spam-clicking on the ads and sending the innocent publisher’s AdSense account into oblivion, I think referral traffic from social networking sites are as organic as those from SERPs themselves. Why even bother indexing content from social networks when traffic from those sites are considered “suspicious” in the first place? 

     @wordpressfanboy:twitter

  • Robert Heck

    My website/blog which I setup adsense on from the very beginning (the logic for that was I didn’t want repeat visitors to get shocked/annoyed by surprise ads one day, which may have been a mistake in and of itself) was banned for “invalid click activity” and the appeal denied.  

    The most irritating part of the whole thing is that I was always given form responses with 0 detail.  I understand it is within their right to be vague for “safety” purposes but I wish at the very least they would allow access to adsense to review what might be the problem (i.e. see a sudden jump in clicks etc.).  Google recommended at the time to check with analytics but my analytics for the site wasn’t pulling in adsense info so that wasn’t much help which meant I had no way to try and figure out what the problem was to attempt to remedy it.  All I could do was send an appeal stating I wasn’t doing nor aware of any invalid click activity which got denied.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NEP6OBLDS2IIOA3GMZWAHWOE4U Christine

    Like Yahoo, Google is in the business of being vague about their processes.  Its unfortunate but many publishers, in the forums, complain about this every day.  In fact, there is an entire subtopic in the Adsense Help Forum that is dedicated solely to these vague account bans.  It would be nice if Google was more transparent and provided more details into why the accounts are banned and why sites are penalized.

  • Takeshi Young

    I was banned from the AdSense program early in my days as an internet marketer.  It was an incredibly frustrating process, they provided no details, and my appeals fell on deaf ears.  We lost over $300 in accumulated AdSense revenue, and besides banning our business account, they also banned the personal accounts of both me and my business partner.

    And according to the AdSense guidelines, we are banned for LIFE!  Imagine that, a lifetime ban on ever using AdSense for something we didn’t do, with no chance of appeal, and they pocketed the money we raised for them!

    However, I consider this experience one of the best things that has ever happened to me.  If you think about it, Google is just the middleman.  AdSense is easy to setup, but it doesn’t pay well because Google takes a cut of the earnings.  I learned that if you want to make real money online, you should work with the advertisers directly on an advertising or affiliate deal, or cut everyone out altogether and sell the product yourself.

    Anyway, the moral of this story is don’t use AdSense.  Their customer service is beyond terrible, and it is insanity to risk your livelihood on a company that can take it all away from you at any time, with no reason, and no recourse.  And you can make more money cutting out the middleman.

  • http://twitter.com/forexaffreviews Forex Affiliates

    While this isn’t surprising at all, I have my own issues as well with Google in regarding to the paychecks they send. Numerous emails have fallen on deaf ears. I have a $460 something sitting my account and I can’t do anything about it. I hope Google’s arrogance will be their downfall. What they don’t realize is that the publishers are the ones who keep them in business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lohmunkeat Loh Mun Keat

    There’s no meaning in venturing with a partner who could just walk out on you anytime, without warnings, without reasons and appeals being attended to by robots.

    Imagine having a robot as your business partner and you get a programmed response everytime you talk to him/her… Yeah, that’s Google AdSense!

    I’ve just started out in this business not long ago, and already
    being banned by AdSense. Like what Takeshi said, I’m in fact happy to
    find out that Google isn’t a good businesss partner that worths me
    spending much time with.

    We are entrepreneurs – that means we make things happen. If Google’s making life so difficult for me, I’m more than happy to bring my business elsewhere. What say you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Whoisb-Whoisbid/100002926000478 Whoisb Whoisbid

    I am sick of Google because they accuse certain innocent people of invalid activity at the drop of a hat and give no reason why. It is only fair that these people who are victims of this drop google at a drop of a hat and never want to use any of their products ever again. Some of us believe that there are hackers going around making google more unpopular every month by getting more and more adsense publishers banned so that they become anti-google. Unfortunately it seems to be working. So many people are now bitter because they know they are innocent. Blaming innocent people is something that will really get you unpopular.

  • HaanZ Films

     I do “comedy” films on YouTube. I have been on YouTube for only 7 months but I have built a great subscriber base WITH the help of some BIG YouTubers either having my films run for a day on their front page or allowing my videos as responses to theirs, which they never do, because they like my work. I was disable from adsense 2 days ago for “invalid click activity” yet it was not me. I have had my Adsense account for 6+ months only but I have been active in the forums and have submitted tickets when I saw something weird with my numbers. Google can easily verify my households income from a real day job and my zero criminal history ie: no need to steal. I don’t make my films for money, I am not hurting in that area, I make my films as a HOBBY (but would and can build it into something big) and to make others laugh. SADLY, without Adsense, I would lose my YouTube Partnership as well. That is something I hold dearly and would never risk losing. I filed an appeal and I hope they can/will dig deeper and find in my favor. Reading this thread made me aware of this “competitor” thing of getting their competition removed. This is sad. Where is MY protection as a Partner? Why can’t they just filter out any clicks they deem invalid? I would even go to the length of not running the ads ever again if they would allow me to keep my account, thus keeping my Partnership. I have also read that if a viewer watches the entire 14-28 second pre roll, it counts as a click???? Since I do unique comedy, lots of people have told me that they keep coming back to watch my videos or show friends/co-workers. There are some commercials that you cannot skip…. If my appeal is denied, I will lose my Partnership with YouTube. If I lose my Partnership with YouTube… I will probably stop making my films out of frustration and sadness. I really hope the AdSense team will look into my case and it not be an “all automated” system for the little/unknown guys like I have been reading so much about. Sorry for my long winded reply….

  • Anonymous

    At some point Google will face a class action lawsuit for their unfair
    practices of shutting AdSense accts off without warning or facts. Appeal
    process is a black hole. I had an appeal approved only to see Google reverse
    the decision days later with no explanation. They maintain record revenue
    confiscating money from all of us little guy publishers. Check my site out at http://www.dailydollarnewsletter.com
    and tell me what Adsense policy we violate. If I knew I would gladly fix it.

  • Anonymous

    We have not violated any policies and lost over $10K in unpaid revenues – no warning/explanation. We appealed via BBB and waiting for response.

  • http://www.webstatsart.com/ Webstats Art

    I am done with adsense. I am a law abiding citizen and a blogger and don’t take it lightly when I am condemned for invalid clicks when no such activity has taken place on my part. I also resent the fact that these messages are sent using robots with no reply emails and no easy way to contact anyone. What a terrible business model they have, http://whoisbid.hubpages.com/hub/BANNED-ADSENSE-ACCOUNTS

  • Anonymous

     btw, while exploring adsense alternatives, i’ve came across admedia (i am not associated with them in any way), and admedia shows you exactly why they don’t pay for some clicks. Based on my web site, most common reason is a user clicking on the same ad more than once. Makes sense for advertisers not to pay for such clicks. Now that’s what I call friendly and respectful business transparency!

  • http://www.facebook.com/neal1 Neal Campbell

    I’ve had an AdSense account for years. Following a painful divorce, I didn’t update my blog often. When I came back to the land of the living and started blogging and making YouTube videos at the end of last year, traffic and ad revenue started to grow. AdSense revenue in January was twice as much as all of 2011. The growth makes sense, but my guess is the change in activity triggered some algorithm that flagged my growth as click fraud. We’re not talking about much money … about $80 total including all the revenue from last year. I don’t care about the text ads, but the inability to make money from YouTube video is devastating. It takes a lot of work to produce video. Getting views is great, but I don’t want to be on YouTube if I can’t make money from my work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/neal1 Neal Campbell

    I’ve had an AdSense account for years. Following a painful divorce, I didn’t update my blog often. When I came back to the land of the living and started blogging and making YouTube videos at the end of last year, traffic and ad revenue started to grow. AdSense revenue in January was twice as much as all of 2011. The growth makes sense, but my guess is the change in activity triggered some algorithm that flagged my growth as click fraud. We’re not talking about much money … about $80 total including all the revenue from last year. I don’t care about the text ads, but the inability to make money from YouTube video is devastating. It takes a lot of work to produce video. Getting views is great, but I don’t want to be on YouTube if I can’t make money from my work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1497618317 Zhengying Wang

    This just happened to me.   I first started to monetize my Youtube videos with Adsense just a little over a week ago.    As the first two days passed, the results were very disappointing.  I read google’s rules and I also read people’s comments on how restricted they are, so of course I would not do anything against their rule at all.   However, I did two (legal) things according to their rules, both are for promoting my Youtube videos 1.  enhance my Youtube’s titles, descriptions, tags, and videos themselves for them to be more visible to searchers.  2.  I posted my youtube videos (which was about tropical aquarium fish) on 4 different fish forums under multiple content related threads.    

    So of course, for the next two days, the views jumped up to about 150% of normal traffic.   Sadly, it was still not much, it simply went from 8 clicks on ads to 15 clicks….and only for 2 days or so(but those clicks were all REAL clicks and it took me hard work to actively promoting my videos to get such pathetic results), then it dropped down back to normal as the threads became old and moved down on the forums.     Although I did more work on enhance the Youtube videos in the next a day or two, it didn’t really make any difference and the views still dropped to the level close to where it used to be.    I gave up, and thought to myself it’s just my videos aren’t special enough to attract more viewers.    

    At the time I thought of making better videos, special videos, videos that most people would rarely have a chance to see so they would love to see.
    Then I changed my mind on doing that.   I made a plan of launch my own web site/forum.   The next a few days I didn’t even touch my youtube videos,   and I soon signed up a domain with godaddy.com, and paid Hostgator to host it.   As I just launched my own site and I was working on it, I remembered I haven’t refreshed my Adsense page for a while (the last time I checked it was just barely $4…), but when I refreshed it, it turned out to be “DISABLED”!  It told me to check my email, which I did.

    In my email, they claim my account posed a risk with “invalid clicks”.   What?    What do they mean by that?    I immediately thought it must be the surge in views during those two days, but I totally did it according to their rules.  They had a page said it is ok to promote your site as long as it’s according to the rules.   I didn’t just promote my Youtube videos, I promoted Youtube (bought by Google) at the same time !  And legally + fairly  with my video contents !   

    I quickly found the appeal form and filled it up with detailed information on what happened, I even included several direct links to my threads in those forums as proof.  

    The appeal didn’t go well just like other 100% the appeals !   I got appeal rejection email at the time of equal to around 6am U.S. eastern time, which makes me think if the whole appeal review process was outsourced  to somewhere … lets say India!         The rejection simply told me that even with the additional information I provided, their “experts” determined my Adsense account should not be reinstated because of the “invalid activities” !    Just what the heck?      I was holding the hope of it was a misunderstanding, and it could be resolved by simply showing them the truth and proof.  I guess I was wrong!   Very WRONG on certain people will treat others with respect!   What they did was totally unreasonable and unacceptable!    I got banned for earned $4 in over a week ! 

    I quickly searched for keywords “banned by google adsense”, it came with tons of results of people complaining about Google wrongfully banned them and rejected the appeal.   Even youtube videos had several “Adsense is a scam”.    

    I was pretty upset at the time, and I started to think maybe Google did it on purpose to increase their revenue and to kill off some smaller publishers to make the share of the pie less, which could make the bids of advertisers higher.     From what I’ve seen, many people also complained online about how Google constantly takes money off their earning for “invalid clicks”, while many others were banned while just as they’ve made some money, some others were banned just before the pay day!     It really made me think Google did it on purpose to take all those money for themselves.   Because I thought… who is there to oversee Google’s “refund” to advertisers?   Google claims the “estimated earning” will always be higher than actual earning, because of the “invalid clicks” always exist…they said in Adsense.   In the name of “invalid clicks”, they takes money from publishers’ earnings regularly.  In the name of “invalid clicks”, they ban publish regularly.   In both cases, all the already earned money of publishers were taken away by Google.  Who is there to oversee the “refund” process?   Who is even there to oversee and confirm the “invalid clicks”?  We only have Google’s word !

    I am quite frustrated with this case.  As I was working on my new web site on a high fever in hope of one day it will become a worthy partner to Adsense.    There goes that “dream”, and my “pride”.   I am just a banned “invalid” clicker, along with tens thousands if not millions other little guys around the world.     We are banned for life!  Yes, once the Adsense “experts” decided to reject your appeal, you are banned for life.    

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1497618317 Zhengying Wang

     Some people will click on the ads twice to order things twice.   If you’ve considered this.  I read on a forum for sites admins, one gamers’ community admin said he has all those computer hardware store ads all over his site, and his members regular upgrade computer hardware, so they regularly visit those stores by click on those ads.       It is not fair for the publisher not to get paid in such cases.    Maybe the most fair method would be to have the advertiser to pay the publisher a cut when the customer who clicked on the ads had really bought something.     Then who will be there to protect the publishers?  Will the Advertisers be honest about the sales?

  • Carlos Garcia

     After 4 years working with AdSense and more than $100K earned with them, last month my account was disabled and my appeal denied.
    My site receives more than 600.000 monthly players and I lost $5K in earnings.
    Now I have to work with other networks with much less fill rates and eCPM.
    Their system has to change for their own good. Just figure how much money they won’t earn as they keep banning “partners”.

    BTW: Those ads inside YouTube videos are really intrusive. I wonder how much CTR they have.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ERTP46EQSJZURY6SCUQKED3FVA Elizabeth

    I had my google email account for awhile it was fine.  Suddenly when I logged in last week the password didn’t work.  The long and the short of it is google wants to charge me $3.00 to reset the account.  It is not a scam it is google.  Lock yourself out of your account and see what happens!  I am getting rid of chrome and my google account they are thieves and they are also attempting to extract personal data from people, like their credit card numbers, you now have to have a phone number and email address on at least 5 accounts that you email frequently.  I went to a google site left a message about this google practice of ripping of their customers and I went back to that site and two people had responded saying I was crazy and it must be a scam it is not google and I can’t log into that site any longer.  GOOGLE is ripping people off and invading their privacy!!!!!!  Be careful with them!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1513369013 Becky SG

     I just got banned tonight. As far as I know, I did nothing that violated the terms. I added a few posts to my blog, edited them after I saw some formatting issues, then promoted them on a few social networks. Yes, my numbers have increased, but that’s because I’ve gotten onto a schedule of making one or two blog posts per day and socializing them. My analytics show nothing out of the ordinary. If I tweet, people come. I get comments from real people, not just spambots. I did rearrange my ads to make them more noticeable and adjusted their size so that they fit in the spot I place them, which required that I preview the site. I’m guessing that previewing my site after placing ads and making posts to make sure it was aesthetically appealing killed the deal?

  • bdc30

    Google just got me for $2,000. It’s only a matter of time before they wind up with a big lawsuit on their hands. Corrupt bastards.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/UQ6JTEBF7OLIM5M65MX6XNMPCE J.

    I only lost about $100, but it’s the principle more than the money that’s making my blood boil. I kept the Adsense contract in good faith, Google did not. I just filed a complaint with the FTC, because that lawsuit needs to happen. You can do the same here: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/   just skip over the parts that don’t apply and put everything in the comments box.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tracer-Bullett/1214975958 Tracer Bullett

    Here is an article I wrote about the bans from an investors view that you might find useful http://howtodaytrade.biz/googles-adsense-ban-doesnt-add-up/

  • http://twitter.com/RCONNOR111 ROBERT CONNOR III

    WOW SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE HAVE BEEN BANNED! HAVE A GREAT DAY ON PURPOSE…

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