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.”