How the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Did I Get Google Slapped?

August 2, 2021

Have you received multiple disapprovals of ads from Google and only done exactly what is said in the email? If so, you could be in jeopardy of getting completely suspended from advertising on Google. Or, as some put it, “Google Slapped!”

Google Slap

It’s horrible. You are forever suspended from advertising on Google and when the Google Policy Team makes this determination, it is rarely ever revoked. Why you ask? It’s not because Google is mean or bad. It’s because Google is trying to protect the consumer from false, misleading or potentially harmful products or services. However, given the magnitude of advertisers worldwide, algorithms and bots are used to uphold policy and flag suspicious advertisers. Each ad disapproval, trademark issue, website issue or policy violation results is a strike, if you will, on your account. Three strikes and you’re out! (2021 update: Ironically, this was written before the actual three-strike policy system was announced.)

Now, don’t go hang your agency or marketing manager just yet because there are disapproved ads or a history of these in your AdWords account. These are more commonplace than you might think and, disapprovals do have a degree of severity associated with them. It all depends on the policy violated. “Grammar and spelling” policy violations are more lenient than “Healthcare and medicines” policy violations. So, call off the lynching squad until you know what you are dealing with.

As an advertiser, it is extremely important that you understand Google holds you responsible, regardless of whether you manage your search advertising in-house or outsource to an agency. Your agency will receive emails; however they might not receive all of them. So, you must be responsible for forwarding any Google communications regarding any sort of warning or disapproval to the person you hold responsible for the account. Therefore, it is extremely important that you keep records of your disapprovals and warnings along with a description of what was done to address the issue. Make sure anyone working on your account, internal to your company or an outside agency, knows the exact history and can come up to speed quickly. And, so you have a permanent record for yourself should you change agencies or have normal employee turnover.

Case Study: How One Beauty Retailer Got Slapped

Having been in the search and convert business for a long time, I’ve heard many stories of getting Google Slapped but one in particular has stuck with me. An online retailer of beauty products received a warning from Google about a product in their product feed that violated Google’s “Healthcare and medicines” policy and in particular, the “Unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements” section of the policy. The company removed the products from the product feed and identified the products on their website as “discontinued.” The products stayed on the site with its own URL but you could not purchase them. This satisfied Google for the time being and all seemed good. However, this resulted in a strike on their account. And, given the seriousness of the “Healthcare and medicines” policy, this was a strict strike.

After this scare, the company decided to hire an agency to help with their AdWords account. However, they did not disclose any information about this violation. During the course of the work, the agency received ad disapprovals but worked diligently to address each issue. Until one day Google’s algorithms and bots did a full scan and found that ads for the disapproved products were not removed from the AdWords account and that the website page containing the products that violate Google policy still existed. There was a final warning sent and the agency removed the ads, but the company would not remove the web page or products from the site completely. 2 months after the Final Warning email, the account was suspended and officially Google Slapped forever.

What is the lesson? Do not be afraid to air your dirty laundry. These seemingly small violations that you thought you took care of 6 months ago could mean the difference between lifelong success advertising on AdWords or a company-crushing permanent suspension. And remember, Google looks at your entire web presence as part of your overall advertising package. Warnings can come in your product feeds, in your marketplace as well as your AdWords. It all counts…and sometimes counts against you.

5 Tips for Avoiding the Google Slap

So, how can you avoid being Google slapped? It’s not rocket science but it does require attention to detail and in some cases, persistence.

  • Pay close attention to each and every disapproval or violation. Do exactly what you are told in the email but take it one step further. Read the ENTIRE policy associated with the issue, not just the page the link in the email refers you to. For help with this, check out our guide to Google Ads disapprovals.
  • Don’t accept vagueness. If the policy says something such as, “This page lists examples of pharmaceuticals and supplements that Google AdWords doesn’t allow,” keep digging until you can find a way to see a full list. This was the message in the email for the above story. The agency followed the policy all the way up to finally find Legitscript.com, a site used by Google to verify products associated with the policy.
  • Be persistent. If you are still confused, reply to the email received and ask for help and direction. Google will help you. You might have to be extremely persistent but showing you are taking the warning seriously and doing more than just what the emails says could mean the difference between PPC advertising life and death.
  • Go the extra mile. Don’t think the problem just exists in your ad. Check your website too and ensure all parts of your advertising adhere to Google policy.
  • Be an open book. Ensure that anyone working on your account knows the history. You can’t hold someone responsible for a suspension today if they don’t know what happened in the past that led to “Three strikes and you’re out!” 

Does anyone else have any good stories that could help other advertisers avoid being Google Slapped?

Kristen Yerardi

Kristen Yerardi

Kristen Yerardi is WordStream’s Senior Vice President of Product. Kristen joined WordStream in November of 2010 to build a world-class client services organization through developing training modules on the product, providing ongoing support materials, and ensuring our internal processes deliver efficient and effective resolutions to client issues. Kristen has led teams as large as thirty-five and as small as four throughout her 15-plus years of focusing on delivering exceptional experiences to customers. In 2018, Kristen took over the role of SVP of Product.

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