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


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 SlapIt’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 in a strike, if you will, on your account. Three strikes and you’re out!

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.
  • 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, 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?

Image via Steve Snodgrass

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Feb 27, 2013

I was in the process of buying a domian that was / is banned from google advertising feeds. If I continue with my purchase will the current suspention effect my development plans in regard to Google lising / rank ?

Feb 27, 2013

ABORT! ABORT! You should stay away from any domain that was previously banned from Google and especially if it is currently suspended/banned from Google.If you were to go ahead with your purchase, you can attempt to work with the Google Policy team to clear the domain, however we know that this would be  an extensive process that could take weeks, if not months, without guarantee of resolution. We would recommend you start that process with the Google Policy team prior to the finalizaton of sale.

Feb 27, 2013

Thanks for sharing this information, it is important to know how to avoid this situation just in case one is ever faced with one of those emails!

Taswir Haider
Feb 27, 2013

Nice article ! It is important to know how to avoid this situation just in case one is ever faced with one of those emails.Thanks.

Feb 27, 2013

How do you find out if a URL has been banned by google?

Feb 28, 2013

I was never warned.  I was just banned.  My crime?  Trying to advertise a 12 month internet marketing course which Google classified as a 'get rich quick' scheme.  I was told that if I got the website changed they would reconsider.  But I was an affiliate and had no say over the wording of the website (which explained how the seller had made a lot of money using this system).  So I remain banned, permanently.  And, yes, it is banned.  The word 'suspended' is misleading.  It implies impermanence.

Mar 04, 2013

Yes, there is actually a difference between suspended and banned. Google will suspend ads for various reasons and requst attention to bring them back in to compliance. Multiple suspensions is what leads to a ban. And once that happens, you are correct. It is permanent.As much as we look at Google as the big-bad-wolf, they are truly trying to protect the consumer. However, they know their money is made from those who are advertising on their platform. Therefore, they do as much as they can to warn advertisers of their policy violations. These warnings come via email to the owner of the AdWords account as well as through the AdWords interface itself. If you're doing display network, these will also show in AdSense.

Sep 15, 2013

Sorry, in what age are we living in? Weird. Very very weirdI remember the times, and I am not that old, as the companies were happyabout every single advertising customer.But Google has literally built up a stinky dictatorship in the net. What the heck givesthem the right, to ban you from Google Adwords? By the way there are a lot more effectiveways to do pay per click advertising. It's up to the customers how long they want to deal withGoogle's pure arrogance. It's just disgusting. 

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