Google is still king
With how ubiquitous Google has become in our daily lives, its business-side and enterprise products are even more pervasive. With the ad market share of 37.2% that Google captured in the U.S. in 2018, it is the number one digital advertising platform (with Facebook a distant second). As an individual or as a small business, you will at some point look at advertising with Google. Doing so is a logical decision — search engine marketing (SEM) is much cheaper than offline advertising! But it also carries certain risks, and inadvertently earning a Google Ads account suspension is one of them.
So today, we are not going to talk about the advantages or even disadvantages of PPC advertising. Instead, we are going to address the elephant in the room — accepting and then breaking Google’s Terms and Conditions after creating an account.
Sounds obvious, but…
Every advertiser has to actually abide by the policies they agree to when running ads or risk an account suspension. This is logical. However, Google’s rules are lengthy and change often. Somewhat helpfully, they are written in plain conversational English and aim not only to instruct but also to educate. Still, the sheer amount of information makes it hard to keep up!
When you are a busy bee business owner, the “read it? forget it” outcome is inevitable if you do not visit and revisit the Help Center on a regular basis. To make things even more confusing, some rules apply to the whole Ads platform, and some are applicable only to Search Ads. Some are exclusive to Google Shopping, while some concern specific industries. Then there are YouTube policies, and Display Network policies…
What happens when you break any of those rules?
You would expect a warning email, a pause to your campaigns, a direct request to fix the issue. Sometimes this is indeed the case. Sometimes a Google account suspension occurs with little to no recourse available to the advertiser, with even less hope of lifting the ban. Some offenses are considered egregious and are punished by a permanent suspension that impacts not only your ads and campaigns, but your Ads account as a whole. A permanent suspension bars you from advertising with Google ever again, regardless of your place of work, business, or Reasons.
Small errors, big consequences
Peruse the fantastic Google advertising forums and it will become clear that Google dishes out permanent ad account suspensions to regular advertisers committing errors and making mistakes all the time. If you think these advertisers should have known better, well, perhaps you are right. But if we play the game, we have to abide by the rules, fair or not fair.
Before you tick the I Agree box on Google’s terms and conditions, learn from other people’s mistakes and get the most out of advertising on the platform without risking Google Ads account suspensions. So let’s talk about the most common reasons your Google Ads account could get suspended for life and how to avoid that!
Straight from the source
First things first, here are the rules — note, these links are just the tip of the iceberg!
Google Ads policies – Prohibited content, Prohibited practices, Restricted content, Editorial and technical quality standards
Study them carefully. You need it.
Types of suspensions
Keeping the bigger picture of what you shouldn’t be doing with Google Ads, take a look at ways ad accounts get suspended on Google.
First, you may get suspended due to policy and T&C violations:
- Circumventing Systems — Having more than one ad account and/or employing various black hat techniques (cloaking, gateways)
- Counterfeit — Promotion of counterfeit goods
- Promotion of unauthorized pharmacies
- Unacceptable business practices — Phishing, false or missing business information, concealment of relevant material details about yourself or your business
- Unfair advantage — Gaining the traffic advantage using Google systems, with affiliate marketing being the most common example
- Repeated violations — offenses add up!
You may also get penalized due to billing and payment issues:
- Promotional code abuse — Using more than one promo code, attempting to use expired codes or selling promo codes
- Requesting a chargeback — Google has a real problem with you reversing a credit card charge for a legitimate ads balance
- Suspicious payment activity — Fraudulent or suspicious activities of any kind, including using a credit card linked to previously suspended accounts
- Unpaid balance — The easiest to resolve, this temporary suspension is lifted by making a payment.
Note that Google Shopping is its own beast. Its policies are more comprehensive so the suspensions that occur are an entirely separate topic due to much higher standards to which Google holds its merchants. Merchant accounts are monitored actively. But briefly, the most common reasons for Shopping ad account suspensions are:
- Redirects/dynamic landing page content (specifically language and currency) based on IP address, location and other, as these do not follow Landing page requirements for Shopping Ads
- Missing business information such as a physical address, an email address and a phone number stated clearly on the merchant’s website. Google is very strict on its Untrustworthy promotions clause and considers this violation egregious.
- Dropshipping — The dropshipping business model contradicts the Promote only products available for direct purchase rule and is thus not allowed.
The most common scenarios that lead to Google Ads account suspensions
The rules cover a lot of theoretical ground, but they apply to real-life situations and real-life customers in oh so many ways.
More than one Google Ads account
The most common policy violation I see that results in a permanent ban is Circumventing systems, namely having more than one active ad account. People trip on this one the most, failing to understand that Google expects one business to have one ad account. That’s it. No exceptions.
This is how the typical story goes. An advertiser receives a warning or a temporary account suspension for a myriad of possible fixable infractions. Google is vague in their emails, so the exact offense is sometimes hard to identify without sufficient experience. The advertiser abandons the now useless suspended account and creates another one. Bam! Suspended. Yet another account suffers the same fate.
All because the user does not realize that having more than one account is a serious policy violation that results in a permanent ban. Creating a new account sounds like a logical step, but it is very much against the rules. If you create and start actively using an ad account after receiving a suspension, the new account won’t last long either. It is fairly easy for Google algorithms to identify.
I cannot stress this enough: more people get bans for life from Google Ads for this than anything else. All because they get nailed for some other offense and assume that creating a new account is an easy way out.
No. So don’t do it!
Low-quality landing pages
If you bid on Google Ads to get traffic to your landing page only to send people elsewhere — to an affiliate website, to a different domain, to another advertiser’s site via ads on your domain — you are breaking Google’s rules for Destination requirements, a violation that may be severe.
Google Ads exists to help businesses sell their own products or services. The expectation is that the advertiser promotes what they directly control and offer on their website. (This is especially important for Google Shopping Ads).
Most importantly, advertisers’ landing pages have to offer a safe, easy and pleasant browsing experience. Websites that are difficult to navigate, include excessive pop-ups, have banner ads, initiate file downloads or page redirects all break the Destination requirements above.
So take a good hard look at your landing page and remove any violating elements before you are hit with a warning. Repeat warnings may result in a permanent Google suspension, and no one wants that!
Suspicious payment methods
Payment information that Google deems suspicious is a common scenario. A big chunk of these suspensions stems from users creating more than one ad account and adding the same credit card to both — the easiest link for Google to identify to suspend all accounts involved. Tip: if you are setting up a Google Ads account for a client, make sure that they have not connected any credit cards to a previously suspended account.
The name mismatch between the ad account owner’s name and the card holder’s name is another common reason for Google to flag an account, despite there being numerous legitimate reasons for using such a payment card (business name vs personal name, a spouse’s card etc). Furthermore, using some debit cards or virtual cards that are known to Google as possible instruments of platform abuse may result in a suspension as well.
You may appeal account suspensions due to suspicious payment methods. Make sure to submit an appeal after you remove the payment method in question and link another, more trustworthy one, to your Google Ads account.
To sum it up…
One blog post cannot possibly include all the likely scenarios and reasons for receiving a Google Ads account suspension, but hopefully, I have given you an idea of what to look out for and what to pay careful attention to when you advertise with the internet giant. Keep revisiting their policies until you can confidently navigate the murky waters of Google Ads. Google Ads Certification is a good route to take — or talk to a professional. Safe sailing!