The short answer is – I still don’t know why my Google AdSense account was disabled.
All I got was a series of automated emails explaining why they can’t tell me why my account was disabled.
I started using AdSense in June of 2009, and at the time of being disabled, I had AdSense ads appearing on four sites, and in a good month would make maybe $50 in revenue.
A simple review of the AdSense policies makes it clear beyond a reasonable doubt that my websites fall well within Google’s guidelines. Each site had 100% unique & family friendly content, and I was by no means tricking or encouraging anyone to click my ads, I never clicked on my own ads, and as far as I can tell, I was 100% compliant with their tips & guidelines.
After a month or two of thought, here are my best guesses as to what might have happened:
- Someone was intentionally clicking on my ads thinking they were “helping me out.” My sites mostly contain helpful guides & DIY articles, so someone grateful for the help might have been clicking. Maybe it was a family friend, admirer, or someone that simply didn’t know better. I viewed my AdSense account regularly, and even hours before it was disabled, and I didn’t notice anything wierd, but I suppose this is possible.
- A click bomb attack – someone maliciously “click bombed” one (or all of) my sites with the intention of getting me banned.
- A traffic spike falsely trigged an alarm in AdSense’s monitoring system that got me banned – one of my sites had a “viral” day on Facebook, generating almost 7,000 unique visitors in a 12 hour time frame (typically the site got around 500 visitors in that same time frame). According to Google, a traffic spike alone shouldn’t cause any alarms, but in this case maybe it did – I filed an appeal describing the traffic spike, but my appeal was rejected so its hard to know if this was it or not, especially since the appeal letter was also automated and I’m unsure if a human ever even reviewed my account.
Regardless of the reason, what really sucks is that I’m now banned from AdSense for life. All I got was an automated email saying my account was disabled, and another automated email saying my appeal was rejected.
Both emails link to the Disabled Account FAQ, which does a great job at telling you nothing. Each Frequently Asked Question is answered by basically saying “we can’t tell you why.” It’s worthless.
However one thing from the Disabled Account FAQ did catch my attention:
If you feel that this decision was made in error, and if you can maintain in good faith that the invalid activity was not due to the actions or negligence of you or those for whom you are responsible, you may appeal the disabling of your account.
Well surely, the invalid activity was not due to actions of myself – I don’t even know what the invalid activity was!
And it surely wasn’t negligence, as I viewed my account (both in AdSense and Analytics dashboards) several times daily – other than a traffic spike, I noticed nothing out of the ordinary. I can say in good faith I wasn’t up to any shenningans and any invalid activity was completely out of my control.
To me, the loss of AdSense really hurt. Not because of the money – like I said earlier, I didn’t make much at all. I enjoyed AdSense for what it meant – that great content gets rewarded, that anyone could be a publisher, and that it was possible to make money on the internet even if you weren’t a retailer or major media outlet. I love the vision of AdSense, and think its revolutionary in terms of its ability to reward the blogosphere and help encourage new content to be created every single day.
Here’s How Google Should Fix AdSense
Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with the program when it’s working for you. What needs help is the support for when it’s not.
- Provide an account representative for anyone that’s made over $100 (the minimum payment threshold). As I’m currently experimenting with alternatives to AdSense, I’m blown away that many of these companies (Chitkia, Bidvertiser, AdStract, etc) will give you a real life human support person the moment you sign up – that support person helps you implement the ad code, configure & optimize your site for the ads, and answers any questions you have. It seems like it would not only be smart, but also profitable, to provide support for AdSense beyond static FAQ pages and automated emails.
- Provide alerts of suspicious or invalid activity – frankly, I don’t even know what “suspicious activity” looks like, as Google doesn’t explain what that means or how to identify it, they just instruct you to look for it. But let’s say that someone was regularly clicking on my ads – couldn’t Google send me a warning about that? I could then reach out to my readers and remind them not to click on the ads unless they’re truly interested in transacting with the advertiser, or I could reach out to my Facebook & Twitter friends and just make sure none of them are clicking my ads or know anyone that might be. Given there are “intelligence” reports in Analytics, I’d assume an automated warning system could be created for AdSense quite easily using the same technology.
- At least tell us why you’re disabling our accounts. I still don’t know. Even a generalized category of why my account was banned – e.g. repeated clicks from a single user, inappropriate content, etc. Then blog posts like this could serve as warnings to others to help them stay in compliance with Google’s policies. Even after being banned, I have no idea what I could or should have done differently. I get that you can’t give away too much information, but there has to be a balance between not giving out too much information and not giving out anything…
- Give second chances – whatever happened, I’m sorry and I wouldn’t let it happen again – in fact, I’d be 1000% times more paranoid of invalid activity than before, even if that means I’d be hurting my click through rate by telling everyone I know to never click on my ads no matter what. I’m basically begging Google to let me make money for them (as they get a very generous cut of any publisher’s earnings), all I ask for is a second chance. Without it, I can’t help but view Google in a negative light, which affects my interest in using Google for anything (search, email, social networking, etc).
- Provide partial bans or probations instead – lets say my account did look suspicious for whatever reason – why not ban me for 3 months? Or a year? Banning for life, without any warning, seems kind of harsh. A three month ban would send the message while still allowing a second chance to participate and earn more money for Google.
- Ban a website, not an entire account – what if one of my websites was in violation, say perhaps because I borrowed a picture without giving image credit (something I’ve inevitably done before). If that were to happen, and it were a problem with the website’s content, couldn’t you just ban that website specifically, and not a user’s entire account? Google AdSense policies state that each person can only have one account, and all websites owned by a person should use the same AdSense account. Unfortunately, now that my entire account is disabled, I can’t use AdSense on any of my sites, instead of just not being able to use it on the one that had violated some (still unknown) policy.
Providing human support for AdSense would only help grow the revenue they generate by educating bloggers on how to maximize profits from the program and minimize fraudulent clicks – a win-win-win for webmasters, advertisers and Google themselves, both finanicially and otherwise.
Like I said earlier, I think AdSense is a revolutionary product. It’s too bad Google doesn’t agree with me – if they truly saw the value in the program, they’d offer human support for it.