How Google Killed My Online Business Overnight (And How They Couldn’t Care Less)

A few months ago I wrote about my dependency to Google and how they could totally shut down my business in no time. Maybe someone at Google read me and wanted to prove me right. After a year of using Adwords (and over $22,000 later), Google decided I wasn’t good enough for its online advertising service and disabled my account. Forever.

How I Found Out My Adwords Account Was Banned

On December 3rd, I noticed that I hadn’t made any sale at all on my affiliate sites. Very unusual! Last time this happened, it was because Google Adwords had put my account on hold for review (without even letting me know about it!), back in August.

I logged into Adwords and realized my account had delivered no impression, no click, nothing. Clearly there was something going on. I tried not to stress too much but I failed at it. I was (and still am) traveling in Australia with limited Internet access and emailing back and forth with Adwords’ reps didn’t sound like fun.

Besides, it was the middle of the night in the States so I simply decided to send an email to customer support and basically asked them if my account was being reviewed again, which would explain the reason why I didn’t get any click or ad impression. This is a copy of the email I sent them:

Hello.

I logged into my account on Dec 3rd and was surprised to see that none of my ads for all of my campaigns had been displayed. There is not even a single impression.

The last time this happened, it was because my account was under review. As usual when that kind of thing happens, I am bit worried. I rely intirely on Adwords for my revenues.

Would you please let me know what’s going on? Why are my campaigns not showing anything at all? Should I be worried? What are the next steps?

Please let me know as soon as possible. As I said above, I rely intirely on you and a day without ads displaying is a day without income. I’m sure you understand my concern.

Thank you in advance.

Sebastien Page

After a night spent without much sleep I got up and checked my emails on my iPhone, hoping for an answer from Adwords telling me everything was fine. Instead this is the email I received:

Hello,

Thank you for your email. Google is dedicated to providing safe, relevant
and high-quality experiences for all of our users – including visitors to
Google sites and content publishers, as well as our valued advertisers and
partners. To help us achieve this goal, we require advertisers to adhere
to our Advertising Policies and to follow our Landing Page and Site
Quality Guidelines. The AdWords system visits and evaluates advertiser
landing pages on a regular basis to ensure this compliance.  In cases
where a violation has occurred, some advertisers may first receive a
warning to correct the problem; however, in other cases where violations
have occurred frequently, or are considered egregious, Google may choose
to permanently disable the advertiser’s AdWords account.

A disabled account may no longer run existing or future ads. Account
access will still be available for the purposes of viewing historical
data; however, no ads will be allowed to run on this or associated
accounts in the future. Likewise, any new accounts opened by the disabled
account-holder will also be disabled.
Google considers inappropriate or unacceptable behavior by advertisers to
be a serious offense. To help avoid these problems, we strive to educate
our advertisers about advertising best practices, and to provide extensive
information about our policies regarding advertising policies, ad quality,
and approvals. The vast majority of our advertisers try to provide good
user experiences through the sites they promote.  However, Google will do
its best to remove from the AdWords program those advertisers who choose
to ignore our policies and guidelines and instead promote websites that
create poor, or even harmful, user experiences.

We cannot reveal our specific filtration methods for measuring site
quality or triggering account suspension. However, the unacceptable
business practices and policy violations for poor-quality landing pages
for which Google will disable AdWords accounts include (but are not
limited to):

* Data collection sites that offer free items, etc., in order to
collect private information
* Arbitrage sites without relevant and original content that are
designed for the purpose of showing ads
* Affiliate sites without relevant and original content that are
designed to drive traffic to another site with a
different domain
* “Get-rich quick” sites
* Malware sites that install software on a visitor’s computer
* Poor comparison shopping or travel sites whose primary purpose is to
send users to other shopping/travel
comparison sites, rather than to provide useful content or
additional search functionality

You can find links to additional information about our advertising
policies and landing page guidelines below:
* AdWords Advertising Policies:
http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/static.py?hl=en&page=guidelines.cs
* Landing Page and Site Quality Guidelines:
http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=46675

If you have additional questions, please visit our Help Center at
http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/, where you’ll find answers to many
frequently asked questions. We look forward to providing you with the most
effective advertising available.

Sincerely,

Tasneem
The Google AdWords Team

Just by reading the first sentence you understand it’s a copy/paste and that the rep probably didn’t even take the time to read my full message.

I was pissed for 3 reasons:

1. Google didn’t even deem it necessary to alert me my account was being banned. I mean no email, no status update in my Adwords account, nothing. This is completely unprofessional and unacceptable. If I hadn’t inquired about it myself, I would have never found out. But what are you going to do about it? Yes right. Nothing.

2. I didn’t feel like I violated their landing page and site quality guidelines. Nothing ever told me I was in violation. Again, I never received an automatic email from Adwords telling me my sites were not in accordance with their guidelines, neither did I get a status update in my account.

3. My account had been under review just a few months prior to that and passed the review process without any problem, so why now my account is being banned, especially when I didn’t make any change at all to my account or my sites?

Talk To The Hand Google

Talking to Google is like talking to a brick wall. It probably hears you but it’s not gonna do much for you. After reading this copy/pasted email, I replied to it:

Hi,

What a shock to receive the email below from you this morning. So apparently my account has been disabled, like hundreds of others it seems.

First, I find it harsh that I had to email support and inquire about the 0 impression and 0 clicks in my account to find out that my account was disabled. Many reports receiving an email alerting them their account was being disabled but I did not get such email. Anyways, that is the least of my worries at this moment.

Over the past year or so, I spend $23,431.25 with Adwords. My ads have been reviewed several times. My account was put on hold back in August for review, and it was back up a couple days later. At the time, a Google Adwords Rep manually reviewed my sites and campaigns. Why wasn’t my account disabled then?

In your email to me, you mention that I was warned several times. I was not. I never got any warning from Google. Seeing how much I spend with you, it would have been nice to dedicate a CSR to help me figure how to improve everything.

My ads, campaigns, and keywords have always showed good quality scores (usually 7/10). So why disable my account now?

You also give a list of reasons for being banned. None of them apply to me. None!

I want to believe this is some kind of computerized mistake. Again, by reading all the forums and blogs about the matter, it has to be a mistake.

Instead of sending me a copy/paste email, would you please take a few minutes of your time and help me figure out why I was disabled. Maybe this was just a mistake. I hope this was just a mistake!

It might not mean anything to you but Google destroyed my business overnight. I make 100% of my revenues via Adwords. Yes, in other words, I’m broke.

Considering how much money I spent in the past, I would appreciate if a real person (not a computer) looked at my case and gave me a tailored answer.

Thank you in advance.

Sebastien Page

I also immediately tried to chat with an Adwords rep but for some reason it said it was impossible at the time. It seemed strange to me as it was Thursday in the States, middle of the day. Then I had the bright idea of logging out of my Google account and tried to access the chat again. Magically, it worked. This was a bad sign. Why wouldn’t Google let me chat with a rep when logged in, yet they let me get in touch with them when I am not logging in (aka when they don’t know who I am).

The chat session was very brief and useless. I told the rep that I had never had any warnings. He told me I did. I told him most of my campaigns get ads get a 7/10 quality score but he ignored me.

Two days later, I received this email from Google:

Hello Sebastien,

Thank you for your email. At Google, we consistently seek ways to better
ensure and protect the online experience for all of our users and
advertisers. At times, we may review historical as well as current account
behaviors to preserve this integrity. During a recent review of your
account history, it was determined that your past violations of AdWords
policies and disregard for landing page and site quality guidelines
warranted further action to avoid future incidents of violation that might
lead to notably negative or harmful user experiences.

Google considers inappropriate or unacceptable behavior by advertisers to

be a serious offense, and we reserve the right to to disable AdWords
accounts at any time in order to protect the quality and safety of our
users’ experiences. The decision to disable your AdWords account was not
taken lightly, and we appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

If you believe that this account disabling was unwarranted, please send me
additional information about why this is the case so that I can further
research this issue.

In the meantime, you can find links to additional information about our
advertising policies and landing page guidelines below:

* AdWords Advertising Policies:
http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/static.py?hl=en&page=guidelines.cs
* Landing Page and Site Quality Guidelines:
http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=46675

If you have additional questions, please visit our Help Center at
http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/, where you’ll find answers to many
frequently asked questions. We look forward to providing you with the most
effective advertising available.

Sincerely,

Tasneem
The Google AdWords Team

There was a bit of hope as her email said that “If you believe that this account disabling was unwarranted, please send me additional information about why this is the case so that I can further research this issue.” So I pleaded for my case…

Google Doesn’t Even Bother Reading My Explanations

I spent a solid hour writing the following email, which I sent at 9.01PM. Note that the names of my campaigns have been edited for privacy reasons.

Hello Tasneem,

Thank you for taking the time to reply to me and most importantly,
thank you for allowing me to give my side of the story.

I chatted with one of your colleagues a couple of days ago who told me
that the quality score of my websites were too low, especially on
the”TG” campaign.

Here is why this came as a shock to me.

1. My 3 main campaigns (TM, AC, and B) all show
a quality score of at least 5/10. In most cases, they show a quality
score of 7/10. Now the only way I can find out about my quality scores
is by going to each keyword in the campaigns and hover my mouse over
to the various keywords. From there, a little yellow window tells me
the quality score and gives me the following information:

* Keyword relevance: No problems
* Landing page quality: No problems
* Landing page load time: No problems

This is as far as I know the only way I can tell the quality score of
my campaigns. Please note that I don’t consider myself an Adwords
“guru”. As you may be able to tell, I haven’t made much changes to my
account/campaigns within the last few months.

This being said, I don’t consider that these 3 campaigns have low
quality scores, as they all show in green.

2. Back in August of 2009, just a few months ago, my account was under
review for a few days. It took me a few days to realize it was under
review and when I did figure it out, I contacted one of your
colleagues via your chat feature. Your colleague told me at the time
that it was something that most accounts are going through from time
to time and there was nothing to worry about. A few days later, I
received an email from her saying that my account was reactivated and
everything was fine. My account seemed to be in good standing at the
time.

Since August 2009, date at which Adwords Team reviewed my account and
deemed it as “in good standing”, I didn’t make much changes to my
campaigns. The most I did was just editing bids. I also didn’t change
anything at all to my websites.

3. In September or October, I contacted Adwords support for a simple
issue I had. Your colleague looked at my account and never mentioned
anything about my account being fraudulent.

Taking the 3 points above into account, it never occurred to me that
my account could be in violation of Adwords terms. To me, everything
was fine until I realized my account had been disabled a few days ago.
If anything was wrong with my account, I honestly thought that it
would have come up at some point during the review process in August,
or when I chatted with support a few months ago. Now that I am on the
spot, I also would have expected to receive some kind of email
notification or status warning letting me know about my account being
potentially against Google terms.

One part I recognize being in the wrong is with the “TG”
campaign. When I first created this campaign, it was active for a few
days or maybe weeks. It was receiving impressions and clicks. All the
sudden, it stopped working. I was getting 0 impression and 0 click for
it. After chatting with support a few days ago, I know realize that it
might be the campaign that got my account flagged and disabled.

To my defense, I really didn’t think that this was an issue at all.
The campaign was still active (I deactivated it after chatting with
support) but receiving no impressions and I was under the assumption
that the “system” (aka Adwords computers) was just seeing this
campaign as “dead”. I knew that at some point, I would want to work on
this “TG” campaign and figure out what was wrong with it,
but I was in no rush because I wasn’t aware that it could get me
banned from Google. In all honesty, I wasn’t even aware that it was
against Google’s terms to have this campaign still active.

In summary, I completely take responsibility for the “TG”
campaign mess up. Even though I was not aware that it might get me
banned, I should have disabled it. For the 3 other campaigns (TM,
B, AC), I believe these campaigns are in good
standing since they have been receiving impressions and clicks on a
daily basis.

Tasneem, I know an email can’t really translate emotions and it makes
it easy to say whatever I want, but I beg you to believe me when I say
that I didn’t know about the TG campaign. If I had known
what it could get me into for one second, I would have never taken the
chance and I would have deactivated it right away. I know that
ignoring the rules is not an excuse for breaking them, but I would be
forever grateful if you could give me a second chance. I am not a bad
man. I don’t scam people, I don’t try to steal their information, I
don’t try to install virus on their computers. I am just trying to
make a living online.

If I was guilty of violating Google’s rules, I ask for forgiveness and
pardon. As I said above, I am not an Adwords guru who tried to fool
the system. I am an honest and hard working man. I moved to the States
6 years ago and I was starting to realize my American Dream. I was
working for myself and being proud of what I did. Now this Dream is
shattered because of an innocent mistake I made and that has been
seriously changing my life for the worst since I found out about it.

Tasneem, all I am asking from you is a little compassion and trust in
me. Please take this email into consideration and let me know if you
have additional questions or comments. If you’d like to chat with me
over the phone or over the internet, please let me know as well. I am
willing to do virtually anything I can to show you that I am an honest
man.

Thank you very much for your time.

Regards,

Sebastien Page

Eleven (11) minutes later, I received this email back:

Hello Sebastien,

Thank you for your email. As mentioned in our previous email, your Google
AdWords account has been suspended due to multiple LPQ violations. We are
unable to revoke your account suspension, and we will not accept
advertisements from you in the future.

Please note that our support team is unable to help you with this issue,
and we ask that you do not contact them about this matter. If you need
more information about our content policy guidelines, please visit
https://adwords.google.com/select/contentpolicy.html.

As noted in our Terms and Conditions, Google reserves the right to
terminate advertisements for any reason. To view our Terms and Conditions,
please visit https://adwords.google.com/select/tsandcsfinder.

We appreciate your cooperation.

If you have additional questions, please visit our Help Center at
http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/, where you’ll find answers to many
frequently asked questions. We look forward to providing you with the most
effective advertising available.

Sincerely,

Tasneem
The Google AdWords Team

Assuming the CSR read my email immediately right after I sent it, there is no way in the world she could have read it all and taken the time to reply to me in just under 11 minutes. Realizing that she didn’t even read my email made me pretty angry and confirmed that once Google made a decision, there is nothing you can do about it.

The Situation As I see It

Why was my account reviewed and approved a few months back and now it’s being disabled?

Why was my account “good to go” in August but mysteriously gets banned a few months later?

Why wasn’t I alerted that my account was at risk of being banned?

Why didn’t an Adwords rep get in touch with me and tried to help me figure out what was wrong?

Many Questions. No Answers

To date, I still don’t know why my account was banned. I suppose the “TG” campaign got me in but it was never confirmed. No one at Google can point out what I did wrong.

Imagine for one second that one day the cops come to your house and take you to jail. You ask them what you did wrong to be thrown in jail and they tell you that you broke the law on many occasions. You ask them what law you could have possibly broken. They say “our law”. You beg them to tell you what you did wrong but they don’t say anything. They just tell you that you are going to jail because you broke the law and you knew about it. You tell them you have no idea what they are talking about and you never knew you were doing anything wrong. They say “too bad, we knew you were doing something wrong but we’re not going to tell you what or when”.

That’s exactly how I feel right now.

Google Is Over Reacting

I paid these guys a couple thousand dollars a month for a year and they seriously can’t help me at all? They ban me like I am a miserable spammer? They don’t even bother helping me out? I think Google just over-reacted to this. While they could have simply disabled the campaigns that were in the wrong, they chose to ban me for life. I think it is out of proportion.

The Giant With Feet Of Clay

Google can afford to ban accounts left and right without any explanation because they own the search market. Reality is they are not going to own this market forever. Maybe they will for the next 5, 10, or 20 years, but eventually it will lose its grip on people as more and more realize that Google’s old motto “Don’t Be Evil” becomes irrelevant. That’s probably why they dropped it a few months ago…

What’s Next?

I seriously have not much a plan for what’s next. I already use Miscrosoft Ad Center, which by the way is amazing (oh, and you can even talk to their CSRs on the phone!), but it doesn’t deliver much. Yahoo and Overture? Meh!

I could create another account under a different name and start over again but Google is smarter than that. They could easily figure it out and ban me again. Besides, I really don’t want to play cat and mouse with them.

Can You Help?

Do you know anyone at Google? Do you know someone at Adwords? If so maybe you can help me figure out what I did wrong. Seriously, it’s killing me!

20 thoughts on “How Google Killed My Online Business Overnight (And How They Couldn’t Care Less)

  1. dude not all small bisness is dead , however most of us are very lost . how is a small bisness such as the one on my site http://www.tellmeoffforaquater.com ever get noticed if the general publics eye are fixed on the big bisness and the penny pinching ways .. i mean what the heck people all i am asking if a quarter. i thought that was pretty cheap for being able to tell a person anything you want.

  2. Hi Sebastien !
    Could you give us the links of the websites you promoted with adwords ?
    At least you’re not banned with adsense…

  3. I feel sorry for you sebastien. However, I feel good that I decided not to bother to follow up with google few months ago when they closed my google adsense account with no warnings. I had more than 500$ in my account from 3 different websites and gogle all of a sudden decided o close my account. I didn’t want more frustruation so I didn’t bother to contact them.

    Hope some one will help you to get over the situation. Good luck

  4. Thank you all for your comments.

    @Delphine Sorry but I’d rather not share those. They are in niche markets and I don’t want more competition.

    @Allen you know it! ;)

    @Jacob Thanks for the support!

    Sebastien

  5. i am pretty sure that Online Business would be the next trend. With growing number of internet users, setting up an Online Business could give us more extra income.

  6. Man,
    Seem to be hearing that a lot from people. Especially since they moved their GAN requirements to combine with adsense. Unfortunately they are the big boy in the game and are in the control seat. Rooting for ya and hope you are able to get something worked out.

  7. Sebastien,

    I have never made a business out of my web pages, however, I like for people to visit my site. This week, I checked my web site page rank. It is now zero. I do not know why. Now I can’t count on any search traffic from them. Interestingly, the other major search engines are still giving me search results.

    What seems to me to be the most unfair part of this is that I don’t know what went wrong, and I don’t know how to remedy the situation. I think the Internet space is about numbers and one web site does not appear to matter to big companies.

    Best of luck.

    PS: I am going to be banned by posting on your site?

  8. @calvin No don’t worry, you won’t get banned by posting here. Besides, I got some good news from Google Adwords today saying they reinstated my account. I will write a blog post soon about it.
    Sebastien

  9. Pingback: The Adwords Debacle and How Being On Twitter Saved My Butt

  10. You have my full sympathy. Google also pulled my Blogger account. For no reason. On the Google customer service forum someone from Google revealed that in order for Google to wrongly close your blog for being a spam blog would be to publish content on the Internet. Sounds weird, but that is the official line from Google, so the Google algorithm must be severely broken. If the same people are responsible for the software that monitors Adword accounts, I think I can see what went wrong for you. Unless, of course, a rival spiked your business? Stranger things have happened.

    Also on several pages of requests on the Google “Something is broken” forum, for a review of wrongly closed blogger.com accounts, every single one was flagged up with: “Your blog has been confirmed as a spam blog.”

    What? every single one? None of them found not to be a spam blog? That’s utterly absurd and is a logical impossibility.

    From your experience and mine and of many others there is something very seriously wrong with Google.

  11. Pingback: I’m A Blogger

  12. At the moment I came across the web for exactly this sort of information. Be grateful for to your post that seek has to end at this time. You published the posting in a clear way. With this, I added your web sites among my favorites! Best wishes!

  13. I believe their primary aim is to make us all dependent on government so that it will be easier to control us when the time comes.

  14. We gave Google too much power, now they control the internet they decide who can make money and who can’t, if they don’t like you better stay away from online business cos they won’t allow you to make a dime.

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