Google Whacked – Our Adwords Account Still Wrongly Suspended

by on July 9, 2009

UPDATE: Our Adwords account has been restored!  Click here to read about it: Google Adwords Account Unsuspended!

Note:  We like to dot our i’s and cross all our t’s here at the Electron Plumber.  A reader pointed out that since we did not receive express permission from Google for posting their support email correspondence, it’s not a good idea to post it publicly.  We have since requested permission from the Adwords support team to post our full correspondence here.  We’ll let you know what happens, but I’m not crossing my fingers for a response saying we’re free to post it.  ;)   Note that so far they have been extremely civil in saying that there is nothing we can do to appeal the suspension.

Last week I wrote about how Google was finally going after the Google Money Tree scam advertisers and that our Adwords account here at the Electron Plumber had gotten caught in their very likely automated net.   We had placed some ads for our article on the Easy Google Profit scam using a couple of keywords that had no warning posts appear in the Google search at the time.

A couple of months ago if you had searched for “Los Angeles Tribune News”, the only sites you would get were the LA Times and various other real California newspapers.  Now if you do the same search you find our warning post right at the top, but back then I though, heck, we have some free Adwords credits from our hosting account, why not use them to buy some cheap Adwords ads and direct people to our post on the Los Angeles Tribune News site scam.  Maybe we’ll gain some loyal readers or RSS feed subscribers and at the very least maybe we’ll keep some people from getting scammed.

Then over the 4th of July holiday, we receive an email:

Google Money Tree Account Suspension Email #1

*Google message not posted pending approval from Google for publishing.  Similar message can be found here*

Our first reaction was “Hurray!  Google is finally going after these scammers!”, but then it sunk in that Google was placing The Electron Plumber’s efforts to warn people about these scams months ago into the same bucket.

The Electron Plumber’s Email to Google Adwords Support

From: El Plumber
Subject: Ad Approvals and Policies (AdWords)
Date: Tue, 07 Jul 2009 02:17:35 +0000

Hi there,
I think we got caught in your automated net. We did NOT submit ads that promoted any such program, but in fact submitted ads for people to find information about how these programs are scams and how to avoid them.

Please visit our site promoted in the ads (http://electronplumber.com) to see for yourself.

Can you please review my account suspension, as it’s completely unwarranted.

Since it’s obviously a mistake and likely no one at Google bothered to come look at our site at all, they just trawled an automated net for certain keywords, I figured, should be easy to fix right?  Wrong.

Google Money Tree Account Suspension Email #2

*Google Response not posted pending approval for publishing*  Basically very nicely said “sorry, you’re toast”.

Our response:

The Electron Plumber’s 2nd Email to Google Adwords Support

Hi *name removed*,
I appreciate your response, but I’m very confused.

Please have your supervisor contact me regarding this matter at their earlier convenience.  I have informed my site audience of this matter and I think you’ll agree that a false ad suspension isn’t particularly good news for either of us.

Google Money Tree Account Suspension Email #3

*Google Response not posted pending approval for publishing*  Basically very nicely said sorry, you’re still toast, nothing we can do about it, please stop bothering us.

The Electron Plumber’s 3nd Email to Google Adwords Support

Hi *name removed*,
While I certainly appreciate your help in this matter, I’m still very concerned here, as I’ve been falsely accused with no recourse toward an appeal.  Has anyone actually looked at our site?  How have you determined that I promoted anything even remotely like Google Money Tree?  Anyone who had taken 2 minutes to glance through our site would see that every single article talks about how these Google Money sites are scams and instructions, advice, and a place to vent an chat for people who have been caught in them.  I don’t even link to any of them except where people added comments about them.

I do not intend to stop contacting you about this matter until it is resolved, as you have falsely accused my site and account of doing something that we did not do in any way shape or form.   If you truly have a no appeals process for things like this, have canceled my account unjustly, and have no review process, I need to let people know about it.

If the support team cannot help me in this matter, please direct me to the correct department at Google for getting a matter of false accusation and suspension resolved.

I again ask that you put me in touch with your supervisor or manager so that I can get this resolved.

Thank you,

That last message above was only an hour or so ago, so I’ll keep you posted on any replies.  I certainly don’t have high hopes here for getting any positive outcome out of a giant faceless corporation like Google.  But the principal of it, that somehow we here at the Electron Plumber are in league with these Google Money scammers makes me want to continue.

Anyone have any suggestions on how to proceed or any inside channels on the Adwords team?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

John Gall July 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Just got my adwords account suspended myself. They didn’t like the landing page quality and sent me a warning. I removed the campaigns they had stopped showing ads for. But then when I started a new campaign they toasted the account. Funny they still tried to point me to their guidelines while in the same email stating not to contact support as they cannot help me. Whatever I use adcenter now.

Dean July 10, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Yes, same thing happened to me. I was not promoting any google money tree products but was somehow associated with someone who was and they tied us together as one person. Anyway, no appeal and google will not listen to a word I have to say. This is an interesting business model. It’s called “F*ck the Customer…we made 28 billion dollars last year!”

Anyway, I have sent a long letter to google

Steven July 10, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Sucks about the Adwords acct. But I’m pretty sure you’re out of luck. They will not let you talk to a supervisor; they will either stop replying or just keep sending you template responses. For G, who deals with thousands (millions?) of advertisers, you’re insignificant. So you got caught wrongly in the net? Too bad, but they won’t stray from their book rules for a little “collateral damage”.

On the upside, looks like you’re not depending on Adwords traffic anyway and don’t seem to use Adsense either. So chalk it off to bad luck and move on.

Wanted to point out though that the dating site Plenty Of Fish at http://www.pof.com now serves ads for exactly the same Google money-making scams. See here:
http://s6r6.com/Google-bizopp-on-POF.jpg
PlentyOfFish owner Markus Frind prides himself for making $10 million a year from advertising on his site (just search) and actively recruits affiliate marketers. See this ad in a popular affiliate marketing forum:
http://s6r6.com/POF-ad-on-aff-forum.gif
The ad links to http://www.plentyoffish.com/advertising.aspx where marketers can manually submit their ads. That also means someone from POF looks at them before they go live. But apparently POF is just too happy to take on the scammers after they got banned from Google. FTC investigation ( http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/shortchange.shtm ) be damned, since POF is located in Canada. Go figure …

Steven July 10, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Dean, you say you were “somehow associated with someone who was promoting any google money tree products”. Whatever that “association” is, sorry dude, but I say you had it coming.

I’m surprised Google allowed their name and trademark being raped and abused as long as they did. They had to come down with the ban hammer at some point, it was just a question of time. Doesn’t matter if you spent thousands or even millions advertising that crap. In the grand scheme of things ($28 billion as you said), that’s still small change and if keeping that “customer” (or his “associates”) means having their 28-billion-dollar reputation shat on, yeah, guess what, I would’ve banned you too.

El Plumber (admin) July 10, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Yeah Steven, while I do feel bad for myself for getting caught up in all this with guilt by association, I can certainly see their point. Google’s focus is on customer experience. A blanket ban of hundreds of advertisers likely worth less in business than 0.01% their annual profit will clear out a large portion of these scammers, but not all as I still see Google ads for these same scams. I created an ad with the keyword Los Angeles Tribune News on a brand new Adwords account, which I’m sure met their criteria for likely Google Money scammer.

The guilt by association goes deep though, as many of these advertisers are black hats where they show one set of content to the Google Robots and anyone from a Google registered IP range where everything looks on the up and up, then shows consumers something totally different. Far easier for them just to make a list of keywords and ban anyone using them, like me.

However, I wish they would institute an appeal process here for legitimate advertisers to get their cases heard. I mean, I’d be happy to pay say $50 to “buy” an appeal from Google and have someone review my site and ads manually. Don’t think it’s going to happen though.

Antony July 10, 2009 at 8:51 pm

El Admin,

Unless you have a personal rep at Google and even then you’re likely to just hear the “party line”, emailing support has been useless in recent years.

Do you really think a human looked at your site and made that decision? Get real ;) AdsBot came around, flagged a few words that triggered their “decision”. I get the impression there are only about 14 humans working at the plex and its satellites , save for the “do no evil” developers.
================================

If you want to have even a longshot at getting back into their good graces, I would go back and find a post I read here by Netmeg and follow that advice.

Now since you don’t feature much in the way of advertising here, it does beg the question of why you would advertise on Adwords. I know your intent is pure and I admit to not reading the entire saga, but on the face of it, it could appear as though you were engaged in MFA or arbitrage. Not that AdsBot has the sense to make that determination, but we all know it doesn’t take much to trigger problems with Google. Especially when you take an honest approach, don’t cloak or use any of the other tricks that so easily outwit AdsBot.

It’s been reasonably “proven” that using Adwords neither hurts nore helps your exposure in the SERPs, so why tangle with Adwords on a topic they go through the motions of “taking a stand on”?

If someone like Netmeg is aware of your site, you are already getting exposure, trust me! You rank on page 1 naturally on searches like “google money tree scam”

I see now ads showing on Adwords with headlines like “GO Ogle Money Tree”. It appears a little creative writing is enough to fool the AdsBot.

Other paid ads that are triggered by “Google Money Tree” may claim it’s a scam, then go on to shill yet another similar scam instead.
================================

As far as the Adsense ads you’ve lost, I’ve faced the same moral issues as you with even featuring adsense. I have sites that rail against “bad things” and if I put Adsense up, it simply gives a new venue for bad people to advertise on. And the average reader of a site doesn’t make the distinction between contextual ads and content that you personally write. So when they click on those ads, they think you are somehow behind them.

You try to do the right thing and the Adsense sends the very predators you rail against to your site.

While Adsense still “likes me”, how much money does it bring in? I don’t work hard at building Adsense income but I’ve come to realize that it’s wasted page real estate for my purposes. I’m also sending people away from my site when they click an Adsense ad and someone else makes the real $$$.

What I’ve done is build little “units” and ad blocks that look like contextual ads but really are my own hand picked and hand built ads for good converters. I’ll tell you some good ones to try. Oh, sorry, trade secrets ;)

Yeah, Adsense lets you have some control over the ads that you allow in, but it’s limited. The low quality ones just change domains all the time when you try to block them.

================================

Do pursue this injustice, but not through Google support. You no doubt have other online income streams that you may want to promote using some Google product someday.

Good luck,

Antony

El Plumber (admin) July 10, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Wow, thanks for the great comments Antony! I appreciate the analysis and suggestions. I honestly haven’t spent much time monetizing this site yet (as you can see), mostly started it since my sister fell for one of those hidden charge Google Money sites late last year. Obviously have put minimal effort on design or ads. The Electron Plumber ranks really well for a whole lot of completely crappy scam related keywords, but while all traffic isn’t created equal, it’s better than no one reading your stuff I guess. ;)

Why advertise this site on Adwords at all? Mostly boredom and an unused set of free Adwords credits from some domain names I bought. Certainly wished I hadn’t done it now.

I do fear that someday I’ll want to promote something on Adwords and won’t be able to. That’s my main concern here. And while there are certainly ways around anything, I’d far prefer to stay on the up an up. I haven’t checked yet is if my personal name and address that’s banned, this site that’s banned, or both. I’m guessing both, but if the site is safe, I can always hire an Adwords Pro to put up ads for this site for a premium I guess.

Great suggestion on the homemade contextual ad blocks. I’m going to try that…

Rob December 5, 2009 at 2:24 am

I just got banned also. My sites have nothing to do with scams. They are about time management and also a job search site. I don’t understand how or why they would ban the site. Makes no sense at all.

El Plumber (admin) December 5, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Rob, there is always a reason, even if it’s a mistake. Did they give you a reason at all? Your blog linked from that same site has a title about “automated income strategies”. Did you have links to some get rich quick schemes on there at some point?

Some other possibilities:
- Did you let someone else manage your Adwords account at any point?
- Was the site you linked here the only site you advertised?
- Did you “clean it up” and remove stuff that might have offended google after the fact? Not a good idea since they have cache records of how your site looked in the past.
- Did you ever do any funny redirects off your ads that went somewhere else?

If you truly think it’s a mistake, fight it. If you know you did something wrong and are trying to hide it now, don’t waste your time, you have no chance. Move on to Yahoo, Bing, Adbrite and all the others. Contrary to popular opinion, Google is NOT the only game in town, just the biggest.

Your other option is to pay $150 to start an LLC in Colorado (cheapest site and state I found to incorporate a business entity), get a bank account for that business, an address at your local UPS store (might cost $50 a year depending on your location), an EIN from the government (free) get a new Adwords account under the business name.

Note, this obviously should not be construed as legal advice, but our layman interpretation of the Adwords terms of service seems to be that individual entities can have one Adwords account. You had your personal one banned, but by starting a LLC business, you are in effect creating a new entity, new name, new billing info, etc. They may still keep your website in their database and give it an automatic 1 out of 10 quality score. You may need to move your site to a new domain name.

They also may ban your new business account if you do not fix the underlying problem of why you were banned in the first place.

siteman11 August 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm

We have since requested permission from the Adwords support team to post our full correspondence here. Note that so far they have been extremely civil in saying that there is nothing we can do to appeal the suspension. We had placed some ads for our article on the Easy Google Profit scam using a couple of keywords that had no warning posts appear in the Google search at the time. I removed the campaigns they had stopped showing ads for. But then when I started a new campaign they toasted the account. Funny they still tried to point me to their guidelines while in the same email stating not to contact support as they cannot help me. I was not promoting any google money tree products but was somehow associated with someone who was and they tied us together as one person. This is an interesting business model. So chalk it off to bad luck and move on where marketers can manually submit their ads. That also means someone from POF looks at them before they go live. But apparently POF is just too happy to take on the scammers after they got banned from Google. It appears a little creative writing is enough to fool the AdsBot. The low quality ones just change domains all the time when you try to block them. You no doubt have other online income streams that you may want to promote using some Google product someday. Obviously have put minimal effort on design or ads. My sites have nothing to do with scams. They are about time management and also a job search site. You may need to move your site to a new domain name.This is a great post.

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