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Google Shuts Down $Million Affiliate Account

No humans involved in the decision

     
1:04 am on Nov 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

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This is how Google is currently treating some Adwords customers, and has destroyed our business (amongst many, many others) and the livelihood of many people:

1. Has a long-running policy of causing high click costs when customers promote sites with poor landing page quality - otherwise known as a the Google Slap.

2. Adds to this policy by deciding that the promotion of poor landing page quality sites is sufficient to terminate accounts without warning. The landing page quality is determined by "the AdWords system" using secret "specific filtration methods". No humans required.

3. Many accounts are shut down without warning, without any notification anywhere of this new policy. Typically affiliate marketers are those affected.

4. Many more accounts received a final warning, and then subsequently were shut down.

The chief complaint I think everyone has is that the process is automated, and there is no way to seek recourse, no matter how large you account is. Almost as bad is that system is unfairly biased towards super affiliates. A raw number of poor quality violations is used, irrespective of the size of an account. AdwordsAdvisor, correct me if I am wrong...

Our experience went like this:

1. First we ever knew about the policy was receiving a final warning.
2. We promote thousands of merchants - so it took about a week to remove every ad group that even has a remote chance of breaking landing page quidelines.
3. We ceased creating new ads or ad groups, so that we could not possibly lose our account.
4. One month later, after 12 hours of wondering why none of our ads are showing, we get the automated email saying our account is disabled.

Despite our very best efforts to do everything possible to please Google, it was all in vain. If we have caused bad user experiences in the past, it was minor (relative to thousands of merchants we promote), unintentional, and immediately rectified upon finding out about the new policy.

Our background:
Multiple millions spent on Google Adwords
Exclusive deals with many major online merchants
We don't even have landing pages - we direct link to merchants.

Please, no replies bashing Google in general. I just wish to discuss this specific policy, and I'm hoping AWA can pass on that the current process is faulty and needs addressing by Google.

11:02 pm on Nov 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Alternatively: what if you were running ads for merchants that Google had kicked out already in the past and now come back via you ?
How hard would it be for Google to block a domain for all accounts?

About a year ago I submitted an ad with a direct link to merchant. They told me I could not promote that product and website because the product itself was forbidden by the guidelines. Guess what? In the past year till now I see that website (and other websites promoting the same product) is still promoted via Adwords by other affiliates.

11:54 pm on Nov 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Alternatively: what if you were running ads for merchants that Google had kicked out already in the past and now come back via you ?
How hard would it be for Google to block a domain for all accounts?

Blocking the domain might be harder than one believes. I think swa66 has a point here. I've seen scammers in Germany working like this:

Initially the scammers set up ads for free stuff, e.g. adobe reader. Their landing pages suggest a free download, when in fact in fine print they try to sell worthless yet expensive abonnements. Sooner or later Google finds out (often by press coverage) and burns these domains. Which is exactly the procedure Dlocks suggests.

But then all of a sudden the same ads for the same junk pop up again. This time they are set up by affiliates of these scammers. The affiliates create their own landing pages, which eventually redirect to the scam sites, and are eventually burned by Google as well. So the scammers workaround for burning a domain seems to be to burn their own affiliates.

I think what is happening might be exactly what swa66 says: an affiliate advertising for "shady" merchants being punished by google. And the problem in this case is: how to know which merchants are shady?

12:17 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Google does not care about the 'millions' you spent on advertising.

The Google execs burn hundred dollar bills to light their cigars. You are still a little fish in their eyes. Google uses NASA to park their Boeing 767 exec jet for example.

I don't even see Google Adsense ads anymore at my corporation as we block they via HOSTS files.

12:23 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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reps at AW must audibly chuckle when they hear about these "big million -dollar accounts" feeling the shaft.

If they really do chuckle about that - and I sincerely hope you're wrong - then they have lost all sense of perspective.
1:00 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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We don't even have landing pages - we direct link to merchants.

adwords affiliate business is doomed. one only has to wonder why goog doesn't set a clear and honest signal to get rid of most of the affiliate crowd at once and flatly forbid automatic redirect in all cases. this practice is an open invitation for all kinds of abuse and we all know that.

but to add some more fuel to the fire: isn't it amazing that a company treats every customer equal if he is unwanted for the business, no matter how much money he is generating? no exceptions for folks who think they deserve a special treatment for whatever reason. strong short term financial temptations sacrificed for calculated long term quality.
keep the system clean no matter what - because they can. somehow you gotta admire this approach.

2:07 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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" Everyone needs a reality check on what constitutes a "big" adwords account. $1m a year is NOTHING compared to big accounts."

$1 Million here and a million there...

2:17 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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How hard would it be for Google to block a domain for all accounts?

Here's a scenario:

1. Out of nowhere comes a site that has the whole world enthralled, and they have an affiliate program. Everyone you ask would say it is a quality site.

2. An affiliate starts promoting the site, direct linking.

3. Google's system decides that the site has a low landing page quality score (perhaps because the site has a link to their "policy of privacy" rather than a "privacy policy").

4. Google gives a final warning then shuts down the affiliate account. Despite repeated emails, the affiliate could never discover which site they promote was the problem.

5. A new affiliate starts to promote the site

6. Go to 3.

There are numerous ways of fixing the problem. One would be for Google to tell you which ad/site is causing the problem, and why. Another would be to just ban sites. But that would give spammers an advantage. By being vague, it's harder work for spammers to beat Google.

This is a war against spammers, and many good customers are collateral damage. But that's OK because they understand our frustration.

3:22 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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SuperF: they could just silently assign the site in question ultra-low landing page quality such that no matter how high one's bids, no ad pointing to that site would ever show. Effectively same thing as a site ban, but no need to state the reason for it. And no need to ban any affiliate's AdWords accounts to do this.

[edited by: bryson at 3:29 am (utc) on Nov. 9, 2009]

3:22 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Everyone needs a reality check on what constitutes a "big" adwords account. $1m a year is NOTHING compared to big accounts. PLEASE realize that there are brand advertisers and agencies spending hundreds of millions a year as we speak. I spend over $2m a year and trust me, there is no "red phone to mountain view."

There you have it, when a company becomes so big and revenues so great that million dollar customer is treated as a commodity.

I smell a company that doesn't know how good they have it..

4:15 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Have the accounts closed so far been individual accounts or MCCs containing 1 or more offending accounts?
4:26 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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adwords affiliate business is doomed. one only has to wonder why goog doesn't set a clear and honest signal to get rid of most of the affiliate crowd at once and flatly forbid automatic redirect in all cases. this practice is an open invitation for all kinds of abuse and we all know that.

That makes less than zero sense. There's nothing wrong with direct linking (what you're calling automatic redirecting) to a high quality website, whether it's done via an affiliate link or otherwise. Abuse occurs when ads instead link to low quality intermediate bridge pages or low quality merchant websites.

4:31 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Could end up being a good thing. Put the mil into SEO and see what happens.
5:56 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Could end up being a good thing. Put the mil into SEO and see what happens.

Did you try it ?

7:05 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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If Google makes $5 billion revenue per quarter, that's $20 billion revenue per year (or $20,000 million). They need 20,000 customers spending $1 million per year. If they ban 2,000 of these, it's just 10% of the revenue that vaporizes. Upon the first glance.

As they go specifically after affiliates, we should look for the reasons. The answer is simple: they probably hope/believe/think that by removing the middlemen (advertisers who link directly to the merchant pages without adding real value in their eyes) they somehow can convince the merchant to buy ads directly from them.

Such a scenario could be a win-win for both parties:
1. The merchant does not have to pay for the additional layer (i.e. the affiliate). This should result in a lower PPC.
2. Google gets rid of the middlemen that just added cost for the merchant (as he keeps a part of the transaction). As a result, Google might be regarded as "more competitive" by their remaining customers. But they can probably keep or even increase their existing profit margin!
3. Google enhances the end-user experience (less ads that lead to similar or identical offers).

7:22 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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A lot of you are mentioning that they are 'going after affiliates' but the point is, they are not touching the 'super affiliates' which is all the big price comparison site are!
8:15 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I'm going to ruffle a few feathers here (hee hee), but I think affiliate sites are pretty much useless, and should NEVER have been allowed into pay per click advertising to begin with...

<ducks punches>

8:17 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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From the posts here evidenced that AWA are very prejudiced.
Only they want to business with very high paying customers like ebay, amazon, etc. while leaving the popular mass. They got enough riches so don't bother about small advertisers at all. If the landing page is poor why in the first place why they rate it as very good with 5 marks? while you are going to set the campaign? If they do not want us to promote the business why they always send us enticing emails to activate the account with adding our credit card? We call it 'penny wise & pound foolish'. They lose millions of dollars (may be billions $) if the opportunity cost is calculated in real terms.
-Will anyone from AWA bother to clarify or reconsider so many customers' plea?
8:44 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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When websites have been deemed acceptable for perhaps years and all of a sudden your quality score drops overnight, that proves they are simply using the 'quality score' issue as a 'legitimate' cover for doing exactly what they want, when they want. Like I said before, the fact that big affiliate sites remain shoots holes in their supposed intention of removing affiliates. What does annoy me is I can now see other advertisers still on adwords using my keywords and to some extent, copying my successful ads which I had running for years with sites that are certainly no better than mine quality-wise.
9:39 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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A lot of you are mentioning that they are 'going after affiliates' but the point is, they are not touching the 'super affiliates' which is all the big price comparison site are!
If you look at the following topic:
[webmasterworld.com...]
Then my guess is that super affiliates are doomed within one or two years.
10:51 am on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Abuse occurs when ads instead link to low quality intermediate bridge pages or low quality merchant websites.

low quality sites constitute abuse of the system? please clarify.
1:27 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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the vast majority of direct linking affiliates are people who bid on the merchants name, very often contrary to the merchants terms of service. i've policed this for many merchants i consult for and it's a real mess. these affiliates are almost all scum, intentionally bidding on the merchant's name traffic only. you send them an email reminding them of the terms and they don't stop. you remove them from the aff program and they still leave their ads running - and some aff networks then have broken links, resulting in confused customers (who are looking for you by name - great traffic!).

while there may be many, many direct linking affiliates who are doing deep product ppc, i'm guessing G is growing tired of merchants complaining about the other kind - the trademark / domain name affiliate poachers. perhaps that's the case here, perhaps it's not - I DON'T KNOW - i don't know this affiliate (they seem anonymous here, i'm not) and i haven't closely read this thread (way too much whining). but IF this is an abusive name poaching affiliate (G can look through their account in 3 seconds and see them bidding on domain name traffic for many merchants), i hope your "business" figuratively burns to the ground and i'd be thrilled to find out G is taking action against these bad acting affiliates.

1:29 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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-- somehow can convince the merchant to buy ads directly from them --

I totaly agree with ZETT, Holiday season is comming or almost her if you will, everybody looks for higher revenue stream.., well anything goes these days, realy. All though this seems to happen more towards the holiday season year after year.

3:20 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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If Google makes $5 billion revenue per quarter, that's $20 billion revenue per year (or $20,000 million). They need 20,000 customers spending $1 million per year. If they ban 2,000 of these, it's just 10% of the revenue that vaporizes. Upon the first glance.

This is true, and as somebody else pointed out earlier, the damage would in practice initially be less than 10%, as other advertisers could fill in the gap left by the missing ones. But only upon the first glance. The long term damage here probably is that this sets up AdWords as looking like a very fragile advertising medium. If people know that their accounts may be snatched away suddenly at any time, that will probably leave a deep impact on their remaining/future advertisers and lead them to invest heavily in cultivating alternatives.

If Google focused instead on banning sites, rather than accounts, it would avoid this obviously extremely undesirable effect.

3:39 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Do you want to know the real reason why these accounts are getting shut down?

A little over a year ago, I was explaining to my 15 yr old godson about AdWords. His response? "But those ads are all crap ads and scams - nobody ever clicks on those!"

That's what Google is fighting against - that perception from the upcoming generation of consumers. Doesn't matter whether or not it's true; the perception is enough to kill any confidence in the ads whatsoever.

And yea, Google is approaching the problem with a cannon instead of a laser. Their bad on that, and they will learn. It's not a mistake from being evil, it's a mistake from not knowing better.

But nothing pisses me off more than seeing all the talk about how Google has destroyed your business. Google has NOT destroyed your business. If your business cannot survive without Google, then YOU have destroyed your business.

None of the accounts I manage have ever been shut down, Google slapped, or anything. For one thing, I do very little affiliate work; most of my accounts are product based. But even if they *were* shut down, while the businesses would have a hurt put on them, they wouldn't die, because they're not *entirely* depending on AdWords to survive. We use direct mail. We use email marketing. We use Facebook and Twitter. We use adCenter. (We used to use Yahoo, but it was more trouble than it was worth) We use newspaper ads. We've dabbled in TV and radio. And we're going to use all kinds of other channels that haven't even been thought up yet. We take a lot of the money that we make from AdWords and use it to discover and develop other marketing channels.

Believe me, I know what Google's flaws are as well or better than anyone (and I've been more than vocal about them) But to lump everything on Google and wait and hope for a class action suit (that probably has little chance of succeeding) is to admit your business never had a snowball's chance in hell of making it in the first place.

Google is not responsible for the success or failure of your business. YOU are.

4:07 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Netmeg, I hear what your saying but the fact is that G have a very big chunk of internet search traffic, I don't know their exact percentage right now but lets just say it's 80%, that means any online business can reach 80% of web surfers using Adwords (and lets face it, thats how they have sold it and marketed it's benefits to us for years). Why wouldn't you use it? why wouldn't you build your business on that fact? I completely understand the need to diversify and not keep 'all your eggs in one basket' but they are compelling stats that can't be ingnored. Of course your going to build your online business on adwords if you can, your reaching 80% of all search traffic out there after all!

The fact is, that percentage isn't healthy for any one company to have a monopoly on, but that's the way it's been. I think however, that we will start to see that change, certainly the online advertising community as you say, are beginning to see that adwords is an unstable and risky place to be.

4:15 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Exactly netmeg - this isn't Google's 'fault' - that honour belongs to all the low quality affiliate and scam sites who fed on Google's users.

These low quality / scam sites have forced a response from Google.

Collateral damage was always going to happen, because of there sheer number of these sites it was always going to have to be bot driven, which inevitably leads to mistakes. Once again not Google's fault - the sheer number of these sites has forced a non-human approach.

I think the only things that really should be at question here are:

1) Customer Service - the tone of their emails to long standing customers who were never breaking guidelines before is really shocking.

2) Recourse - if you have been found to be wrongly suspended there should be a way back. However, they're never going to make this obvious as let's face it, every single person who had been suspended would be demanding a manual review.

There's only one thing her for people to really take away, the days of a quick and easy buck via Adwords are basically gone - create your own sites with plenty of unique content and source some products, get creative - it'll be harder work but you'll be playing by Google's rules and you'll do well...

4:30 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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>If your business cannot survive without Google, then YOU have destroyed your business.

Exactly! You MUST try and diversify into other areas...PPC, content creation, social media, etc. Google is dominant at present, but it may not be this way forever.

Survival of the fittest really...

6:20 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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The long term damage here probably is that this sets up AdWords as looking like a very fragile advertising medium

But if they treat those who are actually selling something different from those only promoting stuff others sell (affiliates). They shift the perception to Google is reliable, affiliates are not. And they don't hurt their rep where it matters to them if they really want to get rid of the affiliates.
6:28 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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But if they treat those who are actually selling something different from those only promoting stuff others sell (affiliates). They shift the perception to Google is reliable, affiliates are not. And they don't hurt their rep where it matters to them if they really want to get rid of the affiliates.

I disagree - I don't think affiliates are the primary target here, nor would it make sense for them to be. It seems the target is whoever has ads pointing to certain websites deemed to be low quality, whether affiliate or otherwise (in practice this of course would mean plenty of affiliates but not exclusively). Nothing I've seen so far indicates anything different. (Actually selling something and not being an affiliate doesn't guarantee in any way that Google will like you - they may really dislike what you're selling or how you're doing it.)

6:44 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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@netmeg
@James_WV

Well said by both.

But I am here to tell you, when "collateral" damage by "bots" hits a client it is hard to be so philosophical.

If you had a client where you think a mistake had been made, would you just pat them on the head, send them on their way, all the while explaining the enormity of the problem Google has?

"I know you are upset because you have been banned for life in what obviously seems to be some kind of mistake. But understand Google's problem, they are doing the best they can and mistakes happen, and who would really expect them to absorb the expense of more extensive manual reviews and communication. After all, they have the next quarterly report to worry about."

Really? Life is tough. move on, end of story?

How much collateral damage is acceptable? How is it assessed? Who within the Goog is making the decisions when it comes to how many babys to throw out with the bath water?

When do the real Google watchers quit explaining why Google is taking these actions and talk more about the poor way they are doing it?

I get the motive already. I support the purging of frauds and scams. But I am not going to give Google a pass on their implementation and communication.

The best they can do? I certainly hope not. But nobody is really taking them to task on the amount of collateral damage, and their poor communication. Most are either screaming for their heads or condescendingly explaining why the carnage is necessary, if not perfectly implemented. (me too, until they knocked on my clients door late at night)

I too use to pretty smug nutmeg, no way any talk of bans, suspensions, or slaps had anything to do with me or my clients. We were squeaky clean righteous.

That was before letters started coming out with language like -you haven't done anything wrong, but you have an account that is in some way related to another account that has done something wrong-, and they will not specify the relationship nor the offending account.

Google can do anything they want.

But seems to me with the upcoming privacy, anti-trust, and international law battles coming their way they would be a little more cognizant about public opinion.

If I am any indication (both my own experience and from what I read)they are turning supporters into skeptics at an alarming rate.

In their own war against terror (scams, etc)they are losing the battle for hearts and minds.

In reality I can only speak for my own heart and mind, and I know my H&M are of no significance to the Goog as an entity or any Google employee as a person.

The individual stories do not matter. It costs too much, it isn't "practical" to care about collateral damage.

Who says? Who is making those decisions?

Are the stockholders aware that some perfectly good advertising dollars are being sacrificed in the name of automated "efficiency"? Lifetime value of individual advertisers means nothing compared to the efficiency of the immediate purge?

And I keep coming back to how the collateral damage is assessed and who decides when the rate of collateral damage is unacceptable.

-T

an Ex-AdWords Help Forum Top Contributor.

6:59 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Google Shuts Down $Million Affiliate Account

I've been tracking the progression of this topic. I just find it hard to fathom that Google would arbitrarily or automatically shut down a $1,000,000 Affiliate Account. That's a million freakin dollars and I don't know of many businesses who are going to ignore that to the extent this seems to have been.

Our background:
Multiple millions spent on Google Adwords
Exclusive deals with many major online merchants
We don't even have landing pages - we direct link to merchants.

Since specifics are not allowed, all of us are shooting in the dark here. I think most of know that certain business models are very high risk with Google. Anything to do with warehousing merchants like that e.g. Price Comparison is a highly volatile market. I still see the PC websites so I'm guessing you're another step down the food chain maybe? A middle-man that is no longer required in the food chain?

You had to have done something pretty severe for Google to not want your millions of dollars in advertising spend. That would be absurd to just automagically cut you off like that.

7:21 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I just find it hard to fathom that Google would arbitrarily or automatically shut down a $1,000,000 Affiliate Account.

Yes, it is hard to believe.

But as I explained above, $1,000,000 is just 0.005% of their annual revenue. THEY HARDLY FEEL THAT PINCH, plus there is a good chance that they get some merchants directly.

The key take-away is that noone should take their relationship with Google as granted or secure. Google's increasing inability to communicate properly with paying customers (or long-time publishing partners, in the case of Adsense) is outright scary. This will fire back at them once the market perception changes (i.e. budgets are shifted towards Yahoo or Microsoft, or others, with better results).

7:35 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've been tracking the progression of this topic. I just find it hard to fathom that Google would arbitrarily or automatically shut down a $1,000,000 Affiliate Account.
Automatic closure of an account is way to hard to beleive.
I am sure, you should have received a direct call from your adwords representative or direct emails.
7:41 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I wonder how many banned accounts are "We guarantee to get you to the top of the search results" companies? My hope is Google gets rid of more of them. I think that industry, on average is deceptive, and preys upon ignorance, rather than true SEOs who make changes for long term growth, inform their clients about this over PPC (and use PPC only as a starter until SEO kicks in and then as a supplement to SEO bringing in the bulk of customers). The worst fear is that their clients figure out how to properly use Adwords directly, and you can practically bet they won't ever hint how! Any basic Google search shows the "guaranteed" practices are widespread.

Same with affiliate sites with just enough information to pass muster, yet not enough to keep a user interested with the hope he/she will click a link to get out. I don't mind a site built with the user in mind with real content that has affiliate links. That is a service, imho, not a disservice to the user.

And shopping comparison sites... well, if they actually started having accurate prices, and the landing page was actually what I was searching for then I might like them, but in the past couple of years they've started taking over serps and half the time the page is irrelevant, and a great many of the products being price compared on the same page aren't even the same product. I don't see how they can legitimately complain about Google and automated practices when they themselves aren't cleaning house with enough manual reviews.

Naturally, none of those spammy types are what we are discussing here... right? Because we all favor ridding the web of junk spam, right? Sure hope so, because if not there'll be some indignant outcries!

A question I have is why would someone put their livelihood and those of others solely in the hands of one company? Back in 2001 I had a major advertiser disappear and learned real quickly not to put most of your eggs in one basket -- the bigger one's company gets before learning this, the more painful it becomes when its time to learn it and the harder it is to recover. In my case I didn't rely solely on that one advertiser, and survived it though it did hurt.

8:01 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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That would be absurd to just automatically cut you off

Google's law department has all employees talking in some form of Stepford-legalese, and anecdotes from the banned are all skewed of course. So it is really hard to gauge the collateral damage and how absurd it might be.

I know in my clients case it took a long time to get him calmed down enough to work backwards and try and isolate the offending relationship, account, and signal. And we still haven't located it. He is not an affiliate, QS are high, yada, yada.

It is tough, when maybe he was linked to some consultant for a couple of hours, years ago, and that maybe that consultant turns out to be some shady type sending off death signals?

The "relationships" at times seem that tenuous when you can get folks calmed down enough to try and work backwards to find the offending "signal" which may be simple, temporary access, years ago, to the wrong person or entity.

So when is this kind of automated "witchhunt" absurd? Guess it depends on where you are coming from. My client is far from a million dollar client, but I think his lifetime banning is absurd because of the apparent distance of the offending signal, if in fact there is an offending signal.

When I talk to Google employees I get a sense that the individual "teams" are isolated, siloed, and overworked. Makes me wonder who is responsible for reviewing the overall extent of the collateral damage.

Shell game example from personal experience.

The shells

-AdWords Support
-The Review Team
-My "rep(s)"
-AdWords Pros in the AdWords Help Forum

Support has said they have done all they can do, it is up to Review and my "Rep"

My "Rep" says there is nothing she can do, it is up to Support and Review.

Yes my "reps" (I have dealt with two because one was away) and Support were both quick to put the turd in the others pocket. (plus a rep suggested I abandon the client as not worth bothering with, that whether they deserved to be banned wasn't worth the effort to determine)

AdWordsPros are saying nothing. Up until this episode I thought I had established some kind of relationship as a Top Contributor in the AdWords Help Forum. I became damaged goods apparently when I wouldn't quietly accept the "absurd" banning of a client. Besides, not their jobs. After all, I have Support and "reps" to help communicate with Review. Right? The shell game starts to take shape.

But it really becomes a closed system when the "Letter" comes down from Review saying;

-banned for life due to an unspecified relationship with an unidentified account, no recourse, have a nice day-

Support, reps, Pros, even Advisors, are powerless in the face of the all powerful Review team. So it would seem. They are treated as omnipotent, and above reproach in their judgement. Their word is final, and their reasons need know further explanation.

I wonder if the review team consists of a couple of engineers and their pet software.

So.....on the whole. Do we trust that Google is properly assessing the collateral damage and making decisions that are indeed the best for the most over the long haul? Or because of poor communication inside and out, and a brutal software program that doesn't seem to be able to evaluate a serial offender from some distant obscure signal we have a juggernaut out of control with increasing amounts of collateral damage.

-T

Ex-AdWords Help Forum Top Contributor

10:13 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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[..] plus there is a good chance that they get some merchants directly.
I think there are a lot of reasons why a lot of merchants don't use Adwords by themself but only via affiliates. A lot of merchants don't want to invest a lot of money in Adwords without knowing when and if it will be profitable, they don't want to spend a lot of time in Adwords and in other online marketing methods and/or ppc programs. A lot of merchants want to stick at what they are good at: creating a product.

Merchants are using affiliates for their knowledge, time and their money they are willing to invest in advertising. Affiliates take all the risk and merchants use them on a no cure no pay basis. And that is an excellent deal for merchants.

10:55 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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But as I explained above, $1,000,000 is just 0.005% of their annual revenue. THEY HARDLY FEEL THAT PINCH.

Let's look at the reality of it. There is no way a public company like Google is going to turn down even $100,000 in advertising revenue. How many Google AdWords coupons did you receive in the past two weeks? Via email? Via snail? No, that's not a company that would turn away $1,000,000 in advertising revenue without a good reason which, we may never know.

You see, we don't have the full story. We don't know the business model. Without being able to properly review this network of merchants leaves us all guessing. Let's just say that the numbers are accurate, why would Google automatically discard $1,000,000+ in advertising revenue? I'm serious, we should take that question to the stock holders to see what they think about it. If the scale of this practice is what you say it is, you know, $1,000,000 advertising spends, there have to be at least 2 or 3 more of you that can be more vocal and detailed about the challenges you are facing, yes? With the economy the way it is, you're probably being slammed with Legal Beagles wanting a piece of that action, huh?

I'm just suspicious of the whole thing. Hey, someone needs to see the other side of this. Some of you act like $1,000,000 is pocket change? Get real, that's a bit of money, no matter what the economy is like. $1,000,000? I'd say the infractions were pretty severe. Either that or, your niche market just got GNixed. But hey, if you were spending millions, you surely had to be making millions while the times were good? I've not seen too many $1,000,000 online business models that have a long shelf life. Not without a Brand Name attached to it.

11:34 pm on Nov 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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@pageoneresults

That is a viable a theory. That Google has done all the calculations and everything is going as planned. The PR damage included.

All part of a larger business plan, a greater vision.

No mistakes, no regrets. All predetermined and acceptable losses.

It is also possible that something is just plain screwed up, and it is probable that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Heck of a way to run a railroad is all I am saying.

-T

12:46 am on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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SuperF,

The fact that you're a direct-to-merchant affiliate may have worked against you. I'm assuming that you were not the only one bidding on most of your keywords, as usually there are also other affiliates as well as the merchant bidding on them with the same display URL. So in your absence, another advertiser will have his ads appearing instead of yours. The net effect is that Google hasn't lost $million in revenue but perhaps just a small percentage of that. And that would be more okay with them then losing $million that won't be replaced.

But that's all assuming that this is a conscious and final decision by Google. From what I gather, though, Google doesn't have adequate manpower to handle these situations properly.

3:09 am on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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If your business cannot survive without Google, then YOU have destroyed your business.
netmeg, what a narrow point of view. A company controlling 80% of internet search traffic is telling you you cant use it for advertising any more. And you would say "So what? That doesnt mean any harm for my business." Right? That's ridiculous and the it is very understandable that business-owners are really concerned about their Adwords accounts being shut down.

zett,

Such a scenario could be a win-win for both parties:
1. The merchant does not have to pay for the additional layer (i.e. the affiliate). This should result in a lower PPC.
2. Google gets rid of the middlemen that just added cost for the merchant (as he keeps a part of the transaction). As a result, Google might be regarded as "more competitive" by their remaining customers. But they can probably keep or even increase their existing profit margin!
3. Google enhances the end-user experience (less ads that lead to similar or identical offers).

This is a dream scenario never going to be real. 1. Merchants usually are no PPC-masters and they don't want to be. They are happy to have those skilled affiliates who are devoted to dominate the search rankings for them. I would be and I would be happy to pay my affiliates.
Reason is, if I dont have affiliates, I have to hire a PPC Marketing agency doing the job. That's nothing else as an affiliate getting a flat fee paid.
Or I have to invest a lot of time into PPC, or hire people in my company, training them etc. Whatever you do, you have to invest time or money. Or you get good affiliates.
2. doesnt work therefore, since you never really get rid of the work of the middlemen.
3. presupposes bridge pages from affiliates. While I would love to see them as a product owner from my affiliates, Google doesnt- And thats understandable, especially if you consider the quality of more of those sites. But that doesnt change anything for what I said before (you simple take bridge pages out of the equation, which leaves direct linking in).

All in all, affiliate marketing is just pay for performance. It's nothing else as an advertising model. And it's a very good one for all sides usually. Alternatives are paying agencies for doing the marketing on a flat or CPM basis (media buying). There is much more conflict in there because of the different interestes of the involved parties.

3:21 am on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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If your business cannot survive without Google, then YOU have destroyed your business

Yeah, I don't agree with this position either. Try substituting Google for other corporations. Imagine that Fedex or Toyota cancelled a $million a year contract by email. Or Microsoft.
Then someone tells you about UPS or Linux, depending on the situation, and says "If your business cannot survive without Fedex (or Microsoft), then you have destroyed your business."
It wouldn't happen.

Affiliates seem to be playing a role in the online ecosystem, facilitating transactions between merchants and publishers. That is their business.

4:20 am on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Google has NOT destroyed your business. If your business cannot survive without Google, then YOU have destroyed your business.

Every response only serves to convince me even more.

7:19 am on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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@tchale430
Well written. We do not know so much insights except adcenter. We follow AW tools to get kw. However, someone says too many kw will ban the account. G AW may ban the sites instead of penalizing the accounts for good. We learn from experiments. And experiment does not mean fraud or scam. I mean while setting a campaign AW system immediately shows QS 5 & good, then why later change their minds. They cannot win H&M. One day they will see their downfall if not corrected soon!
7:29 am on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Well said by Tchale430.
We use adcenter. Except using multiple kw we do not see any scam is made. And without experiments how to learn or improve QS? My Q why the AW KW Qs=5 while setting the first campaign if the same SW says QS=landing page=poor?
9:22 am on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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@tchale430 - some very good points.

I think probably the worst thing to come out of this is a thread by sportsnut where he said his account was banned as it used to be run by an adwords management company who were doing bad things - so guilt by association - I think that's the worst problem in all of this.

However, I still think what they've done is for the 'greater good'. I don't think affiliates make up a huge % of their business and their will be more people who benefit from this than lose out.

Having said that though, I don't know anyone personally who's been hit with a ban, so I'm coming at it from a different perspective.

I do think that Google underestimated how much collateral damage would be caused, and AWA's post does indicate this - because, at the end of the day, they're not doing this to be evil but to get rid of the dross, so I'm sure they must want to take back on the good advertisers who got caught inadvertently.

BTW - hadn't seen this post before, but here's anexerpt from a page in response to the banned accounts:

"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"

Full page: [adwords.google.com...]

10:25 am on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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In cases where a violation has occurred, some advertisers may first receive a warning to correct the problem

But when you get the warning they will not tell you what compaign/adgroup/ladingpage is causing the problem.

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.

[..]

We cannot reveal our specific filtration methods for measuring site quality or triggering account suspension

Isn't that a contradiction?
2:21 pm on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Wouldn't all this be solved with complete transparency on Google's part?
3:32 pm on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Ha!

It's shouldn't be "Don't be Evil" but

"Smoke & Mirrors, That's Our Game"

I'll take "Guessing things about Google" for $800, whoa, the Double Jeopardy!

3:37 pm on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Wouldn't all this be solved with complete transparency on Google's part?

No. As has already been pointed out in this thread, Google and other companies like Facebook etc. cannot reveal all their cards or the spammers would use that information against them. It's not reasonable to ask them to do so.

I think it would all be solved if Google focused on banning websites instead of accounts. Once a site is entered into a blacklist, any ads pointing to that site could be automatically disapproved (no human intervention required) as soon as they're entered into AdWords by anybody (whether an affiliate or otherwise). Google could choose to keep the disapproval hidden if it wants to - the ads would just never run and never accrue any impressions. No need to disable anybody's account, and Google gets rid of all the bad sites it wants to.

4:05 pm on Nov 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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What happens when you don't pay your invoice on time? Do you get a reminder?

I have to pay before the 30th of this month for advertising cost from last month. But since I have a ban there is no need for me to pay on time to keep my ads running. So I was thinking about keeping my money a bit longer and get some interest.

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