News Story

Is Google purposefully banning (and then not resolving) your AdSense account?

Anonymous poster claiming to be ex AdSense employee says Google has been purposefully banning high-earning AdSense accounts and flatly ignoring appeals.

google adsense

Have you ever been banned from running Google AdSense advertisement on your website for no obvious reason? Even if you haven’t, you’ll find thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of banned AdSense publishers who were running AdSense on their websites and then got banned for no obvious reasons. And now, those frustrated people have something they can relate to. An anonymous post on the web claiming that Google has been purposefully banning AdSense publishers while favoriting other publishers of AdSense program policies and Terms of Service.

What happened

On pastebin, an online note-sharing service, someone posted a long letter claiming to be an ex employee at Google AdSense division. The long post, embedded towards the end of this post, suggests with no proof that Google has been banning high-earning AdSense publisher accounts to pocket the money right before payout. More to that, the anonymous poster claims that Google has a list of “VIP” publishers that operate outside the Google AdSense’s program policies and Terms of Service.

Google quickly issued a statement denying all the allegations and terming them as ‘fiction.’ But the note has went viral across publishing websites, blogs and especially forums where frustrated and banned AdSense publishers have found a situation that they can relate to.

Why the story is credible

A large portion of websites you visit every day offer their services at free of cost. Ranging from news, tutorials, reviews, recipes to online (and mobile) applications, the developer/publisher of those sites have a primary source of income from Google. There are other services that offer the same display advertisement service, but Google is undoubtedly the best at this and a publisher can earn the maximum revenue from this program.

AdSense publishers see the amount they earned through AdSense program on their dashboard. That money gets paid to Google no matter what. But there have been many occasions where AdSense publishers get banned right before payout. Google describes in its website that Google does a thorough review to check whether the program policy and terms of service have been violated right before paying out. And that’s the stage many legitimate publishers with websites that comply with Google AdSense program policies get banned. This is where publishers can relate to the anonymous pastebin post.

But it doesn’t end there. Google is notoriously bad at communicating with its users. If you seek support, the only place you can support with other human being is Google forums, where you usually interact with other users like you (and very rarely Google employees). The first thing most publishers do after getting banned without a detailed explanation (Google only sends a canned message when someone is banned from AdSense) is go to these forums and ask why they were banned. As other people might not know the reason behind the ban, they normally suggest to “appeal” the ban.

There’s another thing that’s not so user-friendly. Google allows its AdSense publishers to appeal after getting banned only once. And if the appeal is rejected, you can never reopen the banned account ever again. This is the part where the anonymous’ claim that Google flatly ignores all appeals from banned AdSense publishers start to make sense. And this is why, despite Google and many other claiming the accusations are false, a lot of people that are true victim of Google’s unresponsiveness regarding AdSense account ban actually believe that Google has been playing dirty.

Is this credible?

Like most other controversies, it depends on which side you are on or what your experience with Google AdSense has been. Given that there actually are people who have been banned right before a payout (or after they start making a large chunk of money through the program) and were never issued a clear explanation, it really raises eyebrows whether Google has secretly been an evil contrary to its motto.

On the other hand, Google AdSense is the company’s one of the largest source of revenue. It won’t make sense why Google would willfully ban legitimate and complying publishers from running AdSense on their platforms. Because Google takes a cut of publishers income. So it’s not like Google is losing money with more publishers.

Adsense for mobile
Google AdSense also works on mobile phones. It can be embedded into free apps which ultimately makes the app free for users yet generate revenue for the developer.

But then again, given Google’s lack of transparency and lack of user-friendliness when it comes to giving explanation about why someone’s account was terminated, it does raise questions.

Google has initially denied the allegations, and this is likely. What we can hope for Google to learn from this is to be more user-friendly in terms of support and explanation. A lot of publishers’ main source of income is Google AdSense. When it gets terminated with no obvious reasons, and then it’s never reopened, it does make Google the opposite of its motto, “Don’t be Evil.”

The Raw post from Pastebin

Here’s the detailed post from Pastebin from someone claiming to be an ex AdSense employee.

I am a former Google employee and I am writing this to leak information to the public of what I witnessed and took part in while being an employee. My position was to deal with AdSense accounts, more specifically the accounts of publishers (not advertisers). I was employed at Google for a period of several years in this capacity.

Having signed many documents such as NDA’s and non-competes, there are many repercussions for me, especially in the form of legal retribution from Google. I have carefully planned this leak to coincide with certain factors in Google such as waiting for the appropriate employee turn around so that my identity could not be discovered.

To sum it up for everyone, I took part in what I (and many others) would consider theft of money from the publishers by Google, and from direct orders of management. There were many AdSense employees involved, and it spanned many years, and I hear it still is happening today except on a much wider scale. No one on the outside knows it, if they did, the FBI and possibly IRS would immediately launch an investigation, because what they are doing is so inherently illegal and they are flying completely under the radar.

It began in 2009. Everything was perfectly fine prior to 2009, and in fact it couldn’t be more perfect from an AdSense employees perspective, but something changed.

Google Bans and Ban Criteria

Before December 2012:

In the first quarter of 2009 there was a “sit-down” from the AdSense division higher ups to talk about new emerging issues and the role we (the employees in the AdSense division needed to play. It was a very long meeting, and it was very detailed and intense. What it boiled down to was that Google had suffered some very serious losses in the financial department several months earlier. They kept saying how we “needed to tighten the belts” and they didn’t want it to come from Google employees pockets. So they were going to (in their words) “carry out extreme quality control on AdSense publishers”. When one of my fellow co-workers asked what they meant by that. Their response was that AdSense itself hands out too many checks each month to publishers, and that the checks were too large and that
needed to end right away. Many of the employees were not pleased about this (like myself). But they were successful in scaring the rest into thinking it would be their jobs and their money that would be on the line if they didn’t participate. The meeting left many confused as to how this was going to happen.

What did they mean by extreme quality control? A few other smaller meetings occur with certain key people in the AdSense division that furthered the idea and procedure they planned on implementing. There were lots of rumors and quiet talking amongst the employees, there was lots of speculations, some came true and some didn’t. But the word was that they were planning to cut off a large portion of publisher’s payments.

After that point there was a running gag amongst fellow co-workers where we would walk by each other and whisper “Don’t be evil, pft!” and roll our eyes.

What happened afterwards became much worse. Their “quality control” came into full effect. Managers pushed for wide scale account bans, and the first big batch of bans happened in March of 2009. The main reason, the publishers made too much money. But something quite devious happened. We were told to begin banning accounts that were close to their payout period (which is why account bans never occur immediately after a payout). The purpose was to get that money owed to publishers back to Google AdSense, while having already served up the ads to the public.

This way the advertiser’s couldn’t claim we did not do our part in delivering their ads and ask for money back. So in a sense, we had thousands upon thousands of publishers deliver ads we knew they were never going to get paid for.

Google reaped both sides of the coin, got money from the advertisers, used the publishers, and didn’t have to pay them a single penny. We were told to go and look into the publishers accounts, and if any publisher had accumulated earnings exceeding $5000 and was near a payout or in the process of a payout, we were to ban the account right away and reverse the earnings back. They kept saying it was needed for the company, and that most of these publishers were ripping Google off anyways, and that their gravy train needed to end. Many employees were not happy about this. A few resigned over it. I did not. I stayed because I had a family to support, and secondly I wanted to see how far they would go.

From 2009 to 2012 there were many more big batches of bans. The biggest of all the banning sessions occurred in April of 2012. The AdSense division had enormous pressure from the company to make up for financial losses, and for Google’s lack of reaching certain internal financial goals for the quarter prior. So the push was on. The employees felt really uneasy about the whole thing, but we were threatened with job losses if we didn’t enforce the company’s wishes. Those who voiced concerned or issue were basically ridiculed with “not having the company’s best interest in mind” and not being “team players”. Morale in the division was at an all-time low. The mood of the whole place changed quite rapidly. It no longer was a fun place to work.

The bans of April 2012 came fast and furious. Absolutely none of them were investigated, nor were they justified in any way. We were told to get rid of as many of the accounts with the largest checks/payouts/earnings waiting to happen. No reason, just do it, and don’t question it. It was heart wrenching seeing all that money people had earned all get stolen from them. And that’s what I saw it as, it was a robbery of the AdSense publishers. Many launched appeals, complaints, but it was futile because absolutely no one actually took the time to review the appeals or complaints. Most were simply erased without even being opened, the rest were deposited into the database, never to be touched again.

Several publishers launched legal actions which were settled, but Google had come up with a new policy to deal with situations such as that because it was perceived as a serious problem to be avoided. So they came up with a new policy.

After December 2012: The New Policy

The new policy; “shelter the possible problem makers, and fuck the rest” (those words were actually said by a Google AdSense exec) when he spoke about the new procedure and policy for “Account Quality Control”.

The new policy was officially called AdSense Quality Control Color Codes (commonly called AQ3C by employees). What it basically was a categorization of publisher accounts. Those publisher’s that could do the most damage by having their account banned were placed in a VIP group that was to be left alone. The rest of the publishers would be placed into other groupings accordingly.

The new AQ3C also implemented “quality control” quotas for the account auditors, so if you didn’t meet the “quality control” target (aka account bans) you would be called in for a performance review. There were four “groups” publishers could fall into if they reached certain milestones.

They were:

Red Group: Urgent Attention Required
Any AdSense account that reaches the $10,000/month mark is immediately flagged (unless they are part of the Green Group).
– In the beginning there were many in this category, and most were seen as problematic and were seen as abusing the system by Google. So every effort was taken to bring their numbers down.
– They are placed in what employees termed “The Eagle Eye”, where the “AdSense Eagle Eye Team” would actively and constantly audit their accounts and look for any absolute reason for a ban. Even if the reason was far-fetched, or unsubstantiated, and unprovable, the ban would occur. The “Eagle Eye Team” referred to a group of internal account auditors whose main role was to constantly monitor publisher’s accounts and sites.
– A reason has to be internally attached to the account ban. The problem was that notifying the publisher for the reason is not a requirement, even if the publisher asks. The exception: The exact reason must be provided if a legal representative contacts Google on behalf of the account holder.
– But again, if a ban is to occur, it must occur as close to a payout period as possible with the most amount of money accrued/earned.

Yellow Group: Serious Attention Required

Any AdSense account that reaches the $5,000/month mark is flagged for review (unless they are part of the Green Group).
– All of the publisher’s site(s)/account will be placed in queue for an audit.
– Most of the time the queue is quite full so most are delayed their audit in a timely fashion.
– The second highest amount of bans occur at this level.
– A reason has to be internally attached to the account ban. Notifiying the publisher for the reason is not a requirement, even if the publisher asks. The exception: The exact reason must be provided if a legal representative contacts Google on behalf of the account holder.
– But again, if a ban is to occur, it must occur as close to a payout period as possible with the most amount of money accrued/earned.

Blue Group: Moderate Attention Required

Any AdSense account that reaches the $1,000/month mark is flagged for possible review (unless they are part of the Green Group).
– Only the main site and account will be place in queue for what is called a quick audit.
– Most bans that occur happen at this level. Main reason is that a reason doesn’t have to be attached to the ban, so the employees use these bans to fill their monthly quotas. So many are simply a random pick and click.
– A reason does not have to be internally attached to the account ban. Notifying the publisher for the reason is not a requirement, even if the publisher asks.
– But again, if a ban is to occur, it must occur as close to a payout period as possible with the most amount of money accrued.

Green Group: VIP Status (what employees refer to as the “untouchables”)

Any AdSense account associated with an incorporated entity or individual that can inflict serious damage onto Google by negative media information, rallying large amounts of anti-AdSense support, or cause mass loss of AdSense publisher support.
– Google employees wanting to use AdSense on their websites were automatically placed in the Green group. So the database contained many Google insiders and their family members. If you work or worked for Google and were placed in the category, you stayed in it, even if you left Google. So it included many former employees. Employees simply had to submit a form with site specific details and their account info.
– Sites in the Green Group were basically given “carte blanche” to do anything they wanted, even if they flagrantly went against the AdSense TOS and Policies. That is why you will encounter sites with AdSense, but yet have and do things completely against AdSense rules.
– Extra care is taken not to interrupt or disrupt these accounts.
– If an employee makes a mistake with a Green Level account they can lose their job. Since it seen as very grievous mistake.

New Policy 2012 Part 2:

Internal changes to the policy were constant. They wanted to make it more efficient and streamlined. They saw its current process as having too much human involvement and oversight. They wanted it more automated and less involved.

So the other part of the new policy change was to incorporate other Google services into assisting the “quality control” program. What they came up with will anger many users when they find out. It involved skewing data in Google Analytics. They decided it was a good idea to alter the statistical data shown for websites. It first began with just altering data reports for Analytics account holders that also had an AdSense account, but they ran into too many issues and decided it would be simpler just to skew the report data across the board to remain consistent and implement features globally.

So what this means is that the statistical data for a website using Google Analytics is not even close to being accurate. The numbers are incredibly deflated. The reasoning behind their decision is that if an individual links their AdSense account and their Analytics account, the Analytics account can be used to deflate the earnings automatically without any human intervention. They discovered that if an individual had an AdSense account then they were also likely to use Google Analytics. So Google used it to their advantage.

This led to many publishers to actively display ads, without earning any money at all (even to this day). Even if their actual website traffic was high, and had high click-throughs the data would be automatically skewed in favor of Google, and at a total loss of publishers. This successfully made it almost impossible for anyone to earn amounts even remotely close what individuals with similar sites were earning prior to 2012, and most definitely nowhere near pre-2009 earnings.

Other policy changes also included how to deal with appeals, which still to this day, the large majority are completely ignored, and why you will rarely get an actual answer as to why your account was banned and absolutely no way to resolve it.

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The BIG Problem (which Google is aware of)

There is an enormous problem that existed for a long time in Google’s AdSense accounts. Many of the upper management are aware of this problem but do not want to acknowledge or attempt to come up with a solution to the problem.

It is regarding false clicks on ads. Many accounts get banned for “invalid clicks” on ads. In the past this was caused by a publisher trying to self inflate click-throughs by clicking on the ads featured on their website. The servers automatically detect self-clicking with comparison to IP addresses and other such information, and the persons account would get banned for invalid clicking.

But there was something forming under the surface. A competitor or malicious person would actively go to their competitor’s website(s) or pick a random website running AdSense and begin multiple-clicking and overclicking ads, which they would do over and over again. Of course this would trigger an invalid clicking related ban, mainly because it could not be proven if the publisher was actually behind the clicking. This was internally referred to as “Click-Bombing”. Many innocent publishers would get caught up in bans for invalid clicks which they were not involved in and were never told about.

This issue has been in the awareness of Google for a very long time but nothing was done to rectify the issue and probably never will be. Thus if someone wants to ruin a Google AdSense publishers account, all you would have to do is go to their website, and start click-bombing their Google Ads over and over again, it will lead the servers to detect invalid clicks and poof, they get banned. The publisher would be completely innocent and unaware of the occurrence but be blamed for it anyways.

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Their BIG Fear

The biggest fear that Google has about these AdSense procedures and policies is that it will be publicly discovered by their former publishers who were banned, and that those publishers unite together and launch an class-action lawsuit.

They also fear those whose primary monthly earnings are from AdSense, because in many countries if a person claims the monthly amount to their tax agency and they state the monthly amount and that they are earning money from Google on a monthly basis, in certain nations technically Google can be seen as an employer. Thus, an employer who withholds payment of earnings, can be heavily fined by government bodies dealing with labor and employment. And if these government bodies dealing with labor and employment decide to go after Google, then it would get very ugly, very quickly ….. that is on top of a class-action lawsuit.

Share your thoughts

Have you experienced any similar incidents with your Google AdSense accounts or do you know of any publisher who has been a victim of AdSense account termination? What do you think about the allegations? Has Google been playing secretly dirty? Let us know in the comments.

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