lotus



previous page: How to Improve Site's Ranking with Google Sitemaps
  
page up: Passive Income, Finance and Entrepreneurship
  
next page: Highest Paying Google AdSense Keywords Hoax

"How to Bring Google AdSense Down" Or "You are Guilty but We will not Tell You Why" and "How to Resurrect Your Google AdSense Account".




Description

This story is about a first-hand encounter with Google AdSense injustice. It explains why at the moment is might be unwise to try to rely on Google AdSense for your source of income. In short my account was disabled. I had to appeal twice in order to reinstate it. I was never told why the account was disabled. Hopefully this story will help you to regain the access to your account, should it get disabled.

First published: Apr 25 2006 / Last update: Apr 28 2006

Introduction

I was reading a lot recently about the idea of multiple sources of income, especially passive ones. Working full time as a director of development at a very successful startup (mailchannels.com), that tries to ease the pain created by spam, viruses and phishing attacks, and trying to have a life didn't leave me much time for experimentation with new sources of income.

My personal site was generating about 600 page views a day and a friend of mine suggested that I add Google Ads to my site. As my site's final rendering is autogenerated from templates it didn't take more than a few minutes to accomplish the task. And that's how in December 2005 I've started my little experiment with Google ads.

The Revenue Experiment

I've tried using ads programs before but it never really worked, since ads were random most of the time, so chances that someone would click on those weren't very good. Google revolutionised the industry by analysing the content in real time and placing very targeted ads - significantly increasing the chances that those ads will get clicked on.

Since my website didn't have too much content, I've quickly learnt that it's not really going to make any significant addition to my income, since on average I was getting about a dollar a day.

But nevertheless I have kept the ads, hoping that I'd add more content over time and that revenue will become more significant.

Until now I was getting most of the traffic to my site from google's search engine. Recently I've discovered that there is a plethora of social linking sites, so I've run another experiment of bookmarking a few of my pages on those sites. Which had a very good outcome, the number of clicks for those pages has grown by 10 times over just a few days. I can't yet tell if the trend is going to continue, but it was certainly a very positive outcome, considering that I've submitted just two pages.

The Days of Thunder

A few days ago, I've logged to my adsense account to discover to my amazement that I've made $32 in one day, having 169 clicks - that's a 30 times increase in the daily revenue. I said wow! But the next day it went back to the average and didn't repeat again.

A few days later I've received an email from Google, saying that my account was disabled:

  Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2006 11:04:53 -0700
  Message-ID: <1145642693590.2e8b4253-5c8c-4f19-9485-9c53b14c00da@google.com>
  From: Google AdSense <adsense-adclicks@google.com>
  To: stas@stason.org
  Subject: *Google AdSense Account Disabled
  Cc: Google AdSense <adsense-adclicks@google.com>
  
  Hello Stas Bekman,
  
  It has come to our attention that invalid clicks have been generated on
  the Google ads on your site(s). We have therefore disabled your Google
  AdSense account. Please understand that this step was taken in an
  effort to protect the interest of the AdWords advertisers.
  
  A publisher's site may not have invalid clicks on any ad(s), including
  but not limited to clicks generated by:
  
  - a publisher on his own web pages
  - a publisher encouraging others to click on his ads
  - automated clicking programs or any other deceptive software
  - a publisher altering any portion of the ad code or changing the
  layout, behavior, targeting, or delivery of ads for any reason
  
  Practices such as these are in violation of the Google AdSense Terms
  and Conditions and program polices, which can be viewed at:
  
  https://www.google.com/adsense/localized-terms?hl=en_US
  https://www.google.com/adsense/policies?hl=en_US
  
  Publishers disabled for invalid click activity are not allowed further
  participation in AdSense and do not receive any further payment. The
  earnings on your account will be properly returned to the affected
  advertisers.
  
  Sincerely,
  
  The Google AdSense Team

I've realised that that surge in clicks was most likely the reason that made Google disable my account - the only problem, is that I didn't generate those clicks. In fact I was away for 4 days, hiking in the rain forests in Tofino, when this has happened.

So I've followed up:

  Message-ID: <4449269A.4020704@stason.org>
  Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2006 11:38:18 -0700
  From: Stas Bekman <stas@stason.org>
  To: Google AdSense <adsense-adclicks@google.com>
  Subject: Re: *Google AdSense Account Disabled
  
  Google AdSense wrote:
  > Hello Stas Bekman,
  > 
  > It has come to our attention that invalid clicks have been generated on
  > the Google ads on your site(s). We have therefore disabled your Google
  > AdSense account. [...]
  
  Yeah, I've noticed the surge in clicks on a single day. But it wasn't me, 
  neither have I encouraged anybody to do that.
  
  Think about it - I can go to any website that features Google ads and 
  start clicking on ads non-stop for a few hours - you will have to disable 
  the AdSense account on that website. So any malicious user can make bring 
  someone's source of legitimate revenue down.
  
  How do you deal with that?
  
  I hope you realise that I'm innocent and turn my account back on. I'm 
  perfectly fine with you having reduced the revenue made on that day from 
  my total.
  
  Thank you.
  
  -- 
  _____________________________________________________________
  Stas Bekman mailto:stas@stason.org  http://stason.org/
  MailChannels: Assured Messaging(TM) http://mailchannels.com/
  The "Practical mod_perl" book       http://modperlbook.org/
  http://perl.apache.org/ http://perl.org/ http://logilune.com/

And a few days later, I've received an email from Google Adsense suggesting to appeal the account closure:

  Return-Path: <bounce-20-54514657@google.trakken.com>
  Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2006 09:02:56 -0700
  From: "Google AdSense" <adsense-adclicks-noreply@google.com>
  To: "Stas Bekman" <stas@stason.org>
  Subject: Re: [#54514657] *Google AdSense Account Disabled
  Message-ID: <#14.33fd3e1.a07b57cc.444cf6b0.6@google.trakken.com>
  User-Agent: Neotonic Trakken/2.32.2
  
  Hello,
  
  As you know, Google treats instances of invalid clicks very seriously. By
  disabling your account, we feel that we have taken the necessary measures
  to ensure that invalid clicks will not continue to occur on your site. Due
  to the proprietary nature of our monitoring system, we're not able to
  disclose any specific details of these clicks. 
  
  Publishers disabled for invalid click activity are not allowed further
  participation in Google AdSense. However, if you can maintain in good
  faith that the invalid clicks we detected on your ads were not due to your
  actions or negligence, or the actions or negligence of others working for
  you, you may appeal the closing of your account. 
  
  Google reserves sole discretion in considering whether to take any action
  on an appeal. 
  
  In order to appeal the disabling of your account, please email us at
  adsense-adclicks-appeal@google.com with the details requested below.
  Please compose a new email and do not reply to this message. We're unable
  to consider appeals that do not contain all of this information: 
  
  - Your name
  
  - Your company's name (if applicable)
  
  - Your publisher ID number (located in the AdSense code on your website
  with the format, pub-################)
  
  - Your website's URL
  
  - Date your account was disabled
  
  - Your website's audience
  
  - The source of your website's content
  
  - Frequency of content updates
  
  - The primary sources of your website's traffic
  
  - The number of people involved with the administration of the site
  
  - Any relevant information that you believe would explain the invalid
  click activity we detected 
  
  If Google decides to evaluate your appeal, we will do our best to inform
  you quickly and will proceed with appropriate action as necessary. If we
  have reached a decision on your appeal, subsequent or duplicate appeals
  may not be considered.
  
  Sincerely,
  
  The Google AdSense Team

So there nothing else I can do but to appeal, following their guidelines:

  Message-ID: <444D0D2C.4020709@stason.org>
  Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2006 10:38:52 -0700
  From: Stas Bekman <stas@stason.org>
  To:  adsense-adclicks-appeal@google.com
  Subject: appeal for pub-8889692424303178
  
  Hi,
  
  I'd like to appeal the disabling of my account.
  
  - Your name
  
  Stas Bekman
  
  - Your company's name (if applicable)
  
  Not applicable
  
  - Your publisher ID number
  
  pub-8889692424303178
  
  - Your website's URL
  
  http://stason.org/
  
  - Date your account was disabled
  
  21/04/06
  
  - Your website's audience
  
  Miscellaneous, mainly programmers and computer enthusiasts
  
  - The source of your website's content
  
  Articles and links collections that I've created.
  
  - Frequency of content updates
  
  On average weekly.
  
  - The primary sources of your website's traffic
  
  Google search engine and other linking services
  
  - The number of people involved with the administration of the site
  
  Just 1 (I).
  
  - Any relevant information that you believe would explain the invalid
  click activity we detected
  
  I've noticed the surge in clicks on a single day (169 from the average of 
  a few). But it wasn't me, neither have I encouraged anybody to do that. I 
  was suggested by several people that someone who either hated the ads on 
  my site or wanted to burn some advertiser's funds could have done that. 
  Since you don't provide the details on where those clicks came from, I've 
  no idea what has happened.
  
  I've read about similar cases online and it seems like trying to build 
  your business based on Google ads is very unsafe bet - since anyone can go 
  to any website that features Google ads and start clicking on ads non-stop 
  for a few hours - you will have to disable the AdSense account on that 
  website. So any malicious user can make bring someone's source of 
  legitimate revenue down. How do you deal with that?
  
  Do you have any tips on how to avoid such cases happen in the future? As 
  far as I can see, there is nothing a publisher can do about protecting 
  themselves from this evil. Can you?
  
  Thank you.
  
  -- 
  _____________________________________________________________
  Stas Bekman mailto:stas@stason.org  http://stason.org/
  MailChannels: Assured Messaging(TM) http://mailchannels.com/
  The "Practical mod_perl" book       http://modperlbook.org/
  http://perl.apache.org/ http://perl.org/ http://logilune.com/

And Google Adsense replied the next day that I'm guilty as charged, w/o supplying any additional information:

  Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2006 09:20:15 -0700
  From: "Google AdSense" <adsense-adclicks-appeal@google.com>
  To: "Stas Bekman" <stas@stason.org>
  Subject: Re: [#54822692] appeal for pub-8889692424303178
  Message-ID: <#14.3448724.8650f5cb.444e4c3f.1@google.trakken.com>
  
  Hello Stas Bekman,
  
  Thank you for your appeal.
  
  After receiving your response, we re-reviewed your account data
  thoroughly. We have reconfirmed that invalid clicks were generated on the
  ads on your site in violation of our Terms and Conditions and program
  policies.
  
  https://www.google.com/adsense/terms
  https://www.google.com/adsense/policies
  
  We have these policies in place to help ensure the effectiveness of Google
  ads for our publishers as well as our advertisers. According to our policy
  on this matter, we are unable to reinstate you into the program.
  
  Please bear in mind that subsequent or duplicate appeals may not be
  considered and you may not receive any further communication from us. We
  appreciate your understanding.
  
  Sincerely,
  
  The Google AdSense Team

Well, it seemed that there is absolutely nothing that I can do about the situation. And that's when I've published this article.

But read on as the story goes on to a happy Hollywood ending (so far).

Let the Sun Shine

While researching similar stories online, I've found a few suggestions on how to restore the disabled account. (see the "related links" section at the end of this article.) So I decided to give those suggestions a try. I've posted a second appeal:

  From: Stas Bekman <stas@stason.org>
  Subject: appeal for pub-8889692424303178
  Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2006 11:39:23 -0700
  
  Hi,
  
  I'd like to appeal the disabling of my account.
  
  - Your name
  
  Stas Bekman
  
  - Your company's name (if applicable)
  
  Not applicable
  
  - Your publisher ID number
  
  pub-8889692424303178
  
  - Your website's URL
  
  http://stason.org/
  
  - Date your account was disabled
  
  21/04/06
  
  - Your website's audience
  
  Miscelaneous writing, mainly programmers and computer enthusiasts
  
  - The source of your website's content
  
  Articles and links collections that I've created.
  
  - Frequency of content updates
  
  On average weekly.
  
  - The primary sources of your website's traffic
  
  google search engine and other bookmarking services
  
  - The number of people involved with the administration of the site
  
  Just 1 (I).
  
  - Any relevant information that you believe would explain the invalid
  click activity we detected
  
  I've now read hundreds of stories of people who got banned, most claiming 
  that they think they got banned because of the clicks coming from their 
  IPs. Since you have not stated what was the reason for banning, I'll take 
  a chance and hope that this was indeed the case. I didn't realize that 
  even if I didn't click on the ads on my site, someone else in my office 
  could have done this. Some of the folks per-use my site for finding 
  information. Our network is seen as single IP to the outside world. And no
  
  I have never encouraged them to click on any ads.
  
  I'm sure though that the surge of links coming on a single day (169) 
  wasn't generated by anybody in my office nor me, at least everybody I've 
  asked said they didn't do it (but I could be wrong).
  
  Please help me to prove my innocence - let me know if I can assist with 
  providing you with information, logs or whatever you ask for.
  
  As I've mentioned before I'm not interested in the amount of money that 
  was earned via the illegal activity.
  
  Thank you for your consideration.

And a few hours later I was surprised to receive a reply that my appeal was successful:

  Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2006 17:11:43 -0700
  From: "Google AdSense" <adsense-adclicks-appeal@google.com>
  To: "Stas Bekman" <stas@stason.org>
  Subject: Re: [#55343692] appeal for pub-8889692424303178
  
  Hello Stas Bekman,
  
  Thank you for clarifying your situation. We have reviewed your
  circumstances and have reinstated your account, effective immediately.
  Based on the findings of our investigation, we have deducted $30.82 from
  your account. This amount represents the earnings previously credited to
  your account from invalid clicks. The deduction should occur in your next
  scheduled payment.
  
  For your reference, we've included some short guidelines to assist you in
  preventing invalid clicks in the future:
  
  It is against our program policies for website publishers to click on the
  ads on their own web pages, or to encourage others to do so. In addition,
  the use of automated techniques to generate clicks, such as robots or
  scripts, is prohibited.
  
  If you would like to visit the destination of an ad to view its content or
  to add it to your filter list, you can use the AdSense Preview Tool,
  available here:
  
  https://www.google.com/support/adsense/bin/topic.py?topic=160
  
  The Google AdSense preview tool is an addition to the right-click menu for
  Windows Internet Explorer 6.x, allowing you to preview the ads that may
  show on any web page. Clicks and impressions from the preview tool are not
  applied to the advertiser's account. You can click through to the target
  site without worrying about invalid clicks being generated on your
  account, and without costing the advertiser for your test clicks. 
  
  Finally, please be sure to review and remain in compliance with our Terms
  and Conditions and program policies: 
  
  https://www.google.com/adsense/terms
  https://www.google.com/adsense/policies
  https://www.google.com/support/adsense
  
  If you have any questions, please feel free to respond to this email.
  
  Sincerely,
  
  The Google AdSense Team

As you can see they have deduced those $30 that were generated during that surge of 169 clicks (versus the normal average of under 10), which is totally fine with me.

Give it a try, hopefully it will work for you too.

Conclusion

While I understand that there is a lot of click fraud going on, and realise that Google needs a way to fight it, this study case clearly shows that:

Innocent are much more likely to be hurt because there is justice system in place. Google plays God here - sorry, we can't tell you why you are guilty and we don't need to prove it to you. Good bye.

It's darn easy to bring someone's AdSense account to a closure by Google - just arrange a surge of clicks on someone's site. You've already heard of botnets, right? And you've heard of people cracking captchas by making other people do the typing, right? And probably 10,000 other ways. It's probably much harder to make a dent in bigger sites with a lot of traffic, so smaller sites are much more vulnerable, since it's much easier to create a burst of clicks and get it on the Google fraud team radar.

I'm wondering about the following: Google prohibits the publishers to click ads on their own sites - but that's silly: what if I see an ad that I'm genuinely interested in? It's so easy to forget about that prohibition and click on the ad - and boom, you get banned. Or your co-worker sitting on the same IP clicks some ads - how could he know about the prohibition? I'm not talking about going all day around and click on your site's ads, I'm talking about clicking a few of them here and there - it won't make the publisher more than a few dozens of cents. Why Google Adsense can't just not account for those few clicks, rather than count them as a fraud? Simply change the contract to say: any clicks coming from your IP will not be accounted as a revenue. That'd certainly help a lot of people: both the publishers and the Google AdSense team.

Another problem is that when Google disables your account you lose all your earnings so far, even those that have happened before the illegal activity (which hopefully wasn't done by you, which was the case with me). i.e. if my account wouldn't have been re-enabled those $100+ dollars would have been lost.

Also after notifying me that the account is disabled, Google has continued serving ads on my site, until I've removed their javascript code after I realised that the appeal was just their way to show that they listen. I wonder who was getting paid for those clicks generated during that period. If they have considered the site to be illegally generating clicks, were the advertisers burning their money for nothing?

So, the next time you get excited by all those books and sites touting Google Ads as your greatest source of revenue, think twice before you waste your time and energy on something that is *not* under your control and can be taken away by a malicious user in co-operation with Google AdSense team.

Google AdSense is undeniably a great tool when it works, but I'd definitely love to have a better control over it.

Corollary

Once Google AdSense has re-enabled my account, guess what ads did it start to serve on the very page you are looking at? "Get Google AdSense" of course.

Related Articles

 

12 Things NOT to Do to Improve Your Site's Google Page Rank
this article covers 12 techniques that must NOT be used if you want your site's Google page rank to be high (and not to get banned)

Michael Cheney's Traffic Videos Review
An excellent set of training videos, teaching you how to significantly improve your revenue with various sources of Traffic to your site

AdSense Ads Blending Case Studies
The best way to improve Click-Through Rate is to learn from the best. In this article we look at several sites where ads blend with the content extremely well

Michael Cheney's AdSense Videos Review
A good set of videos teaching you how to significantly improve your revenue with AdSense

Eye Tracking Studies for Better Ad Placement and Website Usability
Several eye tracking studies provide important implications on the website design and findability of ads

More with Less
How to make more money from ads without extra visitors and content

How to Improve Site's Ranking with Google Sitemaps
Help Google bring more visitors to your site with Google Sitemaps

12 Things to Do to Improve Your Site's Google Page Rank
this article covers 12 techniques that will help raise your page rank and move your site to the top of the search hits


 

 

Related Links

 

What to Do if Google Wrongly Bans You from AdSense (http://www.ezinearticles.com/?What-to-Do-if-Google-Wrongly-Bans-You-from-AdSense&id=172630)
Another advice on how to reinstate google adsense account

How To Avoid Getting Your Adsense Account Terminated (http://www.ezymoneyathome.com/HTA.html)
Another article that provides warnings for those planning to rely on Google Adsense for their revenue

Affiliate and Contextual Advertising (http://www.drastictactics.com/)
An interesting website presenting various advertisement options and the main players in each category.

Kontera (http://www.kontera.com/mainform.aspx?type=1&aff_ID=3877)
A great way to augment AdSense (most people report that AdSense CTR is not affected by adding Kontera inlined ads) and it's approved to be used on the same pages where on already uses AdSense.

An Expose' on Google AdSense Fraud (http://www.sofizar.com/google-adsense-fraud.php)
Tips on how to protect your PPC account

Are You Working in Google's AdSense Sweatshop? (http://artofmoney.org/internet-business/are-you-working-in-googles-adsense-sweatshop/)
Should you take the blue pill or the red one?

What are alternatives to Google AdSense? (http://www.internet-search-engines-faq.com/google-adsense-alternatives.shtml)
Presents a list of other similar services (and more alternatives (http://www.threadwatch.org/resources/advertising/contextual/adsense/alternatives)).

They cancelled my account (http://marc.perkel.com/archives/000056.html)
A blog entry with lots of comments most saying the same thing as this article

How to ensure your AdSense account will not be cancelled. (http://www.jensense.com/archives/2005/08/how_to_ensure_y.html)
By JenStar (http://www.jensense.com/archives/google_adsense/index.html) who writes a lot about AdSense and other programs

The Myth of Building A Software Business on Google AdSense Revenue (http://www.onstartups.com/Home/tabid/3339/ctl/ArticleView/mid/4112/articleId/457/The-Myth-of-Building-A-Software-Business-on-Google-AdSense-Revenue.aspx)
I especially like the quote: Google is judge, jury and lead prosecutor

15 Common Mistakes by Google Adsense Publishers that Violate Terms of Service (http://www.quickonlinetips.com/archives/2005/05/15-common-mistakes-by-google-adsense-publishers/)
A useful list from Quick Online Tips

Google Adsense Secret Tips & Optimization Tricks (http://labnol.blogspot.com/2005/09/z-adsense-tips-for-increasing-revenue.html)
Useful suggestions from Amit Agarwal

Larwee suggests (http://www.geekvillage.com/forums/showthread.php?t=28523)
what to do when you account is disabled (reply #4)

A very long thread about the ways Google AdSense deals with publishers (http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum89/12761.htm)
and another one. (http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum89/13491.htm)

Adsense Bowling (http://www.thegooglecache.com/?p=5)
An article talking about the same problem: anybody can bring your Google Adsense account down, should they want to and there is nothing you can do about it. I like the suggestion of contacting Google Adsense when you detect a surge in clicks, even if you see that you've got a lot of money for it, since if you don't most likely you are going to lose it all.


 

 










TOP
previous page: How to Improve Site's Ranking with Google Sitemaps
  
page up: Passive Income, Finance and Entrepreneurship
  
next page: Highest Paying Google AdSense Keywords Hoax