As more and more people join the movement for greater transparency and consumer protection, Google is making a great effort to explain its systems. On the organic side, Google has explained why the search engine shows specific results. On the paid side, Google introduced a three-strike pilot program to prevent potentially harmful ads from being featured on the search engine and improve customer safety. 

Although the three-strike program is a great initiative carried out by the tech giant, PPC professionals are concerned that Google will incorrectly flag ads as it is known to have done this in the past. These false positives may have serious consequences resulting in more time spent communicating with Google Ads support representatives.

What is Google Ads’ three-strike pilot program?

This program begins in September 2021 and applies to violations of its unapproved substances, enabling dishonest behaviour, and dangerous product or service policies. 

“This includes ads promoting deceptive behavior or products such as the creation of false documents, hacking services, and spyware, as well as tobacco, drugs, and weapons, among other types of content.”

– Brett Kline, Google’s Product Manager

Although Google has prohibited these types of ads for a while, the system to enforce the policies is new. 

If PPC professionals are found to be violating any of Google’s policies, as their first infraction, they will receive a warning. Thereafter penalties will become increasingly strict with each violation which can result in account suspension after the third strike. 

(Image Source: Google)

After 90 days the strikes expire and Google has implemented systems to prevent advertising from creating new accounts to bypass suspension. Additionally, Google plans to extend its three-strike program after the initial pilot in order to include more policy types. 

PPC professionals have voiced their opinion and were in favour of the three-strike system. However, they are concerned due to Google’s enforcement which can be haphazard. 

“I want to be clear that the policies aren’t the issue, it’s the unequal and sometimes plain incorrect application of the policy. It’s the fact that an account where I have previously appealed multiple times still gets flagged for the same reason…If I trusted the appeal process to be smooth or that repeat flags wouldn’t occur, I would not be as worried as I am.”

– Amalia Fowler, Director of Marketing at Snaptech Marketing

“Two of my clients were disapproved for unapproved substances and dangerous products earlier this year. I distinctly remember because the clients and I got a good chuckle out of it, considering one of them is in the event management SaaS space and the other was in the CPG space. It was an equally ludicrous disapproval for both of their businesses.” vative

–  said Amy Bishop, Owner of Cultivative

The Google Ads team is aware of the issues being faced by PPC professionals. 

(Image Source: Twitter)

Unfortunately, Google is no stranger to complaints about inappropriately flagging ads. However with the new consequences, it raises the stakes, and advertisers want assurance that this program is not stacked against them. Since Google’s ads are the company’s main source of revenue, it is in Google’s best interest to improve its ad violation detection systems. 

What impact does this have on advertisers?

Falsely flagged ads may have been a minor frustration for advertisers in the past, however, with the new system, falsely flagged ads can prove to be roadblocks to revenue. 

1. For clients:

“For my clients in particular, there are two or three that continuously get inappropriately flagged for substances and dangerous weapons, and we are constantly appealing. Google Ads is what drives their e-commerce presence, which makes up a very large portion of their overall business, so getting flagged incorrectly is one thing, but having it result in account suspension is another.”

– Amalia Fowler

“I have clients that receive erroneous disapprovals all the time. They aren’t for the categories being addressed in the three-strike rule, so I doubt this will impact my clients but I can see where folks with clients in other industries, especially healthcare, might have concerns.”

– Amy Bishop. 
(Image source: Twitter)

Thankfully, strikes expire after 90 days and advertisers can appeal strikes that they believe were inappropriately applied. It should be noted that successful appeals are not counted towards the three-strike limit. 

2. For agencies:

“For the agency, this could entail additional time spent haggling with support/reps to ensure that ‘false flags’ don’t count against us.”

– Tim Jensen, campaign manager at Clix Marketing.

“If I write an ad, it gets disapproved, I appeal, and it gets rejected, how many more times am I likely to try with this short runway? In cases where the policy is administered unfairly or poorly, or simply incorrectly, it stifles a company’s ability to advertise and adds a level of anxiety.”

– Amalia Fowler

As more advertisers spend time debating with Google Ads representatives, it may mean less time spent on optimising actual campaigns. Accounts that are prone to receiving a lot of false flags may not only stall progress but also end up getting suspended. These factors combined can negatively affect the agency-client relationship. 

Why should you care?

By now Google is probably improving its systems in order to minimise incorrectly flagging ads. However, the three-strike program is scheduled to start in a couple of weeks so it is in the advertisers’ best interest to tread carefully. 

“Watch for violations that are flagged and be ready to appeal. You can’t always predict when ads might be flagged, but just be extra mindful of display ad imagery and wording that might somehow be construed to fit these policies.”

– Tim Jensen

“Understand that it isn’t just ad text that causes these violations.If you have an account that historically has been flagged under these policies despite not violating them, make sure you are happy with your account setup and the number of ads. I would create ads, make sure they get approved, and then pause them for future testing so you don’t have to create them under this new policy.”

– Amalia Fowler said, recommending that advertisers check their extensions, destination URLs and their site as a whole.

In addition to this, being able to communicate with clients about the changes ahead of time will assist in framing their expectations once the policies are in effect. 

“In the future, we plan to expand the strikes system in phases to scope more of our policies in.”

– Google said in its announcement. 

This comment made by Google means more advertisers may run into difficulties with the system, which means it is best to get ahead of it now instead of being given the first strike. On top of this, make sure to remember that Google’s third-party cookies have been delayed, here’s why.  

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