How I Lost My Adsense Account

We all screw up once in a while. After all, we are ‘only’ human. This post is about how I made a mistake, the high punishment I got for making that mistake and the lessons which you can learn from being ‘ignorant’.

A few months ago I got an e-mail from Google. It said that I had violated the Adsense terms at that from that moment on, my Adsense account was banned. I was taken out of Adsense. At that point I had no idea why.

Now you have to know that I never used Adsense that much. I had set up an account I think about 6 or 7 years ago. I had put it on a small personal site which only had a few visitors a month. In a later stage I had put the Adsense on a different site but didn’t do much with it. In total I think I never made more than a 100 maybe 200 dollars on Adsense.

Only in the last year or so I started using it a little bit more: I had put Adsense on the RSS Feed of State of Search. Again, I didn’t make a lot of money. I know some people can run their entire business on it, I don’t. Still, when the e-mail from Google came I was surprised and disappointed.

The e-mail

The e-mail I got from Google had the following in it:

“While going through our records recently, we found that your AdSense account has posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers. Since keeping your account in our publisher network may financially damage our advertisers in the future, we’ve decided to disable your account.

Please understand that we consider this a necessary step to protect the interests of both our advertisers and our other AdSense publishers. We realize the inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation.”

The e-mail also had a link to a support page where I could find more information on the guidelines and what happened. Neither the e-mail or the page however could tell me why my Adsense account was banned. And Google made clear why that is:

“Because we have a need to protect our proprietary detection system, we’re unable to provide our publishers with any information about their account activity”

Now what?

So I was puzzled. What did I do wrong? And how can I correct that mistake? I tried e-mailing Google but without luck. They could only tell me I was banned. Even a reconsideration request failed to get through. They were serious here: my Adsense account was banned and would continue to be banned. I was sentenced for life.

Now being the ignorant me on Adsense and because I didn’t know if this was caused by State of Search or a personal site I tried setting up a new Adsense account, specifically for State of Search. They approved that but within a week it was disapproved again because they made the connection with my personal account. That made me think it had something to do with State of Search. Turns out it didn’t.

What did I do wrong?

Last week I found out why my Adsense account was banned. It was a mistake I made about 6 or 7 years ago. Something which I had ‘erased’ with a redesign without realizing, after the ‘punishment’ was given out by Google, probably one of the reasons I couldn’t find what I did wrong in the first place.

Seven years ago I had a personal site in Dutch which only attracted a few visitors a month. It was a small site with incredibly low numbers which I had stopped using for a while, it was just sitting there. At the bottom of a page on that site I had done something very stupid, which I should have known I shouldn’t do but didn’t know back then. I hadn’t read the Adsense guidelines and I had put this below the page:

Taken out of archive.org

And one thing which is not allowed on Adsense is to ‘trick’ or ‘convince’ people to click on ads. Stupid, stupid me 7 years ago.

The punishment

So there it was: my mistake. I had screwed up. I should have known better. I deserve to be punished!

And that is just what Google did: they punished me by not allowing me to use Adsense anymore. To be very honest: as said, I deserve to be punished, but in this case the punishment ‘feels’ a bit harsh. It feels like I’ve been sentenced to life for shoplifting when I was just a young adult. If they would have asked me to pay back all the money I made on Adsense in those 7 years I would have been happy to do so, being banned forever is a very high prize to pay to be honest.

Extenuating circumstances

I could argue that there are extenuating circumstances: the site is a very small one, I hardly made any money from Google and why do my other sites have to be ‘punished’ as well? And come on, it was seven years ago I had put this on! Some consideration could be in order!

In Google’s defense: they have to be hard. This is the way they make money and they have to protect their advertisers. And as somebody pointed out to me: what if ALL the small sites would do this, can you imagine how much money Google would lose on that?

So again, Google was right to punish me. And there is something to be said for this punishment. But really, if JC Penney screws up, get punished by losing their rankings, but are back in there after only a few months (I know, different part of Google, but still), shouldn’t a small advertiser get a second chance?

Lessons Learned

There are many lessons to be learned from this:

Do NOT ask for clicks: that is the most obvious lesson of all off course. Don’t do this in the first place!
Read the terms and conditions: I had not read the terms and conditions back then (I think many people don’t to be honest). I should have because then I would have known the risk I was taking by putting down this one sentence.
Google’s support could be a lot better. I in the end found a connection, so the actual people there helped me out, but being unaware of why you got banned doesn’t really help anybody. I know, setting up support for that is costly, but giving people a reason why they got banned so they won’t do it again could help.
People deserve a second chance: Even though I admit to have made this mistake I truly believe Google should allow ‘second chances’ or at least a warning.
Don’t just use Adsense. Imagine if I would have been totally dependent on Adsense. That would have killed my business on this one mistake. Spreading your income through different channels makes sense.
And finally: everybody makes mistakes (tell me, did you?)

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Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.