AdSense Ad Serving Disabled

I recently went through (what was for me) a pretty big fiasco with Google’s AdSense program.  It took nearly a month to get things sorted out, and I thought it might be helpful to someone to see the steps I took to get the situation remedied.   So, without further ado, here’s how I got one of my sites disabled (and enabled again) in Google Adsense.

Sometime in late January 2011, an AdSense representative apparently dropped by one of my company’s websites and decided we were violating one of their program policies.  This is a copy of the email that we received:

While reviewing your account, we noticed that you are currently displaying Google ads in a manner that is not compliant with our policies. For instance, we found violations of AdSense policies on pages such as: [here, they listed a URL to one of the pages on our site]

Please note that this URL is an example and that the same violations may exist on other pages of
your website.

It is important for a site displaying AdSense to offer significant value to the user by providing unique and relevant content, and not to place ads on auto-generated pages or pages with little to no original content.

Your site should also provide a good user experience through clear navigation and organization. Users should be able to easily click through your pages and find the information they are seeking.

The email went on to say that our AdSense account was still active, but that they had disabled ad serving to the above-mentioned site. Sure enough, 72 hours later, the ads stopped serving.

So yea, that sucked.  The particular page they mentioned in the email was a page that was added to the site in early 2007, ranks very well for the search terms that it targets, and has been stolen and republished by 20+ other websites.

I assumed that this would be a simple problem to get corrected.  After all, we own the copyright to that content, and a simple Archive.org search would clearly show that we were the first site to publish that content.

Unfortunately, there really aren’t any good ways to contact someone from the AdSense team.  From what I’ve heard from friends that have been working with AdSense for a long time, in order to get an account rep you have to be doing some serious, serious amount of business with them.  The email that was sent to me was from a “notification-only email address that does not accept incoming email”, and there’s no AdSense support phone number that you can call.  After digging around the AdSense support website for a bit, I did manage to find a form that I could fill out to file an appeal. I filed an appeal the day after receiving notification that AdSense had been disabled, and the next day I got this email:

Thanks for your email. However, please be aware that because your site was found to be in violation of our program policies, it is no longer eligible for participation in the AdSense program.

As a result, we have permanently disabled ad serving to the site.

Not exactly the response I was expecting.  In my appeal, I tried to clearly lay out the fact that my company owns the copyright to the content on the particular page they had cited.  I even linked them to the Archive.org results for my page.  I felt like I had done a pretty good job of explaining the situation, and yet I was still no further along.  In fact, as I would soon find out, not only was I no further along, but I had essentially blown my only shot at an appeal.  Excellent.

A couple more hours digging around the AdSense support site, and I find a policy clarification request form.  Thinking it’s probably a long shot, I fill that form out, noting that I had received a policy notification and that I needed more clarification on the issue.  I also provided a brief run-down of the situation, as I wanted to be sure that the person that would eventually read this clarification request would fully understand the situation.

The next day, I got a response:

As of now, your site has been permanently disabled. If you would like to file an appeal on grounds of DMCA copyright violations, I have attached further instructions. Our Legal Team will handle these issues accordingly.

Woo hoo! Now we’re getting somewhere.  Sure enough, the email included a link to an AdSense DMCA complaint form – which, I promptly filled out.  In this DMCA complaint, I noted all of the different sites that I could find that had stolen and republished our content – except one, eHow.com.  That site had republished 6 of our articles, and when I noticed that (at the beginning of this whole ordeal) I filed a copyright claim directly with Demand Media (eHow.com’s parent company).  Within hours, all 6 pages were taken down.  So I couldn’t really file a DMCA complaint against them anymore.

Two and a half weeks after filing the DMCA complaint, I still hadn’t heard anything from anyone at Google, and I had pretty much given up hope.  And then I got this email:

I’m following up regarding ads being disabled to [my website].

Our AdSense representatives monitor all sites participating in Google’s AdSense program according to our Terms and Conditions and program policies. It appears that we sent the prior warning message in error. I apologize for the confusion.

We have now re-enabled ad serving to your site.

Sure enough, a few hours later, ads were displaying again!

So, a few lessons learned here.

  1. Protect your site’s content! If you notice that other sites have stolen and republished your content, file a DMCA complaint against the owners.  It’s relatively easy to do.  I’ll probably write a how-to article on this topic soon.
  2. If one of your sites gets AdSense ads disabled like I did, and you’re not 100% sure what the issue with your site is, file a policy clarification request first.
  3. Only once you’re 100% certain that you’ve fixed the policy violations should you file an appeal – again, from what I’ve read you only get one shot.
  4. Google AdSense really has no other competitors.  Sure, there are other companies that offer similar services, but none of them are nearly as profitable for your average publisher.  Trust me, while ads were disabled on my site, I tried them all.  Had we not been able to get this issue corrected, our income on that particular site would have dropped by 50-75%.

Comments

  1. Michael McMahon says:

    How often do you search to see if your site’s content has been stolen? When you’re running a ton of sites with a ton of pages, investigating each page of content is a tad difficult.

    • Bryan says:

      Before this incident: never.

      Going forward, for the sites that I monetize with Google AdSense, I plan to start checking our most popular articles once every month or so. Those are the articles that are most likely to be stolen, as they’re likely ranking highly in the search engines for phrases that would-be content thieves want to rank for.

  2. Michael McMahon says:

    Or perhaps stolen content is simply cannibalizing your original pages of content leading to a drop in unique visitors/revenue per page. I can see a decrease in visitors/conversion rates on pages/campaigns as a reason to investigate further.

  3. This was a fascinating read, Bryan. While my blog is personal and probably contains very little that someone would like to swipe (ha), I still found this entry very informative and interesting. Do you approve people to use your content if they link back to you and credit your website?

    • Bryan says:

      Thanks Katie, and thanks for visiting. You’re right, in that a personal blog is much less likely to have it’s content lifted and republished, but it would still be advisable to check your articles that generate the most traffic and/or revenue for duplication.

      We typically don’t get a formal request to use our content, though, I would consider it if I was able to check out the site our article would be published on, and if they linked to our original article & referenced us as the author.

  4. terman@p90x says:

    Hello I have the same problem, do you think update my site with new content will be a faster solution ?

    • Bryan says:

      If you’ve published stolen content, and put Adsense ads around it – you’re probably not going to get Adsense back for that domain.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] up on you if you’re not vigilant about protecting your website’s content. Trust me, I speak from experience. In this article, I’ll try to walk you through some ways that you can protect your [...]

  2. [...] I’ve included a screenshot of an ad unit I added to one of my sites with the overlay enabled. As you can see, the overlay provides you with specific information regarding that ad unit: the name of the unit, stats for today, yesterday, and the prior 7 days. It also allows you to see what types of ads are being shown on your site (keep in mind, these are going to be targeted to you, based on your browsing history), and the overlays also prevent you from accidentally clicking on your own ads (a pretty surefire way of getting your adsense account disabled). [...]

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