Business owners from around the world are trying sell just about everything imaginable on the internet. With so much competition, it’s little wonder why retailers turn to PPC ads on Google to help them reach consumers. Normally, Google is more than happy to help marketers sell their wares, but there are certain products that Google can’t or won’t allow on their ad network. Recent changes to the Google Adwords policy have increased the number of products non grata. This article will discuss the newest changes to Google AdWords banned products lists and what these changes mean for marketers.
The justification for banning certain products is simple. As Google has already learned the hard way, regulators may hold an advertising network culpable for damages caused by products sold on their network. This is especially true for Google because deep pockets make convenient targets for regulators who want to send a message. Earlier this year, Google was fined millions for illegal online pharmacy ads. This, in part, led to these changes to AdWords as we discussed briefly in a previous article.
The largest change came for retailers who sell weapons. Obviously, you can’t place an ad for weapons of mass destruction or for illegal products. But the policy goes beyond that. In broad terms, Google describes it’s Dangerous Weapons policy by saying: “We want to help keep people safe both online and offline, so we don’t allow the promotion of some products or services that cause damage, harm, or injury.” However, the AdWords policy for “dangerous weapons” has been changed to include a lot of new items.
The changes added several new product categories to the list of banned items in the dangerous weapons section and new stipulations were added categories that were already included (such as dangerous knives). According to the new rules, anything that makes a knife a better combat tool is forbidden. This prohibits assisted opening devices, like switchblades, or things that disguise a blade, like cane swords. Even things like grips come into play as tactical knives, fighting knives, and military knives are also banned.
Ads for guns are banned, but this includes a lot of things that many may not consider true guns. Google prohibits ads for “Functional devices that appear to discharge a projectile at high velocity, whether for sport, self-defense, or combat .(Note that we err on the side of caution and apply this policy to sporting or recreational guns that can cause serious harm if misused, or that appear to be real guns.)” This means airsoft guns, bb guns, paintball guns, and other kinds of toy guns can no longer be sold through Google Ads.
Most advertisers will not have to change their ads or the content of their landing pages in order to comply with the policy changes. But Google suggests that further changes may be in the works and that advertisers may want to be proactive in deciding what ads they use.
“Almost all advertisers who comply with our current policies will also comply with the new policies,” wrote the company in a statement announcing the upcoming changes. “However, over the coming months, you should spend some time getting to know the new policies and thinking about whether you need to make changes. For example, we’ll be introducing some new restrictions relating to weapons, tobacco, and fireworks that will be reflected in our new Dangerous Products & Services policy.”
For good or ill, Google has a spotty record when it comes to enforcing their AdWords policies. This is understandable because the company is running millions (if not billions) of ads each day, and there are limits to what algorithm-based screening can detect. However, some critics note that Google seems to be more lenient with large brands like Walmart than it is to everyday consumers. It’s impossible to know whether or not this allegation is true, but regardless of the causes of lapses in AdWords policy enforcement, marketers shouldn’t try to sneak violating ads past Google.
The consequences for violating these policy follows a three-tier punishment system. The first few violations will simply lead to the offending ad not being approved or taken down if it was already running. The next level of escalation would be to disable all ads from the website until the issues were addressed. And an entire AdWords account can be suspended. This final step can be devastating for a business owner or marketer who uses one account to manage multiple sites. If one offending site leads to the entire AdWords account being suspended, then none of the sites will have their ads shown. So changes to the AdWords policy aren’t something to be taken lightly.
Marketers and business owners should take the time to review the new AdWords policy and ensure their site is in compliance. No matter how much trouble this may be, it’s infinitely better than seeing traffic and sales revenue plummet from having a site or AdWords account disabled. Marketers should also be on the lookout for further changes to AdWords. This is certainly not the final change to be made to the policy, and Google’s statement suggests the changes may come sooner than later.
To learn about something positive Google AdWords is doing, read this article about the new AdWords Express mobile app.