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Adsense Nonsense

February 12th, 2009 No comments

If you look around my humble little blog here, you are probably noticing a dearth of content.  Given that I’ve just started out in my blogging phase, something possibly every true tech head goes through, the short list of posts so far is perfectly understandable.  What is also understandable is my wish to make some kind of money off all this effort I’m putting into my literary work of vanity, a wish I took to the web in an effort to find an advertiser that would share their earning with me in exchange for some small share of real estate in my posts and on my front page.

Advertising on blogs and the like is a break-even to small comfort proposition, unless your name is Ariana Huffington.  Apparently, because I did not know this before my mental spewing venture, once you start advertising on your site, your entire existence consists of clicking the refresh button on your webalizer or statpress log pages like a rabid chain-smoking day-trader.  Actually posting  contents becomes secondary.  Given that the need to make even the small amount necessary to cover your hosting costs for your site, finding an advertising company that will both treat you right and pay you well becomes very important.  Keep those two things in mind as we go on…

After much research on the internet machine, I settled on Google Adsense.  There was a lot of information out there on their Adsense service, and even more pixels dedicated to get-rich-quick schemes using the service.  Signing up for Adsense for free and adding some JavaScript to my site and then collecting money sounded pretty good to me.  Even though I’ve just started, I’m knowledgeable enough and definitely egotistical enough to be sure that I’m going to continue adding content for a while to come, assuring me a growing number of clicks and therefor a growing check from the guys who claim the motto “Do no Evil”.   I make money.  Google makes money.  Google’s advertisers make money.  Everyone wins.

Well – no they don’t.  Let Me Explain — No, There Is Too Much.  Let Me Summarize.  I signed up for their service, got my account, created a few ads and even dared a channel.  I put the ads on my site using a WordPress plugin called Smart Ads.  After a day, the ads started matching the content on my site.  I told people about my new blog – friends, family, etc… After a week, I had about $18.00 in my account, spurring dreams of the blog actually paying for itself and possibly providing a little extra with which I could buy new tech.  I was very happy.  And then it happened.  I logged into my account one morning about a week after I opened it and I got the dreaded message:

Account Disabled

Your AdSense account for this login is currently disabled. We recommend checking your email inboxes for any messages we may have sent you regarding your account status. Sometimes our messages can be caught by email filters, so please be sure to check the Bulk/Spam folders of your email accounts as well. If your account was disabled for invalid click activity, please visit our Disabled Account FAQ for more information.

Well.  That sucks.

I Did What?

After the initial shock, my brain kicked into overdrive to asses the situation, running through hundreds – nay, thousands of options which streamed in front of me terminator HUD style, each being evaluated against a laundry list of variables to determine the exact cause of my embarrassment.  Only one conclusion rose to the top of my full statistical analysis of all the possible vectors.  That conclusion: “What the hell!?!”

Next stop was my email account, in which I found this wonderfully helpful missive…

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.

If you have any questions about your account or the actions we’ve taken, please do not reply to this email. You can find more information by visiting https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153&hl=en_US.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

You’re kidding me…  This site?  MyTechHell.com?  What was the significant risk? – that they might learn something about hardware?  Is the Java language anathema to the advertisers?  To quote one great American cartoon character – “What did I did wrong?”

Having exhausted my almost non-existent knowledge on the subject of getting rejected by online advertising companies, I turned once again to the internet machine to find solace and an answer as to how to remove the scarlet “R” from my account.  On my first page of results, however, I found a whole different story.  Go ahead – do a search with the words “adsense account disabled” and see what comes up.  You’ll find exactly what I did: Google seems to be running a grift of epic proportions.

They’re Doing What?!?

For the most part, you can figure out a lot by taking a look at the information on adsenseaccountdisabled.com.  The gist of that site and other sites, blog entries, and forums is that Google will suddenly and without warning cancel people’s accounts in what seems to be a completely arbitrary fashion.  In my case, this website was approved for an account, and a week later they suddenly found that it violated their T&C (Terms and Conditions).  The difference between when they approved my site and disapproved of it?  One post.  A post reviewing a Logitech Mouse.  I already knew that Google uses pidgeons to rank web pages,   but could it be that they are using cats to manage their Adsense business?

cat-on-computer funny_cat_pictures_pc_2

It is a sad fact that by all accounts, only about one percent of those so ejected from Adsense are ever allowed to return.  Using the link included in your rejection letter to get the appeal form is almost worthless given this statistic.  Even worse, most people have no idea what they did to incur Google’s wrath.  Oh, I’m sure there are a lot of people who say they didn’t do anything while they shut down their auto-click applications, but it is statistically improbably that the number of site owners having this problem would all turn out to be click fraudsters or porn magnates, and the only answer anyone has ever gotten from Google is this:

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, including any web pages, users, or third-party services that may have been involved.

Riiiiggggghhhht…  So Google thinks my website is somehow harmful to their advertisers (even though they approved my site only a week before), but they can’t tell me exactly what they found that was considered harmful, and whatever it was was so egregious an affront to their terms of service that no warning was given before termination.  Oh – wait… I forgot.  There’s no evidence anywhere on the ‘net that warnings are ever given.  It’s the equivalent of telling someone out of the blue that they’ve broken the law and sending them directly to death row.

So here I am, a user of a great many of Google’s wares including Chrome, gmail, search engine (of course!), etc…  and yet as far as their advertising department is concerned, I’m a depraved villain trying to take their money.  Well, I’ve got three questions for them that they will probably never answer.

  1. If you can detect fraudulent clicks, why aren’t you just filtering them out?
  2. How in the name of all that is good and pure does one click on an ad on your own site constitute enough click fraud to dole out the same punishment you apply to people who spend years creating systems to hide thousands of fraudulent clicks a day from you to scam you out of thousands of dollars a month?
  3. I know you want to protect your “algorithm” (who’s name is probably Mrs. Whiskers) from the world at large, but what the hell did you find so offensive on a site about technology???

Keep in mind that I did not fall into the “click fraud” category.  I was summarily accused of posing “a significant risk to [Google’s] AdWords advertisers.”  Even if the risk was that I did not have enough content yet, I’d be fine with that (and very busy for the next few weeks), but there’s no way to tell what the problem could possibly be.

Where’s My Check?

And people are loosing major money because of this problem.  I lost $18.xx dollars.  Not enough for me to cry over, but there are stories on the ‘net about people loosing their accounts with thousands of dollars in them, and suspiciously, they almost without fail seem to have their account yanked only a day or two before a check is supposed to be cut.  Even more suspiciously is where that money supposedly goes.  Let’s go back to Google’s “You’re Screwed” FAQ:

According to our Terms and Conditions, publishers disabled for invalid click activity may not receive any further payment. The earnings on your account will be properly returned to the affected advertisers.

Please also note that we place stop payments on any outstanding checks for accounts that have been disabled for invalid click activity. We ask that you refrain from depositing any checks you may receive in the future, as your bank may charge fees for depositing a stopped check.

I challenge anyone reading this to find one advertiser that actually got a refund check or had their fees reduced due to click fraud.  It would seem no one on the ‘net can find one, with several helpful Adclick users chiming in that they’ve never seen a penny returned to them for anything.  What’s more, if Google can determine click fraud so swiftly that the advertisers are never charged for invalid clicks, then what’s the deal with disabling accounts where one or two misplaced clicks occurred?  I have two cats that live with me that love walking over keyboards, and sometimes I’d like to verify what the ads placed on my site are linking to, and several other reasons why canceling for even a click or two a day is absolutely ludicrous.

I Has A Sad…

This whole post may constitute a long, drawn-out rant, but considering the sheer number of people having the same problem, I feel that adding my voice to theirs can only help to keep bubbling this problem up to the top of the general consciousness, and hopefully spur someone who can actually do something about it (Lawyers? Start your class action lawsuit engines!), to call Google Adsense what it’s starting to look like – a major scam.

In the end, for me at least, what really galls me is that I have been accused of doing “wrong” when I do my very best to be a good netizen.  Even given all the evidence that Google is doing this to thousands of people and by all maths, making a LOT of money off of it, I still get a twinge thinking that just maybe I really did do something wrong.  Hopefully this “problem” with Adsense will be corrected in the near future and give me a little vindication, but then again, the posts on the ‘net go back as early as 2006, so I’m not going to hold my breath.  If you are reading this, I’d think long and hard before I signed up for Adsense, because there’s a good chance you’ll get that apologetic email and most likely right when you’re about to collect a check you were really counting on.

And now, for your clicking pleasure, here are a list of links to the sites I found most informative on this subject:

Addendum

I foolishly tried to get reinstated.  Google says to expect a reply up to 48 hours from when you submit your “I did what?” query.  I got mine a little under the 72 hour mark, and what a surprise:

Hello,

Thanks for providing us with additional information. However, after thoroughly reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into consideration, we’ve re-confirmed that your account poses a significant risk to our advertisers. For this reason, we’re unable to reinstate your account. Thank you for your understanding.

As a reminder, if you have any questions about your account or the actions we’ve taken, please do not reply to this email. You can find more information by visiting https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153.

Do they realise what kind of animosity they are engendering on the ‘net with whatever secret policy they are using to cancel our accounts?

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