I started a side business with some friends during lockdown. We created an online store selling some hard-to-get long tail items, and almost instantly got some traction and growth thanks to Google Shopping. A month ago we received one of these generic automated mails that our account is banned and we were misrepresenting ourselves or a product with no details on what we did wrong. We went through the T&C's in some detail and we think we did everything they asked, and we have no idea what we didn't do well enough. We also checked in with every single client and we had near perfect scores on trust pilot, I can't recall a single incident with a client.
We've been contacting Google almost daily but almost never been able to find a human to talk to. Through unofficial channels we've found a few people in Goolge but whenever they gave us any advice on what to do it's always "off the record" or "you didn't hear it from me". Something is very rotten.
There are always replies on here about not betting your entire business on Google. Google shopping gives 2 orders of mag better conversion than any other channel we tried. For search-to-buy there really just aren't any alternatives and if Google decides to lock you out your business is basically dead. Lucky for us it was a side hustle. Here in Africa e-bay and Amazon aren't options.
More scary, since then we've found TONS of businesses in our country who have suffered the same fate in the last month, and many are well-established, popular businesses now facing existential threat.
It's incredibly scary that Google's moderation bots can be a single point of failure for a business employing 20+ people.
I emphatically don't agree with this, but this seems to be the line of reasoning with a lot of things. The reality that much of science is never truly "settled" doesn't really matter.
On the one hand, I feel there are a lot of leeches to society that hop on trends to pull money from unsuspecting victims and under-delivering. On the other, I am very much opposed to corporations that half the population uses daily acting as broad censors of information.
Love or hate TikTok, the reason it's become so big is that their algorithm actually promotes organic growth instead of hindering it.
In any case, I'm using FB and Twitter far less these days than even a couple years ago. I happen to like debate, and discussion of competing ideas. Now it's all ad hominem attacks and vitriol. While I do sometimes engage, I simply don't enjoy it and don't fit well into the echo chambers.
I can't stand the censoring by tech giants. It's applied unequally, there is no recourse, and it merely serves to enforce the orthodoxy and drive dissent underground. Honestly it's like the church in the middle ages. What a dystopian moment we're living through when monopoly corporations wield that power in society.
Facebook specifically can go to hell. They're making money by selling people's precious time to advertisers at pennies on the dollar. Jewel thieves pawning stolen goods at 10% of their value is less wasteful to society as a whole. I know they don't force anyone to use their services, but neither do the tobacco companies. They just get people addicted to their product. Just because it's legal doesn't make it ethical.
If I were to guess, you failed to implement ads.txt and/or your content didn't meet the standards required by some big advertisers, so auction pressure was very low for your site.
Then, they’d suffer political blowback for being anti-LGBT.
It sounds like Google is laundering third party behavior that is further dividing our society.
Perhaps advertisers should be forced (by the government, on all algorithmic platforms) to publish their targeting criteria.
Prior to ad networks that automatically match advertisers to display space, yes.
The thing is, though, prior to ad networks, there were a lot fewer advertisers who were interested in spending time and money on doing this song and dance with a slew of tiny web properties. Most of them wouldn't even bother.
You can have no ad networks, or you can have a long tail of low-prominence websites earn ad revenue. Pick one.
2. A low prominence local newspaper has local businesses advertising in it. Your local auto mechanic on Walker Street will buy an ad in a local paper, but they aren't going to spend a penny to advertise directly on your website, even if it has the same readership #s as the paper. Because 99.9% of your website's visitors aren't within driving distance of their location.
The ad network  solves problem #2, by making it possible for geographically-constrained businesses to buy ad inventory on websites that only get a handful of clicks from their geographical area.
Yes, ad networks introduce plenty of problems, as people in this thread point out. 
No, nobody will advertise on your 1,000-50,000 reader/day website without going through an ad network. Small advertisers aren't going to pay anything for an untargeted impression, and large brand advertisers aren't going to waste their time  on so few impressions.
 I am speaking about the industry as a whole.
 I could mention a few other problems that people in this thread haven't pointed out, too, but that's neither here nor there.
 Not to mention that without going through an ad network, and by directly dealing with the website operators, making reports of your ad spend + ROI becomes a colossal pain in the ass. People who work for large advertisers are just trying to do their job, and their job consists of making their boss happy. Something that does not make their boss happy is being unable to quickly say how much money they spent, and what they got for that spend.
Companies aren't people.
Not sure if they are people though
As a potentially better example, if a higher than typical number of LGBTQIIAA+ are likely to be vetegarian/vegan, then excluding them from meat based product advertising might be better use of dollars spent.
Just because an advertiser doesn't want to advertise among contentious groups doesn't mean they are being bigoted about their targeting, it likely comes down to not being worth it due to limited response from those markets.
Perhaps their entire strategy was accidentally optimizing for a keyword that was highly valuable for a short while, who knows?
For a short while YouTubers would mention getting a mortgage in the middle of their video just to improve the rate by tricking the algorithm into showing expensive mortgage related ads.
Well, my site is mostly text based and I have at least 50px of space around any advertisement, so they stick out like a sore thumb and are not confusing. Eventually the daily clicks returned, but then in the last year Google started taking back 80% of my revenue at the end of the month saying it's "Invalid Traffic". This is after years of it being around 5%. I've made no changes to the site, all the traffic is organic from Google search or direct visitors. I've never once in my life paid for traffic.
I contacted Google again, but they refused to give any information because they can't share specifics for security reasons. So, I'm left losing 80% of my revenue this year and instead of making about 50k after my bills, I'll break even or make a loss.
Since then I tried switching to another company that's an AdSense partner. Of course they take a commission, but apparently they can actually show me the daily earnings with "Invalid Traffic" removed, and not give me a monthly heart attack and remove all my revenue as a surprise at once.
So, I can see how little I'm making on a daily basis now, but I'm no closer to resolving the issue because Google refuses to give any answers, so I'm completely on my own and taking shots in the dark.
The other week I tried building a database of 800 million IP addresses using lists of all IP addresses from datacenters, VPNs, proxies, TOR exit nodes, and IPs flagged as abusive. This obviously took some time to setup and I stopped showing ads to these IPs because maybe they're bad sources of traffic? That didn't seem to help.
So, I'm out of ideas. Yes, I have ads.txt configured. Yes, I have a consent manager configured.
> Your revenue is the literal sum of earnings from every click on your property. While ads are showing and being clicked on, you will always be earning more.
What you said sounds simple. However, like I said, Google can randomly drop my clicks from a consistent 500 a day to 3 and give no answers. Or, they can tell me I'm earning $250/day and then when it comes time to pay a month later, they say they can only pay $50/day and the traffic didn't meet their standards. That's a big problem when they just spent the entire month outbidding all my other advertisers.
Lastly, the site I run is filled with great people. It's a community based website with tens of millions of comments. Users on average spend 10 minutes per session, the bounce rate is incredibly low, the average user loads 30 pages a day. People like it, it's full of quality content and posts, and users are writing new comments every few seconds.
"Invalid Traffic" is nearly always some dirty business going on - either by you, or by one of your users, or a competitor, or even someone totally random hoping to blend their fraud in with some legit sites like yours.
If I were you, I'd hunt your logs for botlike behaviour and close any associated user accounts.
I wonder if they returned the money to the advertisers.
Near enough, yes. Sure, there are millions of lines of code, and I did not read every one, but I debugged enough issues that I'm sure I would have come across this capping effect if it existed and affected more than some dormant/test accounts.
Not saying that's what happened but there's definitely motive.
Likewise just having content Google deems unacceptable doesn't mean you aren't owed an explanation of the policy. "Hey, sorry, we've decided that blogs on breast feeding violate our policies on content and we won't be allowing you to run ads" is certainly better than silence.
That said, my point is that there is likely something specific to the OP blog that is the reason for Google turning off the ad dollars rather than the counter argument: some arbitrary nefarious business decision by a large corporation to the shut down the owner's blog revenue source to the point that OP is concerned that they will be removed from the platform as a result.
I get the sense that the content is missing part to the story.
I never monetized it, but it got quite a few users and I definitely could have started a path to monetization. I had ideas, such as incorporating location-based ads.
Unfortunately Chrome decided at one point it was malware for some reason. I have no idea why. On the backend I had a 1-hour time limit on files and didn't store either files or location data beyond that. Chrome would throw up a malware warning whenever someone visited the page, and that was pretty much the end of the project.
It's frustrating that they play gatekeepers to the internet, and they don't even have a fair arbitration process. They should have at least made efforts to contact the owner of the website. This should be downright illegal.
If their spider were treating sites fairly, it’d also block google search, and the chrome team wouldn’t budge on the decision even though the rest of the company collapsed.
I hope the anti trust investigators focus on these sorts of instead of some trivially-bypassed thing, like bundling.
After the botched MS antitrust suit, I’m not holding my breath.
Still, I don't think it's right for Google to use their iron feet to stomp an entire website / product / small business / personal project just because of a small fraction of users abusing that service.
ALL services get abused at some point or another during their growth. Learning to deal with those abuses one at a time is a part of the growth of any product and nobody can be expected to have prevented all forms of abuse upfront. If the owners (e.g. me) were made aware of the specific piece of malware I would have definitely done something about it.
There was a similar story last month about someone running a URL shortener. It started being used to obfuscate links to porn and scams. Then it got blocked by twitter/facebook and that's the end of the road for the service.
The massive paradigm shift that occurred once these companies grabbed prominence in commerce is to go from a system where humans interacted with humans in business-to-business commerce to solve problems to a cold, hard, heartless and decidedly dangerous totalitarian algo-driven relationship.
In "the old days", if a publisher had a problem with an ad from advertiser they would contact them to discuss, let them know what the issue might have been and seek resolution for mutual benefit. I other words, adults doing business with adults.
Not so with these companies. They are brutal and cold and have no problem destroying any business at any time for any reason. I have seen this happen to acquaintances enough times on these platforms to be absolutely astounded that we haven't yet seen the mother of all class-action lawsuits. And it would be a big one.
I know people who have gone from having nice lifestyle businesses to loosing virtually all due to one of these platforms suspending their account with no explanation, no conversation and no recourse whatsoever. One day you are putting food on your table and taking care of your kids and the next Monday at 7:00 AM you are on your way to losing it all.
I've said this many times, I am definitely not for the government having their hands on everything. No way. However, this, to me, has become a situation where government needs to become involved ASAP. It isn't getting any better. We need legislators to exercise judicious control over some of these practices. These company have such command of the marketplace that if they suspend or ban someone they might as well not exist. That kind of power should not be allowed to be wielded as capriciously as these companies seem to have been doing for years.
I do understand that fraud and other issue are a reality of these businesses. Well, they need to figure out how to deal with that while, at the same time, being human and human in their treatment of those who depend on the access they provide for legitimate work.
There's always a bigger fish, you just met yours. I'm all for serious reform (and even dissolution) at Google et al., but I also don't think everything will be hunky-dory just because America's entrepreurial upper middle class gets their satisfaction. While we're swinging the antitrust hammer, might want to take a look at retail and gig "employers" too.
Government isn’t the solution to every problem. Caring or not caring is irrelevant. Reaching for a government-level solution isn’t a good thing, just have a look at nations where government plays a much larger role.
The issue is that so many of the people who say "government isn't the solution to every problem," really mean, "government isn't the solution to any problems except the ones I personally can't buy myself out of." At some point we have to realize that issues that are substantially widespread or entrenched and mature/understood should probably be nationalized at their core, with the opportunity for innovation left to the margins. Trying to extract profit from healthcare or infrastructure in particular seems quite cynical and prone to unfortunate consequences in the name of chasing lower costs.
The problem with people in the US who have convinced themselves that more government is a good thing is simple: Ignorance.
I mean that as a statement of fact, not a pejorative.
Nobody who has ever lived under heavy government control supports these ideas. The only way they gain support is by pushing the fantasy of big government vs. the reality.
Context: I have lived under those conditions. The average American has no clue.
Seems like an extremely easy way to make copious amounts of shady cash if you've got that magic ban button at Google.
Its the same in the UK where I used to work (British Telecom) criminals used to approach call centre workers to get info.
This of course led to bounce rates of 99%+ for all of this traffic, which dramatically increased my bounce rate overall.
As far as I can tell, Google used this as a signal that my site was a shady/scam site and removed me from the search pages I used to rank on entirely.
Took nearly 6 months to figure out the problem, and where all this phantom AdWords traffic was coming from.
Until it doesn't. All businesses should have a disaster plan.
Was there anything potentially illegal or sketchy about this?
Google Updated it's Terms of Service. On 3 Nov 2020
Please read terms of Api.
Google Shopping is just 1 channel through which you could get customers. Since you're in Africa, my guess is that SEO is WAY easier than US/Canada, so that's a viable channel. Lack of ebay/amazons in Africa is an opportunity, because you don't have them dominating the top 10 SERPs. I could go on and on and on...