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Goodbye AdSense (acme.com)
160 points by zippo on Jan 31, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 67 comments

It's worth noting that the guy linked here whose AdSense was turned off is Jef Poskanzer, one of the grand old Unix hackers. You may know him from such things as pbmplus, thttpd, and two USENIX Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Ha! This is nothing. I actually know why my adsense account doesn't work. Google thinks I'm trying to scam them by creating multiple accounts because they have another account on their database with the EXACT same address and phone number.

That's not a duplicate account Google, it's called a brother!

This seems especially odd in light of the G+ "real names", and thus "real identity", position.

You use your real name on one service, you get banned. You use a fake name on another service, you get banned.

Why would you and your brother have the same phone number? Surely you each have a different mobile number.

There are this things called stationary phones. Some people still use them.

Also - some people don't have mobile phone because they don't want to be available all the time. As popular as moblie phones are, there is no law that says everyone should have them.

We both made the mistake of giving them both numbers. In retrospect, that was a bad move. Now, I can't even change it because my account is closed permanently and there's no way for me to contact them.

Google adsense support and appeals has always had problems, it seems if you're disabled your chances of getting any sort of support are non-existent and I assume this post is an attempt to get the issue seen by people at google (I hope it works).

On the topic of their "secret" detection, it doesn't work well. In 2007 when I was in high school an acquaintance had a web page with google adverts on, there was no content beyond what came with a free template he downloaded. Every day he would arrive at school, login to the computer system and click an advert on his website, he would then go home and do the same, he would also contact other people from school via instant messengers and have them do the same, it became some what of a ritual for him. He was making $100 per month from what I recall and this went on for a while. This is the sort of abuse that should be detected very easily; abuse from the same IPs with a set pattern and yet it never was... I have no confidence in a system that can't detect this sort of abuse.

>an attempt to get the issue seen by people at google

Yes, precisely. A lot of other folks have chimed in with similar stories. I think their process is broken and I would like to help them fix it, both for my own monetary enrichment and because I still like Google.

I have had s similar experience...

A friend of mine had an Adsense account and would click on his own advertisements while in school. He would do this every day in the same class. He would also ask other students in the class to do the same thing. Each month, he would show me the check he received from Google.

I too had an Adsense account but I ended up losing my account about a month later. Only problem is, I was running a legitimate forum in which there were 300+ people that were active. This forum was created because we all played the same online game and created clans. We used the forum to keep in touch with other clans and to strategize. Never did I click on my own advertisements.

Once I lost my Adsense account, I reported my friends account but nothing ever happened except he kept receiving his check each month.

>Once I lost my Adsense account, I reported my friends account but nothing ever happened except he kept receiving his check each month.

If that's all there is to the story, you come across as a bit of a dick. If you didn't have any problem with his behaviour when you were getting paid, why did you report him when you were banned? I'm not saying reporting him, out of context, was the wrong thing to do, but the context you provided makes you seem petty.

School's not a bad place to do this sort of fraud since there is a lot of legitimate traffic on the same network. That said it should still be pretty simple to flag accounts that have had a majority of clicks from a very small set of IPs.

Hopefully the system for detecting this type of thing has improved since then.

To be fair, 2007 was 5 years ago.

I once used their very strict account disabling policy to get a competitor kicked from Google AdSense. It was not even that difficult. I just spent a couple of minutes every day visiting his website, clicking all the adsense links, closing all the openend tabs, reloading the page and so on. It took a few weeks, but then the ads just stopped showing up (despite the Javascript code still being loaded) and a few days later the webmaster removed the code, which I assume meant that he god kicked.

Interesting how you posted something that amounts to "I'm an asshole", just because it was relevant to the discussion.

Something that also could be construed as fraud, if not criminal then civil.

One of the new memes is that sociopaths are good at business.

But it is relevant and needs to be addressed.

Remind me to never compete with you.

Ugh. That's nasty :( If that works, how come Google doesn't know that?

I used to work for a "big adnetwork" and this is how it worked there.. AdSense is probably similar.

We tracked conversions, where possible, on our advertisers end and used that data to calculate conversions per click for our publishers. We'd use this metric, mixed with a few others (ctr, # of impressions, # of fraudulent clicks, etc, but mainly weighted towards cvr) to generate a quality score for the publisher. The quality score was between 0 and 1, 1 being "awesome" and 0 being "awful".

We'd use this quality score to discount the price per click publisher was paid. AdSense is likely doing something similar because their CPC/CPM rate/split is undisclosed and very private- likely because publishers will get paid drastically different amounts per click depending on their traffic history.

Anyways, when a publisher falls bellow a certain quality threshold, we'd drop their account because they are, in the end, not making the advertiser any money and likely hurting our future relationship with the people that pay the bills.

Social traffic usually falls into this poor quality area into this area because it doesn't convert well, has a low click through rate, and includes lots of accidental clicks.

Why not just pay the publisher the (possibly low) value of their traffic, while also providing the publisher with the tools they need to improve their traffic quality? If the site never improves then it simply never makes any money.

The networks see low quality publishers as diluting the overall quality of their network. Since advertisers only care about traffic that converts, low-quality traffic hurts stats because it makes CTRs and CVRs drop even if the overall CPC/CPA is the same.

There are absolutely ways to educate publishers and advertisers, but the easiest solution for the network is to just nip it at the bud and drop low-quality traffic.

This is all bad karma for Google. At some point they'll do this to the wrong person and, when that happens, I do hope that they pay the price in mega-bucks. This is no way to treat decent and honest partners. It is, without a doubt, being evil.

I experienced another surreal variant of this a few years ago. We had some 200 domains in GoDaddy's "Cash Parking" program. They were there for probably a year when someone made the observation that the ads on these parked domains were all served by Google. Google, at the time, offered something called "AdSense for Domains". We decided to switch all domains to Google's domain parking program and cut out GoDaddy. No delusions here, neither service was going to make any money but it seemed a better idea to let parked domains host relevant ads without unpaid GoDaddy ads.

Now, to be clear, when you make this switch Google controls the content on the domains and, of course, they own search.

All went well. The domains started to show ads as expected. Then, out of nowhere, Goggle kills our account. No recourse. No intelligent conversations. A totalitarian and decidedly-evil "we are done" of sorts.

Not one person from the office clicked on any ads. Far too busy making real money to do crap like that.

Several of the domains we parked belonged to clients for whom legitimate sites were being created. Google's actions were brutally violent. There's almost no other way to describe it.

Being that they are a de-facto monopoly I would imagine that a time might come when they migh lock horns with exactly the wrong person or entity and end-up on the receiving end of congressional action or some such thing. I really do hope this happens and that they suffer serious damage because of it.

It is so ironic and frustrating to come across site after site with crap content full of Google ads and, on the other hand, to see honest site operators being punished by having an important source of revenue cut-off like that.

I love many of Google's products but AdSense and AdWords' management, policies and their brutal handling of honest users who add nothing but value is nothing less than evil.

I never seen any value from parked domains. People only get there by mistake.

Absolutely agreed. That said, Google offered this "AdSense for Domains" and we used it. As a reward for doing so they killed our account. Unbelievable!

I wonder if that's a honeypot of sorts...

In my case, I got extra lucky. I had an account their Google Affiliate Network (GAN) (moved between a 3-bar and 4-bar publisher monthly) as well that was canned because Google told me to combine my accounts.

Now, let's assume I was guilty of click fraud that they are accusing me of with Adsense, kicking me off GAN which was all commission based (% of an order from my sites) makes no sense at all to me from a business standpoint.

+Matt Cutts commented on this particular issue on Google+: https://plus.google.com/109412257237874861202/posts/RpNNBRr6...

"I can't easily imagine Jef Poskanzer was click-spamming AdSense, while at the same time I trust the judgment and abilities of the AdSense team. +Jef Poskanzer , I hope someone digs into the case to investigate deeply and reaches out if there's any more info we can share."

I have to agree, though the robotic reply with non-specific answers doesn't help one bit. Edit: In reference to the article, not this post.

It disgusts me tremendously that a known name gets this special treatment, in my eyes it only proves how corrupt Google are becoming. If they would have treated Jef Poskanzer exactly like anyone else, that is ignore his obvious innocence and send him a form letter and freezing all of his money, that would have in some way given legitimacy to the claim that they trust the judgment and abilities of the AdSense team. Going out of the way to help someone with a reputable name proves imo that they DON'T trust their judgment and abilities, and even implies that they know that they incorrectly close innocent peoples accounts.

I would even go as far as to say that I suspect fraudulence from Google in this case, if they were honest why don't they offer proper support and help in cases like this? Imagine any other business doing this, a bank "We have closed your account and frozen all your money because our secret algorithm indicates that you have violated our agreement. We won't say what in our agreement you have violated, you have one appeal and after that the final decision is made" and the response to the appeal "We have read your appeal, but decided that our secret algorithm made the right call, and you have violated a part of our agreement, but we still won't say what part."

Why aren't Google called out more on things like this? Their business needs to be regulated just as much as any other businesses.

It basically comes across as "We're sorry we got caught with our shitty treatment of customers" instead of as an apology.

But what hope is there for people les famous?

It is too sad to notice that Google only serves famous people. All those people who raised their voice on blogs and HN are given priority. What about the people who post on the Google Adsense forums and GAN Forums? Nobody from Google even replies to those legitimate queries.

Even when they do, their answers are not informative.

I asked about whether one website offering a free AdSense coupon was sponsored by Google or not, and I received contradicting answers.

Edit: The website was www.googleadwordspromos.com/ and an example of conflicting answers is here: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/adwords/thread?tid=62a...

Only solution is to become famous or have someone famous take on your cause.

This has been the case with Google forever(and discussed on HN multiple times), you get customer support if you are notable or raise a big enough stink.

Reason Google does it, is because they are not a customer centric company, they are engineer driven company(or at least used to be, what they are now is an open question). They save serious amount of money by not having human employees evaluate each AdSense account on case by case basis.

Just don't put all your eggs in Google basket is all I can say.

It looks as if Thomas Siegel was informed by this post.

"Thanks for raising this Matt. I work with the Ad Traffic Quality Team and we'll look into this and investigate right away. I'll reach out to Jef to discuss in more detail."

The question is though, even if this was a mistake and Google admits it was their 'robot' or something like that, is the bridge totally burned by now.

Yes Jeff was making a fair amount of money and why not? For all the work he put in through the years, why not get a monetary compensation that will allow him to at least cover the hosting expenses. If Google turns back and says yes we made a mistake, we are reinstating your account, will Jeff go back to them or will he say eff this.

It is very difficult for someone to forget when they have been treated unfairly.

Again the above is all what-if scenarios but just saying...

G has done this for the past 8 years, if you have AdSense, it is not a question if you get banned, but when you will get banned.

What surprises me much more is that there is still no valid alternative. After 8 years! MS has tried to build something and failed. Y! of course failed. Then there's Entrieweb's SpeedyAds which are so bad I think they are not even working on them any more. Nobody seems to be able to build a system that is as efficient as G's in matching content with ads, even thou it would be highly profitable.

Maybe Facebook should launch their ad-sense now.

Have they already figured out how to run ads on their own site efficiently? I think CTR and RPM are still unsolved issues for Fb. I may be wrong, never bought Fb ads myself.

We had multiple sites banned and my accounts and some business partner accounts banned as well. Almost all without reason. I mean ofcourse they 'have' some reason, they just don't tell it and no-one can tell me why either. Like acme.com; I have known the acme.com site for many years; how is acme.com a threat to their advertisers? It's a nice site.

Anyway; you cannot argue with them and it makes me upset that they would do this like this. I like their products, but their adsense and adwords 'policies' are insane; you are making them money both ways and with adwords you are a paying client, yet there is no-one you can call or mail. If you do you just get 'our decision is final, don't contact us anymore'. Is that an acceptable way to threat a client who did 100s of 1000s of $ in adsense (which means Google did how much % of that running over my sites?) or more than that amount via adwords?

And Matt Cutts is also showing the real Google in that regard; he is always helping famous / connected people out, while the rest of us goes out of business because some vague Google automated fraud blah. This goes for SEO too (the HN incident for instance).

Someone needs to create a market place to serve victims of google's death sentences.

1) Tap a pool of willing people that would never be involved in AdSense. Perhaps non-technical, older people who have no inclination toward that sort of thing.

2) Buy their "google birth right" from them, that is, for a fixed fee up front and an annual bonus buy the right to spin up an LLC using their identity to do business with google.

3) Rent these LLCs to victims of google and their negligent bots. The money will come through the LLC, and there will need to be a percentage commission to cover the tax liability of the identity donor plus pay. Maybe minimal if you make the payments to the victim be an expense.

4) The renter/victim will need to make a deposit that is forfeit if they burn the LLC identity, to keep them from being reckless.

The cost involved won't help the casual user, but for people forced to make a life style change because their primary income was just destroyed, I'm sure this would work.

I posted the article because I think Google can do better and thought it would stir up some discussion. Google has had this issue for a long long time. The process appears to be highly automated and potentially impacting innocent people buying into the platform and investing time building up a base. I also may be a bit hypersensitive given the many articles I keep encountering regarding the United States govt and detention of citizens based on their Facebook and Twitter comments along with my own dislike for the ways the multinational corporations operate these days. I wouldn't say it is fear mongering as you will find no shortage of sites and blogs with stories of disgruntled customers. Just hope Google addresses the issues and remembers part of what makes them a great company.

I had my account disabled last July and went through a similar experience in my appeal attempt. The interesting fact I pointed out to Google was that they sent me about 80 percent of my visitors via organic search. I didn't try to game the system or blend the ads to increase ctr or mislead consumers.

I offered to help diagnose the issue by going through server logs and anything else to no avail.

I guess when Google is making so much money from advertisers they rather just error on their side rather than spend time reviewing appeals.

Diagnosing an individual case probably costs them more than they make from it in years. But not investigating individual cases could carry a cumulative cost in terms of perception that could bring down the entire advertising ponzi scheme.

One thing that has me perplexed about Adsense. I have a site that used to get around 400 unique visitors per day and I was making $100/month from adsense. I haven't touched the site in years, now it gets around 1000 visitors per day but I'm still making $100/month from adsense.

Is there some kind of cap built into Adsense, or is it just a coincidence that the amount stayed the same.

BTW with this traffic level, is there a better ad network I could use?

I'm still amazed at the high level of tolerance (up to the point of worship) people give to certain hyped/trendy companies (Google, Apple, etc) versus others that get bashed or even attacked en masse (a recent example would be GoDaddy, Microsoft in the good ol' days).

They've been doing this for years, yet there has never been a blunt response from their users against this policy. Same with Paypal. So they keep doing it.

I'm not asking for a boicot, simply stand on your ground and demand a decent customer service experience, be convincing. Large corporations such as these ones, with so large benefit at the end of each year, need to understand that we're not sheep nor wallets with legs. We're people and we should be dealing with people, not with some heartless bot with cookie-cutter answers.

What kind of response would you get if you treated your users the same way on your startup? Think about it.

I have had a similar experience of AdSense from Hell, thank GOD it is not my source of income or it would be very bad. But essentially AdSense was unable to access my website early on and decided to set the account to 'INACTIVE' after repeated attempts (upwards of 10) to reach out to AdSense support and having groups of people tweet at them (no response. ever.) They are still completely quiet and the 'return to AdSense home' link only persists to reload EXACTLY the same 'INACTIVE' message - perhaps the worst user experience on the internet. It has even gone so far as I have had a Google API Billing specialist whom I was coordinating with for some API stuff reach out to AdSense on my behalf after learning the details of my case, and even he said there is no hope...

I had the same experience with Google Adsense.

Once I started making money from it after 8 years of being under the $100 minimum payout, they disabled my account on the second payment. I received the same reply as the person in this story.

If you are an entrepreneur, think about disrupting this field. The competition, Adbrite and Chitika are far behind in relevance and payment.

Thankfully my site is now big enough to get into one of the more exclusive advertising networks that don't pay a pathetically small amount. But it disturbs me that I am banned from Adsense for life over $100 especially when I did nothing wrong.

If you don't mind: which are those more exclusive advertising networks, and what are the hurdles you have to take to get in? What's an average ecpm there?

The exclusive networks you can find simply by googling.

They all require a large amount of unique visitors (1 million+ per month) and not controversial content like adult material or guns.

At what level of scale does Google modify their treatment? Obviously major websites serve Google ads, and couldn't risk this kind of impersonal, imperious ability to just cut you off and steal your money.

Well, others seems to have been kicked out, we were simply not let in.

We applied for an account couple of years back and were declined. We went back and forth 3-4 times and they wouldn't tell us why we can't get in or what we need to fix. I have never used AdSense in my life, so it can't be the past history. We rank in top 1-5 results for all relevant keywords for our business. Was it the 302 redirect? Was it the old history of the domain name? Was it the IP address we were hosted at? Who knows!

Thank God, our business model was not based on advertising.

This is so annoying. Same happened to us with AdWords account for our business (physical goods). Only answer from Google after appeal

- "Please do not contact us again". - "Do not open any new accounts".

At the same time at least one of the competitors who is using dodgy practices (not disclosing full prices, listing VAT, etc) is happily advertising for last couple of years.

Suing is the only option to get your money back...

I'm sure that reading the license agreement would tell you otherwise. I.e. there is no way they would make themselves liable somehow.

I don't think so. My friend once told me a case where someone can sue even for broken agreement.

Google is psychotic about AdSense and very hard to deal with. They make billions from their platform, but refuse to provide even a basic level of support. They could charge for tiered support and that would be perfectly acceptable; take a few points off the margin for example in exchange.

It's obnoxious to make Google six figures in profit in advertising, and have to go through message board proxies (that don't even work for Google) to get any attention to an issue.

I used AdSense for around five years total. I found you couldn't match it up with almost any form of social media content because a single slip of a single word (in any language) was enough to get you in trouble with their heavy handed censors.

The appeal seemed half-hearted to me. His answers were basically "no", "no", "no idea", "i don't know"... Maybe he doesn't really care to be reinstated. Although he cared enough to write an article and post it to Hacker News...

err and did you read the questions? not like if he could invent replies.

pretty obviously if he had replied yes to any of those it would mean he had been able to find out what caused adsense to disable his account.

If I were in that position, I would have done research and posted details in the answers. "I checked my log files, and received an average of X visitors over December, which compares to Y visitors over November. I also noticed IP Address K was crawling my site daily and I can't determine who they are, so I blocked their access. Perhaps that was the source of the abuse."

A little effort might have gone farther. Or who knows, maybe it would have had no effect.

>Google closing AdSense accounts with no explanation

Well, the original headline here seems to be a fear-mongering fabrication unrelated to the article.

One account was closed and the guy can't figure out why. In fact, this isn't even new information. Google closes suspicious AdSense accounts. Is there some conspiracy out there Google has a number generator choosing to ruin someone's revenue source at random?

How is saying that his AdSense account was closed without an explanation? That's exactly what happened.

The title explicitly says "accounts".

Well it does say that by policy they don't tell you why you're being disabled, so it really is "accounts".

Now a days these cases have become more and more. Accounts from Pakistan and India top the list...even genuine guys account gets disabled. Google says: your account is "posing a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers"...as if we are running behind his customer with a gun or knife.

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