However, considering a site making $5,000 or $10,000/month is generating quite a few clicks, I think it makes perfect sense for any account reaching these thresholds to be manually reviewed to ensure they are valid sites. The quality of Google's clicks is one of its main selling points, and by cutting out spammy sites at the source it both improves the quality of its own program and at the same time removes a lot of the financial incentive to run a scummy site.
So my guess is these policies (or similar policies that involve manual reviews of sites) make perfect sense, are not illegal in any way, and this whole posting is as bogus as it looks.
Under this assumption banning a publisher would not diminish the revenue stream but just diverting the ads to other not yet banned publishers.
That doesn't mean the scheme as described is true, but it's not as obviously stupid as your first paragraph makes it seem.
Google no doubt optimizes their algorithms for profit, but they surely don't need to block out publishers to ensure their own sites have ads to display.
The publisher (ie your website showing ads) isn't the one paying them that money; they aren't losing any recurring revenue by banning them.
Since they're Google AdSense, it's very likely that they have plenty of new signups to show those ads on.
I assure you, if you wrote a report that targeted your highest earning affiliates, gave them the toss, and replaced them with poor performing newbies you would lose money.
According to the story this only started in 2009, when as far as I know they never had any human interaction with publishers, so that doesn't sound like a good sign of its veracity.
The most likely explanation is simply "because publishers don't pay them".
Added: Yup, I'm hearing back from multiple people on the ads side that this is pretty much untrue from start to finish.
Also notice that the "rmujica" account that submitted this item has never submitted any other story or written any other comment on Hacker News before today.
We are a large and an absolutely legitimate publisher, that have been pestered and taunted by AdSense since 2009. Look at the history of this handle: it was created out of spite of the treatment we were given by the AdSense team.
If there was no strong bias of INNOCENT publishers against TAUNTING and making conducting our business difficult by semi-anonymous AdSense threats from no-reply email addresses, this story would be irrelevant and simply not resonate, regardless of whether it's accurate or not. Look the the Google adsense support forums where you used to redirect your clients, and at PeggyK that acted as an unofficial Google representative there, when people were banned with no explanation. Who is PeggyK- it was the largest farce I have personally witnessed, running a decent size business.
You guys created an entrenched persistent opposition by the arrogant actions of your AdSense policy team and its Ireland office specifically. For now, it's not important due to the disproportionality between Google and its clients and a near-monopoly of AdSense for eCPMS over $1, and GOOG is comfortable with this small risk.
Secondly, I'd be impressed if after the China incident, you still had access to Ads mailing lists given that you work in Search, so it at least seems unsurprising that your searches would reveal nothing.
For example, I often see disgruntled publishers complaining on the web, and from time to time I've followed up on specific blog posts to get the other side of the story. In addition, the group that manually fights webspam at Google is a sibling organization to the group that fights adspam.
Finally, I passed these claims directly to the ads side and so far I've gotten three (now four) different "this is fake" responses from people I trust and have worked with in different capacities for years, including an engineer that I worked with in search quality who later went to work in ads.
What is one to do in these treacherous times? The same thing you do with every other interaction you have with people. Weight the information provided with credibility factors based on context, delivery, bias, historical data about the source etc etc.
Either Mister Cutts has built up credibility for you over his many contributions, or he has not. That's your call.
After attending several meetings with Adsense employees I believe that 90% of Adsense accounts could be considered in violation of at least one policy. Several employees have been told me increase revenue by means which I considered policy violations. Once I saw another Adsense publisher directly confront two employees directly because one said strategy X was a good way increase revenue and another said it was a good way to be banned. They could not resolve this basic issue.
Google is capricious. They are often draconian. They are often evil. They are sometimes beneficent.
You mention that they are no names mention in the accusations. Who is the final arbiter of Adsense policies? To whom should Adsense publishers turn for the resolutions of these serious complaints? Where is the contact information for this person? If Google is not draconian, why has this info not been may public over the past decade?
Anyways I am not bothered by it anymore, I just learned to write off the difference as expense and/or consider it as "protection money" that needs to paid. Too bad there aren't any good alternatives. Adsense is by far the best paying ad-network but if it had less shady tactics and better support I would have definitely put it on my recommendation list.
AdSense is the best paying network because it behaves this strictly. Advertiser give a larger amount of money per clic in exchange for a much higher guarantee that a clic is a clic.
Is there a pattern of quality differences between AdSense and other sites? I am not seeing one.
The only ascertainable difference I see is -- heavily trafficked sites generally use AdSense, and sometimes have more than the maximum three ad units per page in the AdSense terms.
The simple fact people will consider this plausible is the news.
Are you authorized to act as a spokesperson on Google's behalf? If these accusations are true and someone thought it warranted a class action lawsuit or otherwise, would you really want to be so visibly commenting on it?
This shouldn't need to be nipped in the bud by a google spokesperson. The only way you're going to do that in a legitimate way is if a third party comes in to investigate it.
I doubt thats going to happen, but I think this accusation is not obviously impossible, and because of that, if the consensus becomes "no, google would never do this", I don't want it to be because of a whitewashing effort by google. I want it to be because no one has any reason to believe this is actually the case.
Well, the first voice people on HN were hearing was an obvious fake. I mean, do you seriously believe that Google employees are placed in an "untouchable" AdSense group, and were "given 'carte blanche' to do anything they wanted, even if they flagrantly went against the AdSense TOS and Policies" ? Come on. That's just ludicrous.
To be clear, I'm not against constructive criticism. I'm not against people asking questions about AdSense's methodology or policies. But people deserve better than an obviously false, ad hominem conspiracy post. That's not the appropriate place to begin a discussion.
Is Google above doing bad things? Did you believe that there was collusion over hiring practices what that news broke? Thats ludicrous, but yet there was a class action lawsuit that proved it occured.
I completely agree this is ludicrous--and yet, what if its true? Even on some meaningful level? People, including you, are willing to accept it as fact that this is an obviously false conspiracy theory because its Google. I don't think whitewashing is a behavior people should accept when its coming from a company like Google.
aggronn, that's simply not correct. As I said earlier in this discussion, I believe this document is a fake because in my personal experience the terminology is incorrect and the allegations are completely at odds with my direct experience. In addition, multiple people who I trust and have worked with for almost a decade agree that this document is a fake.
If you get banned from AdSense, Google doesn't tell you why. You try and figure out what you did wrong, you reread the terms of service 100 times, you make adjustments and check code, you do everything you can to try and fix the problem because Google AdSense is by far the best way to monetize a blog. In my case, I even shut down all my websites for a year before filing another appeal. My appeal was denied. Why? I have no idea. Google won't tell me. If Google won't tell me what I'm doing wrong, how am I supposed to fix it?
Yes there are publishers out there who game the system and deserve to be banned, but there are also publishers out there who try to follow the rules as best they can, and sometimes they make mistakes. But Google won't tell us which mistakes we make.
People use AdSense to make a livelihood doing something they enjoy doing, and when that gets taken away from them via an automated email that doesn't explain anything, it's extremely disappointing and may lead to backlash.
Transparency and some leniency would go a very, very long way. The ability to state your case to a real person would also help. An AdSense ban is extremely disheartening. It's the worst thing that could happen to a budding publisher because the other options out there just don't compare. Needless to say, I no longer bother blogging.
In general, Google's internal culture is open and honest, but we also provide anonymous ways to give feedback within the company, so something like this would bubble up in a visible way.
 See for example the description of "Googlegeist," an annual survey where Google employees can give anonymous feedback, at http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/01/...
A third party audit would probably be a better option. But I am sure Google knows how to handle these cases better.
Actually, that's a damn good way to get the truth at Google.
1. I think you will also agree that the Internet is riddled with stories of publisher accounts being closed down prior to payout & without any explanation whatsoever!
2. Google's own webmaster's forum is brimming with questions relating to the mismatch between traffic figures quoted by Google analytics & other 3rd party software.
3. And last but not least, we all know that it is nigh on impossible to contact Google direct & get a straight & sensible answer to any question pertaining to your Adsense account! (Not what I'd call transparency)
Personally I think there is more than enough here to cast doubt & if Google wants to be seen as squeaky clean, then investigation by an outside authority is going to be the only answer IMHO!
Bay Area tech companies such as Google are culturally very different from this. The silos largely don't exist, and management is not used as a way to funnel and control communication. Internal candid dialogs of surprising vigor can be found about any controversial issue. People are not afraid to ask pointed questions to high-ranking people. Policies and documentation are widely accessible.
It is, quite frankly, unthinkable that something this wrong and this blatant, involving thousands of people, would be allowed to happen for years in a culture such as this. And in a company like Google, "asking around" is indeed productive and would result in open and honest responses.
Now if they banned me then it means the whole $150,000 (if they are not paying back to advertisers) is their profit...
But my point is... if I made $100,0000 a month then it also means that I'm a quality publisher and I'll be making that kind of money in future too... So if they pay me then they will be making $50,000 every other month.
Back in the days, you'd always see him spring into action whenever Google was talked about in a negative light. Any doubts about "Don't Be Evil", or the sincerity of their "openness" or whatever, Matt would always be there, filling HN threads with his pro-Google propaganda.
You should just ignore his bullshit here. It's obvious that the leak is true - not because I say so, but take a look at "adsenseclient"'s posts and dig up some material and you'll see.
We ban people for this kind of thing, especially when they don't have a history as a positive contributor here.
a) There is no list of accounts that is protected from scrutiny?
b) There is no group of accounts that is watched very closely for violation of terms?
c) That bans happen almost always shortly before a payout would be due?
The description of the latest known policy in place reads as it is carefully tweaked to be defensible even in a court of law, so even if the "leak" is true, I am not sure if a class action lawsuit has a chance.
To skew the outcome in Google's favour is basically guaranteed if bonuses and goals drive the team members to interpret the procedures in a way that a impartial observer might interpret as unfair.
(using a throwaway account for whistle blowing does make sense, and not necessarily reduces credibility)
This anonymous claim may or may not be true, in part or in full, but it has far more credibility than Matt.
It is quite understandable that people who have had an unhappy experience with Google may not want to come out publicly. If Google can block AdSense with no transparency, what else can it do? Google can drop you from its search engine -- then you really have no other advertising choices. Have you seen the Senate hearings? Google has done exactly this. http://www.searchneutrality.org
I know from experience that Google suddenly suspends AdSense accounts at any time, and does so when the amount due is near the $100 minimum, then holds that money indefinitely but never lifts the suspension.
The internet is overflowing with complaints about AdSense. Is this just one big conspiracy? Course not. This is the frustration of thousands or more people who were burned by Google's unprecedented policy of never providing support.
Until THAT changes, Google is the guilty party, no doubt.
I've never face a problem with my AdSense account, but I do read about this things all the time on Internet and yes, I see topics on support forums without any answer. I'm concerned on how high can my website grow without me losing my source of revenue, having to start looking for alternatives and etc.
I understand some lack of support on the services you give for free, but website owners are your partners on your main income business. That lack of transparency just make us wonder if that post is nothing but the truth. And we want to know that is not.
So, instead of just calling it "fake", "conspiracy" and stuff, why don't Google start working to make AdSense more transparent, a phone line to answer website owners even if is just in english, why not set a support e-mail?
That means the Reddit community found this leak informative and credible.
Spin spin spin, but people are learning. The only way out of this growing tide of tens of thousands of burned publishers speaking out is for Google to offer a minimal level of support and a phone number -- as all companies throughout history have done -- EXCEPT GOOGLE -- even ad networks of smaller size can afford to offer support. Google has no excuses.
Mark my words -- YOU WILL PROVIDE SUPPORT -- that will happen sooner or after Google's reputation has suffered badly. Google's choice.
I read through this thread and noticed so many very good questions simply ignored. You can't ignore this situation away. I like you Matt. I am sorry Google put you on this task because you look terribly foolish here.
I 100% believe in what this person is saying as I know all my sites. There were no fraudulent clicks or schemes going on, it was all natural traffic and clicks.
This is yet another reason I stopped using Google and instead use Bing. I think everyone should stop using Google search and switch to a different provider.
Google did not say there were "invalid clicks"--only the "risk" of such. Google did not return the money. They are still holding it years later! But they refuse to unsuspend the site.
I would be surprised though if anyone actually sought out to 'screw' the legitimate advertisers. It is after all Google's bread and butter.
Is it? How much do Google make from the adsense publisher network vs advertising directly on Google properties?
$10.5B Google properties
Check out that dip in '09. Interesting.
Here's something that came into play around 2009: When a new advertiser (think small business) goes into AdWords to set up their first account, the default is to show Ads on Search AND Display Network. After setting things up, these two sources of VERY DIFFERENT traffic get lumped together in a lot of high-level reporting.
Until they specifically look at the quality of Display vs Search traffic (and see Avg Visit Durations from Display traffic around 5 seconds) they will not know about the crappy quality of sites they are on.
But we are supposed to believe someone who offers effectively no evidence from the duration of their claimed tenure, and who pushes it off as "I stayed because I had a family to support, and secondly I wanted to see how far they would go." and identity protection at the level of "such as waiting for the appropriate employee turn around"
So... no Hardy Boys level of investigation was performed, no evidence was gathered, no voices were recorded, no text messages were saved, no emails were forwarded, not a single byte was smuggled out on a flash drive nestled in the poster's pocket. Nothing was done to offer even the slightest bit of recording of anything.
The poster is either the most pathetic excuse for a whistle blower that I've ever heard, or it's a poor-quality April fool's joke that is 28 days too late.
What we have instead is a compelling story written anonymously, but for which there is no supporting evidence provided. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, yet there is none.
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7668230 brings up the most important point to this entire thread, which is that the premise under which the OP claims that Google steals money from people through cancellation falls on its face when you look at the economics of a cancellation. It's just not economically viable for Google to do that - it's like eating your leg because you're hungry. And of all the things that Google is, it's not stupid.
Even though after the initial ban (when we overshot $10,000/mo) we were OK'ed by a contact in their Policy Team and re-instated (a contact we found after a lot of work), EVERY time when we bounced back to $10,000 and then to $5,000 after scaling down, we would have new vague and inane threats from AdSense about our perfectly NORMAL UGC ,as if the initial conversation with their Policy has never taken place.
We basically migrated away from AdSense, but if their are ANY SERIOUS LAWYERS here interested in a class action, we have a WEALTH of DETAILED documentation. ANAL, but it's definitely interesting: we have never encountered such a SHITTY treatment by any other company, and we have about 1,500 corporate clients. Once again, we never did anything shady or different than some other publishers that are apparently Green-listed by Google.
You know, you'd think that if Google had a 2-years-running official policy, some other bit of leakage about it would have occurred by now. Two years is a long time for an official policy on a giant company's largest product to have never even been whispered, in accident, on the Internet before.
Let me do a quick search...
Nope. Just three instances of Pastebin (Hm, wonder why three?).
Oh, I know what I did wrong. I'm using the wrong search engine!
Hm, nope, only one result there too.
My account was banned for "invalid activity" in the timeframe mentioned. The automated emails said they wouldn't even tell me what I supposedly did wrong. I tried appealing and only got an automated email telling me my appeal was denied. I was never able to talk to anyone or get any actual details on wrongdoing. A quick search and you'll quickly realize this happened to a lot of people.
I had something like $200 sitting in my account, which was obviously forfeited. Before this even happened, I removed ads from my blog (which is where the revenue was earned) because it wasn't performing well enough to justify having ads there anyway.
In the end, I didn't really care so much about my forfeited balance - hell, I even volunteered to forfeit it during the appeal if it was in any way associated with invalid activity among other things. The big issue is that this seems to be a lifetime/universal ban. BEFORE WE EVER RAN ADS, an AdSense account with an unrelated corporate tax ID was also banned for "Invalid Activity". The only reason I can conceivably come up with on the ban is that this was also associated with a Google Apps account that I have.
I'm a longtime Google shareholder and supporter, but it's times like this when you realize you can't trust "Don't Be Evil" any more. Ironically, I've spent way more in Google Apps + AdWords than I ever earned with AdSense.
It seems a bit more realistic than hoping that they see this pastebin text, and decide to follow up on it, track you down, and get your statements on the record.
Just because you contact authorities doesn't necessarily mean they believe you or even care, regardless of how much actual evidence you have (of which the OP has presented none, by the way.) Causing a PR stink raises the profile of the issue, and could be a much more effective approach to getting the authorities attention.
That said, I don't believe OP's story for a second, for many of the same reasons other have cited. If this was a true case of whistle blowing, there would be tangible evidence but the OP has presented none.
If this story isn't getting traction, then HN is doing the right thing here.
Why aren't you replying to any of them if you're acting as the voice of reason here?
Exactly because the fraudulent bans are actually a widespread phenomenon, but that goes against what Matt's been telling us here.
Mostly they have been very opaque on the reasons of account bans, they haven't payed out the remaining balances of banned accounts (even when they presented no proof of any fraud), and finally they haven't provided a working way to appeal any bans.
I can understand their decisions, but they do come with the risk of bad PR.
The paragraph on G analytics is also very interesting, it never seems to line up with other tracking tools like Piwik.
I worked at a company who used WebTrends. Some of the their customers installed Google Analytics alongside Webtrends and then would complain that the numbers didn't match up between the two. Sometimes it wasn't close (+/- 10%) other times it was closer, but there was always a discrepancy between the two. Of course it looked since we used WebTrends, we were inflating the numbers, when in reality, it was the exact opposite.
When I read this part of the post, I could totally see them tweaking the GA numbers so they were lower.
GA is always going to show 'lower' numbers than straight logs in particular because of this.
> A reason has to be internally attached to the account ban. The problem was that notifying the
publisher for the reason is not a requirement, even if the publisher asks. The exception: The exact
reason must be provided if a legal representative contacts Google on behalf of the account holder.
It was like extracting teeth, they would not tell me what it was! It took me 5 days to notice that in an area of my site if hovered over with the mouse an ad would be fractionally covered at the corner (I know, so evil).
I addressed the issue and emailed them back to ask if that was the issue sorted now, they thanked me and said it was now sorted, and sent me screenshots of the problem from the past.
Google, we are not little stringed puppets, realistically all they had to do was tell me what the problem was (with screenshots they had), and it would've been fixed in under 5 minutes.
No, Google apparently doesn't work like the other 99.9% of the population. Are the workers all just sitting around on some massive ego trip? Wondering when daddy is going to bring in a candy floss machine.
Put it this way, if Google were seen as a good company these stories would get no attention at all, I think secretly deep down we all think your eViL and we honestly wouldn't put it past you to do something like this.
> Having signed many documents such as NDA's and non-competes, there are many repercussions for me,
especially in the form of legal retribution from Google.
> No one on the outside knows it, if they did, the FBI and possibly IRS would immediately launch an
investigation, because what they are doing is so inherently illegal and they are flying completely under
Wait, what legal repercussions? If what they're doing is illegal, (1) they probably wouldn't win the lawsuit against you, and (2) more importantly, NDAs don't apply (IANAL, but AFAIK contracts are overruled by law), and he could and should report the crime directly to the police.
Unless, of course, s/he has too much to loose from bullying, or if s/he fears Google bought politicians.
That's just dumb.
That said, I have noticed AdSense policy enforcement ratcheted up, but protecting the advertisers is in everybody's best long term interests.
My experience with AdSense policy enforcers was fair.
I preferred having ad units that encouraged unintentional clicking,
I made more money like that,
but I understand why they made me change it.
Having made my ads less blended to the site, I have had no issues since.
So, I've taken the attitude that google adsense is to be avoided like the plague for anything approaching a business. It's found money if you can get it, and if you can't that shouldn't be a factor in your business plan at all.
I don't know if this guy is telling the truth, but his arguments have truth in them.
> "...fuck the rest" (those words were actually
said by a Google AdSense exec)
> there was a "sit-down" from the AdSense division higher ups to talk about new emerging issues
I followed every consideration in the official AdSense blog, ensured that every content policy was met. Appealed with a strong case and got revoked.
No official explanation was given even by Google employees I contacted.
I see tons of sites with shit content and link building monetize with adsense while ours is loved by 1,000,000 users who spend 12 minutes average and a bounce rate below 6%.
Everything on the leak makes total sense to me and we spent so many days implementing stuff to get Google's approval (like image fingerprinting, spam database, porn detection, overseas moderators) to get a shitty robot response with no real explanation.
I've also seen on many SEO forums that people have complained about the same things in regards to getting banned days before their payout.
Most website advertiser types are the kind of people who are recalcitrant to file a lawsuit. I know I am myself. So really, it's a good business decision in this regard.
I can't accuse Google of anything though. On the other hand, automating account bans past a certain earning threshold unless they're high profile people seems easy to implement, with a massive earning when done on the multi-billion-dollar  ad revenue scale that Google oversees.
More earnings than not banning them and letting them continue to make money for Google?
I am an old adsense publisher and serving adsense ads on my sites since last three years but it is becoming a bit difficult to cope with their Terms and services.
They have disabled ad serving on my few real MONEY MAKING sites only because my site was having one Google trademarked WORD in URL. ( I don't know how do they understand this as violation of TOS after three years of ad serving.)
If we look in to this policy of adsense which says do not use Google trademarked WORD in URL then almost all possible site that is dedicated to TECH news is violating this rule because they all writes news about Google, Youtube, Adsense, Gmail, Google Drive, Blogspot etc and all of them are registered trademarks of Google. These tech news sites DO HAVE GOOGLE RELATED WORDS IN THERE URL and violating this rule.
Google does not disables such huge site only because they are so called AUTHORITIES????
This thing is really getting suspicious.
The same goes with things relating to SEO and since AdSense sits at the intersection between SEO and AdWords, it is not at all surprising that some managers at Google would use the guise of "quality" to juice their numbers.
I don't know if it's true or not, but the story certainly lines up with my experiences with Google over the years unfortunately.
They deal with a lot of spammers and scammers, which is a legitimately difficult job, but they also are a giant megacorp out to make a buck, and that doesn't always mean they do the right thing.
Mostly I bet this gets swept under the rug and isn't investigated, which is a shame.
There are some big accounts which can break TOS not being banned.
For example, localmoxie.com, a high traffic malware site uses AdSence .
3. Jan 2014 http://archive.today/jsfNy Apr 2014 http://archive.today/AkpoO
The scheme described would have leaked immediately. Too obvious and too many people.
It is a beautiful peace of rhetoric. Yet I wonder, about its effectiveness/achievement inside Google in last 5 years since its inception.
Perhaps its because, don't be evil translates to, a middle ground always. Its almost like trying to keep your company on 0-loss/0-profit. That is not a great place to be, because you fall from grace easily.
"Be more good than evil" anyone?
It does not sound too far fetched though.
Lets wait how market will react.