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Google AdSense leak? (pastebin.com)
425 points by rmujica on April 29, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 162 comments

Let's think about this logically. Google takes 32% of every adsense click [1], so assuming an account makes $5,000/month, Google is making $2,352/month from that account. So by banning the account, they are making $5,000 one-time, and losing $2,352/month forever. No company is stupid enough to do that.

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.

1: https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/180195?hl=en

This not necessarily the case. Most advertisers will have fixed budgets to spend on AdSense.

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.

Also obviously if Google reduces the pool of adsense publishers, the money is more likely to be spent advertising on Google properties, and Google will take 100% of that, rather than 32%.

If that was an ideal strategy they would have never opened it up to publishers in the first place.

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.

Ad inventory supply is and always will be > demand. As such, their actions to make short-term revenue by banning publishers makes sense. It's basically recycling publishers, knowing the pubs wont be able to do anything about it. Obviously it hurts their brand but they're too big to give a shit.

> Google takes 32% of every adsense click [1], so assuming an account makes $5,000/month, Google is making $2,352/month from that account.

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.

You might be thinking about it wrong. A site that generates $5K a month is worth way more than some Mommy blog that just started hosting ads.

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.

Is it just me or has it been witch hunting season as of late?

From the current cases, it seems to be a winning, low-cost strategy.

If all this just false accusation then do you care to explain why google dont have any human interaction with their adsense publishers if the account is banned or suspended while their employees go around licking the asses of people using adwords as advertisers? I had my adsense account blocked for no reason and all the appeal went in vain without any human seeing my appeal. Now I am a major adwords advertiser for an ecommerce site and I have google representative just a call away!! thats just taking advantage of the monopoly they have created.

If all this just false accusation then do you care to explain why google dont have any human interaction with their adsense publishers if the account is banned or suspended while their employees go around licking the asses of people using adwords as advertisers?

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".

I can't speak for 2009, but by 2012 large publishers definitely had account managers.

Large publishers have had account managers since 2008 and earlier. But you have to be pretty large.

being a small publisher, never knew this.

yes that's my point, they never have any interaction before blocking a publishers account, doesn't it look like as if google is trying to prove itself superior?

It depends. Is Google an high school student? If not, then no. It just looks like they don't give a shit.

I pay for app engine, if I want human interaction then I have to pay an additional $150 a month. Google does this for services it charges for, so it is hardly surprising that it does it for ones where it is paying money.

Its not about human interaction, its about citing clear reasons and giving chance of proving innocence before suspending anyone's account and taking their money. Its impossible for a computer to understand arguments made by publisher and that's why there is need of human interaction without having to pay for it.

I don't agree with your basic assumption - google doesn't get money from publishers, but from advertisers. If they ban one publisher, the ad may get clicked somewhere else. Let's call this metric 'ad fill factor' - how many different ads does google have for this content and traffic? When some niche is getting near the point when there's no enough ads for its traffic the marginal value of website becomes exactly zero. At this point, banning accounts and taking their earnings makes financial sense.

An account was banned on 2012-Nov. We did sign a contract with Google as partnership publisher at that time. No reason, and no invalid activities.

Nice try Google PR guy.

Everything about this post strikes me as a conspiracy-laden fake, from the typos to wrong terminology to untrue policies to the lack of specific names of people. I passed this pastebin to the ads side to confirm for sure, but I would treat this as completely untrue.

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.

Hi Matt,

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.

Maybe AdSense maintain such strong eCPMs by having a well-policed, high-quality network?

Maybe, if you are either a $300/mo blog or you are the New York Times with a Tech section, where they could run a story on AdSense. If you are a $15,000/mo legitimate publisher - Good luck.

If you're a large publisher you have options other than AdSense. Why stick with them if they are the way you say?

We left them basically: see my handle post history. As a result, our company is left harboring very negative feelings to Google overall (be it acquisition talks down the road or another kind of future interaction)

I hate to break out the tinfoil, but do you have any reason to expect the Ads team would admit to you if any of this were true?

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.

hosay123, I've worked with the people this post talks about since 2005. Even though I'm the head of the webspam team, I'm familiar with how AdSense deals with fraud.

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.

I agree with Matt, the pastebin wreaks of someone wanting to be another Snowden but it's anonymous and has no documented proof to back it up. As such it has to be dismissed.

Furthermore, How do we know Matt_Cutts is even telling us the truth here? Not saying he is lying, but as he is a high ranking Googler, I doubt he would risk his career to confirm such a huge leak about his employer. It could very well be that Google has tasked him to deny any such information that could damage Google's reputation. Simply put, we cannot 100% trust anything that someone with a stake in the company in question says as the truth.

Welcome to the internet, all of the things you read here may or may not be true.

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.

It doesn't make any sense for ads team to lie. If the accusations are true, relevant employees can simply become a whistle blower, and collect bounty (i.e., a percentage of fine that Google will need to pay).

It'd require incredible certainty that any of this were illegal for an employee to risk their career going that route.. personally I'm not sure anything described in the pastebin is definitely illegal, but IANAL

In a meeting with Adsense employees, by an Adsense employee, I have been told that when fraud is discovered, the account is not cut off and they are not immediately notified. I was told that they wait as long as possible before cutting off the account. Do you deny this?

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?

I am not sure about the claims made on the post but there was something else that caught my eye a while back. I registered for Adsense when starting a side-project. I tried my best to follow all the requirements such as only 3 block of ads per page, no self clicking even if the ad was relevant to you etc. Since it was relatively new, it din't have much traffic. Then it started booming but it wasn't predictable by any manner, one day it would get featured on Reddit and then starts dying down, the next week it will another wave because it got featured in some popular blog, so on. However, despite the traffic being not predictable, the percentage of invalid clicks judged by Google remained the same. i.e. say your account shows up the earnings as $1200 but the check gets issued to you for around $1175, next month if you made $1500, your check will be for $1468. The reason Google claimed for this difference was the final audit that looks for invalid clicks right before a check gets issued. I thought it was crazy that I could easily predict what I would be actually getting instead of what is shown to be earned, moreover my super ability to predict invalid clicks. So I decided to keep a log of the difference for ~ a year, and what do you know, the difference in final audit was almost always the same percentage despite huge variations in traffic. I am happy to post the log but I will be breaking one of the adsense rules of revealing your earnings and thus risk losing my account.

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 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.

I don't know about that. Just look at the webpages you see when you're on the web. See which have AdSense and which have other ads but not AdSense. If AdSense pays the most, then most sites would have AdSense unless they were denied, suspended, or banned. There should be quality differences.

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.

I have no idea if it is true or not, but it speaks volumes to the lack of transparency Google offers into the Adsense/Adwords programs.

The simple fact people will consider this plausible is the news.

Right. The fact that people consider this plausible is Bad News for Google.

I'm not sure why you think working at Google lends you any credibility in this discussion. To me, your continued discussion here does not help Google's position at all.

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?

aggronn, I've been debunking conspiracies about Google since 2001 ("buying ads on Google makes you rank higher/lower"). I believe there's value in commenting on untrue claims quickly to nip them in the bud. As a long-time employee with a close perspective on the post, I can tell you from personal experience that the terminology is incorrect and the allegations are completely at odds with my direct experience. I'm also hearing multiple, strong confirmations from the ads side that this post is completely fake.

I'm just questioning whether its ethical for you to 'quickly nip them in the bid'. Most people reading this discuss have no idea what role Google plays in the day to to day operation of the advertising industry, and I think its improper for Google to be the first voice that they hear when they're exposed to accusations like this.

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.

"I think its improper for Google to be the first voice that they hear when they're exposed to accusations like this."

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.

> That's just ludicrous

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.

"People, including you, are willing to accept it as fact that this is an obviously false conspiracy theory because its 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.

I'm in no position to say whether this is true or not, but as a banned AdSense publisher who has done absolutely everything in his power to appeal (to no avail), I can say that changing the black box process of AdSense bans into a more transparent process would definitely help Google's case in the future.

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.

Matt, as always, thank you for taking the time to clear things up. I'm sure the back-and-forth here had to have felt unbelievably stupid, and it was, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that it's still a pleasure to read your comments, so at least something good came out of it.

And what exactly has Matt proven? He is getting "confirmation" from their Ad side that everything is fine??! How stupid to believe that??!! Do i smell "sycophancy" here like some do as if Matt was some kind of God!! Ridiculous!

Matt, given your high profile job and your authority at Google, asking people directly whether there's any truth to this post or not will not reveal the truth. No one wants to lose their job or get involved in this and the easiest path out for them is to tell you that no it's not true.

These are folks that I've worked with and talked to regularly for 9 years, so I think you're overstating how people within Google see me; we're just colleagues.

In general, Google's internal culture is open and honest, but we also provide anonymous ways to give feedback within the company[1], so something like this would bubble up in a visible way.

[1] 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/...

My point is that asking colleagues you trust is not enough to conclude that nothing of this sort happened. Maybe your colleagues weren't aware of what was going on?

A third party audit would probably be a better option. But I am sure Google knows how to handle these cases better.

> Matt, given your high profile job and your authority at Google, asking people directly whether there's any truth to this post or not will not reveal the truth.

Actually, that's a damn good way to get the truth at Google.

Matt, correct me if I'm wrong, but you work in a completely different department to Adsense & therefore it is quite possible that you are completely unaware of what takes place with Adsense.

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!


I think a lot of the skepticism here is drawn from the experience people have with companies that are culturally very different from companies like Google. Those companies are intensely management-driven, heavily siloed, and have very little internal inter-departmental communication that doesn't go through a layer of management. Difficult questions never get asked because management doesn't want to make waves or risk their fiefdoms. Documentation is hidden by access controls. Employees keep their heads down and do what they're told.

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.

Culture isn't a great answer to throw around when people are asking hard questions about a program that is the financial backbone of a company. In fact its downright snooty to presume that allegations like this stem from folks who have experienced a different corporate culture. People generally get to know what a company's culture really is like from the folks who leave that company. And there are tons of those folks from Google. The point is, whether you appreciate Google's internal culture of candour or not or its lack of silos, that's just not the way to respond to allegations regarding the way Google makes serious profits.

I came to know about that story when someone left a comment on my blog.. but I refused to believe it without reading the story or the whole pastebin story for one reason. If I made $100,000 from AdSense then it means that Google earned approx. $150,000 in revenue and they paid $100,000 (based on 68% publisher revenue share).

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.

Matt Cutts has always been Google's little PR-whore.

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.

Personal attacks are not allowed on Hacker News.

We ban people for this kind of thing, especially when they don't have a history as a positive contributor here.

So can you confirm that specifically:

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)

Matt Cutts did not answer this one. Which begs a question. Why is Matt here? Obviously not to answer real concerns. He has been sent by Google to handle public relations issues. He has zero 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.

Matt can you ask the AdSense team why there is not a clear form of contact with Google regarding AdSense? Why there's tons of sites thar are banned with no given reason, no way to contact Google by phone, no answer on support forums, no nothing?

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?

yeah, I just didn't had any interesting story before this one to post here. I created this account for YC'W13 batch postulation.

rmujica, out of curiosity, how did you run across the pastebin?

It was sent to me by a colleague, haven't spoke to him personally today but I'll try to find out where he got it first hand.

Cool, thank you.

Gotcha. Thanks for following up on this. I lurk over on reddit rather than posting, but it looks like the commenters there came to similar conclusions.

The "up voters" on the submissions of this article far outnumber the "down voters." That's what matters, Matt.

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.

Mr. Matt_Cutts, its interesting that you have not responded to questions as to why Google does not provide comprehensive reasons why they ban accounts, and why they do not have a simple and direct interface where publishers can deal directly with the adsense support team, also as someone who works for Google, your reactions are far from authentic and substantive - your responses amount to the same kind of fluff you and your webspam team seek to fight in SERPS. Your reaction deserves no ounce of credibility whatsoever until you start to address the pertinent questions being raised here. Look at the number of publishers who have had their accounts banned arbitrarily and all you do is turn up and tell us your colleagues are confirming the post is fake, seriously???, what can they say?and you tell us the leak has many typos and the terminology is wrong-- so you think that should suffice to debunk the leak , not quite - there might not be merit in the leak but there is definitely merit AROUND the story ....Google's monopoly is stinking to the sky and its the only company I know where customers are not king... let me guess, you will babble and jabber on with every other nonessential interest area of the story rather than addressing the burning questions that every publisher is asking

I can tell you that I was caught up in this as well. I started serving ads for Google on my sites way back - near when the program first rolled out I believe. I was suddenly banned not long before my payout was due with no explanation about 2 1/2 years ago after serving ads on my sites for them for years. No appeal, all money earned was kept by Google, I never saw a cent of it. It made up a large portion of my income and not only did it suddenly stop, but the payouts owed to me were negated and my access to the adsense interface was closed so I could not even log in to get information on what was owed, what sites had what clicks, etc.

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.

Me too. Suspended after years with the same page up. Suddenly the page violated standards and payouts ended with Google holding nearly the $100 minimum.

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.

Asking the ad people doesn't confirm anything. They're obviously not going to confirm any of this if they are still working at Google and have NDA agreements as the author did. Also he made a new account as an added measure to protect his identity. There was a poll on HN that just confirmed that this is in fact true: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7672910

I don't get it. It's just scraping wikipedia to come up with that definition...

The thing is google asked people to report URLs that were scraping sites and were outranking original sources, so this guy posted a snapshot where google was scraping wikipedia to come up with definition of 'scraper site' and was outranking wikipedia. :P

Wikipedia content is licensed for redistribution. That isn't scraping.

And as a site that is funded by donations not ad revenue they probably consider this a service.

yes, Wikipedia content is licensed for redistribution but the point here was websites outranking the original sources.

It reads like some disgruntled AdSense publishers theory as to why they were banned. Now it is true that in 2009, when the Great Recession hit, Google went through its processes and identified places where controls were lax. And its true that there has always been a lot of abuse of AdSense (it is after all the first thing a neophyte ad-fraud wannabe does, which is create a page, put AdSense ads on it, and then pay a bot-net to click on them. It almost seems like some sort of starter project or tutorial it was so common)

I would be surprised though if anyone actually sought out to 'screw' the legitimate advertisers. It is after all Google's bread and butter.

> 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?

http://investor.google.com/pdf/2014Q1_google_earnings_slides... (slide 3)

(revenue) $3.4B network $10.5B Google properties $1.5B other

The BIG Advertisers are their bread and butter, but every big advertiser knows to avoid most contextual targeting Text Ad buys.

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.

If you are going to sit around and "see what happens" for 3 years, you talk to a lawyer. You gather evidence. Emails, text chats, etc. You audio record meetings and conversations with people (subject to lawyer advice). You collect enough information over a long enough period of time so that an investigator can trivially search a dumped archive of email to verify your claims.

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.

There is obviously no proof one way or the other, questioning the veracity of the source does not change that. My guess is that new evidence will emerge sooner or later. A graph of cancellation dates would be an interesting start.

In cases of whistle blowing, which this is purporting to be, evidence is one of the most important things that you can gather and report on. Yet we have literally none from the OP.

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.

While the story is fake, it still very well illustrates how powerless people are against Google.

As a large publisher, we have witnessed both the $10,000 and $5,000 thresholds. It's simply true. We are now using other networks and directly working with advertisers, and our AdSense revenue is $4,500 (total ad revenue is $25,000+/mo). We also quite presciently considered making a PR stink after the first AdSense ban (we were re-instated later), but decided this could tarnish the image of our company and of our product for our clients- AdSense revenue was not important enough.

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.

Had an Adsense account banned in January with $15k credit taken days before payout date (After 8 months of $2k-$12k earnings history per month) and extremely low RPM&CTR. No answer to appeals, no explanation other than the vague phrase 'for policy violations'. :/

Did you sue them for your money? If not, why not?

Also a large publisher, though we've surpassed the 5k/10k thresholds without issue. Out of curiosity, though, which other networks do you use and how do they compare to Adsense?

Funny; back in 2010 this exact thing happened to a company I worked at. The day before payout (for the previous month) our AdSense account was banned. So we lost 2 months worth of ad revenue. They completely ignored all of our emails and we had to move to another ad provider immediately.

Also happened to a company I worked at, despite years of working with them with strong revenues we were told our account was banned for illegal click activity. We asked for multiple re-reviews and each time two days later we were told it was still denied.

that happened to me , now i dont know if there is a wide scale scam or it was just a "bug" but they banned me for no reason and of course no way to appeal.And they owed me quite a lot.I moved to some other ad service,it pays less but i still get my money.

One way to appeal- file a lawsuit. :)

Who has the money to sue Google? Not me. Even if the court says you are right, Google has more money than most people and can simply keep litigating. For a good example of this take a look at a company called Vringo. The court has upheld that Google has willfully infringed upon their patents in their adwords system. Penalties have been set, the patent office has upheld it, etc. but Google continues to use the willfully infringing technology. They even tried a cosmetic fix to keep using it and avoid paying ongoing royalties. The court saw through that and basically said they are still willfully infringing and upped the royalty award. Google is still fighting, probably will for some time, all the while using technology that infringes on anothers patent knowingly. They are above the law. If they are going to act this way towards companies that have the assets to fight them in court, how do you think they are going to act towards the little guys who don't have millions upon millions of dollars to spend on legal teams? This info is my understanding of the case, everyone should look it up and come to their own conculusions in case I've misinterpreted what I've read.

While the money they owed me was significant it would have been difficult(and expensive) to sue google at that time. It would be very different today.I had to write it off.And they had the audacity to send me a 50$ voucher for adsense just after that...

That is certainly a challenge. It really irks me when there is such a power imbalance and people take advantage of it. When I have to use the courts, I generally use small claims court and represent myself when I can, and I've had good luck with that, even though the time and cost for legal filings is not insignificant. The amount they owed you was likely more than the max in your state for small claims, though.

On average, how often do you think accounts will be banned on the day before a payout, assuming no malintent on Google's part?

"The new policy was officially called AdSense Quality Control Color Codes (commonly called AQ3C by employees)."

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... https://www.google.com/search?q=%22adsense+quality+control+c...

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.


There you go bringing reason to a conspiracy discussion. :) For what it's worth, I immediately searched for "aq3c" within Google and within my email--no matches found there either. In my estimation, this post is absolutely fake.

In whole explaination it seems like you ae defending Google. :). and why will anyone comeup with his original identity. The Leaker:P is also smart guy SIR. :)

Who else should defend his employer? Someone external who doesn't have any resources to follow?

Now being filled with news pieces about the pastebin. Reminds me somewhat of the Citogenesis XKCD panel (https://xkcd.com/978/).

This doesn't surprise me at all.

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.

If this is such a slam dunk, why not just go directly to the FBI or IRS? I'm sure there are tons of people in those orgs who would LOVE to smash google if they really were behaving in such an illegal manner.

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.

Reaching out to the authorities may take much longer or even be ignored, and causing a PR stink may be a much more effective approach. As an example, the SEC was contacted with regards to Bernard Madoff likely running a ponzy scheme as early as 1999, yet went largely ignored for a decade.

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.

I guess the IRS isn't the right place to go because all that money is probably reported as income by Google. Too bad because IRS whistleblowers are eligible for a percentage of any amount the IRS is able to collect, and with a company as big as Google, that could be an earth-shatteringly large amount of money.

As a developer, I have had, and friends have had thier Adsense accounts banned right before payout for legitimate earnings. It hurts so bad to have that happen, and Google gives you little recourse. I cannot speak to the legitimacy of this pastebin, but reading it, it sounds completely plausible. If it walks like a duck...

Making this kind of statements and then not providing any kind of proof is just pointless. No one has any reason to believe any of this and this can't therefore be considered a leak because it carries absolutely no value.

The link went from being #3 on the frontpage to below #20 in a matter of minutes.

How dare anyone on HN attack Google.

It's a fake. It's an anonymous post on pastebin, submitted by a one-time account. The terminology is wrong. The policies are wrong. The post is full of typos. The post has almost no specifics, and the one specific thing they mentioned ("AQ3C") isn't real.

If this story isn't getting traction, then HN is doing the right thing here.

I do see a decent number of people posting they've had issues with cancellations that match what the pastebin describes.

Why aren't you replying to any of them if you're acting as the voice of reason 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.

I somehow doubt this is true, but Google has done its fair share to give rise to such rumours.

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.

Whilst I've never used adSense much, this does corroborate with chatter in SEO/webmaster forums, especially around 2012.

The paragraph on G analytics is also very interesting, it never seems to line up with other tracking tools like Piwik.

This is one the thing that I found curious as well.

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.

The reason for this would be that GA filters out bot traffic differently than other vendors. That includes legitimate bots like search engine crawlers. Web analytics are just not that accurate. The number quoted by the Xoogler in an analytics manual I recently went though is an expectation of ~10%+ wiggle.

GA is always going to show 'lower' numbers than straight logs in particular because of this.

And no one on an SEO forum would ever try to get questionable traffic to their site for the purposes of pumping up AdSense revenue.

Seems that GA is always lower than Piwik and adsense is always much lower than GA.

I found this part interesting. So the only way to even find out the reason for your account being banned is to hire a lawyer.

> 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.

I am an adsense publisher, never experienced a ban before, however I did get my account deactivated once for a violation.

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.

Hm... something does not compute:

> 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 the radar.

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 correct, an NDA is completely irrelevant in terms of keeping someone from disclosing a crime.

The risk/reward here doesn't add up. Taking an extra few thousand a month from publishers isn't worth risking the billions in revenue they make per year.

I got banned from Google Adsense as a teenager (7 years ago). Still regret my stupid decision to try and hack Google Adsense clicks. My account was never restored :(.

Most murderers get out in a few years. Google has no sense of due process whatsoever. You should be allowed back in after a while -- especially if you were very young.

This is aligned with what I've heard from people working in Adsense department.

Happened to someone I know back in 2005 I think, he lost 2 months of payment, and it was a lot of money. But he had some erotic videos on his website so... mostly his fault.

Why would they take all of your earnings for one month instead of 1/3rd to infinity?

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.

reocities.com got banned for no reason that I can think of, never bothered to try to engage google on this because it is as good as pointless. Google just simply doesn't care, as long as more people are signing up than they are cancelling they can keep the ship afloat. On the off-chance that you're trying to social engineer them they apparently can't take the risk to re-enable an account.

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.

Regardless of whether this is true or not, I'd say it's a good rule of thumb when dealing with a Monolith (Google) to expect better treatment when paying them money (AdWords) than when they pay you money (AdSense).

The whole click bombing argument is undoubtedly true, I've seen it happen too many times. Additionally, from my experience, Google will wait until immediately before the payout period to ban. I had $750 waiting to be paid out one month then poof! Three days before the payout my account was banned.

I don't know if this guy is telling the truth, but his arguments have truth in them.

If it's an anonymous leak, exposing overt fraud, why would the poster not name names, unless this leak was a fake?

> "...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 had my AdSense account and site blocked just before i got to the $5000/month mark.

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'm inclined to believe this, but I'm skeptical of Google Analytics numbers being deflated. Wouldn't people notice the data not being consistent with other tools or their own web server logs?

It's funny you mentioned this. I was researching Piwiks as an analytics tool today. In a few of the articles, they gave reason to use Piwiks because it shows more traffic than Google Analytics does, with graphs to demonstrate. These were articles from over the past few years. DDG or google search "piwiks analytics better than" and you'll likely see the same articles.

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 [0] ad revenue scale that Google oversees.

[0] http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/google-finally-crosses...

"... automating account bans past a certain earning threshold ... seems easy to implement, with a massive earning"

More earnings than not banning them and letting them continue to make money for Google?

This was also my take. Also, during the period being written about, Adsense fraud at scale was a really huge issue.

Though the adsense is best possible option for monetizing, it seems that they have some UNANSWERED question raising every time.

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.

I did enough ad buying from AdWords and dealt with the changeover to "Quality Score" to know that Google cares a lot about raising their ad rates, but not having the perception of doing so.

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.

As a security researcher I can confirm the existence of bullet-proof AdSense accounts mentioned in the leak.

There are some big accounts which can break TOS not being banned.

For example, localmoxie.com, a high traffic[1] malware[2] site uses AdSence [3].

1: http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/localmoxie.com

2: https://www.google.com/search?num=100&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&safe...

3. Jan 2014 http://archive.today/jsfNy Apr 2014 http://archive.today/AkpoO

Former Adsense PM here. It sounds implausible but there were certainly lots of shady accounts from emerging markets. I could see them ratcheting up enforcement on questionable sites from those markets surely but not at this level of randomness cited here.

Is someone shorting Google Stock to make some cash?

Plausible sci-fi.

The scheme described would have leaked immediately. Too obvious and too many people.

Wouldn't that make it not plausible?

"Don't be evil"

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?

This makes me think of the HN link yesterday about identifying businesses that are doomed to fail because the only way they can sustain themselves is moving into new markets. If Google keeps on banning publishers from hosting AdSense ads in order to keep the AdSense money, that's the same dangerous behavior that's indicative of an unsustainable business. The question becomes can they sustain the growth and movement? Are there enough new publishers for Google to sign up to replace the ones they arbitrarily ban or will they eventually start having a hard time finding publishers and web properties?

People should really stop using pastebin to post leaks, I'm pretty sure there's still a timing-based SQL injection to get at least the user's IP


Not being a native English speaker doesn't exactly eliminate the possibility of being a Google employee...

Does it prove anything? Google has offices in many countries and employees of many nationalities.

There's no name given of anyone involved, so nobody can be held accountable for this whether it's true or not.

I have no reason to not believe this, but I also have no reason to believe this.

It does not sound too far fetched though.

I know the mass ban affected a lot of my friends in 2012, and they all had legitimate websites.

what about this part http://pastebin.com/cGGV3kpE

Holy shit, if this is true....

Is this real?

It would be completely unsurprising.

GOOG around 520 for day of the leak: http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=GOOG+Interactive#symbol=G...

Lets wait how market will react.

Nothing will happen because of some unsubstantiated pastebin.

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