Site Suspended By Google AdWords – No External Links Allowed!?

My website, yes this very site is suspended by Google AdWords. It's violating the AdWords policy. In fact it has been suspended for a while. When I found that out for the first time last year, I spoke to the Adwords support on the phone a few times. They kindly looked at the site for me and were friendly & helpful, but unfortunately they weren't able to pinpoint what was causing the trouble. I decided to give up for a while - just for a while. What blogger wishes their site to be red-flagged by Google? I knew I'd have to rectify the problem at some point sooner.

Site Suspended By Google AdWords

So once again, I'm logging back in for the first time in months, update my ad campaigns and resubmit... Yup. Disapproved. Due to the whole site being suspended. Oh my god, how the hell am I...? Violating a policy, feels like I'm committing a jail-sentence worth of crime. I'm a violator. Anyway there's no point wasting time shivering like a dog, I just have to go through the policy document one by one, and ask the support desk for help one more time.

Google AdWords Policies

So I need to reference the policy summary page and check against each item that's prohibited by Google AdWords​ to see any of them would apply to my site.

The AdWords policies are broken into 4 categories. But the 4th category is directly related to the actual AdWords campaign that you're submitting. In my case the problem is already somewhere in the website, so I need to focus on the contents listed in the first 3.

#1 Prohibited Content

My site is obviously clear of...

  • Sale of counterfeit products
  • Dangerous products or service (drugs, weapons, fireworks, tobacco...)
  • Enabling dishonest behaviour (hacking software, academic cheating services)
  • Inappropriate content (hatred, discrimination, violence)

Is my site in breach...?

  • Services designed to artificially inflate website traffic

​I've promoted Rebrandable Traffic and KrisClicks in the past. But as far as I'm concerned they just provide premium traffic services. They send visitors to websites, not to "artificially inflate". I'm just an affiliate, I don't provide such services from my own site. So I don't believe my site is in breach.

#2 Prohibited Practices

My site is obviously clear of...

  • Linking to a site that contains malware
  • Linking to a site for the primary purpose of showing ads
  • Linking to a site that jumps (solely designed to send users elsewhere)
  • Sole purpose of gaining social network followers
  • Manipulating settings to circumvent the AdWords policy review system
  • Irresponsible data collection & use (e.g. credit card information over a non-secure server, private sensitive information)
  • Omitting/obscuring billing details; hidden charges, no display of tax, licence numbers, contacts.
  • Misleading/unrealistic claims (e.g. weight loss, financial gain)
  • Falsely purporting to be a reputable company

Is my site in breach...?

  • Link cloaking to hide the true destination that users are directed to.

There are broadly two types of what we generally call "cloaking". One is merely a link shortening such as bit.ly, goo.gl or Pretty Link Lite, in order to mask a long, ugly URL typically with your affiliate ID. The other one is to actually hide the target URL from the visitor using various techniques. You’d normally have to have a software to get this done (I’ve never seen a free service myself).

I believe the AdWords policy refers to the latter type, prohibiting the real cloaking method to hide the destination URL completely. The former method, merely link shortening, is widely used by bloggers and internet marketers, and the URL visitors see in the address bar is the true URL of the site. I use Pretty Link Lite and never hide destination URL's - there's no reason to, anyway. So I trust my site is not in breach.

What AdWords policy says is; We want ads across the Google Network to be useful, varied, relevant, and safe for users. We don’t allow ads, content, or destinations that are malicious or attempt to trick or circumvent our ad review processes. So my site is clearly not the case.

#3 Restricted content

Tricky for some niche websites, may need to be looked at more closely, but most of them don't apply to my site.

My site is obviously clear of...​

  • Adult Content
  • Alcohol
  • Copyrighted content
  • Gambling and games
  • Healthcare and medicines (e.g. restricted by country)
  • Political content
  • Trademarks

Is my site in breach...?

  • Promoting untrustworthy business practices: Financial services

The AdWords policy says; When promoting financial services and products, you must comply with state and local regulations for any region that your ads target – for example, include specific disclosures required by local law.

In the past, I've written about business loans and other investment options. I've written in line with local laws and regulations; otherwise the publishers would warn me and cancel the affiliate agreement if I did not comply. It's also clear that I have not recommend any of the loan/investment products offhandedly. I trust my reviews and opinions are unbiased in those articles, and never used any words that could be censored as deceitful. So I trust that my site is not in breach.

#4 Editorial & technical requirements

The requirements are related to the actual AdWords campaign you wish to submit. So when - if - my site is given 'all clear', I need to make sure of the following. Your AdWords campaign will be disapproved if;

  • Phrases used are too vague, e.g. "Buy products here"
  • Gimmicky use of words, numbers, letters, punctuation or symbols, e.g. FREE, f-r-e-e
  • Display URL does not accurately reflect the ad, e.g. google.com or gmail.com
  • Sites that are under construction, parked domains
  • Sites that are not viewable in commonly used browsers
  • Sites that have disabled the browser's back button
  • Languages that aren't supported by AdWords

Other requirements including image ads / video ads, for example the video should be in supported format, and the ad will be disapproved if the video's unavailable (removed, not open to public or target countries).

Source: https://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/6008942

"Too Many" External Links

External Link

Checked the policy, did not find anything that may be breaking the rules, I submitted the site for a review and received a phone call the next day from the AdWords support.

The first thing I was told was that my site had too many external (outbound) links. Not specifically affiliate links, but any links. I thought it "sort of" made sense - every post of my site had at least one external link. Most typically when I use a jargon, I always hyperlink the word to Wikipedia or another site where a techie expert explains it. If I was to stop linking externally, I'd have to either avoid using technical words or explain them myself.

Following the advice from the AdWords support, I spent the following week going through every single, dramatically reduced the number of external links, and resubmitted my site for review.

GREAT NEWS! We carefully reviewed your site: cybercashworldwide.com and found in line with our Site policy. Therefore we have revoked the suspension on the site. The ads are still disapproved. You need to make a small edit in your ad text to instantly trigger a review for any ads disapproved due to “Site violates policy”. Reviews are typically completed within 24 hours.

Finally! Thank you, thank you! It was worth spending a week to fix my entire site.

I edited my AdWords campaign very carefully and resubmitted for review... It actually didn't take seconds to get the result: Disapproved. Site violates policy.

Image Censored By AdWords

Image censored

Puzzled, I contacted the AdWords support again. A day later they phoned me to tell me something different; one image that had placed in my recent post ("Gift From Paypal...Never Exists!") was a problem.

It was a screenshot of some scam site, with a message right in the middle of the screen saying something like "You are our​ 4 millionth visitor and just won $4,000, click here to collect NOW". Obviously my message in the post was "don't get fooled by fake ads like that, nobody on the internet will ever give you money". But this image is causing my entire site to be suspended, I'll remove it immediately.

The man from the support desk kindly confirms this image is the only reason that's holding back. Remove it, and all good to go.

I removed the image. Resubmitted my AdWords campaign... Disapproved. Site violates policy!​​

No External Link... At All

I messaged AdWords support again and another day later, I received a phonecall. Now I was advised that AdWords does not allow a website to place any external links except;

  1. to social media accounts and
  2. where a mutual linking relationship exists; if your site has an outbound link to a third party site, it must also have an inbound link from the same site.​

What they tell me is, if you want to run AdWords campaigns, you must get rid of all the external links from your entire site. Except for the two circumstances above, no link should ever be found, even to Google, Wikipedia, Amazon. YouTube is okay because it's a social media. And you can place as many internal links as you wish.

...which means you can only promote information sites using AdWords. If you sell stuff on your site, "click to buy" button will redirect your customer to a payment clearance page, which is run by a third party. So that wouldn't be allowed. It also means no affiliates would be allowed to use AdWords.

It doesn't quite make sense to me. The policy document says for example, "promoting destinations (=linking) for the primary purpose of showing ads" is prohibited. Link cloaking is also prohibited. But I'm told that outbound linking is prohibited completely, except for the two circumstances mentioned above.​

I'm pretty dismayed. My quest with AdWords ends here...for a while. But what blogger wishes their site to be red-flagged by Google? I really don't.

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Ray Alexander

Hi! I’m Ray. Over the past 15+ years I have been involved with web designing, programming and online marketing. I work from home and have a passion for exploring new tools, services and programs in order to make money online. I’m here to help you succeed in building a profitable business by sharing my experiences. Any question, don’t hesitate to ask!

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