This post is a massive whinge, and unless you have an interest in Adsense this is not really going to be of any interest to you. Aside from me being vexed with my account being disabled (have dare they ban me!), the other reason is that I think it is a case of really bad design on the part of Google, not only in their Adsense system but their support response. Bad support and harsh treatment is bad enough most of the time, and you can pass that off as ‘business’, but Google is a company who’s mantra is ‘don’t be evil’, and while this may not count as ‘evil’, Google has always tired to place itself as a new company doing things in new ways, and trying to be ‘good’ or ‘better’ than the heartless old school corporations. Perhaps a mantra of ‘be good’ was too much to live up to? (because what follows may not be evil, but it sure isn’t good!)
I got this email 15th of October;
Hello, While going through our records recently, we found that your AdSense account has posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers. Since keeping your account in our publisher network may financially damage our advertisers in the future, we have decided to disable your account. Please understand that we consider this a necessary step to protect the interests of both our advertisers and our other AdSense publishers. We realise the inconvenience that this may cause you and we thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation. If you have any questions about your account or the actions that we have taken, please do not reply to this email. You can find more information by visiting https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153. Sincerely, The Google AdSense Team
That’s not something you want to read first thing in the morning. What is a ‘significant risk’, what did I do? It’s not very informative, but the link lead to a page about ‘invalid clicks’. I assumed this must have been the problem and decided to put in an appeal. Once the appeal was in, I received the confirmation email;
Hello, This message confirms that we've received your appeal submission. We'll get to your appeal as soon as we can, though due to the high volume of emails we receive, it may take us up to a week or more to process it. If you've previously submitted an appeal for this account, you might not receive a response to this or future appeals. Also, please be aware that appealing the disabling of your AdSense account does not guarantee that it will be reinstated. If you have any questions or concerns about accounts disabled for invalid activity, please visit https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Yours sincerely, The Google AdSense Team Original Message Follows: ------------------------ From: [removed] Subject: Invalid Activity Appeal Date: Fri, 16 Oct 2009 00:02:09 +0000 01_Origin: helpcenter 02_FormType: appeal_form 03_Language: en-uk 04_AdSenseLocale: en_GB 05_IP: [***.***.***.***] 06_ctx: 07_Name: Philip Sibbering 08_CompanyName: 09_AdSenseLogin: [removed] 10_PubId: pub-7497615777735477 11_ExampleUrl: http://www.philipsibbering.com/index.shtml 12_DisablingMonth: Oct 13_DisablingDay: 15 14_DisablingYear: 2009 15_AlreadyAppealed: no 16_OtherAccount: no 17_OtherAccountList: 18_WebAudience: Wargamers, Warhammer, RPGs 19_UserGeography: Mostly USA and UK 20_UserAccessMode: From home I guess - how can you tell? Analytics shows fast connections DSL, cable, but also 'unknown' 21_ScrapedContent: No. 22_ContentSources: It is all original and by me. All the artwork in the gallery, and on the pages, was either created by me for the site or commissioned and used with permission. All the client's disclaimers are in place. 23_NumAdmins: Me alone. It's a personal website. 24_UpdateFrequency: Intermittent - a few times a week. 25_BoughtTraffic: no 26_UsePayTo: no 27_TrafficSources: warseer.com, bolterandchainsword.com (two forums I post on, and I have links in my sig back to my site) 28_AdvertiserValue: Yes. I think there have been some steady clicks from hard core and dedicated gamers. It's a niche market. I wouldn't say it's high volume - but quality. 29_UserIncentive: No. Most fans seem to ignore adds, as seen by the stats. 30_ViolatedTerms: No. I'm sure everything is in order. If you see something that is in violation I will sort it out *immediately*. 31_InvalidActivity: No idea. Normally the clicks are 1-6 a week or so, and then pow 200! Makes no sense to me. Do you have any ideas - can you help me? 32_SuspiciousData: My web address is pretty static: [***.***.***.***] I checked through my logs (cPanel) and can't see anything unusual - but I am not an expert. Is there anything I should be looking for? If you can tell me the IP where the clicks came from I can block them. I can do that. I can supply a list of Referring Sites - but I'm sure it's the same as my Google analytics (can you look in that?)
I have removed the email address (as this is text and spammer can find it) and my IP address. Anyway, as you can see from my appeal I did not really know what they wanted, or how to find the information that they wanted that I did not know about… yeah sounds like chasing my tail, and is pretty much how I felt trying to figure out what Google wanted from me, what I had done wrong, what my visitors had done wrong. I figure it was ealy days and Google would follow up with an email and a real person to talk to in order to sort it all out. I was wrong;
Hello Philip, Thank you for providing us with additional information. However, after thoroughly reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into consideration, we have re-confirmed that your account poses a significant risk to our advertisers. For this reason, we are unable to reinstate your account. Thank you for your understanding. As a reminder, if you have any questions about your account or the actions that we have taken, please do not reply to this email. You can find more information by visiting https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153. Sincerely, The Google AdSense Team
Um, OK. Same link as before. This was not helpful at all. I guess that if I want my account back I’m going to have to play guessing games. After a bit more digging about and becoming acquainted with logs and Analytics there was some ‘suspicious’ activity via Google search referrals. Cross checking with my host’s log files it seems that it may have been a Googlebot;
Hello, This message confirms that we've received your appeal submission. We'll get to your appeal as soon as we can, though due to the high volume of emails we receive, it may take us up to a week or more to process it. If you've previously submitted an appeal for this account, you might not receive a response to this or future appeals. Also, please be aware that appealing the disabling of your AdSense account does not guarantee that it will be reinstated. If you have any questions or concerns about accounts disabled for invalid activity, please visit https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Yours sincerely, The Google AdSense Team Original Message Follows: ------------------------ From: [removed] Subject: Invalid Activity Appeal Date: Wed, 21 Oct 2009 10:54:50 +0000 01_Origin: helpcenter 02_FormType: appeal_form 03_Language: en 04_AdSenseLocale: 05_IP: ***.***.***.*** 06_ctx: 07_Name: Philip Sibbering 08_CompanyName: 09_AdSenseLogin: [removed] 10_PubId: pub-7497615777735477 11_ExampleUrl: http://www.philipsibbering.com/index.shtml 12_DisablingMonth: Oct 13_DisablingDay: 15 14_DisablingYear: 2009 15_AlreadyAppealed: yes 16_OtherAccount: no 17_OtherAccountList: 18_WebAudience: Wargamers, Warhammer Fans 19_UserGeography: Mostly USA, UK, 20_UserAccessMode: Home 21_ScrapedContent: No 22_ContentSources: Original (by me) and where I no longer own the rights: used with permission (clearly stated on the website). 23_NumAdmins: One (me) 24_UpdateFrequency: Intermittent - a few times a week. 25_BoughtTraffic: no 26_UsePayTo: no 27_TrafficSources: I am well know to fans, and many link back to my articles. There are also links in my signatures on the warseer.com, bolterandchainsword.com forums 28_AdvertiserValue: Yes 29_UserIncentive: No 30_ViolatedTerms: No 31_InvalidActivity: In Google Analytics; Google Analytics > Adsense > AdSense Ads Clicked There is a massive corresponding spike of Google referral traffic with the massive spike in Adsense clicks. This is not usual traffic, or clicks, for my site. 32_SuspiciousData: Checking my logs the address of the source of this traffic spike is 188.8.131.52, that is a Googlebot address. It seems one of your Googlebots decided to click on all my adsense ads.
I figured it may be a one of the ‘Googlebots’ because because of circumstantial evidence. As the referral address was a googlebot address. however, after a bit more digging it seems that it may be the search engine side of things – which raised doubts in my mind. There was no one at Google to talk to, and even posting of the Google help forum – that is full of volunteers – did not help as they do not have access.
After more digging and getting to grips with Analytics, and designing custom segments, I eventually tracked down the possible ‘culprit’. A person in West Virginia. It was not an intuitive task, as the ‘invalid clicks’ do not show up in most of the Analytics’ reports. It only shows up on one specific page ‘revenue’ and not under ‘clicks’. Nice are easy :p Realising it may not be a Googlebot after all, and merely a coincidence in numbers, I sent of a third appeal (there was no way to update an appeal, and still no email with a real person on the end).
One Shot: I did not get a response from the second or third appeal, and reading up on the Google help forums it seems the appeal is a one shot deal. You get one chance and that’s that.
The long and short of it: It seems my Adsense account is disabled because someone in one specific location clicked Adsense links some 250 times.
My account was disabled for something I have no control over.
This did not strike me as fair, and while not ‘evil’, it does not live up to the holier than thou image Google likes to purport.
I reflected on this, and I’ll admit that for a brief moment while all this was happening I even felt bad towards the person who went on a mad clicking spree, then reality snapped back and you know what? It’s a fucking web site. People can click links, and they can clicks them as often and they want and whenever they want, and if Google has not designed a system to take into account this basic (legal) right; that it’s a failure of Google, not me, or my visitors. My ire has now shifted to Google and their shoody systems design, and one thing I hate is shoddy systems design!
What is really gulling is that the Adsense system can already detect invalid clicks and ignore them, thay have this build in to protect their Advertisers, so why not extend that protect to their publishers? You know: me!
I now thank, yes thank, the person who did all those clicks because I was caught up in the Adsense mindset, and started to look at the net in a very funny way. After looking at his (or her) time on my site (via Google Analytics) they seemed to have spend hours on my site. Google’s warped view of the net, it’s ‘memes’, infected me and nearly turned me against fan!
Evil? It seems that Google assumes invalid clicks are ‘click fraud’. Fraud is a strong word, it is a criminal matter. The only person who can commit fraud by clicking on ads it the Publisher, as they are the only ones who have made an agreement with Google. Obviously this means that if a publisher asks someone, or pays someone, to click on their Adsense links that is fraud as the Publisher is organising it – but regular visitors with no connection to the Publisher who suddenly decide to click everything in sight is not ‘fraud’, and to couch it in such terms seems very misleading and dishonest to me.
The reason for my anger, is that Google have basically implied I had committed a criminal act (implied as they never said it was invalid clicks, so it could be something else), that I broke a contract (in some way, in which way I do not know). I was not told what I did wrong specifically, I was not given a chance to correct it, the system of appeal is ‘blind’ (as you do not know what they want). At the end it seems I was blamed for something but what that blame is for is unclear. It’s all vague, and that vagueness of ‘you are in the wrong, but we will not tell you, and we will exclude you because of this wrong we are not telling you about‘ strikes me as wrong – malicious even.
Guilty until proved innocent – but with no way to prove your innocence
Future: (melodramatic bit, um, more melodramatic!) With these ways of doing things it makes me wonder what Google plans for the net as it grows in power – criminalise clicks? Make those using Adsense include clauses on their website’s TOS that visitors agree to this? It wouldn’t fly now, but in 10 years with a bit more power behind them?
Google: ‘don’t be evil‘ (unless you can get away with it).
Or until you are big enough to get away with it :P Google now has so many products, they want to ‘own the web’, but if they can treat me like this, how will they treat you? I know look at my other product, like googlemail etc. sideways.
I do not trust Google. Sometimes people say their intentions are the exact opposite of what they are doing in order to avert suspicion – maybe Google had to shout about ‘don’t be evil’ and blame everyone else (me, others, other companies, etc.) because if they didn’t people would take a good hard look at them and realise they are no different from anyone else, and may in fact be worse (worse than Microsoft? I never had these problems with Microsoft, but Microsoft does not have a ‘Adsense’ like program for publisher yet)
Final musings: It’s a shame, I had £13.00 in my Adsense earnings, it’s not a lot but it would have paid for a couple domain registration, I didn’t have big plans for Adsense but paying of registrations would have been cool (I have a few). I thought the ‘seals’ were kind fun in a tongue in cheek way, and I have to admit it was a fun program to be a part of while it lasted. Everything about it was cool except for the invalid clicks issue. Disappointing.
Statistically speaking I think it would work if you are a larger company, and someone who clicks links 200 times would disappear in the sea of data, but for a small publisher you may want to think twice about this. It is a fun program, and if you are ready to be ‘click bombed’ by a competitor who wants to disable your account, a well meaning fan, or crazed robot, all with no recourse to prove your innocence once your account is disabled then it may be worth a look. I gather that if you have a ‘history’ it plays to your favour, but on the forums there were published with 3 year old accounts getting banned left, right, and centre.
Perhaps may site is too small – a statistical anomaly? Still doesn’t excuse Google.
Google has lost it’s way, and is becoming what the creators once claimed to despise.
Hearing feedback is very important to me in developing my ideas. Much of my designs are inspired, and crafted, by chatting to fans on forums before snowballing into a full concept you'll find here. I would like to thank all those who have contributed critiques and participated in discussions over the years, and I would especially like to thank all those who commented on this specific topic. If you would like join in, you are most welcome!
To support my work: Connect