Aug 31

2010

We’re Banned from Google AdSense

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (19)

Google has banned “Choice of Games” from Google AdSense, which means that, for now, we can no longer display Google advertisements on our website.

There’s a lot to say here, so I’m going to publish a series of blog posts on the topic. In this first blog post, I’ll explain what Google did. In the second blog post, I’ll give our best guess as to why Google banned us. In the third post, I’ll discuss my personal opinion of what happened, and in the fourth blog post, I’ll talk about what it means for the future of Choice of Games and our business.

Google pays us when people click on ads on our website; typically anywhere from $0.05 to $0.25 on every click. As you can imagine, this provides an opportunity for nefarious people who want to get money from the advertisers that buy Google ads: we could just click on the ads on our own website and get the money for free. This is called “click fraud,” and Google bans website owners who do this or who hire outside services to do this.

It’s surprisingly easy for Google to automatically detect click fraud. How many times have you ever clicked on an ad in the last year? In your entire life? Most people click on ads less than once a year; many people click much less frequently than that. So if Google detects a user clicking on even one ad a month on the same website, that user is already ten times more likely to be committing click fraud than an ordinary user. It’s a little more complicated than that because some people legitimately click on more ads than other people, but with large amounts of data, it’s still pretty easy.

What Google can’t do is tell the difference between malicious click fraud and “supportive clicks.” Supportive clicks come from users like you, people who like our website and click on our advertisements a few times just out of the kindness of your own heart. From Google’s perspective, supportive clicks are no better than click fraud. A site with many supportive users forces Google to pay money without providing the advertiser any benefit.

Therefore, Google’s policy is to aggressively monitor for possible click fraud and to ban account holders who may have invalid AdSense activity.

No one at Choice of Games has ever committed click fraud. Google’s terms of service explicitly forbid inciting users to click on ads; we have never done so. But a lot of people really love our little website, so it wouldn’t be surprising if we had a few “helpful” users who thought they’d help us out by clicking on ads on our behalf.

We’ll never know for sure, because as soon as Google disables your AdSense account for invalid activity, they also deny you access to your AdSense dashboard, so you can no longer see any of the evidence that Google used to identify you as a fraudster.

Google has an appeal process: you can send Google one email, asking to be reinstated. But, without seeing the evidence against you, it’s impossible to say anything meaningful in an AdSense appeal.

In fact, that’s the first question in Google’s Disabled Account FAQ:

Why was my account disabled? Can you tell me more about the invalid click activity you detected?

Because we have a need to protect our proprietary detection system, we’re unable to provide our publishers with any information about their account activity, including any web pages, users, or third-party services that may have been involved.

That has to be everyone’s first question, right? “Can I see the evidence against me?” “No, you may not see the evidence against you.”

We sent in our appeals email last week; a week later, our appeal was denied.

There’s a lot more to say about this, but that’s plenty for now. In part 2, I’ll talk about why (we think) Google banned us from AdSense.

19 Comments

  1. The Meerkat says:

    That sucked, but it happens a lot to legitimate publishers. Mostly, small blogs use it just to pay for hosting and break even — if you’re going for ads as a business model, why not try Project Wonderful instead? I’m sure a lot of people would love to bid on such high-quality, 100% original content, and the model that PW works under makes it completely fraud-proof.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dan Fabulich, Choice of Games. Choice of Games said: Google has banned us from Google AdSense http://bit.ly/9tLMRk […]

  3. Simon says:

    That happened to me too. Not much one can do, really. Project Wonderful might be a very good alternative, though. I hope everything works out ok in some way.

  4. A Gamer Fan says:

    Wow. That’s horrible. I’m a little disquieted because I’m one of those people who will randomly click on ads at sites I love to visit (Like jayisgames.com, for example), so that they can stay in business. Now, I haven’t done it much here at Choice of Games, but I’ve clicked once or twice (mostly I do it at sites for The Sims 3 fan created objects). It’s funny how trying to do something nice to keep you guys in business might cause problems instead.

  5. Youngzman says:

    Good luck dude(s). I’ve never really clicked on an ad here(not that i’ve noticed.lol i kinda block it out) but there are tons of places who will be alternatives probably. I wouldn’t know but project wonderful sounds good

  6. Bob the great says:

    thats crazy, is google acutally accusing u of being greedy money makers? if they do we have to ask them y r all the games made by choice of games free?
    if u were actually trying to make money u could be doing things that would be way more affective than constantly clicking on ads…
    Btw, i never even saw any choice of game ads, weird…..

  7. Joseph says:

    Hope you guys can get your ads back up quickly.

  8. Jason says:

    That’s just crazy! I’ve long been a Google supporter, even with some of the news about them lately, but this, to me, really does violate their “don’t be evil” motto.

  9. My condolences to you. Will be following your further posting on the subject.

  10. Erana says:

    @Jason
    Google being distincly, “non-evil”? I’m suspicious of all faceless corperations that swallow various smaller fish up…
    The only instance of my not being put off by something that has a business presence is Valve.

    Speaking of which, if CoG dressed up it’s products in a nice wrapper, perhaps it would be worth considering a “Chapter 1 compilation,” “chapter 2 compilation” for the future, “use made” …thing for Steam. Even putting a good bit of content on there for free would garner more attention for CoG. Especially the cross-OS compatibility. Steam likes Mac-friendly games.

    This is quite terrible, though; as a teenie-tiny developer, money is hard to come by. I don’t want to see CoG close it’s doors with unfinished adventures. Is there anything us users can do to sway Google’s frustrating policies?

  11. […] is the second blog post in a series of posts about Google AdSense. In the first post, I explained how Google has banned us from AdSense; in this second post, I’ll give our best guess as to why they banned us. We can’t know […]

  12. Mallamun says:

    I don’t suppose that “support mail” to Google will help matters? Or even a corny online petition? If they see that the site has genuine, appreciative followers, and is not a scam act. Hell, if just ONE actual human being, instead of a spider, even GLANCES at the site.

  13. […] is the third blog post in a series of posts on Google AdSense. In the first post, I explained how Google has banned us from AdSense; in the second post, I wrote about our best guess as to why they banned us. In this blog post, I […]

  14. Jason says:

    @Erana I don’t mistrust corporations any more (or less) than any other human organization. But “Don’t be evil” is supposed to be Google’s corporate motto and I have no reason to believe that they don’t (mostly) try to live up to that.

    And I think they have done a lot of good in the world.

    However understandable, not being willing to share the reason why an entity like CoG has been banned by AdSense kinda breaks the bar for that for me. Surely they could do so while still protecting their patents. They should have some kind of adjudication process.

  15. […] we discussed in an earlier post, Choice of Games has been banned from Google AdSense. In this post, I’ll discuss a few of the ideas we’ve had about how we can make money […]

  16. have you tried using ProjectWonderful, like they do at PlayThisThing.com?

  17. is there a better service which work by paypal?

  18. Aaron says:

    Google should call their ‘service’ “Non-Sense” with a policy like that. While I understand the need to ensure advertisers are receiving benefit from the clicks, money, etc… with all of their Google-voodoo (TM-Top Secret, etc) they should be able to tell the difference between someone committing purposeful fraud and some “helpful” user giving their beloved website a few stupid clicks.

    I’ve heard of far too many innocent parties being shut off by google because of stupidity like this.

    And I really get my panties in a wad when i read about injustice. As such “no you can’t find out what you did wrong,” really steams my britches.

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