Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (25)
This 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 discuss my personal feelings about this turn of events.
On the face of it, you’d think I’d be more upset with Google.
Google’s AdSense appeals process seems completely ridiculous on its face, and it is. I’ve heard more than one Googler describe an AdSense appeal as a “kangaroo court.” Where else can you be required to testify in absentia, without access to the evidence against you? Where a single autocratic judge decides whether or not you’ll be banned for life?
But despite how ridiculous this appeals process is, I understand its purpose; if I were in Google’s position, I’d probably do the same thing.
AdSense has done a lot of good for a lot of writers and developers whom I very much respect. But AdSense’s value to writers and developers comes from the advertisers that pay for ads; those advertisers are paying for potential customers. When ordinary people click on ads to “support” webmasters, they undermine the value of AdSense to advertisers. If these supportive clicks went unchecked, AdSense would be basically worthless.
AdSense is a basically good program from which innocent webmasters must be banned, before their overenthusiastic supporters tear down the system. I know that I am innocent, but Google can’t really know that, and they certainly can’t be expected to believe that all of our fans are innocent, too.
Imagine if it were your job to ban suspicious activity, and someone with two AdSense accounts (ding!) with hundreds of supportive fans (ding!) who shares his AdSense revenue with strangers (ding! ding! ding!) says he has done nothing wrong. It doesn’t matter if he’s telling the truth; his story is inherently suspicious. If it were my job to ban suspicious activity, I’d ban Dan Fabulich, too!
So I’m not mad at Google; I’m just hurt. I feel like Google just broke up with me.
Perhaps that seems a little too personal, but Google’s policy is to ban human beings, not just business entities. Both of my AdSense accounts were shut down within 24 hours, and Google has made it clear that I can never participate in the program again.
That means I can never use Google ads on any website I own — for the rest of my life. Furthermore, I can never put Google Feedburner ads in my RSS feeds. I can never use Google DoubleClick for Publishers to install my own private ads on my own site. I can never install Google ads on my Google Android apps. I, Dan Fabulich, am persona non grata at Google.
That really hurts. I’m good friends with a number of people who work at Google (though not with anyone on the AdSense team); I’ve worked closely with Googlers over the years on projects big and small. Whenever I went to visit Google’s Mountain View campus, it felt like a warm, inviting place, brimming with potential. I don’t think it’ll feel like that the next time I visit.
Unfortunately for Google, they’ll never know what they missed out on by banning us, and others like us. For example, this weekend I was planning to speak on a mini-panel on Interactive Fiction at PAX, where I planned to argue that Google AdSense should be the future of interactive fiction.
Instead, I no longer believe that anyone can safely build a business around Google AdSense. AdSense is a fundamentally unsound business partner because Google is forced to ban innocent webmasters (false positives) to keep the project alive; if you depend on Google AdSense for your livelihood, you should be looking for the exits right now.
Like a good breakup, I have a hunch that being banned from AdSense might be the best thing that ever happened to me. We were making money with AdSense, but not a lot of money, and now we’ll have to figure out ways to make money without it. We’ll have to learn how to develop products that people are willing to pay for. We’ll discuss some of those ideas in our next blog post.