Starting in September 2021, Google Ads will begin testing a new three-strikes pilot program for accounts that repeatedly violate ad policies.
“Warnings and strikes will be issued for violations of our Enabling Dishonest Behavior, Unapproved Substances and Dangerous Products or Services policies—this includes ads promoting deceptive behavior or products such as the creation of false documents, hacking services, and spyware, as well as tobacco, drugs and weapons, among other types of content,” the company said in a new Help Center News Announcement. These ads types have been prohibited for a while, but the system to punish those who don’t abide by the policies is new.
Penalties in the strikes system. The system starts with a warning and no penalties for an initial violation. From there, each violation has an increasingly stringent penalty until the account is finally suspended.
|First instance of ad content violating our Enabling Dishonest Behavior, Unapproved Substances and Dangerous Products or Services policies
|No penalties beyond the removal of the
|Violation of the same policy for which you’ve received a warning within 90 days
|The account will be placed on a temporary hold for three days, during which ads will not be eligible to run
|Violation of the same policy for which you’ve received a first strike within 90 days of the first strike
|The account will be placed on a temporary hold for seven days, during which ads will not be eligible to run. This will serve as the last and final notice for the advertiser to avoid account suspension
|Violation of the same policy for which you’ve received a second strike within 90 days of the second strike
|Account suspension for repeat violation of our policies
If an account violates a policy, the account admin will receive an email informing them of the issue. After the initial warning, admins will need to correct the policy infringements and send Google Ads an acknowledgment that the changes were made in order to serve ads again.
Strike timelines. Strikes expire after 90 days, according to Google. If you’ve had two strikes, fix the issues, send an acknowledgment of the issues and fixes, and then do not violate another policy for 90 days after the fix, your account resets, in a way, and the next violation will be the initial warning again. As always, search marketers will be able to appeal any violation and enforcement decisions.
“We already administer immediate account level suspensions when we detect egregious policy violations such as circumventing our systems (e.g., creating new accounts to bypass multi-strike suspensions), phishing or misrepresenting the product or service to intentionally mislead users,” the announcement also says.
The future. Google Ads plans to expand the scope of the project after the initial pilot to include more policy types. The program will eventually roll out globally.
Why we care. The new ad policy pilot program provides clear actions and consequences for advertisers. While Google is testing this program for the Enabling Dishonest Behavior, Unapproved Substances and Dangerous Products or Services policies, it will likely eventually roll out to other policy areas in the coming year. The initial warning gives you the benefit of the doubt, but penalties are increasingly stringent after that. However, the penalties could be too harsh for those whose ads mistakenly get flagged as violations when they’re actually not.