Google Show Me A Yellow Card

Anyone who runs a website or blog will know only too well how much time and effort it takes to keep it up to date. While I have always endeavoured to provide content that readers will find interesting, I have never made any secret of the fact that I view all my websites as a potential source of revenue.

I generally employ two mechanisms to achieve that. 1) Affiliate links where you, the reader, have to visit the advertiser's site and make a purchase before I get paid and 2), so called Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising where I get a few pence every time a PPC advert is clicked by a reader.

PPC adverts are usually generated automatically and based on the content of the page on which they are hosted. For this reason, advertisers like them because it ensures that their ads are shown to people who are likely to be interested in their products.

Website owners like them because they are easy to set up, don't require that much maintenance and provide an easy revenue stream which increases the more popular the site is.

Probably the best known of the PPC schemes is Google's Adsense which I have had hosted on the Bet Your Life sports trading websites for some time. However, Google are very strict regarding the hosting of Adsense ads on gambling websites. I've just received a caution from Google for doing just that on the Bet Your Life blog.

Here's the email in full:

Hello,

While reviewing your account, we noticed that you are currently displaying Google ads in a manner that is not compliant with our policies. For instance, we found violations of AdSense policies on pages such as http://betyourlife.blogspot.com/2009/01/premium-charge.html. Please note that this URL is an example and that the same violations may exist on other pages of your website.

As stated in our program policies, AdSense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on sites with content related to gambling or casinos. This policy includes driving traffic to online gambling sites through links or advertisements.

As a result, we have disabled ad serving to the site.

Your AdSense account remains active. However, we strongly suggest that you take the time to review our program policies (https://www.google.com/adsense/policies) to ensure that all of your remaining pages are in compliance.

Please note that we may disable your account if further violations are found in the future.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team


I have still to see what the violation is on the cited page. Herein lies the first problem with Google and their anti-gambling stance.

As the 'caution' above indicates, their policy document details how the Adsense program can be used but it leaves the interpretation of those policies to the user. Google are well known for their poor communication and refusal to discuss these matters. Question their decision and all they do is point you in the direction of the policy statement. Ask for clarification and they direct you to their policy statement. So, if the user's understanding of these policies in anyway differs from Google's, they risk being sanctioned by Google, with no explanation of the violation incurred.

I'm familiar with their policies. I've read them many times. My understanding of these was that no Adsense ads can be placed on any page that allowed a user to gamble.

For this reason, I have always been very careful to avoid any links to bookmaker and casino sites on any pages where Adsense ads were hosted. It seems that this is not enough and website owners are not even allowed to talk about gambling on the same page as Adsense ads are hosted. So much for free speech.

The zealot like attitude of Google and the intractability of their position means it is a waste of my time contesting it, even though I disagree with their assessment. As a result, I've removed Adsense ads from the site. It's not as if they earned a lot of money - around £10/month - so it won't create any hardship on my part. I'll just look for another source of advertising.

Google's position is a puzzling one, and I've never really understood their anti-gambling stance. I can only assume that it is based on a moral position rather than a business or legal one. Which leads me on to my second point...

Let's assume that Google's position is a legal one based on the banning of Internet gambling the US. If that were true, their argument doesn't really hold water. There is no reason whatsoever preventing Google from serving up ads based on a user's location. They already have the technology to geographically target search results and ads, so what is to prevent them from doing so for users living in an area where gambling is a perfectly legal activity?

But what about the business angle?

Advertisers pay Google to serve up adverts to a targeted audience. Google do that in a number of ways including the ads at the right hand side of search results as well as Adsense.

Go to any trading/gambling website that currently host Adsense served ads (try, TradeSharkTennis, All Day And Night At The Dogs, Drifters And Steamers, Flutterfly and Mark Iverson to name just a few) and you'll see Google Adsense served ads for trading/gambling products.

Clearly, based on my experience, all these sites are in violation of Google's policy. However, that's not the point I wish to make.

Why, if Google are so anti-gambling, are they serving up adverts for gambling related products? It seems a rather hypocritical position to take.

Google seem to be saying that they are quite happy to take advertiser's money, but at the same time telling gambling related website owners that they cannot host such adverts. I wonder if the advertisers are aware that Google's own policies restrict and indeed, aim to prevent, those ads being hosted and seen by the very target audience the advertisers are trying to reach.

A few years back, and a previous incarnation of the Bet Your Life website, I fell foul of the very same policies. Hardly surprising as the site was covered in affiliate links to bookmaker sites. I raised the above points with Google upon receipt of the very same cautionary email. I wanted to know how they squared that particular conflicting circle outlined above. You won't be surprised to hear that they simply pointed me to their policy document.

It seems a rather bizarre stance to take from a business perspective. If I was an advertiser, I'd be taking my custom elsewhere, just as I will be doing as a publisher.

3 comments:

Drifter said...

Hi Alistair

I am waiting for my email!

Drifter

Rick Ford said...

Hi Alistair,

I think it is because you have a direct link to a bookmaker (betfair) thus promoting the action to gamble? Google will just be analysing links from your site without actually reading the content.

Tradeshark said...

Hmm, hopefully Rick is correct. I would imagine that they have picked up your sitefrom an automated check of the links.( they're not going to read every site that carries their ads)
As adsense adds are targeted so that google provide ads suitable to the content of the host-site maybe they're complaining that you have corrupted their whiter than white moral standards?