Ever had the feeling something was direly wrong, and you knew you were right about the cause of the trouble, but all external indicators were inexplicably pointing to you as the cause of the problem? It’s an unnerving, uncomfortable situation — and I’ve rarely found myself so cornered with no way out as I did a few years ago as a new Google AdSense publisher — but now, after reading an informative Pastebin post from a former Google employee, I finally have a sense of closure as to why my AdSense was shuttered by Google.
Several years ago, I decided to finally bite the bullet and start placing Google AdSense advertising on my non-blog websites in order to try to generate some heat — and money! — to help proselytize my brand and to also try to cover some of my server and bandwidth costs.
Things started off well. I knew I was getting a good response, and I was really looking forward to getting my first check from Google.
Right about the time my first check was to cut, I received a terse email from Google telling me my AdSense account was closed and that there was no appeal process and no way to re-open the account and, the email said, I had forfeited all the money I’d earned by showing AdSense ads across my internetworked series of websites.
I was furious and confused and hurt.
I’ve been an early, and hardy, Google fanboy — and to be so coldly treated by the “Do No Evil” monolith was spectacularly offensive.
I immediately replied to the no-reply Google email address and asked for an explanation. I received a quick reply that my account was closed because of “click fraud.” I had no idea what that even meant, but I immediately responded to the reply and asked for an appeal of the account closure and that whatever problem there was with the account, I would fix.
Two days later, I received a terse response from Google that my appeal had been denied, my account would stay closed, and I would not be getting a check from Google.
I stewed and steamed over that episode for many years — until yesterday — when I finally read on Pastebin what had really happened, and quickly, everything made GodSend sense:
Google reaped both sides of the coin, got money from the advertisers, used the publishers, and didn’t have to pay them a single penny. We were told to go and look into the publishers accounts, and if any publisher had accumulated earnings exceeding $5000 and was near a payout or in the process of a payout, we were to ban the account right away and reverse the earnings back. They kept saying it was needed for the company, and that most of these publishers were ripping Google off anyways, and that their gravy train needed to end. Many employees were not happy about this. A few resigned over it. I did not. I stayed because I had a family to support, and secondly I wanted to see how far they would go.
The lesson you learn as you get older is there’s no such thing as fairness or equity in the world. Most everyone wants to use you and abuse you in some way — and the only way to win against evil intention is to not play — or, in Google’s case, to not pay:
Other policy changes also included how to deal with appeals, which still to this day, the large majority are completely ignored, and why you will rarely get an actual answer as to why your account was banned and absolutely no way to resolve it.
I had no idea who, or what, was clicking on all my Ads, but it makes sense that an evildoer was alert and around and abounding — and now there’s third-party confirmation that’s precisely how you can abuse someone online, anonymously — by making them muck with Google:
But there was something forming under the surface. A competitor or malicious person would actively go to their competitor’s website(s) or pick a random website running AdSense and begin multiple-clicking and overclicking ads, which they would do over and over again. Of course this would trigger an invalid clicking related ban, mainly because it could not be proven if the publisher was actually behind the clicking. This was internally referred to as “Click-Bombing”. Many innocent publishers would get caught up in bans for invalid clicks which they were not involved in and were never told about.
This issue has been in the awareness of Google for a very long time but nothing was done to rectify the issue and probably never will be. Thus if someone wants to ruin a Google AdSense publishers account, all you would have to do is go to their website, and start click-bombing their Google Ads over and over again, it will lead the servers to detect invalid clicks and poof, they get banned. The publisher would be completely innocent and unaware of the occurrence but be blamed for it anyways.
When I would share the story of my woe with other AdSense advertisers, they too, expressed concern over random, inscrutable, account closures and some would mention how their Google Analytics data didn’t match other website popularity reports or proper AdSense payouts.
Now we know the why — it was all data mining manipulation:
So the other part of the new policy change was to incorporate other Google services into assisting the “quality control” program. What they came up with will anger many users when they find out. It involved skewing data in Google Analytics. They decided it was a good idea to alter the statistical data shown for websites. It first began with just altering data reports for Analytics account holders that also had an AdSense account, but they ran into too many issues and decided it would be simpler just to skew the report data across the board to remain consistent and implement features globally. So what this means is that the statistical data for a website using Google Analytics is not even close to being accurate. The numbers are incredibly deflated. The reasoning behind their decision is that if an individual links their AdSense account and their Analytics account, the Analytics account can be used to deflate the earnings automatically without any human intervention. They discovered that if an individual had an AdSense account then they were also likely to use Google Analytics. So Google used it to their advantage.
A lot of my associates gave me interesting suggestions on how to beat Google AdSense at their own game, but I decided not to play that sort of deceitful endgame. It was better for me to just accept the Google divorce and live with the anger and confusion.
Today, I feel better, because now I know it was never me — it was Google all the time — and now I am forced to realize that Google is always about being in Google’s best interest, never mine, and that’s the darkling way of a diminishing world.