Over the past few months, several people who own niche websites have shared that they've been banned from Google Adsense—some for legitimate reasons, I'm sure, but others for what seems like no reason at all, only to be on the receiving end of a generic, not-so-specific, no-reply email from Google explaining that their account has been banned because it “poses a risk of generating invalid activity.”
Probably the most noteworthy example comes from Spencer from Niche Pursuits, who was earning five figures a month from Adsense at the time he received this very email.
Even though I'm confident I'm not doing anything that I'm not supposed to be doing, because of the recent wave of banned accounts I was worried that my account was going to be next.
So of course, when I opened my inbox a couple of weeks ago and saw an email from the Google Adsense team, my heart skipped a beat.
Here's the email in its entirety:
During a recent review of your account we found that you are currently displaying Google ads in a manner that is not compliant with our program policies
EXAMPLE PAGE: http://www.securityguardtraininghq.com/
Please note that this URL is an example and that the same violations may exist on other pages of this website or other sites in your network.
FORMAT MIMICKING: Publishers may not implement Google ads in a manner that disguises the ads in any way. For instance, publishers may not format neighboring content to look similar to the ads, or make ads look like games or forum posts. More information about this policy can be found in our help center (http://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1346295#Formatting_content_to_mimic_ads).
REQUESTED ACTION: Please make all necessary changes in the next 72 hours.
If the violations are corrected within the aforementioned time period, ad serving will not be affected. If changes are not made and/or other policy violations are encountered during the review process, ad serving will be disabled to your site.
ACCOUNT STATUS: ACTIVE
Your AdSense account remains active. However, if we continue to find problems, we may disable your entire account. Therefore, we suggest that you take the time to review the rest of your network to ensure that all of your other pages are in compliance with our policies.
Thank you for your cooperation.
The Google AdSense Team
Two words: relieved and confused.
I was happy that my account is still active, of course, but the email was a bit odd to me for a couple of reasons:
- I hadn't heard of anyone else getting a warning from Google before. Don't get me wrong though, I am very appreciative of the warning, but I don't think it's fair that others just get banned without a chance to amend, or at least don't get any specifics about the exact reasons why their accounts were banned.
- My violation: format mimicking.
I remember reading a list of Adsense optimization tips a couple of years ago that included the following suggestions:
- Bigger is better for Adsense ad units.
- Consider wrapping the text of your articles around your ad blocks.
- Coordinate the color of your ads to match the colors of your site.
Google's email tells me:
“Publishers may not implement Google ads in a manner that disguises the ads in any way. For instance, publishers may not format neighboring content to look similar to the ads…”
Then #3 must be the issue, right?
Maybe it's because I matched the color of the links on my site with the color of the links on the ad units I placed on the site—which were blue.
Here's an article from Google explaining what ad styles are the most successful, which reads:
“For most color techniques, we recommend using colors for your ad text and links that already exist on your site. For example, if the links on your site are all green and your text is black, use green links and black text in your ads as well. Since most users are accustomed to seeing blue links, you might also try using blue.”
In other words: blend.
They even share an image on that page that illustrates the blend technique:
That's exactly what I was doing!
My niche site actually looked very similar to the above-circled example—black text with blue links, and links adjacent on my sidebar of the same color too.
I only had 3 days to act before my account was going to be banned, so all I did was change the color of my ad links from Blue, to Gold.
It has been 2 weeks now, and the account is still active.
Sadly, I got this email at the exact same time that I was going to test the results of removing all non-Adsense advertisements (banner advertisements and media.net), as explained in my post that explored my sudden drop in Adsense earnings.
So much for that experiment, because now the results are contaminated by the new gold color which I know for a fact has a lower click-through rate than the matching blue color, because I've already tested this color before.
Now that we're halfway through the month, however, I am seeing a dramatically higher CPC (cost-per-click) and slightly higher RPM (revenue per thousand impressions), however the CTR (click-through-rate) is actually at an all time low.
This, I blame on the color—it should have gone up since I took out the other ads.
Again, I can't share the exact numbers because that would be against Google's TOS (heh…), but it might be safe to say that getting rid of the extra ads increased the CPC of the Adsense ads.
It's hard to know for sure though—I can't confidently rely on the data right now, so if you're trying things on your end, it's best to test, test, and test because each site is slightly different.
I love Google.
I use it every single day to help me find a ton of information…
It has helped me earn tens of thousands of dollars…
But, we've all been seeing a lot of contradiction lately, and there's nothing we can do about it but be smart about how we let it get to us, if at all.
All I know is, I would NOT let Google babysit my kids. <- Click to Tweet This