ACME Updates

06feb2012 Welcome Back AdSense

Last week I blogged about how Google AdSense had cut me off, sending two form letters with no specifics. I appealed, and they denied the appeal. I had no idea what was going on, and AdSense wasn't saying.

People had a bunch of theories for why AdSense disabled me.

Personally, I took AdSense at their (form letter) word, that the reason was invalid clicks. But you can see how the lack of specific information caused folks to go a little bit crazy, assuming malevolent intent and/or stupidity on Google's part.

My post about this went a little bit viral on Google+. Lots of comments, lots of re-shares. Maybe half the comments were from other former AdSense partners saying they had gotten the same form letters.

I want to highlight two of the comments. First, by Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google:

I can't easily imagine Jef Poskanzer was click-spamming AdSense, while at the same time I trust the judgment and abilities of the AdSense team.

Another Google+er, Viswa Vutharkar, said this:

Take this example scenario. Someone who hates acme.com created an elaborate bot net or somehow influenced some legion of their followers to simply visit acme website and click on ads willy nilly. Its no fault of acme.

Anyway all the attention on Google+ got the AdSense folks to re-re-review my case. The attention did not affect the outcome, it just got me a third chance, which I am very grateful for. And the result was, I was reinstated. Yay!

So the first thing I did after my account was turned back on was to go look at my stats. That's when I found out that AdSense had been absolutely right to flag my account. There was a big bulge in the stats between late November and early January. Views remained about the same while clicks rose by about a factor of eight. I had nothing to do with it, of course. But AdSense has to defend itself and its advertisers against stuff like this.

However. The way AdSense defends itself is, I think, poor. As we saw above, the lack of specifics makes people play crazy guessing games. It detracts from Google's reputation for trying to do the right thing. And by dumping long-term partners like ACME instead of working with us to solve the problem, it is unprofitable.

I have three suggestions to improve the process.

  1. Add a step between 'fully enabled account' and 'completely disabled account'. Some sort of 'limbo' where ads are not running but the publisher still has read-only access to the web site so they can see their stats.
  2. Send publishers an email alert when the fraud filters start seeing something bad, instead of waiting a month and a half and then disabling the account.
  3. Open up an authenticated API for automated fetching of AdSense publisher stats. Then publishers could do their own automated analysis and generate their own email alerts on unusual activity.

I remain, for now, a happy AdSense publisher. And if we go another round and I get disabled again, well at least now I know more about what's going on.

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