Preventing and resolving AdWords policy violations

We invest a lot of time and resources to ensure that ads deliver a safe and positive experience for users. Our advertising policies play a big role in this effort.

Being familiar with our ads policies can help you avoid violating them. When we detect ads or sites that violate our policies, we block them. And in the case of repeated violations, we may permanently suspend a violator from advertising with us. That's why we strongly encourage advertisers to work proactively to fix problems and learn from their mistakes.

Preventing violations
Here are some tips for keeping your account clean and clear of policy violations in the first place, so your ads can run smoothly:
  1. Learn the key principles behind our ad policies, like "Advertising shouldn't violate users' trust or privacy." Following these principles alone can help you avoid violations. You can also dig into the specific underlying policies to learn details (full list of policies). 
  2. If you receive a warning during ad creation, review the relevant policy to understand if you're compliant before uploading the ad. 
  3. Ensure your contact information is up to date to receive policy notifications, and be sure to read any emails we send you about AdWords policies. We also post all policy updates online ahead of time. 
Identifying and resolving violations 
If one of your ads has been disapproved, you'll want to understand the reason so you can resolve it and prevent the same violation in the future. This is how to get the details:
  1. Sign in to your AdWords account at
  2. Click Campaigns near the top of your account. 
  3. Click the Ads tab. 
  4. Look through the Status column to see which ads are disapproved. If you have many ads, you might prefer to use a filter (learn how). 
  5. Hover over the white speech bubble next to "Disapproved."
  6. Click the disapproval reason to learn more.
You can find more information on how to locate and fix disapproved ads or fix a site-level violation in the AdWords Help Center.

We appreciate your help ensuring that Google ads provide a trustworthy and positive experience for users.

Posted by Sudhir Jha, Google Product Manager

Unique sitelinks policy will be more proactively enforced

Sitelinks give users a choice of destinations on your website that they can visit directly from your text ads. Hopefully you’ve already been using sitelinks to improve your campaign performance. Maybe you’re now preparing your campaigns to be eligible for enhanced sitelinks, which offer an even bigger boost.

Our existing policy has required each sitelink in a campaign to link to a different landing page. That means a user would have a meaningfully different experience on the landing page from each sitelink. Recently, though, we've noticed an increase in the number of sitelinks created with the same landing page URLs or identical content. So starting today, we are beginning more proactive enforcement of our policy.

How it will work
We’ll initially focus on new sitelinks and any sitelinks that you change. As your ads are being served, our systems will verify that your sitelinks meet the policy standards. Sitelinks that don’t meet the standards will be restricted from appearing.

Impact on format and performance
To increase the chances of having more sitelinks shown with your ads, we recommend loading 6-10 unique sitelinks into your campaigns. Having fewer eligible sitelinks could keep your ad from showing in larger 2-line and 3-line formats, where more eligible sitelinks are required. Remember, larger formats are more visible and have higher average clickthrough rates (CTR). And if you don’t have enough eligible sitelinks in your campaign, then your ads may not display sitelinks at all.

Future enforcement with existing sitelinks
We realize that manually checking and fixing duplicates among your existing sitelinks and landing pages might take some time. So we’re delaying proactive enforcement with existing sitelinks for a few months. But don’t wait until the last minute. And remember, any sitelink that you add or change will be subject to proactive enforcement right away.

Getting started
We suggest doing a basic sweep, starting with campaigns that show sitelinks most often. These are probably your campaigns with branded keywords, like the name of your business and its best-known products and services. Here’s how you can work through this using the AdWords interface.
  1. Log into the AdWords interface and click on the “Ad Extensions” tab.
  2. Select “Sitelinks Extensions” from the View drop-down menu.
  3. Sort your sitelink extensions by impressions or clicks by clicking on the column header.
  4. Click on each sitelink in the top campaign and follow it through to its landing page (there’s no charge for these clicks).
  5. Fix any duplicates you find by hovering over the extension area and clicking the pencil icon (see image below).

You can then work your way down through each campaign in your account. If you want to be completely thorough, you’ll need cross-check the landing pages on your Ads and Keywords tab with those of your sitelinks for each campaign.

For more details or help with sitelinks, please visit the AdWords Help Center or contact AdWords customer support.

Keeping AdWords Policies Current

Recently, we’ve been explaining how our systems and policies stop unwanted ads from showing on Google and elsewhere. One part of these efforts is our constant review of our policies for advertisers, to make sure they keep up with evolving practices on the web that can harm users’ experiences.

We regularly update our AdWords policies, clarify what they mean, and step up their enforcement where needed to ensure the best experience for our users and business partners. This year, we’ve already rolled out more than 30 updates to our policies, and today we’re updating our AdWords policies on Software Principles, Arbitrage, Advertiser Claims, and Relevance, Clarity and Accuracy. We’re announcing these updates now to enable advertisers to review their accounts and ensure that they’re in compliance; they’ll come into effect on October 15.

Details of these updates can be found here, along with more information for advertisers about how they can come into compliance with our policies. Here’s a quick overview:
  • We've added several specific examples of the kinds of advertiser behavior typically associated with arbitrage (sites that are designed solely or predominantly to show ads).
  • We've made it even clearer how advertisers must be fully transparent in their ads when describing the experiences on their landing pages.
  • We've beefed up our rules about the use of keyword insertion in ads.
  • We've reworked our AdWords policy governing Software Principles to ensure that users are given important information before downloading software on their computers and that the software is not harmful or hard-to-uninstall.  We're also starting to make updates for various AdSense partners who have individual agreements.
The web and its ecosystem of advertisers, publishers, and users continue to evolve rapidly. Over time, practices develop that can lead to a negative experience for users. In addition, some actors become more sophisticated in their ability to defeat the intent of our policies. Today’s changes make the guidance clearer for everyone and tighten the rules and enforcement needed to keep the online advertising ecosystem clear, consistent, and useful for consumers. The bottom line is that these revised policies and increased enforcement will help provide everyone with a safer, more trustworthy experience online.

Posted by Mansi Goel, Global Advertising Policy Lead

Updated February 1 to refer to the commencement of AdSense updates

An easier way to view advertising policies

Understanding AdWords advertising policies is an important part of successfully managing your account and delivering ads that are safe and useful to users. To help you understand how policies affect the delivery of your ads, we recently introduced a status insights icon on the Ads tab. We’re now following up with another feature to help you identify policy issues more quickly: a new Policy Details column.

The Policy Details column allows you to scan and sort policy issues across all of your ads (without hovering individually over each status one by one). You’ll find information like:
  • Approval status for each ad
  • Disapproval reasons, if applicable
  • Specific policies that can limit where your ads show
This information is available for paused ads as well, which can be particularly helpful if you want to know the status of your paused ads or if you need to temporarily pause a campaign while you work out some policy problems.

Here’s what the Policy Details column will look like, alongside some fictional example ads:

To find this new column, navigate to your Ads tab and click the “Columns” button to start customizing your columns. Under the “Attributes” section, click to add “Policy details” and save. You’ll then see the new Policy Details column in your Ads tab. (One note: this new policy column isn’t yet downloadable in your reports, but we’re working on it!)

Clearing up some policy myths

There seem to be more rumors circulating lately about YouTube’s content policies than there are about Jennifer’s baby bump, so we’d like to clarify a few misconceptions.

Myth #1: YouTube pre-screens the videos that you upload.

Truth: 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. It’s not possible to proactively review this much content. Believe us. And even if it were, it would be far less effective than deploying all of you—our global community—to help us identify videos that potentially violate our Community Guidelines. You all have really stepped up to the task, flagging thousands upon thousands of videos every day. After you flag videos, YouTube staff review them against our Community Guidelines. If they violate our Guidelines, they come down. If they don’t, they stay up, sometimes with an age-restriction.

Myth #2: If I repeatedly flag a video, it will come down.

Truth: No matter how many times you flag Baby, it will not come down. It’s been flagged. We’ve reviewed it. And it does not violate our Community Guidelines. If you’ve considered spearheading a flagging campaign to bring down a video you don’t like, save yourself the time. Videos that don’t violate our Guidelines simply won’t be taken off the site for policy reasons.

Myth #3: If I flag a video, the uploader will know who I am.

Truth: We do not reveal any of your personal information when you flag content for a Community Guidelines violation.

Myth #4: If I inaccurately report content that I genuinely believe violates YouTube’s policies, my account will be terminated.

Truth: People who flag in good faith will not be penalized for inaccurately reporting content. That said, if you’re looking to improve your flagging skills, take a minute to review our Community Guidelines.

Myth #5: If my video is removed for a Community Guidelines violation, that’s the end of the story.

Truth: We have a video appeals process that allows users to appeal a video strike if they disagree with our team’s decision. Our reviewers are human too. We review a lot of content, and we occasionally make mistakes. We aim to keep these mistakes to a minimum and try to fix any errors we may have made.

Myth #6: If someone puts an embarrassing or otherwise sensitive video of me on YouTube, it will remain on the site forever.

Truth: Whether you’re singing karaoke or riding the mechanical bull at a bar, we all do things we’d rather not have broadcasted to the world. If a video contains your image or other personal information and you didn’t consent to it, you can submit a privacy removal request.

Myth #7: YouTube censors art.

Truth: We support free expression and want YouTube to be a place where artists can showcase their work, even if that work contains some skin. We don’t typically allow nudity that’s sexual in nature. If your video contains nudity and you clearly explain the artistic, educational, or scientific context, it may stay up with an age-restriction. What do we mean by context?

Myth #8: It’s a good idea to include tags like ‘Lady Gaga’ and ‘Double Rainbow’ in my video title and description even if they’re unrelated to my video.

Truth: Tags are meant to help users find relevant videos. It’s not cool to use unrelated tags to try to trick people into watching your video. Select tags that accurately describe your video. If you do take the low road, your video will likely be struck for misleading metadata.

Myth #9: We [YouTube’s Policy Team] are robots.

Truth: We are in fact real people equipped with brains, hearts and strong moral compasses. As cheesy as it may sound, we don’t just do this job because we get paid to watch videos all day; we do it because we care about YouTube and want you to have a positive experience on our site.

Amanda Conway, Policy Associate, recently watched “Flight of the Conchords: Robot Song (HBO).”

Change to the AdWords advertising policy on alcohol

We’ve changed our AdWords advertising policy on alcohol to allow ads that promote the sale of hard alcohol and liquor. This is an extension of a policy change that we made in December 2008, which permitted ads that promote the branding of hard alcohol and liquor.

Since then, hard alcohol advertisers have been able to promote websites that offer information about their brand, their products, or drinks that can be made with their products. Now, they can also promote websites that sell hard alcohol online, direct users to retailers where their products are sold, or feature sales promotions.

To comply with the policy, the ad and website must abide by certain advertising restrictions, including (but not limited to) not targeting minors, not implying that drinking alcohol provides certain advantages, and not showing inappropriate content. They are also subject to any further restrictions in the countries that they target. For full details on the policy, please see the alcohol content guidelines.

We’re constantly evaluating our advertising policies to ensure that they continue to be effective, and we made the decision to change our policy on alcohol to help more advertisers use AdWords for the promotion of their products.

Posted by Dan Friedman, Inside AdWords crew

Update to Canadian, UK and Ireland ad text trademark policy

Last year, in an effort to provide better ads and a higher quality experience for our users, we adjusted our trademark policy in the U.S. to allow some advertisers to use third party trademarks in their ad text even if they don’t own that trademark or have explicit approval from the trademark owner to use it.

These advertisers include resellers, sellers of component, replacement or compatible parts corresponding to the trademark and informational sites.

We believe that this change has helped both our users and advertisers by improving the usefulness of text ads on and across partner sites in the U.S. For example, resellers of jeans have been able to highlight the actual brands they sell in their ad text making their ads even more specific and relevant for users.

Today, we're announcing that starting September 14 we'll be extending this policy to Canada, the UK and Ireland.

Separately, today we've also announced an update to our policy to enable advertisers across Europe to select trademarks as keywords. This update will also occur on September 14 and brings Europe in line with the trademark policy that already exists in the U.S. and most of the world today.

Our aim is to provide as much useful information to users as possible so that they can make better informed decisions. We believe that these changes to the ad text policy in Canada, UK and Ireland and our keyword policy change across Europe fits perfectly with this aim.

For more detail on our updated trademark policy in Canada, the UK and Ireland, please visit the FAQ in our Help Center.

Posted by Dan Stokeley, Product Manager