Three-strikes ad policy by Google isn’t the dilemma… the policy application troubles advertisers

With the new program, improperly flagged advertisements have more serious consequences, including time spent speaking with Google Ads support reps and account suspension for repeated infractions that aren’t resolved in a timely manner.

There has been a movement in support of greater transparency and consumer protection that has garnered more conventional interest. Google’s answer is making greater efforts to clarify how its systems operate. Organically, the search engine is now showing why it ranked a specific result. On the paid side, the company recently launched a three-strikes pilot program  in order to prevent harmful ads from showing on its platform.

The three-strikes program will help to advance consumer safety on Google and advertisers largely agree with the policies, but the company’s record with incorrectly flagged ads has PPC professionals anxious that false positives may carry bigger ramifications, ranging from more time spent communicating with Google Ads support representatives to account suspension for repeated violations that aren’t resolved in time.

Google Ads’ three-strikes pilot system

Google Ads’ new three-strikes program, which began in September 2021, applies to violations of its Enabling Dishonest Behavior, Unapproved Substances and Dangerous Products or Services policies. “This includes ads promoting deceptive behavior or products such as the creation of false documents, hacking services, and spyware, as well as tobacco, drugs and weapons, among other types of content,” the company said its announcement. Regardless of whether these ad formats have been restricted for a long time, Google’s system for enforcing these regulations is new.

If an advertiser violates Google’s regulations for the first time, they’ll receive a warning for the first infraction. After that, with each transgression, the consequences become more severe, leading up to account suspension after the third strike.

TypeTriggerPenalty
WarningFirst instance of ad content violating our Enabling Dishonest Behavior, Unapproved Substances and Dangerous Products or Services policiesNo penalties beyond the removal of the relevant ads
First strikeViolation of the same policy for which you’ve received a warning within 90 daysThe account will be placed on a temporary hold for three days, during which ads will not be eligible to run
Second strikeViolation of the same policy for which you’ve received a first strike within 90 days of the first strikeThe account will be placed on a temporary hold for seven days, during which ads will not be eligible to run. This will serve as the last and final notice for the advertiser to avoid account suspension
Third strikeViolation of the same policy for which you’ve received a second strike within 90 days of the second strikeAccount suspension for repeat violation of our policies

Strikes expire after 90 days and Google has systems in place to prevent advertisers from circumventing its policies (by creating new accounts to bypass a suspension, for example). The company also plans to expand its three-strikes program after the initial pilot to include more policy types.

What can marketers do to prepare for Google’s three-strike policy?

Google’s systems are almost certainly being improved to reduce the number of ads that are wrongly detected. However, the three-strikes program is in full swing, so it may be in advertisers’ best interests to tread carefully.

Keep an eye out for violations that have been highlighted and be prepared to file an appeal. Although it’s impossible to forecast when advertising may be flagged, be extra cautious with display ad graphics that might somehow be construed to fit these policies.

It’s important to note that these infractions aren’t just due to ad text. Advertisers should double-check their extensions, destination URLs, and their entire site. If you have an account that traditionally has been flagged under these policies despite not violating them, ensure you are pleased with your account setup and the number of ads. It’s best to create ads, safeguard they get approved, and then pause them for future testing so you don’t have to create them under this new policy.

Additionally, informing stakeholders and clients about the change ahead of time will help set expectations for when the new regulations take effect. Google said in its announcement that in the future, they plan to expand the strikes system in phases to scope more of our policies. This implies that more advertisers could disapprove of the system at some point, so it’s best to get ahead of it now rather than waiting for the first warning or strike to be issued.