Adsense Banned over Critical Cartoon


Just caught this over at Digg..

It's a bit scary when you have a decent level of income from Google and see someone else have their account canned at the drop of a hat. Seems that this happened just after his SEO cartoon made the frontpage here at ThreadWatch..


The story seems genuine

Whether it is cause or effect, who knows?? I don't think (even) Google would be that small minded/daft, but you never know, eh Matt?

I cant be sure as they have a policy of not telling you... however it was within 30 minutes of the cartoon being posted on Threadwatch

And this is the TW thread that caused the rumpus.

I'd be surprised if they

I'd be surprised if they were related in any way. I thought the cartoon was funny, and I doubt anyone else would even get/understand/notice the cartoon. I certainly didn't forward the cartoon to anyone else at Google; just got a chuckle out of it myself.

sounds unrelated...

Matt's got a pretty good sense of humor IMHO, so I'd believe him when he says the cartoon didn't cause privileges to disappear. Not to mention, nothing in the cartoons looked at all offensive or objectionable...

In a similar vein, I had one of our advertisers once call us up screaming, claiming that we'd caused his website to be penalized by major SEs. His website had been operating fine with growing traffic, but the minute his ad went up with us, his traffic disappeared, he said.

I took a gander at his website and found: html frames, and obvious cloaking. I tried to explain that those were likely the cause of his woes, but he wouldn't have any of it. He was convinced that since he was penalized immediately after his ads went live, the two events must be connected. In actuality, having your link on our network of sites is more likely to help than hurt anything (assuming we're not considered a "bad neighborhood"!). (Businesses can add their website links to their listings with us for free, and the wider distribution thru us can expose their business to more users -- so, the claim that we'd caused harm to him in this way was laughable on the face of it.)

The moral of this story is that two separate things can happen in close succession in time, and be completely unrelated.

However, SEOidiot may have been persecuted by the universe somehow, leaving with him a valid feeling of overall unfairness. It would appear entirely possible that a hostile third party could've executed invalid clicks on SEOidiot's pages. Google could have rightly banned his site from participation in an effort to reduce that activity. Once they see invalid behavior occurring, it would be very difficult to figure out if the unwanted clicking activity was happening because of SEOidiot's involvement or not...

There are unfortunate limitations on our ability to identify and authenticate the sources of activity happening on the internet, which lead to scenarios like this.

Perhaps SEOidiot could write a new, heartfelt description of how he wasn't involved in any invalid clicking activity on his sites, offer access to logfiles from the suspect period, and request reinclusion? I dunno if any company really has time to detect out the originating source of suspect activity in cases like this, though. Also, SEOidiot should absolutely discontinue any scraping of others' content, if that's still going on (he admitted to such previously).

Anyone else have an opinion on how hypothetical cases like this should be handled? If an ad network sees a spate of bad activity originating from a publisher, they should be able to yank distribution. But, a publisher may not be causing the bad activity -- it may be some other hostile force. So, what's the happy medium?

As I cynic

My thoughts when I published this were

1. Is it pure link bait
2. Did it really happen like that - ie 30 minutes after the original cartoon appeared in TW, the AdSense account was suspended
3. If it were not pure link bait, and it actually happened, then was it more than a coincidence?

My conclusions were that the site did lose its AdSense account, that it was unlikely to have been because Matt was miffed at his cartoon, but that something else happened to get invalid clicks as a cause for AdSense account suspension.

However I do think that in all probability this was connected somehow to the TW thread. What the connection is, your guess is as good as mine!

thanks for the followup

thanks for the followup matt. i also would question the cartoon as the actual source of the ban, but the scary part of the story is still there, and that is the possibility of getting yourself banned due to the malicious actions of others. i do realize, however, that it's a very complicated situation to deal with. google can't just come out and say "you had these 5 clicks from these 2 ips that were invalid". that would give too much information to the fraudsters. on the other hand, they can't just ignore them as that raises accountability questions.. the current practice of banning seems to protect google and the advertiser well, but can leave the publisher a little sleepless at night--wondering if a click bot is going to cause havok with your income..

this in and of itself is a major reason for income diversification, and i think it would be financially favorable for google to come up with another solution..

looking beyond the actual cartoon itself, this story poses other, more interesting questions..

Well, Google failed to make the case

Well, Google failed to make the case with their recent paper that they have the click-fraud problem well in hand. Even if someone did run a massive number of clicks on SEOIdiot's network, did it have to be him? How do you prevent hackers from taking down competitive networks?

There are many questions that Google leaves unanswered with respect to the click-fraud issue.


Some thoughts:

SEO Idiot's blog is not one of the top SEO blogs around - though I will say his blog is definitely on the up.

The publication of the cartoon and article may well have significantly increased traffic to the blog in the short term. Whether this lead to an increase in adsense clicks as well - only SEO Idiot and Google could say.

If the potentially fraudulent clicks detected by Google were on the blog itself and not on other sites owned by SEO Idiot - then I would think that two could be related, though not necessarily in any way that could be considered persecution for the publication of the cartoon.

under the radar

Well, it could all be related in a way. If you make yourself public then you subject yourself to all sorts of additional scrutiny that you didn't necessarily have before.

I may have to apologize for

I may have to apologize for the creative writing on my blog from September 10th. It's factually accurate - you can check. But some things on the Internet need to be read carefully and not taken too literally, although one can never really know from whence flows influence. Mission accomplished? Nah. Paul's digg didn't even reach 500 ;-)

well, it hit page 1 for a

well, it hit page 1 for a few hours today..not sure how much traffic that was worth..


Another reason I don't monetize my blog as you never know what kind of wackos will abuse you just for giggles.


Is it just me or is there some irony on this Digg story with the ad I'm presented by Adsense itself to the right on the headline on Digg is for a site called
Google taketh, and google taketh as well :-)

To be fair to Goo

I'd take Matt's word for this, too. If Goo-critical cartoons were a reason to ban AdSense publishers (which would be a pretty stupid and arguably suicidal PR policy anyway), I'd have expected our own account to have been taken down ages ago. Never happened. Which, obviously, doesn't prove a thing by itself, but it certainly doesn't endorse the inverse allegation either.

Whether it's good guerilla marketing to create a stink on these lines over at Digg nevertheless is, of course, an entirely different matter. :)

Don't take Matt's word

Take Matt's opinion. You'll notice Matt didn't state anything more than what's already been said from Google (i.e. the account's been banned and no reason is forthcoming). He didn't add anything to the conversation other than another personal opinion, of which there's plenty around here just as valid.

Can't expect too much

Hm, seeing that he's probably not responsible for ALL of Goo's activities and departments, what more can you expect from him than this:

I certainly didn't forward the cartoon to anyone else at Google; just got a chuckle out of it myself.

Looks like a fairly straightforward and credible dementi to me.

Whether Goo's AdSense policy in general and their anti-clickfraud measures so declared in particular qualify for anything but a rip-off, is, of course, quite another story.

What with their persistent stonewalling any and all calls for transparency, their TOS stipulating that in case of suspected clickfraud they'll simply grab all commissions accrued regardless their legitimacy, plus publishers being given practically no reasonable leverage in seeking justified redress, one might easily be forgiven for terming it all one big fat scam ...


Hi Everyone - sorry i have been away on business for 36 hours...

Just to respond to a few of the comments above....

Matt - Thanks for the clarification - I dont really think it was you, its more likely that the invalid clicks came from a 3rd party who took it the wrong way.
I have played it a bit heavy on the Matt gets my account banned but i have a serious reason, I along with an increasing number of publishers are starting to realise quite how inpersonal the banning process is from Google. Whilst i understand that you really didnt ban my account i hope that as the face of Google you can influence the policy towards clickfraud bans for all the remaining publishers.. publishers who make Google the majority of their income.

Other comments
Yes my traffic did spike but i have had higher spikes before without issues....
Digg - did that really to see how it worked, hadnt done much before on there (Yesterday 10,000 uniques 1200 add to favourites and some serious strain on my server)

I would be happy to provide my logs if Google would look at them...

On the subject of scraping content.... I have admitted to scraping - the majority of my sites do provide 'value' though - i have always maintained that crap content doesnt serve you well anyway and content that has some value to the visitor / advertiser is always my aim..

I dont do ANY of the aggressive anti-social methods like comment / trackback / guestbook / referrer spam and I have created / commissioned more unique content than most white hats in an effort to maintain my network....

Look forward to more abuse / clarifications....


It's interesting to say the least. At first I thought it was just some major link baiting (still is a little and bravo for the results), but banning your Adsense account and giving no reason seems odd. I still doubt it had anything to do with the cartoon as Matt is probably the only one who really had seen it. The cartoon is actually nice and paints Matt in a good light and increases his online celebrity status. I couldn't fathom how that would be seen as a negative by the folks at Google.

Even if you do push the limits from an SEO standpoint, I don't see how that would get you banned. Google has shown over the years that they have literally no standards for adsense publishers and I could pull up 50 sites in an hour that has "click on my ads" in big bold letters under it. I can find a ton of MFA sites that feature a few lines of text on mortgages and 90% adsense coverage. It just seems odd to me that they'd target a site like yours when they don't seem to care much about the biggest and most notorious infringers.

giving no reason seems odd?

but banning your Adsense account and giving no reason seems odd.

Au contraire, it's standard TOS for Google adsense. They never give a reason, just some vague form letter. Oh, and they keep your money generated since last check. Because, you know, their click fraud detection isn't good enough to distinguish between the valid and invalid clicks (i.e the ones you should be paid for) generated on your account. Or so one would surmise. Because otherwise you'd have to assume they could pay for the valid clicks, but choose not to.

Google has shown over the

Google has shown over the years that they have literally no standards for adsense publishers and I could pull up 50 sites in an hour that has "click on my ads" in big bold letters under it. I can find a ton of MFA sites that feature a few lines of text on mortgages and 90% adsense coverage. It just seems odd to me that they'd target a site like yours when they don't seem to care much about the biggest and most notorious infringers.

Welcome to Googleland, Mr. Turner. You are correct, *except* when the Google client in question calls himself an SEO. Call yourself a Google AdSense Webmaster and you're golden.... they even teach "optimizing websites for AdSense" or something like that. BUT, call yourself an SEO and, well, that's just an ornery spammer for sure!

Coke and Pepsi

When Pizza Hut became a Pepsi property, they stopped selling coke and only offered Pepsi. Back then, that was not an "of course" situation. There were actual debates... how could they *not* offer what the people wanted? (coke). That was bad business.

Well, the answer was never, ever put money in your competitor's pocket. No matter what. You may now draw an imaginary line down the field of SEO, separating those who hold significant coin generating AdSense accounts from those who don't.

(of course you can also admire those serious SEOs who feel the euphoria of taking AdSense profits from G for scraped content pages... it's rough justice, slightly ahead of it's time)

Coke and Pepsi

There were actual debates... how could they *not* offer what the people wanted? (coke). That was bad business.


Whether it is true or not, this thread needed some extra Threadwatch panache

Other people have been reporting problems

Other people have been reporting problems with Google AdSense and Yahoo!'s ads this week. Looks like a lot of public weeping and gnashing of teeth is happening over a spate of apparent click fraud issues.

Makes me wonder if the alleged click-fraud isn't, in fact, organized by a hostile third party.

Yes, that's a conspiracy theory, but it's odd to see so many people complaining at the same time about cancelled accounts and lost revenues from the two major advertising publishers.

What's up with that?

Mean while back on planet

Mean while back on planet earth google just happen to be having a cull of publishers what have stepped outside of the TOS and its gets blown out of all proportion as always

sheesh what's the world coming too......there has been lots of public weeping for years on the adsense forum over at webmaster world and most when checked out had broken the adsense terms of service

conspiracy theory, hmm no, broken the TOS, hmm YES.......


Mick - Yup in a black and white world many publishers do stray outside of the TOS... My understanding is that Google prohibit the creation of sites purely for Adsense revenue... if thats the case in a black and white world shouldnt also recieve a ban - its completely ad supported content - if there were no ads it wouldnt exist...

Isn't Google AdSense for Search a violation?

Think about it. They give you a search box that creates SERPs pages you can earn money from. Your incentive is that you'll make money off the SERPs. Would you have put the search box on your Web site otherwise?

So, that's a violation of the TOS, right? Rationalize for me. I want to see how circular and bizarre the logic can become.

I want to see how circular

I want to see how circular and bizarre the logic can become.

No. Please. I beg you all. Let's not try and see that ;-)

not at all circular or bizarre

its provided by google. everything provided by google is good for the user experience. good for the user experience cannot be spam and cannot therefore violate the user experience. Ergo pages which contain only Google SERPs and ads cannot be spam and are ok to create even if they only exist to make money.

Tune in next week to hear me prove the theory of relativity is a plot by scientists to take over the world.

>>So, that's a violation of

>>So, that's a violation of the TOS, right? Rationalize for me

Michael please explain the logic in your thoughts on how you have come to this conclusion ?


Hmmm almost sounds like a plot for a cartoon strip.....hmmm

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