On September 21, 2021 Google will roll out its pilot program for the new 3-Strikes Ad Policy. While the guidelines for advertising have not really changed much, the consequences for running afoul of the rules are a bit different, and the automated process for handling violations could result in entire account and site suspensions for some users.

The Three Rules of Google Ads

Google has three big rules for ad content:

  • Do not enable dishonest behavior: The most blatant violation of this rule would be advertising services to create fake IDs or passports for customers. On the more insidious side, businesses that provide hacking services, financial fraud, phone tapping, and more are also enabling dishonest behavior.
  • Do not offer unapproved pharmaceuticals or supplements: This rule is fairly straightforward. Pharmaceutical and drug-adjacent products, including weight loss supplements, will get flagged by Google because of the tremendous legal ramifications.
  • Do not advertise dangerous products and services: “Dangerous products” is a category that has some overlap with unapproved pharmaceuticals, but also includes firearms, explosives, illicit drugs, tobacco, smoking-adjacent products, and more.

The 3-Strikes Ad Policy Breakdown

Violating Google’s 3-Strikes Ad Policy is designed to prevent bad actors, while also creating a digital paper trail, so no one can claim that penalties came out of the blue without warning. The breakdown of how rule violations will play out is as follows:

  • Warning: The first time an ad violates Google’s policies, users will receive a warning. No penalties will be imposed and the offending ads will be removed.
  • Strike One: If users violate policies within 90 days of the warning, they will receive their first strike. The ad accounts will be placed on hold temporarily, and ads will be ineligible to run.
  • Strike Two: The second strike occurs when users are in violation of Google’s policies within 90 days of their first strike. The account will be placed on hold and no ads will run, much like penalties of the first strike. The second strike will serve as a final warning before the third strike is issued.
  • Strike Three: After the second strike, if users continue to violate policies, the third and final strike will be issues, as which point the entire account will be suspended.

The 3-Strikes Ad Policy is not limited to ad copy, but all content related to the Google account. This means blog posts, landing pages, video, images, and more are subject to the new policy. Users will still have the opportunity to appeal all decisions, and strikes will only occur within 90-day periods. After 90 days, the slate is wiped clean.

Should You Be Concerned About Google’s 3-Strikes Ad Policy?

Most companies are not in the business of selling unapproved pharmaceuticals, dangerous items, or promoting their products through intentionally misleading marketing methods. In fact, most businesses fall well within Google’s policies. However, there are a few concerns that have come to the forefront:

  • This is an automated system: It would be impossible to employ a team of people to review the high volume of content and ads that are published by businesses on a daily or hourly basis. Google’s systems are automated, and as such, are perpetually in the learning phase. An ad for an acupuncture business was flagged early on because Google thought the ad was related to addiction and was selling drug paraphernalia. An ad for a car wash was dinged for “partial nudity,” even though the image only showed a car windshield and a sponge. Artificial intelligence is prone to mistakes, but having a human who can ensure compliance before ads and content are published can save your business a lot of headaches and appeals.
  • Misleading advertising” is a vague term: Google wouldn’t be Google if they were completely transparent about their algorithms. While “misleading advertising” is great for weeding out predatory lenders, ponzi schemes, snake oil salesmen, and more, the guidelines are broader and more vague. A particularly clever marketing campaign, or an ad where the image has nothing to do with the text or products offered could result in a warning or a strike. Having professionals on board who understand how Google works can keep your ads and content in compliance.
  • Businesses need additional time and resources: The new 3-Strikes Ad Policy is going to require businesses to not only analyze ad content moving forward, but they will also have to comb through previous published content, linked landing pages, and related sites and content to make sure they are in-line with Google’s policies. Not every business has Google-certified professionals in their marketing department, or people who have the time to both stay up to date on Google’s policies and bring all of their content up to date. The 3-Strikes Ad Policy is going to require knowledge, time, and other resources to bring digital marketing and existing content up to speed.

Preparing for Google’s 3-Strikes Ad Policy

There are a few ways businesses and organizations can prepare for the rollout of Google’s 3-Strike Ad Policy on September 21st:

  • Publish September’s content now: Since the new policy isn’t going live until the third week in September, there is no sense in getting flagged for content published for that month. If you have the ability, publish your content and ads ahead of schedule and focus on October.
  • Review your site and ad content: Between now and the end of September, go over your site, ad content, upcoming content, and everything related to your brand to make sure you are in-line with Google’s policies. You do not want to get a strike for something you published a while back.
  • Do not make a backup account: Anyone thinking they could work around the 3-Strikes Ad Policy by creating an alternate account will be in for a rude awakening. Google is actively on the lookout for backup accounts and users who try to force a loophole that doesn’t exist. Attempts to circumvent Google’s policies will result in account suspension.

Learn More about Google’s 3-Strikes Ad Policy

Outpace Digital Marketing is committed to informing people and helping clients stay within Google’s policy guidelines. We stay ahead of the curve so our clients can focus on running their businesses and organizations while we handle the marketing and compliance. To learn more about Google’s 3-Strikes Ad Policy, or if you need assistance making sure your business is in-line with Google’s upcoming policy rollouts, reach out to the team at Outpace today.