I can still remember the first time I heard of Google. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) worked at a trendy IT company in the 1990’s. I called into her office one day and saw the plain white Google home page on her screen and asked her about it.
Like most of you, since then, Google has become part of my every day life. I use their browser, their docs, all our emails are routed through their excellent apps service, I love Translate, I use Google +, I buy Adwords adverts.
In short, I’ve pretty much embraced everything Google.
And that’s why it makes me a little sad to write this post. Because Google are the latest in a string of IT companies who have lost the plot in terms of customer service and interaction.
I’m going to talk about Google Adsense.
I’ve been a partner in the Adsense program for years. I put Adsense on several of my websites. For those who don’t know, it’s a program where Google serves advertisements to your website, and they pay you each time one is clicked. Over the years, one site, Lanzarote Information has earned a considerable sum as part of the program – I can’t tell you how much, because that’s against Google’s terms of service. I suspect Google has earned a considerable sum as well, but once again, I can’t tell you how much, this time because they refuse to publish how much of their advertiser’s revenue per click they actually keep for themselves.
So, in summary, over the last four years, through our hard work (my wife is the main writer) publishing original, frequent and much loved content to our site, Google has earned a decent sum of money. That’s precisely why I used the word “partner” above.
Ten days ago, I received a “No reply” email from Google, which basically told me they had found content on the site which broke their terms and conditions. The email pointed me to a post, and told me:
It is important for a site displaying AdSense to offer significant value to the user by providing unique and relevant content, and not to place ads on auto-generated pages or pages with little to no original content.
Your site should also provide a good user experience through clear navigation and organization. Users should be able to easily click through your pages and find the information they are seeking.
I probably don’t need to tell you that the post in question was written by me, is original and not auto generated and actually provides a service to visitors of the island. It’s also been on the site for almost two years.
The Google email told me that ads had been suspended and then suggested I could appeal this decision.
Can I pause for a moment?
Here’s a company I have worked with for over four years, one with whom I’ve shared substantial revenue. One with whom I should have built up a lot of trust and mutual respect.
And they took a decision to suspend the adverts BEFORE even speaking to me about it? Then they offered me the chance to APPEAL?
It felt like I’d already been convicted! But frustratingly, instead of clearly explaining what the issue was, they couched it in terms which left me baffled as to what to do.
So I appealed.
I asked them to explain to me what needed changing about the post. I told them I thought it must be an error, as the content was clearly original, and a post I had personally written. I naively believed that as soon as a person, as opposed to a bot checked the post, it would all be OK.
It took them a full week to get back to me, and the response came, once again, from a no reply email address. It reads:
Thank you for providing us with additional information about your site. However, after thoroughly reviewing lanzaroteinformation.com and taking your feedback into consideration, we're unable to re-enable ad serving to your site at this time, as your site appears to still be in violation.
If you'd like to have your site reconsidered for participation in the AdSense program, please review our program policies (https://www.google.com/adsense/policies) and make any necessary changes to your webpages. For more information regarding your policy issue, please visit https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=113061 .
Once you've fully resolved any issues with your site, please visit https://google.com/adsense/support/bin/request.py?contact_type=policy_violation_appeal to request a second review.
We appreciate your cooperation.
The Google AdSense Team
Time for another pause.
Presumably an actual, living person has read the post and feels that it’s not complying with one of Google’s terms.
For the life of me, I can’t think how or where. But I can accept I could be wrong about this.
What I can’t accept is why whoever carried out the review hasn’t actually told me what the fucking problem is? What is the point in me appealing again, when I don’t know what needs changing? A simple “You need to take the post down” or “please remove the line xxxx” would do it. How hard can that be?
It’s complete and utter madness.
And a sad day for me, when a company I have watched start from nothing and grow to a globally dominant position becomes just like every other large corporation – impersonal, uncaring, and really not interested in the small businesses on whom they actually rely for their continued success.
I would never, in a million years, treat a business partner in this way.
And however big Google are, however important they may feel.
Neither should they.
Update: In the end I deleted the post and asked for a second reconsideration. The site was reinstated. I'll re write it again (because the message is important) and hope I can get it right this time. As soon as I have time to look at alternative providers to replace Adsense, I will do so.
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"Mike's Life is where you can stay current with the life, thoughts, successes and failures of Mike Cliffe-Jones. Never knowingly ordinary, Mike shares as much as possible about his work as a marketer and in business, as well as his enviable lifestyle on and in the oceans around The Canary Islands."