I want to like Google.
They have all those free services: search, Gmail, Analytics… what’s not to like with those?
And I’ve been a customer of Google’s for a long time, too – spending money on their AdWords ads since February 2007.
Google does a lot of good things and I’m sure most people who work at Google are good people.
But the way Google’s UK & Ireland AdWords team has treated me in the last four weeks has underlined to me how much power they have over small businesses and how little care they exercise when wielding that power.
Google Permanently Suspend My Account With No Warning
Four weeks ago, I’d created two AdWords ads. They’d been shown a grand total of zero times.
Then I read something that suggested my ads might be in violation of Google’s ad policy. Not wanting to violate that policy and preferring to play it safe, I cancelled one of the campaigns. And I tried to cancel the other one.
To be clear: I had no intention of breaking Google’s rules. And when I suspected I might be breaking a rule, I tried to correct it as soon as I could.
At this point, I assume Google looked at my ads and decided they did indeed violate their policy.
[I have subsequently reviewed Google’s ad policy and can’t see any way the ads were in violation. From what I gather, Google AdWords penalise anything that looks like affiliate marketing, though don’t make this at all clear in any AdWords policy documentation I’ve managed to find.]
Instead of alerting me to the fact that my ads were against their policy and not running them, Google decided the appropriate course of action was to permanently suspend me from using Adwords. Forever.
This came as a bit of a surprise!
“Not to worry,” I thought. “Those folk at Google are smart and reasonable. When they hear what’s happened, they’ll realise a permanent ban was a bit heavy-handed and re-enable my account.”
I Try to Contact Google
So I politely tried to reach out to Google’s UK & Ireland AdWords team.
I called them.
I wrote to them.
I wrote again.
In return, when they did reply, all they did was to send me template emails that didn’t seem to address any of the points I’d tried to raise.
At one point I did manage to speak to an AdWords customer support person on the phone. They were friendly enough, but their only authority seemed to be to pass a message on to someone else. Nevertheless, I hoped this might do some good. A few days passed. Then I received it … yet another template email. Grr.
I filled out their online complaint form, asking for a more human interaction. Again, nothing but a template reply.
Despite several weeks of me trying to contact someone relevant, Google refused to engage with me in any meaningful way.
Barred from Accessing 91% of UK Search Traffic
So Google have barred me from accessing what amounts to around 91% of the UK’s search traffic with paid search. And they don’t even bother to properly respond to my queries about it. Great.
Google’s UK and Ireland AdWords has refused to discuss why they’ve taken this action. I suppose this is always a risk when a company has the kind of dangerously monopolistic market share that Google currently enjoys.
I know there are good people at Google; people who want to do the right thing. Sadly, Google’s policies no longer seem to be letting them do that. Now when I call customer support, the people I speak with tell me that there is nothing they can do: the policy people have spoken and they must be right. It seems policies are now in charge rather than people.
Google’s Different Rules for Different Sizes of Customers
What’s especially upsetting about this is that I know full well that Google do not treat everyone the same way.
Google treat larger customers with more respect.
I used to work for a company that was (and still is) an extremely large AdWords buyer. When they screw up and violate a Google advertising policy, it’s a different story. A quick word with their account manager and Google turn a blind eye. Their account isn’t suspended. They don’t have to wait days for a response. And they don’t have to put up with condescending template emails.
It’s the small business that gets the raw deal. It’s the small business that gets automatically penalised for a mistake, then ignored by Google.
If you work for Google: we both know your organisation can be better than this. If you’d like to sort it out, you can contact me here.
If you don’t work for Google, please recognise how little Google’s policymakers seem to care about treating their millions of small business customers fairly.
If you can figure out a way to depend on Google a little less, then you might just want to do so.
photo credit: airinnajera