Why Are My Ads Disapproved by Google’s Misleading Content Policy?

May 25th, 2018 by Jordan Polhemus

In its continual quest to better serve users, Google has cracked down on misleading content in advertisements as well as website content. When your advertising campaign is slammed for “misleading content,” it can come as quite a surprise. Because Google holds advertisers to a high standard, some of the violations might seem like harmless marketing strategies. Regardless of how the situation arose, it’s important to bring your website and account back in line with Google’s expectations. The sooner you resolve potential violations, the sooner you can get back to building your brand’s online reputation.

What Is the Google AdWords Misleading Content Policy?

“Misleading content” is an umbrella term that includes several types of violations, ranging from problematic testimonials to deceptive branding. The main objective of the misleading content policy is to provide a set of clear standards for online advertisers to follow as to not deceive users with exaggerated or false content. The central component of these standards states that:

– Disclaimers need to be included alongside perceived claims, even if the claims are direct quotations from past customers.

– Images that show before-and-after results also need disclaimers. More broadly, improbable assertions are likely to draw the attention of the Google AdWords team.

We’ve all seen investment opportunities and weight loss programs that sound “too good to be true.” As you might imagine, some of the standards allow room for interpretation, and many affected advertisers find that they need to resolve multiple policy violations to resume advertising.

At least, in theory, Google’s policy should benefit both users and advertisers. Users shouldn’t have to scroll past misleading or spammy content, and advertising slots will become more valuable as users learn that paid search results are also informative and trustworthy. When you edit your ads and website to align with the Google AdWords misleading content policy, you’ll also be improving content and sales copy that might have sounded suspicious to potential customers. The things that Google considers “misleading” may also be off-putting to your target audience.

What Kinds of Businesses Are Most Impacted by This Crackdown?

With shifting expectations for disclaimers and testimonials, medical businesses like plastic surgeons and dermatologists are particularly vulnerable to being caught on the wrong side of AdWords policies. Whenever possible, peer-reviewed journals and other reputable sources can be referenced to support claims. Images are useful for showing the results of weight loss programs and cosmetic procedures, but those types of images need to include disclaimers to emphasize that individual results vary.

Investment firms, lawyers, and other businesses may run afoul of Google AdWords misleading content policy, even though they aren’t making medical claims. The misleading content policy looks for vague guarantees and other wording that implies certainty or permanence. Depending on the phrasing used to describe results, virtually any business can find itself on the wrong side of Google’s misleading content policies.

How Does Google Review and Determine If Content Is Misleading?

In case there was any doubt, Google doesn’t employ a review board of physicians or lawyers to determine which claims are unjustified. Instead, an editor on the Google team judges whether the wording or formatting of a page is misleading. When the editor finds one or more violations that justify disapproving the account, they may (or may not) make a note in your case file. With the number of campaigns and sites reviewed by editors, it doesn’t make sense for them to make exhaustive lists of recommendations beyond the first one or two violations.

As a business owner, you might never interact directly with an editor at Google. When you call the account representatives on the Google helpline, they only have the information that editors chose to note in your case file. If you fix the problems that were cited as “misleading,” there may be additional problems found when your site is re-evaluated. It can be a frustrating runaround but don’t get angry at the person on the helpline. They aren’t the ones who flagged your content, and they don’t have the power to reinstate your account. Instead of focusing on the people who made the decision, it’s better to try to understand the aspects of the policy that might apply to your site and campaign.

What Do I Need to Do to Get My Ads Approved and Running Again?

Not everyone gets site-specific recommendations in his or her case file, and even if you’re lucky enough to get actionable advice, it’s still important to be proactive about finding additional violations. After your campaign account has been flagged, the responsibility is on your company (and your web developer) to make sure that your site and your PPC campaign meet the standards set by Google. Look through your landing pages in search of other potential violations.

Could your seals and stamps be perceived as mimicking government seals? Site layouts and deceptive popups can also trigger penalties. Popup windows shouldn’t simulate messages or system errors, displays intended to trick users into clicking through or interacting by accident. As previously discussed, assertions about future results need to be carefully worded. Some violations are more obvious than others but use due diligence to ensure that your site complies with relevant policies.

How Can I Avoid Getting Ads Disapproved in the Future?

Look at the penalty “sandbox” as a learning opportunity, and try to avoid repeating the same mistakes in future campaigns. Make a point of looking beyond your PPC campaigns to your website and your company’s approach to branding online. The campaigns flagged by AdWords often have issues on the landing page, marketing strategies that may be mirrored across the rest of the website. Even if a PPC campaign can be restarted with changes to a few key pages, it’s worth adjusting other website content to align with misleading content policies. Search algorithms favor high quality, unique content, and the misleading content policy hints at indicators that could eventually affect overall search rankings.

If you don’t have time to spend waiting on the Google helpline, consider getting professional help through digital marketing consulting. Google’s policies and expectations shift periodically, and anticipating changes can become a distraction from your day-to-day business.

As a Google Premier Partner, Search Influence has over 25 employees certified in Google AdWords Search, Video, Mobile, Display, and Analytics. Our digital marketing agency keeps up to date with the latest trends in search engine algorithms and online advertising to best serve our clients. Contact us so we can help get your ads approved and running again.

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