TL;DR; Without any warning Google disabled our ads and suspended our 10-year old AdWords account for the violation of the ‘Free Desktop Software’ policy even though we don’t have any free software. Getting to anyone from Google who can explain what’s going on is impossible. After 2 weeks and 5 phone calls our account is still suspended and our ads are not running. All we can do is talk to people who don’t know anything and cannot do anything.
Update 1: According to Google ‘free desktop software’ means _all_ downloadable software including the trial/demo versions of commercial software. More info here.
Update 2: We finally got our account restored on May 15th. It took 3 weeks, 5 phone calls, 2 blog posts, couple of tweets and many emails. Not sure what exactly helped to get it done.
We are a small company developing computer telephony software and components for software developers. We sell our software to the US Government and big corporations like Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, LG and many others. We have been using AdWords for 10+ years and spent over $35,000 on Google AdWords.
Round 1: Unwanted Software Policy
On Friday, April 24th, we got an automated email from Google saying that our ads are disabled because our site violates ‘Unwanted Software’ policy. There was no warning, no explanation, just a link to a generic policy page (https://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/50423?hl=en). We read the policy and couldn’t find anything that our software violates. The policy talks about malware and software that hi-jacks user’s computer and cannot be uninstalled. Our software is 100% legitimate and many companies pay big money to use it. It’s even used to manage 911 emergency call centers!
To find out why our ads were disabled I started a chat session with Mainak G. from the policy team and was told that we have to add uninstall instructions to the download page. Our software uses standard Windows Install/Uninstall system and can be uninstalled using Control Panel, the same way as any other Windows software. We also add Uninstall link to the Start menu to make it easier. And someone at Google decided that not having uninstall instructions on the download page is a valid reason to disable all our ads without warning? There is no such requirement in the ‘Unwanted Software’ policy. The closest thing I could find was this phrase: “Uninstall information must be easily accessible, simple to perform, and clearly identifiable after the software has been installed.” (emphasis mine). BTW, there are no uninstall instructions on Google Chrome download page and no links to uninstall instructions either.
Round 2: Free Desktop Software Policy
On Monday, April 27th, instead of having our ads restored we got another email saying that our site violates ‘Unsupported Content – Free Desktop Software’ policy (https://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/6023676?hl=en#354). This policy says that you cannot advertise free software unless you register with Google and get permission in advance. I thought that it was a mistake because we don’t have any free software. We develop and sell commercial software and the prices are posted on every page including the landing page for our Google ads. We have a demo version of our commercial software on the site but no free software. I tried to chat with someone from the policy team several times but all my chat requests were denied.
Few hours later we received another email saying that our AdWords account was suspended. At this point all our campaigns were stopped, even those pointing to another domain. I called AdWords phone support line but the lady who answered said that she cannot do anything because our case is still under investigation by the India office, and I should expect a call from them in 24-48 hours.
Next morning I received a call from Fuzail U. who asked me to fill out an application to advertise free desktop software. I tried to explain that this form is not applicable in our case because we don’t have any free software! He said that he is from another team, he doesn’t know anything and he was told that we have to fill out this form. Once we submit the form someone will get back to us in 24-48 hours and resolve the problem. I filled out the form and submitted it right away, indicating in the comment that we advertise commercial software and someone made a mistake.
There were no phone calls and no emails since then and our account is still suspended.
Round 3: Infinite Loop, No Result Yet
Today is May 11th and our account is still suspended. I called AdWords support phone line 5 times and every time I was told that our case is under review. They always promise that someone will contact us in 24-48 hours but no one ever does. People answering the phone couldn’t even explain why our account was suspended and couldn’t tell me what we can do to get our ads restored.
Our ads have not been running since April 24th. We already lost several thousands dollars in potential sales. I have no idea when our account will be restored. I will continue to update this blog post with any new information.
Think about the process that Google follows. Someone can click one button and disable your AdWords account without any explanation. It doesn’t matter how many years Google served your ads or how big your AdWords budget is. You get no warning, no grace period to make changes, nothing. Restoring your account is next to impossible. After paying Google hundreds of dollars every month for 10 years you cannot even talk to someone who knows what’s going on.
PS. We are not the only ones struggling with this. Andy Brice from SuccessfulSoftware.net had his AdWords account disabled because his site has hyperlinks to other sites! You can read his blog post here: http://successfulsoftware.net/2015/03/04/google-bans-hyperlinks/. Please make sure to read the comments to see how many companies had their ads suspended without warning for bogus policy violations.