Sunday, November 2, 2014

Advertising with Google: It Sucks

Advertising with Google as a small business is much different than using Google as a consumer. Paying Google for ads and calling Google support is a lot like paying Comcast for cable and calling Comcast support

The events described in this post happened about a year ago. I finally decided to make this post for two reasons: to show that Google is exactly like every other large faceless near-monopoly and to show my disappointment with how Google handles paying customers. 

Before this experience, I thought the parts of Google that make money must be amazing. Look at Gmail, Google Docs Drive, Google Calendar, Blogger and even Android. They’re great, and they’re all free. Google makes these services to capture you, the product. If the free stuff is great, then the parts of Google that face advertisers (the customer) and take in billions of dollars in revenue have to be absolutely amazing. Sadly, they’re not.

Lets start with some background. A year ago I had a great idea: start a website that would sort pocket knives by legality to carry. You would pick a city and see knives that are legal to carry in that jurisdiction. The list of knives have Amazon referral links. Everyone would benefit: the customers would stay legal, and I would collect a sales commission. 

The story of the site is long and deserves its own blog post, but in summary... creating product sales sites is hard. The site I made,, is still up. Go and take a look, and if you live in Chicago, order a knife. Also, I know the site has many problems. I’ve been too busy to work on it. If you see something wrong, I’m probably aware of it but don’t have time to fix anything.

But this post is about advertising, so lets get back to the story. The first order of business after making a site is to advertise. There is only one choice in online advertising: Google. I signed up for an AdWords account, selected keywords, and paid money. Legalknifeshop was approved and the ads started. Time to wait for the sales to roll in!  

The ads ran for two days. Then I got the first email. 
Urgent Warning - Your AdWords Account May Get Suspended

That's not good. It turns out that after being approved, legalknifeshop was unapproved, despite no content changes.

The site was in violation of the weapons policy that prohibits dangerous knives. The violation was silly: legalknifeshop only sells explicitly legal knives, and knives legal to carry in Chicago (the only supported location) must have <2.5" blade. Boy scouts handle longer and more dangerous knives. Certainly someone at Google could understand and reinstate the ads. 

I called Google support. After 4 different menu prompts there was a human, to whom I explained the situation. 

She put me on hold for 15 minutes, came back and said that she “had no idea what was going on,” but the site needed to be escalated back to review”. “But what about the previous review,” I asked. “I don’t work in that department,” she answered. 

This was the first sign of what was to come.

Then another email. 
Your AdWords account: Ads not running due to AdWords Advertising Policies.

Maybe the review department wasn’t convinced? Having heard nothing else, I sent a support an email asking why legalknifeshop violated the weapons policy.
Call 1-866-2-GOOGLE* for free expert help reviewing your AdWords ads 

That was the title of the next email. It continued: "Having reviewed your AdWords account XXXXXXXXXX, we can see that so far 549 potential customers have seen your ad, and 4 of them clicked on your ad to view your website. We can help you attract more potential customers to your website or answer any other questions you may have".

Maybe they could start by reinstating my ads?  Really, Google? What world do we live in when a Big Data company like Google can't link their suspended account database to their promotional emails?

I called support again and spent 20 minutes on hold. The reply was "oh, I can't really see what's going on, you'll have to contact the people who you were contacting before". This is when I knew I was in trouble. There isn’t even a coherent customer records management or issue tracking.

During the next few weeks I called, used the online customer chat, and sent emails. Finally, after persevering and explaining that legalknifeshop sold no dangerous knives, someone at Google admitted that no, legalknifeshop does not violate the weapons policy. Victory at last! 

The sweet taste of victory was not to last.

The next day, another suspension email. Now, my site was in violation of the bridge page policy. A policy that was not mentioned once during the many prior discussions with Google support. I appealed again, but it was not to be.

It turns out that legalknifeshop doesn't provide enough value to end users. To provide enough value to advertise with Google requires the following changes:
  • Provide listings for more than one city (doable)
  • and one of:
  • Use more than Amazon as a referral partner. (pretty much impossible)
  • or
  • Sell the knives myself. (impossible)

During my new week of appeals, I received the following promotions from Google:
Reach the right customers by adding negative keywords to your AdWords ad 'Knives Legal In Chicago'

Your AdWords ads have stopped running. Talk to Google to get help. Remember to call 1-866-2-GOOGLE* for a free review of your AdWords ads with a Google expert

There is no way I could meet the bridge page requirements. Google won, they refused to take my money. I really tried to pay, but they just wouldn’t take it.

Two days later, there was one last email:
AdWords Tune-up: Make your 'LegalKnifeShop #1' campaign ad stand out with a longer headline

That was the last straw. Out of pure spite, I advertised with Bing. But that's a story for another blog post.


  1. pg slot 888 ทางเข้า สมัคร การเงินของเว็บ เกมสล็อต ค่าย pg 888 สามารถใช้บริการออนไลน์แล้วก็ได้โอกาสชนะเงินของพวกเรา ผู้เล่น PG Slot แล้วก็คนที่ใช้บริการสำหรับเพื่อการลงทุน

  2. member pg slot game vip เว็บไซต์ตรงจากบริษัทแม่ไม่ผ่านผู้ใดกันแน่ลงทะเบียน PG SLOT ได้แล้ววันนี้มีปริมาณสมาชิกผู้เล่นใหม่จำนวนหลายชิ้นเลือกที่จะใช้บริการเกมกับทางเว็บของพวกเรา