Google to Warn Searchers About Deceptive Download Buttons

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google deceptive download warning

Too often clicking on a button marked “Download” does not trigger the download you intended to receive. These are deceptive ads disguised as actual downloads. Another ad unit which falls under that category is an image making false claims, like detecting a virus on your computer.

Google has announced it’s expanding its Safe Browsing protection to warn searchers agains deceptive download buttons, and other “social engineering” ads.

Similar to when you encounter and insecure site, or a site with malware, Google will block the entire site with a bright red screen warning that there’s a “deceptive site ahead” with a button to go “back to safety”.

Google lays out its criteria for what qualifies as a social engineering ad:

  • Pretends to act, or look and feel, like a trusted entity — like your own device or browser, or the website itself.
  • Tries to trick you into doing something you’d only do for a trusted entity — like sharing a password or calling tech support.

This comes shortly after Google announced its attacks against sites that prompt the download of unwanted software. If your site ends up being flagged for deceptive ads, or other types of social engineering content, you can resolve the issue through Search Console.

Featured Image Credit: serato /

Matt Southern
Matt Southern is the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing flows through in... Read Full Bio
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  • Siri Innovations

    Hi Matt,
    Thank you for sharing this information and created a awareness on download buttons. We will wait for the announcement to be aware from the unwanted software which causes harm to the desktops and mobile applications.

  • Roger Rogerson

    Funny, as it was only in the past couple of weeks I was complaining about the “download link” ads on the G network.

    The question is – which sort of “download” link is G talking about here?
    there are those that appear as parts of the operating system (as a window / prompt), and those that look like typical download links/buttons on download sites.

    I think I’ve seen all of 3 fake system ad types in the past year – but I see at least 10 download button ads a month … so I hope G cover both.

    The followup question is … why on earth has it taken G so long to step forward for this? It’s been one of the longest running scummy-ad tactics ever … and only now are they looking into it? It’s been the source of numerous unpleasant browsing experiences, not to mention putting surfers at risk of malware.

    Still, we should be grateful the might G-Corp have decided to actually pay attention and take action 😀