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Why Google Pulled Ads From Two Conservative Websites

Offensive content caused two websites to lose their advertising. This is what you should know so it doesn't happen to you.

Why Google Pulled Ads From Two Conservative Websites
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Two conservative sites had their AdSense ads pulled from their sites. Lost amid the cries of censorship was the real reason the ads were removed: Failure to understand Google’s terms and conditions they agreed to.

That failure led to content violations which caused their advertising to temporarily be removed by Google.

User Generated Content and Advertising

User generated content (UGC) is content that is created by site visitors and not the website publisher themselves. On news sites this kind of content takes the form of comments.

News sites in the past focused on presenting current events. The Internet changed not only how content is consumed but it also changed what kind of content is consumed.

Publishers grew to understand that certain kinds of content that makes readers outraged or angry tend to attract more visitors.

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Even mainstream news sites craft articles designed to provoke outrage in order to encourage social sharing and high readership.

The downside of that is that commenters are in an agitated state and that can lead to problematic comments being posted, including hate speech.

Why Advertising and User Generated Content Can be Problematic

Google has been criticized in the past for showing advertising on pages that are advertisers might not want associated with their brands.

That’s why Google has policies that forbid showing advertising on pages that feature hate speech, speech of an erotic nature, and content that is graphic and violent.

Many brands do not want to be associated with offensive content.

Showing their ads on pages with offensive content sends the signal that the advertisers approve of and support that offensive content.

offensive content and advertisersAdvertisers do not want their ads showing on the same pages as offensive content.

Advertisers generally prefer that their content do not appear on pages with problematic content.

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Publishers are obligated by their agreement to show Google AdSense ads to be mindful of that kind of negative content.

But that doesn’t always happen. Failure to understand AdSense policies is what caused The Federalist and Zero Hedge to become the object lessons of the day.

Google Did Not Ban the News Publishers

The action Google took appears to be what Google calls a Publisher Restriction.

A Publisher Restriction is a TEMPORARY halt to ad serving until offensive content is removed.

The Publisher Restriction system gives publishers a notice that their ads have been temporarily suspended until the policy violation is corrected.

The intent of this system is to give publishers a chance to correct the issue and continue providing ad space that advertisers won’t be upset about.

This is meant to be a gentler approach than an outright lifetime ban.

What happened was not censorship. It was a failure by the publishers to be aware of the AdSense terms and conditions  that they agreed to when signing up to show AdSense ads.

This kind of action happens to all kinds of sites. It has ZERO to do with politics and everything to do with violating Google’s policies against problematic content.

Any site that allows user generated content has to keep their comments in line with Google’s terms of service in exchange for the privilege to display AdSense ads.

The Federalist fixed the issue and had their advertising restored.

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Google then issued a statement about content that is problematic:

How to Deal with User Generated Content

There are several ways to deal with UGC. The first is to moderate content. One way to accomplish this is to either pay someone to moderate the commenting community or to enlist responsible users to become moderators.

A good way to prevent problematic UGC is to publish a content policy.

Adding a “Report a Thread” function gives users the ability to report problematic content.

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Takeaway

Being an online publisher means having to wear multiple hats. One of the hats is managing advertising on a website. And that means someone needs to be responsible for understanding Google’s AdSense Program Policies.

None of this would have happened had someone at the Federalist and Zero Hedge been on top of the issue of problematic content. All publishers are obligated to understand these policies in order to show advertising because it’s what they agreed to when they joined the AdSense program.

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Roger Montti

Roger Montti is a search marketer with 20 years experience. He provides site audits, phone consultations and content and link ... [Read full bio]

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