The AdWords Advertising Guidelines at a Glance

Anyone who wants to advertise on the Google advertising network is required to follow certain guidelines relating to the use of keywords, the design of advertisements, and the linking of websites. The goal of these guidelines, according to Google, is to shape a positive user experience with search engine marketing, to meet legal requirements, and to ensure the success of AdWords ads. Policy compliant use of the Google advertising network is guaranteed through a mandatory approval process, in which newly-created ads as well as revisions are automatically reviewed. Advertisements which fail to comply with the AdWords guidelines are denied. Reasons for denial usually have to do with unauthorized content or practices as well as editorial or technical defects. This article provides an overview of the AdWords process.

Unauthorized Ad Content

Unauthorized content is understood to mean products, services, or information that may not be advertised on the AdWords advertising network. Generally, ads that are not allowed include:

  • Fake products: Google forbids all products which contain unauthorized brand names or logos.

  • Dangerous products: Drugs, mind-altering substances, and drug paraphernalia are considered by Google to be dangerous products. AdWords ads containing this type of content are not allowed and will be rejected during the approval process. The same goes for tobacco advertising. The AdWords ban is also placed on ads for weapons, ammunition, explosives, or instructions for the manufacture of these products.
  • Products and services which promote dishonest actions: Advertising software used to hack computer systems or services that promise increased ad or web access are in conflict with the AdWords guidelines. Also prohibited are advertisements for counterfeit documents or services, which are an aid to scientific fraud.

Google also restricts all ads which contain offensive or inappropriate content. Ads for products and/or services which contain hate messages, violent or sexual content, religious or political intolerance, as well as advertisements for organizations which advocate such views, are prohibited as well. In addition, the Google advertising network excludes content that is shocking, repulsive, or disturbing, has been created with exploitative intentions, or is aimed at the exploitation of others.

Unauthorized Advertising Practices

Google classifies as unauthorized or prohibited practices all measures which involve a misuse of advertising networks, irresponsible handling of user data, or misrepresentation of the user, products, or services.

  • Misuse of advertising networks: Usage is classified as abusive by AdWords when content is advertised that does not offer value to or even harms users. Examples of abusive usage are websites or apps that spread Malware, destination pages that are only used for user forwarding, or deception methods such as Cloaking. Also prohibited are actions aimed at avoiding the release process or gaining an unfair advantage during the advertising process.
  • Irresponsible handling of user data: According to the AdWords guidelines, Google’s advertising partners are prohibited from abusing user data or gathering and using data without proper security. Google classifies data handling as abusive if the data is collected without consent, personal data is used to direct advertising to users, or advertisements indicate the knowledge of personal data. For example, Google cites the gathering of credit card data from an unsafe website or advertisement in order to determine the sexual orientation or financial condition of a user as irresponsible data handling.
  • Misrepresentation: In order to prevent users from feeling misled by advertisements, advertisers are prohibited from concealing relevant information about advertised products and/or services or from concealing their own identity. Violations of the AdWords advertising guidelines would include, for example, false information about payment terms or final costs, incorrect descriptions of products and/or services, the advertising of offers not available on the destination page, or donation campaigns under false pretenses. The absence of relevant contact information or tax and licensing data is also regarded as a policy offense.

Restricted Permitted Content

In addition to unauthorized content, which invariably will lead to the rejection of an ad during the approval process, Google classifies certain other content as restricted. This includes content which is considered sensitive from a legal or cultural point of view and is allowed to be advertised with restrictions in AdWords ads. Special regulations apply to adult content, alcoholic beverages, and advertisements referring to copyrighted content, gambling, politics, or health-related products and/or services. Advertising these is restricted to certain user groups or locations, and must meet additional requirements. It is also not compatible with all ad products and functions provided by Google on the AdWords network.

  • Adult content: If an ad contains sexually suggestive content, nudity, is advertised as a sex article, dating service, international matchmaking, or advertises erotic entertainment, then the following restrictions apply: The ad must comply with the laws or regulations of the countries in which the ad campaign takes places. Addressing of minors is prohibited. Sexually explicit content (pornography) may not be advertised with Google AdWords. The same goes for sexual services such as prostitution or escort services. These restrictions do, however, permit advertising for strip clubs, adult parties, pornographic film festivals, sex articles, and erotic magazines, as well as content which is sexually suggestive but contains no explicit text, photos, audio recordings, or videos.

  • Alcoholic beverages: Advertisements for alcoholic beverages are restricted by Google using the following regulations: As a general rule, all advertising for alcoholic beverages must comply with the legal requirements and industry standards of the countries in which the ad campaign takes place. Addressing users under the legally permitted minimum age for the consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. Excessive alcohol consumption may not be portrayed positively. Drinking competitions are not allowed to be advertised with AdWords. In addition, AdWords ads are not to give the impression that alcohol has a health-promoting effect or establishes an increased status in regard to social, professional, intellectual, sexual, or athletic situations. Additionally, advertisements that show alcohol consumption at the wheel of a vehicle or while operating machinery violate the AdWords guidelines.
  • Copyrighted content: Advertising for copyrighted content is also restricted by Google. Advertisers who wish to promote copyrighted content through AdWords must provide Google with evidence that they are either the copyright owners or have appropriate authorization.
  • Gambling-related content: According to Google, an ad is related to gambling if it advertises the following content: Offline and online games of chance as well as information about them; online games in which money or prizes can be won; and casino games – regardless of the presence of money. AdWords ads which contain content of this kind must be approved by Google in advance, as well as comply with the legal requirements and industry standards of the countries in which the ad campaign takes place. In addition, the applicable licensing regulations for gaming products and services must be observed. If an ad refers to a website with gambling-related content, this information must be provided for the promotion of responsible gambling. The targeting of gambling-related advertisements to minors is prohibited.
  • Health-related content: Health-related content is understood to mean any advertisements that refer to medical products, services, procedures, equipment, or tests. Respective restrictions apply to ads that advertise pharmaceuticals, online and offline pharmacies, products and services related to fertility and pregnancy, treatments to increase sexual performance, as well as ads for the recruitment of subjects for clinical trials. Restrictions on health-related content vary by product or service, as well as the country in which the ads are to be run. Detailed information to determine permitted ad content regarding health and medicine can be found on the Google support website.
  • Political content: Advertisers who wish to use AdWords ads for political content must adhere to the legal guidelines and regulations of the countries in which the ad campaign takes place.
  • Trademarks: If a trademark is used in an AdWords ad without authorization, the trademark owner has the option to file a complaint against the advertiser. In such cases, Google manually checks for infringement and restricts the use of the trademark in ad text. If trademark owners wish to allow individual advertisers to use their trademark, they can authorize the desired AdWords accounts through the trademark usage form. For ad campaigns in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, or Ireland, protected trademarks may be used in advertisements in compliance with the reseller and informational site guidelines.

Editorial and Technical Requirements

In order to facilitate simple interaction with search engine and display advertising for users, Google has set both editorial and technical requirements for the design of AdWords ads. These requirements ensure that users are only presented with advertisements that are professional and unambiguous, and only directed to relevant content. Violations of these guidelines are understood to include any vague phrasings or sensationalistic uses of words, numbers, letters, or punctuation marks. Additionally, advertisements which do not represent the destination page are also considered violations. If the linked website turns out to be a parked domain, is not finished, is broken, or cannot be displayed in popular browsers, it is assumed that Google will reject the ad.

Following a Violation of AdWords Guidelines

If an advertisement violates one or more of the AdWords guidelines, advertisers should expect the ad to be rejected during the approval process. A rejected AdWords ad will not be released until the guideline violation has been corrected. Furthermore, violation of advertising guidelines can result in Google placing an AdWords ban on an entire domain, completely blocking it from placing any AdWords ads. If an AdWords account has committed several violations, Google reserves the right to permanently block it.