How Me and All My Relatives Got Our Google AdSense Accounts Disabled Forever

Jan Wolter
June 3, 2003

Ads on

I started doing the programming for my solitaire website,, mostly for fun, but also with the idea that if I put ads on it, and made it a good, fun site to play on, I might make a little money off it. The obvious choice of ads was Google AdSense, which I'd used slightly before on a blog. The previous site had had virtually no traffic and never earned more than a few dollars. (Google doesn't pay out until you reach a hundred dollars.)

Putting ads on Politaire was a bit of a challenge. The ads obviously had to be on the game pages where people spend time, not on the help pages that they rarely glance at. But those game screens are 100% dynamically generated from Javascript, and their layout differs widely among the 350+ different solitaire games supported by Politaire. Furthermore, the shape and size of user's browser windows varies a lot. So I didn't always want to place the ads the same way. I'd use sidebars ads if there was room on the side, and place them along the bottom otherwise. I'd place large ads when there was room for them, or smaller ones if room was tight. Furthermore, in case screen space was scarce, I wanted to allow the users to dismiss the ad after a reasonable amount of time.

You can still see how this works on any Politaire game (for example FreeCell). The ad will initially show up on the right or bottom of the screen. After ten seconds you get a close box with which you can dismiss the ad. If you resize the window while the ad bar is still up, you'll see that the ad bar moves around and changes size, but that there is delay so that new ads don't load until after you have stopped resizing the window. (I didn't want to generate a lot of false ad loads while people were resizing.)

Implementing this was a bit tricky. The pages are completely dynamically generated, but Google's rules don't allow you to dynamically generate your own calls to their ads. You have to use them exactly as cut-pasted from their website. So I had four different static documents, one for each ad size/placement. These were loaded into FRAMEs that were dynamically created with the correct size and position. Google bans using IFRAMEs, but not FRAMEs, so this seemed legal to me.

Beyond just strictly following the rules, I think I was more than satisfying the spirit of the rules. I think I created a site that gave advertisers a far better exposure than most more traditional pages would, for the following reasons:

  1. There is only one ad per page, so the ad is not competing with others.
  2. The ad is always fully on screen, never scrolled off.
  3. Politaire users will typically be staying on each screen for a long time as they play the game, so the ad may stay on screen for a long time.
  4. Though the ad can be dismissed after 10 seconds, 10 seconds is a long time. You-tube ads are usually dismissible after 3 seconds. And a user can hardly dismiss an ad without looking at it.
The ads currently on the site aren't Google ads, but they still work exactly the same way the Google ads did when they were on the site. Take a look and see if you think that's a page that would give advertisers a good exposure and a fair shot to make their sell.

Because the integration of ads with Politaire was a complex task, I did it early. Ads started appearing, and they seemed to be appropriately relevant to the expected user base for Politaire, mostly gaming related things. So it appeared that. in spite of my frames and the fact that the pages the ads appeared on contained very little text, Google was able to sense the content of my website effectively. Pretty clever of them, really. I never clicked on any of the ads, that being against Google's rules, but I presume they opened in a new window and not in the frame or something gaddawful like that. That seems like too much of a noob mistake for Google to make.

I pointed the website out to some of my friends and to the users of another of my game websites (Web Paint by Number). I posted links on my web page and on FaceBook. In time it became possible to find via search engines, if you didn't mind looking a a ways down the search results. I started to get a very small number of users, some of whom gave me useful feed back and bug reports, some of whom I had no contact with. I continued to work on improving the site in my spare time. Google AdSense's reports started showing some money being earned, rising up slowly to the neighborhood of twenty dollars. Still not enough to induce Google to pay out any money, but more than the previous site had ever made. I didn't plan any big advertising campaigns. I just hoped that if I kept improving Politaire it would gradually build up a following. It's worked for me before.

Google Disables my Account

The first hint that something was wrong was when my partner received E-mail indicating that her AdSense account had been disabled. This was weird. The only place she had used Google Ads was on a website she was developing to share her gluten-free recipes. She had told nobody about her site, and has not posted any links to it. It had received no usage at all except when she was working on it, and she hadn't even been doing that any time recently. She submitted an appeal.

It should be noted that her recipe website and Politaire are hosted on the same server, which also hosts the pages for our his-and-her web development businesses, and, and several other low traffic domain names for other projects.

Then, a couple days later, I tried to log into my AdSense account and found that it was disabled. The message said that an email had been sent to me, and digging through my spam bin I found it. My account had actually been disabled a couple days before my partner's account was disabled. I just hadn't noticed.

Here's the email:

Subject: Google AdSense Account Disabled
Date:    05/10/2013 11:19:25 AM


With our advertising programs, we strive to create an online ecosystem that  
benefits publishers, advertisers and users. For this reason, we sometimes  
have to take action against accounts that demonstrate behavior toward users  
or advertisers that may negatively impact how the ecosystem is perceived.  
In your case, we have detected invalid activity on your site and your  
account has been disabled.

We're limited in the amount of information we can provide about your  
specific violation. We understand this can be frustrating for you, but  
we've taken these precautionary measures because intentional violators can  
use this information to circumvent our detection systems.

In some cases, publishers can make significant changes to correct the  
violation and are willing to comply with the AdSense program policies  
( For this reason, we offer an appeals process  
as an opportunity to work with you to resolve the issue. To help you with  
the process, we've created a list of the top reasons for account closure  
for you to review before submission at Please be  
sure to provide a thorough analysis in your appeal, which you can submit at
and we will follow up accordingly.

Thanks for your understanding,
The Google AdSense Team
So the first problem is obvious. They won't tell me what I did wrong. I'm required to guess and defend myself based on my guess. Under these rules it is much easier for the guilty to defend themselves than the innocent, because the guilty are more likely to know what they did wrong.

The second problem is less obvious, and, in fact, I didn't know about it until after I sent in my appeal, which, in retrospect, I did way too hastily. The bit about "working with you to resolve the issue" is a lie. You can submit an appeal. They will read the appeal and reply with a form letter that basically says "yes" or "no". After that, to the best of my understanding, there is no chance for a second appeal. The decision is final.

The third problem is also not so obvious. I've read that not only is your current AdSense account disabled, but any future ones you might take out will also be quickly disabled, even if they are for a different website and under a different name.

Furthermore, the AdSense accounts of relatives and other associates may also be disabled if your account is disabled. It's possible that my partner's AdSense account was disabled because they thought she was me or was colluding with me or something. That certainly makes more sense than disabling her account because there was something wrong with the non-existent traffic on her website, which was what the email they sent her suggested (she got exactly the same message that I did). But since neither of us knew yet that my account had been disabled, she didn't address that in her appeal, and her appeal was denied. And that was the only appeal she'll ever get.

Guessing my Crime

To guide me in guessing what I was guilty of, Google provides a list on the page their E-mail links to.

So this list of possible reasons for being shut down didn't really help me much.

I had never actually looked at Politaire's web logs before this occurred. After all, it was still under development and I wasn't that concerned with how much usage it was getting at that stage. But after this happened I did check my logs.

The first thing that was obvious about my web logs was that they weren't very useful. Not only are clicks on ads not registered there, but neither are ad views. That's because uses a technology called AppCache that encourages browsers to cache resources. That means once the browser has downloaded my ad frames, it will use them many times without checking back with my web server, so I can't tell how often they were viewed. I can tell how often the manifest file was checked, but that's not really the same thing. So I only really had incomplete data to look at.

Based on that incomplete data though, traffic on the site was unquestionably odd. There wasn't much usage yet, but about 2/3 of it seemed to be coming from a single user. Someone with an iPad, possibly in Ohio. I have no idea who. Well, cool. After all, I was trying to build an addictive, enjoyable game site, and it looked like I'd already addicted someone.

But I can see where that might look odd to Google. There isn't really much I could do to change that, except keep improving the site till more users show up.

After I wrote the appeal, it occurred to me that something else could have been happening. Some solitaire games are hard to win. A player might deal a hand, inspect it, decide it was too hard, and reload to get a new deal. So we'd have the same user loading the same page over and over again in rapid sequence. That could look weird to Google. Of course, I won't be able to see that in my log files because of the caching.

Except I don't really think many users would do that. There is a "New Game" button on the screen that deals a new hand much faster than a reloading does, and that would not load a new ad. So, though it's possible that that was the problem, it seems unlikely.

Still, there are probably a lot of odd traffic patterns on a website that is a game rather than a traditional website. Since all 350+ games on Politaire are served from the same web page, I undoubtedly have lots of users visiting that one page over and over again, for hours at a time. That's just not normal for typical web pages, and it might look weird to a dumb statistical analysis program.

And if your usage is low, so that the odd behavior of one user could substantially skew things, that too could result in odd traffic patterns.

In the end, I really have no idea what I did wrong. My appeal was rejected and I'm banned from the Google AdSense program forever, and my relatives and associates are too, and I still don't know why and probably never will.

I hope the ban doesn't extend to my clients, because that might prevent me from ever being employed as a developer by any website supported by Google ads. I don't think it does, but Google's process is not exactly what you'd call transparent, so I don't know. Just posting this message could be costing me future customers based on that uncertainty alone.

If this were a real court of law, it would be the worst kangaroo court imaginable. The average tin pot dictatorship does infinitely better. But it's not, of course. It's just some company, looking out for its stockholders (come to think of it, I'm one) and we should be glad for what little justice we are offered.

A pretty good argument against privatizing public services though, isn't it?

Somewhat Useless Advice to AdSense Publishers

What advice do I have for other people building websites with Google AdSense ads? Well, I'm not entirely sure why anyone would want my advice, since I'm obviously no darn good at dealing with Google, but here it is anyway:

  1. If you are investing a lot of time and money in building a website where you hope to make money from Google ads, it might help if you are big enough and well-lawyered enough to actually be able to get Google to talk to you.

  2. Put ads only on normal websites where you expect users to exhibit normal patterns of web browsing behavior. Anything abnormal might end up looking like fraud. The exact definition of "normal" is, however, a Google secret.

  3. Don't put ads on a website that is still under development and has not built up a large enough body of traffic to swamp out the random behavior of random individuals.

  4. If you have an active AdSense account, you should routinely, perhaps automatically, download whatever log information you can get from it, Especially data relating to what clicks you are getting from where. You should do this because your access to all evidence that could be used to figure out what you are accused of will be revoked the moment Google accuses you of anything, so you have to be proactive and collect that data before you are accused of anything.

  5. Don't AppCache pages that serve ads. This makes your logs even more useless for figuring out what Google is unhappy about than they already are.

  6. If your AdSense account is disabled, don't fall for the temptation to appeal immediately. Take days. Take weeks. Think over all possibilities. Allow time for additional information to come to you. You only get one chance, so you'd better make it good.

  7. When filing an appeal, remember that it is possible that Google disabled your account not because of the traffic on your website, but because of something that happened on a website belonging to someone else who they think is related to or associated with you. You should have all such people check the status of their accounts before you file your appeal.

  8. I suspect that it might help an appeal if you can actually show that you've done something to change the website, or it's usage. Rearrange the pages to put buttons further from ads, filter out suspect users, whatever. Maybe that will be more likely to make them believe that you are taking their unexpressed concerns seriously. It seems like it might be more likely to work than just whining about how you can't imagine what they could possibly be complaining about, even if you can't.

  9. Your appeal is submitted via a web page. No copy will be sent back to you. If you have any notions of pursuing things beyond the first appeal, then it would be smart to keep a copy for your records.


I'm not without sympathy for Google. Undoubtedly there are lots of people inventing clever ways to inflate their ad revenues with fake clicks on ads. Google obviously has to separate the sheep from the wolves, and the problem is that doing so is fundamentally impossible. There is no way to really tell a real click by an interested customer from a fake click by a bot. But impossible or not, they've had to invent some way of tagging suspicious activity. So they did, but, of course, the methods they invented are necessarily garbage. The only chance of the things kind of, sometimes working is if their exact nature is kept secret, because if it wasn't then people could readily bluff them.

So Google is probably not being evil. They have simply been driven insane by the absurdity of their business model. Paying people for clicks is nuts, and leads down a path of endlessly increasing nuttiness. Rules like the one about putting ads on my site for people to click on, but not encouraging them to click on them, are already fundamentally schizophrenic. The idiocy of their procedures for disabling accounts is simply the logical consequence of the business they are in.

Anyway, I was stuck with a website designed for ads and with no ads to put on it. There are other ad providers, but I can't believe they are any less crazy than Google, and even if they weren't it probably wouldn't be wise to put their ads on my site until I've built up some traffic.

So instead I've started putting a mixture of Amazon ads and my own ads up on my site. Amazon ads are fundamentally different from Google ads because they pay based on purchases, not clicks. The possibility of fraud is much, much less, (though not non-existant) and Amazon should therefor be much less likely to go completely wacky.

But I really don't have much expectation of earning much money through Amazon ads, certainly not enough to repay me for the work I've put into Politaire. So my plan is mostly just to advertise things I like. After all, as long as I'm not making any money, I might as well have fun doing it. And I never really like seeing other people's stupid ads on my carefully designed websites anyway.

If you have a charity or something else cool that you'd like to have advertised on, a website which admittedly doesn't have a lot of traffic at the moment, feel free to send me an email. If I like it, maybe I'll put it up.