Octavia DrexlerMarch 29, 2022

Google Ads has been a hot topic in the advertising industry recently. We announced that Google Ads had a delay in data-driven attribution and that Google Ads is now allowing stock photos for image extensions. This time, however, Google Ads disapproving and suspending accounts seems to be the main issue. More specifically, these accounts were allegedly violating the “government documents and official services” policy -- but as an entire Twitter thread shows, there's no actual proof of any violation on their end.

Did this happen en masse, or was there something else in the middle? 

Read on and find out more. 

What Happened With Google Ads Disapproving and Suspending Accounts?

On February 14, Twitter user @dohertyjf asked for advice regarding the disapproval and suspension of ad accounts. Apparently, two of the ad accounts he was working with were suspended for suspicious payments despite not spending anything. He tagged a Google Representative, Ginny Marvin, who is an ad liaison for answers. 

Marvin responded by saying that the issue is not on Google’s end. In fact, Marvin said that there was no bug in Google’s system that was causing accounts to be suspended or disapproved, but she provided no alternative explanation as to why these accounts - who haven’t spent anything in ad spend - are getting suspended. 

Explaining the Policy 

Google’s Government Documents and Official Services Policy is just one of the policies that Google has listed as being restricted due to the exploitation of users. Google creates a list of banned policies after considering reviews, feedback from users, consumer protection authorities, and regulators. Google feels that these policies pose an “unreasonable risk to user safety and user experience,” and has therefore banned an exhaustive list of topics from ad campaigns. 

Specifically, regarding Government Documents and Official Services, Google explains that they are prohibiting services that “facilitate the acquisition, renewal, replacement, or lookup of official documents that are available directly from a government or government delegated provider.” 

This should come as no surprise to users that have been keeping up with Facebook/Meta’s numerous scandals, one being that Facebook played a part in the January 6 insurrection. Google would naturally want to cover its bases, of course, but Google also has privacy concerns in mind too, especially when it comes to private government documents such as passports, national ID, proof of residency papers, drivers licenses, social security cards, and other documents with sensitive information. 

Google is also taking care to ban ads that promote assistance in applying for or paying for official services that the government provides, such as government benefits (SSI, disability, and food stamps, just to name a few), assistance in changing address, in changing names, and holding mail. 

There are some exceptions to this rule, but there’s a fine line between what is allowed and what isn’t. Tax preparation services have the green light to advertise, as do legal services, B2B & enterprise services, immigration lawyers, and consultations (as long as this does not result in acquiring travel documents or official services). 

Interestingly, B2C companies are not mentioned as being an exception to this rule, but they are not among the prohibited programs either. It seems this gray area might be what is causing certain ad campaigns to be disapproved and suspended. 

What Google Had to Say

In response to several questions regarding the suspension and disapprovals, Marvin offered a simple solution: advertisers should request appeals and reviews. Of course, that process takes time, sometimes even weeks, and advertisers are left in the lurch until then. 

Google is disapproving and suspending accounts for violating the Government Documents and Official Services policy, though it is unclear how B2C ad campaigns are fitting into that mold. They are not listed as prohibited, but they are not exempt like B2B campaigns either. 

And Google is being tight-lipped about the cause of this suspension - this does not bode well for advertisers who are being banned without knowing why, especially if their content doesn’t have anything to do with the government, like a majority of the B2B campaigns are. 

Regardless, Google ads disapproving and suspending accounts for no apparent (real, evidence-based) reason is not new, unfortunately -- and so, Google owes its users an explanation and a better solution than just appealing it and waiting around for their engineers to solve it. That seems like a cheap, ineffective platitude rather than an actual remedy to the problem.

Have you experienced any similar issues?

I work with the Marketing Team and a team of writers to strategize, create, and coordinate quality content for digital marketing & PPC professionals