If you’re like many businesses, you rely on Google ads to generate business. Therefore, it can be distressing to receive an email from Google that one or more of your ads have been disapproved.
Much as it might be disheartening to have an ad disapproved, it's not that uncommon.
Every day thousands of ads are rejected by Google Ads for various reasons. In 2020 3.2 billion ads were taken down for violating the Google Ads policy.
Some were over political issues or related to COVID-19. Yet, many were disapproved for less controversial issues.
According to Google there ad "policies are designed not only to abide by laws but to ensure a safe and positive experience for our users. This means that our policies prohibit some content that we believe to be harmful to users and the overall advertising ecosystem."
Occasionally the reason for disapproval is that your industry is no longer allowed to advertise. This happened a few years ago when bail bands company were prohibited.
Some of these companies were also among the over one million accounts that Google terminated over violations.
Although that sounds like a lot its still a small minority of accounts and unless you’re in a suspect industry you don’t need to worry.
Many business owners think the worst when they receive a notice that one of their ads have been rejected.
I’ve received calls or emails from clients in a panic because they received an email about an ad being disapproved.
They're concerned that disapproved ads put their account at risk. That they’ll be banned from Google.
The simple fact is, that it can be the simplest of things to get an ad rejected.
Except in the rarest of circumstances, it has almost no effect on your account overall.
The first thing to do when receiving a notice is to not panic.
The next step is to either rectify the problem by editing the ad or contacting Google if you think the disapproval was unjustified.
Google has done a better job of alerting you to a problem with your ad even before you save the ad.
When you go to save the ad Google will immediately alert you to the fact that its in violation of some of their policies.
Most Common Reasons Your Google Ads Were Disapproved
You should understand why your ad was rejected so you can understand how to correct it. After all, if your ad isn’t running, then your prospects aren't seeing it.
Here are some reasons for Google Ads being rejected and how to fix a disapproved ad.
Site destination not working. Of all the types of rejections, this is probably the most common. That your ad was disapproved for destination not working
It could be that your site is experiencing a problem or maybe the url changed because of a site redesign.
If the url has changed, then update the ad.
Once your edit the ad it will automatically be reviewed again and should be approved almost immediately.
Another common reason is that your site is down for some reason. You might not even have been aware of this until getting the notice so the first step after pausing your campaigns is to get your site back up as quickly as you can.
Then turn your campaign back on. If your ads don't automatically start back up, then edit the ads (even if you don't change anything). Then it will go into the review process.
Destination Mismatch- This is when you have two different websites in the same ad group.
You can use different websites in your account, but you can't use more than one in an ad group.
Just to be clear you can have the ads going to different pages of your site. You can have widget.com/blue in one ad and widget.com/red in a different ad in the same ad group.
You can't have site.wideget/blue in one ad and widget.com/blue in another.
This problem usually involves when you start to use a third party landing page or change your domain name.
You might have updated your ads, but because paused ads might point to the old url, your ad could be disapproved.
If you've changed the domain, then create a new ad group and make sure all the ads point to the new site.
Your landing page is lacking needed information. Tech companies were especially hard hit a few years ago when many of their sites being banned. because their sites didn't contain certain information.
It wasn’t that they were necessarily taking advantage of people (although some were).
Instead, they were lacking things that Google required such as pricing information, mailing address, etc.
There are other industries, such as financial institutions, that also have specific requirements. You can read Google Ads policies for financial institutions here.
Malicious Software. Of the warnings you can receive about your Google Ads, this is the most serious. And the most difficult to rectify.
This warning relates to links or coding on your site. Most often it’s a link to a questionable site.
Finding the cause of the problem is often like searching for a needle in a haystack.
When I’ve been approached by clients who’ve had this problem, they had to get their tech people involved or bring in tech people to thoroughly review their site.
Even when it seems as if the problem has been resolved, you get a new message that the problem still exists.
Contacting Google about this problem is often frustrating as they often can’t pinpoint the specific problem.
The best advice I can offer here is to have your webmaster thoroughly review the code of the site and look for anything that looks suspicious. If they can’t find a solution, then bring in a specialist.
Until you can get the problem resolved, then most likely none of your ads will be running.
Words and Punctuation
Punctuation and symbols: Google is surprisingly like your old English teacher. They worry about punctuation with your ads.
An exclamation point is allowed in the copy of your ad, but not in the headlines. And only a single exclamation point can be used. Using more than that is prohibited.
Missteps with your punctuation can cause your ad to be rejected. For example, if you accidentally type in a second period your ad could be flagged.
Symbols also can't be used in ads. You can't use @home or put in bullet points.
Using trademarked names in the ad, sometimes by accident. While you can bid on most major brand names, that doesn’t mean you can use their name in your ad.
For example, I can’t put Google Ads in the text, even though I’m certified by them for their advertising platform. I can only use Ads or their older version AdWords.
Sometimes you can include a phrase in your ad that you don’t realize is even trademarked.
You might even get a warning that your ad is limited because of this. That usually means the trademark applies to other countries.
If you’re getting impressions for that ad, however, then you should be all right.
I've seen ads rejected for a common word that someone has trademarked. If that is the case submit an appeal. It might go through or you might end up having to edit it.
If you’re an affiliate for a company whose name is trademarked, you can often run ads with the company name in it, provided you get the proper paperwork from the company.
Contact Google and they’ll let you know what documentation you’ll need.
Your USING WORDS IN ALL CAPS. This is an old trick from direct marketing. To make certain words stand out by doing them all in capital letters. It's an effective approach, but Google doesn't allow it.
They prohibit the use of excessive capitalization.
If you type in the word FREE in all caps, your ad will be rejected.
Although you can't make a word all caps, you should consider capitalizing the first letter of each word in a headline and in the first description. This is a way to improve click through rate and potentially your Quality Score.
Some products can’t be advertised even by accident. Alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, and firearms are the most prominent.
Prescription drug sale. Most medications are prohibited, as well. Pharmaceutical manufacturers may promote prescription drugs in the United States and Canada. In order to do this, however, they must be certified by Google, which begins with the application process.
What can happen, however, is that some ads that are unrelated to pharmaceuticals can get disapproved.
I worked with a veterinarian clinic and often ads were initially rejected because it was something you couldn’t advertise for humans. Yet, in the context they were being used they were eligible. The ads would get ultimately approved.
If this happens and you think it’s a mistake, contact Google and ask them to review it. In every case, my ads for the pet clinic were approved once reviewed by a real person.
Unapproved Substances. This is also designed to prevent the marketing of drugs, especially unproven medications. Yet, this disapproval might not be for what is in your ad, but on your website.
If Google finds that your site relates to services they prohibit, you might not be able to market even services that aren't prohibited.
This can be a more difficult disapproval to get around unless you can edit your site to remove the offending material.
Addiction Services. This is another policy whose monitoring is understandable. They are very cautious of anything related to rehab or addiction services. In fact, only in the US are these services allowed to advertise and only when certified. Again this requires applying for certification.
Again this is a policy that can impact other businesses. Certain words like using therapy in an ad could result in ads being disapproved. This has become more common with COVID as more healthcare services are being done virtually. Most of these are allowed, but get caught up in Google's algorithm.
Ad Content Issues
You make an unsubstantiated claim in your ad. Saying it’s the best or the number 1 rated isn’t going to pass unless you have something on the page (or a link) showing data from a third party.
There are also restrictions on claims you can make to weight loss or that imply quick rich schemes. These could even get you banned eventually.
The main thing to remember is to have proof of what you’re claiming on your landing page and in a prominent location.
Taking advantage of sensitive issues. You can’t create ads that attempt to capitalize on natural disasters, wars or other tragedies. Even if you think your benefiting prospects.
I worked with a roofing company that marketed to people impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The use of the actual hurricane was prohibited.
Today you can't mention COVID-19 in your ad, or anything related to a virus.
Clickbait. This is when you incorporate words specifically designed to get you to click on your ad, such as click here.
You can use a call to action such as call today or contact us.
If your ad was rejected for this simply edit the text and resubmit the ad.
Credit and Housing Issues
This has become a bigger issue especially in the latter part of 2020 as new restrictions were placed on ads related to credit, housing, or employment.
The major change was that you could no longer exclude people because of their age, gender, marital status, and parental status. It also meant these industries could no longer target zip codes.
I had a client who wasn't aware of this change. On the date Google implemented it, all their ads stopped showing. All because they had excluded 18-year-olds from their campaign.
The irony is that even Google's staff wasn't aware of this change and despite numerous reviews they couldn't figiure out the issue. It's one of many reasons it can be frustrating to contact their support staff.
Housing Policy. It's a requirement that you accepted their housing policy. This applies to any industry related to housing such as home builders, Realtors, renters and more. In another word a lot of industries are impacted.
Credit Policy. Google is also very sensitive to ads related to credit or borrowing.
There are also going to be times when your ad disapproved inadvertently or because of technical issues at Google.
Often you can just contact Google and they'll manually review it. In a few hours, your ads should be running again. If not, then you need to review the problem more carefully.
What About Google Ads Extensions?
These same policies apply to ad extensions, as well. When you update an ad you might also have to edit or submit for appeal some of your extensions.
What About Display Ads
Many of these reasons for rejection also apply to display ads.
There is one that is unique to the display network.
Unidentified business. This one is specifically related to Google display and it’s a more subjective reason than most.
What Google is saying is that people can’t identify your business from the ad. They want your name in the ad or your logo. Yet, I’ve seen the exact same ad be approved as the one that was rejected. If rejected either edit the graphics or call and see if you can get the current one approved.
Image Quality - Images are a strategic part of a display campaign. If an image is upside down, blurry, unrecognizable, etc, the ad will be disapproved.
The difficulty with this red flag is that it can be hard to determine which images in your group is the disapproved image. You have to literally evaluate each image. If it says that its low quality, then that could be the one to delete. I've reviewed some ads where I had to delete a number of images in the hope of getting rid of the problematic image.
What About Microsoft Ad (Bing Ads) - Do They Reject Ads?
Many of these same reasons can get your ad rejected on Microsoft (formerly known as Bing), as well.
In 2016 they rejected 130 million ads, over half of which were for companies pretending to be tech support companies. It's a practice Google also doesn't allow on AdWords.
How To Appeal Disapproved Google Ads During COVID-19
I've already mentioned that the easy solution is often to edit the disapproved ad and resubmit it.
If you feel the rejection was unwarranted or that you’ve made the correction then you can appeal.
Click submit appeal while hovering over the disapproval status. After hitting submit you can begin your appeal process.
II click this even if I haven't edited the ad if I believe the ads were disapproved by accident. In most cases this results in the ad being approved after a manual review.
In some cases, you'll have to contact Google Ads to get the issue resolved.
That wasn't always easy during regular times, but during the current pandemic, it’s even more difficult. Google is working with a small crew and often they're not available.
Another way to get help with disapproved ads is to go to their help forum.
You can ask your question there and hopefully get some assistance.
A final option is to message them on Twitter.
Mistakes Happen with Google Ads That Get Through
Although Google disapproves so many ads, mistakes still happen. Often, they are flagged, but misspelled words do get into ads.
Make sure to carefully review your ads before hitting save. A poorly written ad could be just as damaging as a disapproved ad. Especially with a misspelled word.
I’ve also seen ads that were running despite the site being down. Or that go to a url that recently changed and now goes toa 404-error page. The longer your ads run under these conditions, the more money you’re losing.
Google Ads is one of the best ways to market most businesses. Don't let a rejected ad cause you to miss out on potential business. And don't lose sleep if its something minor and only impacts an ad or two.
If you’re looking for professional help with your ads, then consider hiring a Google Ads Consultant such as myself to help with your ads and provide suggestions on how to improve results.