Google’s 3 Strikes: How to Keep Your Ads Safe

August 19, 2021

Rolling out quality ads is like going up to bat in a baseball game.

Let’s pretend campaigns are innings, ads are your players, and you, the analogy-loving professional, are the head coach.

No matter the play, your job is all about making the right calls that will help your ads hit every targeted base before running out of time.

And now, just like in baseball, your ads’ time on the field can be cut short by 3 strikes.

Prepare for a brand-new update (and lots of baseball references). Read on to learn more about Google Ads’ new 3-strikes policy and how you can keep your ads from getting called out.

   

Striking Out: What Is the 3-Strikes Update?

According to a recent announcement, Google Ads will begin piloting what they call their “[3]-strikes system” in September 2021.

The 3 strikes they’re referring to are a series of triggers and penalties that limit the activity of an ad account that violates, coincidentally, 3 ad policies: 

  1. Enabling Dishonest Behavior, which bans ads promoting products or services that mislead others, secretly track users, or manipulate users to gain unauthorized access to their private systems, devices, or property
  2. Unapproved Substances Policy, which bans ads promoting illegal or questionable pharmaceuticals and supplements
  3. Dangerous Products or Services, which bans ads promoting products or services that cause damage, harm, or injury, including explosives, specific weapons, drugs, and tobacco

Failing to comply with any of these 3 policies won’t just get your ads benched—it could get your whole Google Ads account suspended, too.

 

Rules of the Game: How Will the 3-Strikes System Work?

Now that we know 3 strikes are at stake, it’s time to learn the new rules of their ad game.

As we mentioned before, the basic components of the 3-strikes system are triggers, which are negative behaviors that pair with a certain strike, and penalties, which are consequences that correspond to specific negative behaviors.

Like in baseball, strikes are successive. An Ads account can’t get a 3rd strike without getting a 1st and 2nd strike beforehand.

However, an account’s first instance of violating an ad policy won’t receive a strike—it’ll get a warning instead. These warnings are somewhat similar to an umpire’s warning: key players get removed (i.e. your ads) but no additional strikes are given.

Want more info? Read the following scoreboard to see what each warning and strike can and will do to at-fault accounts:

  

Type

Trigger

Penalty

Warning

When ad content violates Google’s Enabling Dishonest Behavior, Unapproved Substances, or Dangerous Products or Services policies for the first time

There’s no outright penalty apart from removal of at-fault ads

First strike

When a violation of the same policy occurs within 90 days of receiving the initial warning

Penalties include the removal of at-fault ads and subjecting an ad account to a 3-day temporary hold, which will stop all ads from running during that period

Submitting an acknowledgement form is required to get ads running again

Second strike

When another violation of the same policy occurs within 90 days of receiving the first strike

Penalties include the removal of at-fault ads and subjecting an ad account to a 7-day temporary hold, which will stop all ads from running during that period

Submitting an acknowledgement form is required to get ads running again

Third strike

When still another violation of the same policy occurs within 90 days of receiving the second strike

Final penalty resulting in the removal of at-fault ads and total ad account suspension for repeatedly violating a specific ad policy

 

It’s important to note here that strikes occur because of repeat violations, not cumulative ones. If you already have your 1st strike after violating one policy, you won’t get a 2nd strike if you violate a different one.

The bottom line? 3 single-policy strikes and your ad account is out.

 

Playing It Safe: How to Keep Ads Running

Holding advertisers even more accountable for their ad content is what the 3-strikes system is all about.

That’s not all: should its test-run go well, Google’s game plan is to eventually apply strikes to other, if not all, of their advertising policies (there are 26 total).

More hardball policies in the system means more chances of ads striking out in the future. So what can an ad expert like you do to keep them safe?

Remember the following 3 tips before (and after) putting your ads up to bat:

  1. Read Up: If you’re not familiar with all of Google’s ad policies, cover your bases now. By clicking and reading through their do’s and don’ts of ad content, you’ll be able to avoid sending ads into the many possible strike zones.
  2. Keep Up: You should check in not only with resources like Google Ads Help (or the PSM blog) to keep up with strike updates, but also with your ad content. Vetting ads at every possible stage pre-rollout will help you catch any strike-worthy snafus before they happen.
  3. Speak Up: In the instance that your ads get a strike by mistake, make sure you touch base with Google pronto. They still allow you to appeal policy decisions if you feel an ad’s been penalized in error. Appeal responses take a few days at most, so the sooner you communicate, the better for your ad account.

Getting your ads home safe after a campaign means making sure they know how to run safely first.

The least you need to do? Step up to the plate with them before they take a hit.

 

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Want more Google advertising expertise? We’re not Premier Partners for nothing. Check out our previous posts on product taxonomy and ad competition. To learn how our ad team can knock your next campaign out of the park, request an audit.

Copywriter
Sarah Kincius is a Naperville resident and student at Loyola University Chicago. She loves going to the Green Mill to read whatever's etched on the bathroom stalls (and to listen to the music, of course). Sarah is currently teaching herself Italian from a book she found in Wisconsin.

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