I had my Google Adsense account banned. As you can see below, it is completely unclear why I might have been banned… was it related to my two previous hacks? was it a bored Chinese hacker clicking all my links? was it the Russian Business Network testing their click fraud ring on my site? was it that I had unusual traffic or unusual content or unusual amounts of clicks? I think it is because I randomly blogged about mesothelioma then had a day where I made $11 from ads (beating my previous best day by $11). The email titled ”Google AdSense Account Disabled” only had this to say:

This message was sent from a notification-only email address that does not accept incoming email. Please do not reply to this message. --------------------------------------------------------------- Hello, After reviewing our records, we've determined that your AdSense account poses a risk of generating invalid activity. Because we have a responsibility to protect our AdWords advertisers from inflated costs due to invalid activity, we've found it necessary to disable your AdSense account. Your outstanding balance and Google's share of the revenue will both be fully refunded back to the affected advertisers. Please understand that we need to take such steps to maintain the effectiveness of Google's advertising system, particularly the advertiser-publisher relationship. We understand the inconvenience that this may cause you, and we thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation. If you have any questions or concerns about the actions we've taken, how you can appeal this decision, or invalid activity in general, you can find more information by visiting http://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153. Sincerely, The Google AdSense Team

I appealed the decision thinking (1) it is worth a shot, (2) I’m a small fish, and (3) the terms of service state that clicking your own ads yields invalid clicks, which led me to believe clicks from the owners account were filtered. Apparently, instead of filtering your clicks, they ban you.

Here’s the automated message from my appeal.

Hello, Thank you for your appeal. We appreciate the additional information you've provided, as well as your continued interest in the AdSense program. However, after thoroughly re-reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into consideration, our specialists have confirmed that we're unable to reinstate your AdSense account. As a reminder, if you have any questions or concerns about your account, the actions we've taken, or invalid activity in general, you can find more information by visiting http://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153.

I’m left wondering “What if you see an interesting ad on your own page?” “How motivated is Google to find click fraud when ads account for almost all of their revenue?” “What percentage of the population is Google willing to ban?” Along those lines, Google Will Eat Itself (http://gwei.org/index.php) is a performance art group that has a click fraud ring going. The proceeds of this duplicitous venture are being plowed into Google stock. In a mere 200,000 years the group can own all of Google.

This was a painful lesson to learn. I messed up. In my opinion, the terms of service should be more clear and Google should either speak bluntly about black hat and bannable offenses, or not assume that offenders are black hatters worthy of a ban. Also, the minimalistic feature robot that is Google should offer more explanation for why accounts were banned and at least give the impression that a human is involved in the process–it is hard to bond with a cold, automated company.

In defense of Google, they offer a great, easy-to-use service with competitive payouts. (It is shocking that no other advertising company has caught on.) I do wish they were more lenient on first offenses from nobodies. Live and learn!