Seven days ago, I received my first-ever Google Ads account suspension.
Having done this for nearly a decade, I was surprised. I know Google’s policies. I have helped other advertisers appeal their accounts and get unsuspended. We don’t cloak or do anything shady, let alone illegal.
Then, I saw it.
Google slid a new addition at the bottom of their non-exhaustive list of examples for circumventing systems:
“Submitting false information as part of our verification programs”
Ah. That’s it.
Before I get into it, I want to be clear: Our team does not intentionally submit false information for Google Ads advertiser verification. That would be crazy. But reading this, you would think we photoshopped a certificate of existence from the state of Narnia and laminated our own driver’s licenses at Hogwarts. Submitting false information sounds egregious, because it is egregious, and if I didn’t write this, nobody would believe me when I say it’s Google’s fault.
Primitive Payment Profiles
When you create a new Google Ads account, you have two options:
- Use an existing payment profile.
- Create a new payment profile.
Choose wisely, because you can’t change this. Why, you might be wondering? I don’t know. For some reason the biggest pay per click advertising platform in the world could never be bothered enough to add the option.
If you want to change your payment profile, you’ll need to open a support ticket and have the Google Ads support team manually change it. Many advertisers find it easier to rebuild their accounts from zero.
About a year ago, I applied our advertising agency for monthly invoicing. We were just under the spend requirement but had signed up a lot of new clients. I called the bank and said we needed an increase on our credit card limit, but even so, I was still worried.
Google rejected us for invoice billing.
So what did I do?
I signed us up for more credit cards, and to more easily manage which cards could be used and in which accounts, I started setting up all new accounts with their own payment profiles.
It was great, although a bit confusing. At our agency, our clients pay us first, then we pay Google (we talk more about the details and reasons here). A side-effect of this is multiple payment profiles for the same business. The idea was first suggested to me by a Google Ads support representative, and since Google does not say having multiple payment profiles for the same company is against their policies, I figured it was a safe and smart approach.
…until we started verifying accounts.
Advertiser Verification Confusion
Advertiser verification is not (yet) a requirement for all Google Ads accounts, but we do it for all of our clients anyway. You would think this is a good thing. In theory, it should help prevent suspensions.
That’s what I thought.
Until I got a second account suspension email.
Then a third.
As I write this, we have six accounts suspended. All happened without warning. I can’t stress this enough — the worst policy violation we have experienced in the last five years of running our agency are ad disapprovals from ads being pushed too early from Google Ads Editor to landing pages on development websites that were not yet live (while the campaigns were still paused).
Here’s the problem:
Something within the Google Ads advertiser verification process changes every month. It is a dumpster fire of constant changes with no concern for past versions. Fortunately, we have several screenshare recordings of their development.
As I write this, the current workflow for advertiser verification only verifies one out of two parties: Either the advertising agency or the client. In the past — and who knows, maybe tomorrow when they change it again -—you had to verify both. So we (either me or a member of our team logged in under my account after coordinating for them to do so) verified our agency with the appropriate details and supporting documents.
Then — and this is the important part — we would attempt to verify the client. But here’s the thing: We couldn’t. When we clicked “Verify your client”, it would take us to a page where we were supposed to select the appropriate corresponding payment profile for the account, but none of the payment profiles showed their payment profile ID. We had no way of identifying which account matched up with which payment profile.
On top of that, the accompanying message said, “Verifying for your client? You’ll need to create a profile for your client or select your client’s profile, if you have access.” We couldn’t create a profile for a client; they didn’t pay for the ads, and saying they did would have legal ramifications. This was Google’s mistake — assuming advertiser verification and payment profiles should be tied together.
Since Google forces verification at random and those accounts get suspended if you don’t comply, I told Lissette on our team to try picking the first account shown with the green verified badge. She did. It worked. By Google’s judgement, they were properly verified. Why else would we receive their approval for something so official?
I was glad, because our only other choice was to watch our accounts get suspended at random with no way to fight Google’s own mistake of leaving out payment profile IDs as unique identifiers. Even now, all of our appeals are getting rejected without further explanation, just the repeated message of a circumventing systems violation, I imagine because they don’t know the reason themselves.
Here’s our internal video recording for documentation purposes of Lissette going through the process (transcript below).
So now we’re verifying the client…
So get started…
This is a work in process — in progress — in process, haha.
But here you’re just going to select the first one [with a green verified badge] that shows up.
We don’t know how to identify them, but this is just what has worked for us in the past. So just select the first one, it’s verified, and click finish.
And that’s it! You can refresh the page now…
You can close it, and refresh this one, and now you’re going to see your client is verified, woo!
Hey Google, Do Something
More and more, Google is launching products and features while they’re still only half-baked (shout out to Google Analytics 4). They made this problem, appear to have fixed it, but are pushing through and ignoring the collateral damage.
None of our accounts would have been suspended if they had approved us for monthly invoicing, and now we can’t get approved for monthly invoicing because our accounts are suspended.
I’m forced to write a blog post explaining all of this publicly and hope it gets enough attention for them to notice. I feel bad for other growing marketing agencies in the same position but with less experience.
Maybe we’re all better off spending our money elsewhere.
Update: Google Ads has updated their verification documentation with more clarity. Here are the important parts:
Under Steps to verify your identity > Verify your client [I am an agency or third party, advertising on behalf of an organization or individual] > How to complete > Client’s steps > 2. sub bullet #2, Google says:
“Regardless of if they select an existing or create a new profile, there will be no change to the billing of their Google Ads account(s) nor will they be granted access to their Google Ads account(s) if they do not already have it.”
So Google is continuing to require both agency and client verification, with the use of billing profiles to verify advertisers, even though billing is completely unrelated.
Additionally, under Steps to update your verified name > As an agency, you verified the wrong name or client, Google says:
“If you are an agency that verified the wrong name or the wrong client, you can now reset an account’s verification and verify again using the correct identity. This can only be done by a Google Ads admin. If you are a Google Ads admin, go to the ‘Advertiser verification’ page (found in the Billing icon in your Google Ads account), you will find the option to ‘Reset your verification’ where you can initiate this process. Once the account is unverified after selecting to reset the account, you must complete Advertiser verification again.”
Google recognizes they are passing accounts through verification that should not be approved. Here’s the weird thing: What they don’t say is the “Reset your verification” option only appears if you’re incorrectly verified — correctly verified accounts do not see this option. So they already know when a verified account is set up wrong and will eventually get suspended. If they already know, why grant the account verified status? Who or what is determining how long accounts can run before getting suspended?