It’s not uncommon to hear about an over-dependence on Google costing people big money. There have been plenty of tales of businesses losing all their search visibility after Google algorithm changes. In some cases, people have lost their jobs. In even worse cases, businesses have had to fold or completely change course.
Sometimes people get burned by Google in other ways. Sometimes it’s their own fault, but it’s not always black and white. One guy just lost nearly $50,000 after Google decided his site didn’t comply with its AdSense rules, though the company had recently praised the job he was doing.
Do you think Google sends mixed messages about its guidelines? Let us know in the comments.
Jim Edwards at Business Insider tells the story of Idris Sami, a 19-year-old entrepreneur, who runs a site called MesTextos, which offers a messaging service for French speakers. His site was doing so well, the story goes, that by December, Sami’s Google account hit $46,000 because so many people were clicking on the AdSense ads that appeared on the site. Then, Google canceled his account, and returned all of that money to advertisers. Sami is now banned from Google ad services.
In an email Google sent to Sami, Google says MesTextos was incentivizing or forcing people to click on ads to use the site, which is against the rules; Sami denies that. He says two different Google sales staff praised his revenue-generating efforts and, in separate emails, offered to help optimize his site to improve its performance. He says he wasn’t warned there was something wrong with his site until it was too late.
The report includes screenshots of the emails, which are in French. It also has a generic statement from a Google spokesperson, who wouldn’t comment on this particular case:
… we always send a note to the publisher explaining which policy was in question and, in many cases, give them a chance to make changes to their pages to keep the account in good standing. Publishers are also given an opportunity to appeal policy decisions.
According to the report, the ban came less than two weeks after Google sent Sami an email offering to help him boost his revenues. He claims to have spoken with the company, and that they told him “everything was good.” He also claims to have “begged and pleaded with Google,” but is unable to figure out what Google thinks is wrong with the site.
And that could be the real problem here. If Google is going to take away nearly fifty grand from someone because they were in violation of some rule, shouldn’t that person at least have an understanding of what they actually did wrong? That’s a lot of money.
Weirdly, the BI report says Sami’s site has an ad that requires a click before you can use it, which it says was what Google said was wrong with the site, but that Sami claims not to have even put such an ad there until after Google cut him off and he lost revenue.
Whether or not Sami was in the wrong, Google seems to have been sending a mixed message, as it has been known to do about certain things. The company allegedly told him everything was good, and then banned him, and took away a huge sum of money a couple weeks later, and he doesn’t even know why (again, allegedly).
Google likes to say that it’s transparent about things, and it is about some things, but recently, it seems to be getting less transparent about others. At best, Google’s reputation for transparency is a controversial one.
Sami’s story also comes a few months after Google was making headlines for alleged business practices related to AdSense. As you may recall, someone claiming to be a former Google employee posted two very detailed explanations about how Google was stealing money from publishers by banning their accounts just ahead of payouts. The claims have been mostly written off as conspiracy theory in the press – Edwards even mentions it in his report, saying the theory has “giant hole” in that Google makes money only when it delivers ads, so banning successful sites would make it “poorer”. Still, a lot of people on the Internet spoke out after those claims, suggesting they seemed to jibe completely with their own experiences.
Later, a class action suit was filed against Google making similar claims, but without relying on the allegations from the alleged former Googler. That person, however, said they had plenty of evidence to provide should they be called upon to do so.
Look, people have been accusing Google of all kinds of shady stuff for years, and much of it goes unproven or even disproven. Other times, the government intervenes, and Google pays penalties.
In the case of Sami, we just don’t know all the facts about what happened, and it’s just one man’s version of the story. Google could be a little more “transparent’ and comment on the situation. They could at the very least make clear why this guy lost so much money. If he’s made it a public case, why not come out and comment directly on it? If it’s because he messed up (which it may very well be), just explain.
Do you think this guy has a legitimate beef with Google? Is Google transparent enough when it comes to banning accounts? Let us know what you think.
Image via Google