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Google internal processes: reporting

Explorer ✭ ☆ ☆
# 1
Explorer ✭ ☆ ☆

Hi all,

I want to bring to your attention my experience with reporting sites / ads that don't comply with policies. Despite the fact that Google is known to hire the best people, this system is almost non-functional.

A few facts to analyse:

I. there is no ticketing system; if a report is made, it's like sending data into a black hole. Nobody has any ideea if the report was read by someone, if the person reading it has enough data to act (sometimes the violations are subtle) or if the report had any effects after being read by somebody.

A system with this design comes with a lot of undesired side-effects:

1. lots and lots and lots of unecessary work is done by all involved parties; almost all reports are sent many times because there is zero feedback; each report on the same issue is treated as a completely new report.

2. Google's image can suffer; personally I had for a long time the impression that Google's team is corrupted because an obvious case took 11 months to be solved; what is worse is that this case was not solved over the regular channels, this case was solved in these forums.

Google should analyze this: this thing could turn in the future into a political matter. Already in the EU there are lots of discussions about some things that should be done against Google. For now, those discussion have nothing to do with Google AdWords, but this can change in the future if enough adverstisers will be burned by Google's inaction.

I am only speaking here about honest advertisers. I am not making a case here for people that break the rules.

I will provide you with 1 more statistic: I know an advertiser that broke the user safely policies for 7 years. That
is right, you read it correctly, 7 years. If anybody is interested, I can provide proof of that in another thread.

Interested parties, please note, Google's inaction on some markets is simply mind-blowing.

Google, please be transparent & open about reporting. This is truly in everybody's best interest.

3. people that create reports will never improve their understanding of the policies; if a report is not accepted
then the person that made the report will not have a chance to better understand the policies, hence next time they will create again a useless report. Again, this equals time lost for Google and also for the public that takes time to report.

Laura - @LauraAdEngineer - said in another thread that the reports are treated like this because Google is trying to protect the privacy of the advertiser that did the wrong-doings. What is the name of reason, are you trying to protect? The sites that are advertised are public, the policies are public, hence if something is not obeying the policies all the information about this is ALREADY fully open to the public. Moreover, the information inside the report will only be available to Google and the person that wrote the report.

II. max 1000 characters limit

I like to write reports that are easy to read & and are backed up by arguments. The reader might have little time to deal with the issue, hence it's best to make it as easy as possible for him to make a decision.

Since my reports are not for sites written in English, I also include translations for relevant texts and also links to Google's Translation service that can translate the texts in real-time.

To sum up, a report that I write would include:


1. an introduction into the issue;
2. the list of issues and for each issue I provide the following information:
    a. the texts that are not obeying the policies
    b. translation for the texts
    c. link to Google Translate that allows the receiver to check that the translation that I provided is real;
    d. description: what I think is wrong with the texts from the policies point of view;
    e. links to the relevant policies that are not respected;
    f. links to screen shots from the target site that are relevant to the case

Last year I wrote a report then I headed over here to submit it:

It was a shock to see that I cannot submit my report because it was too long. My report had about 6000 characters mainly because there were 4 issues that I wanted to describe & because all the links in there took a lot of space.

At that point, I really felt like Google is mocking me. If I call support they always tell me that I am right & do nothing. If I submit the report myself, I am stopped because it's too long.

From those 4 issues that I wanted to report I could barely make it fit with the first issue after cutting relevant parts.

Why is the name of reason or God, would to do such a thing? Why limit the reports to 1000 characters? Can you always properly describe a complex case (maybe from a language different that English) in 1000 characters?


III. The reporting form is not clear

The reporting form from this location:

does not make it clear that for problems related to the content of the site, the same form has to be used.

People do not know that when the content of the site is not ok, the ads are not ok. You don't need to change the form, but at least add a phrase on the top of the form:

"If you intend to report the content of a site, choose the option 'This is violating other AdWords Policies'".

IV. user friendliness

All links to very important AdWords stuff is insanely ugly. Just look at this link:

How many of you can remember that link so that you can pass it to another person?

Why not using something on the lines of:

It's a 5 minute work - it will not take me more than 5 minutes to make that work on Nginx or Apache. You have super complex clusters over clusters over clusters. For you it's 1 day job or a week. Still, do it. It will save a lot of time to a lot of people.

Since we are on this point, I will make a short parenthesis. It would help to have a page like this:

Where I can see EACH version of the policy - the latest one at the top. I should be able to see a diff between
each 2 consecutive policies. The page should look like:

Policy 33.856 [latest] (diff)
Policy 33.820 (diff)
Policy 33.000 (diff)

When you click on the "diff" link you should see an overview of the differences between the current and the previous policy.

V. Internal processes

Google's own support teams have no means whatsoever to indicate that a certain site is breaking the rules for a lot of time. There is not prioritization. A site that started to break the policies today and another one that is
breaking the policies for years are treated equally.

Google's own support team (the local support team) cannot call somebody from the policy team when their own judgement (as Google's employees) demands it. Their hands are tied.

My suggestions are as follows:

1. raise the limit for reports to 5000 characters;
2. implement a ticketing system for all reports; if you are worried that you will be flooded with tickets, you can use the local support teams as a filter; they should create the tickets when they are given enough arguments for it; when a ticket is created in this way, 3 parties should be able to contribute to it:

a. the local support team;
b. the person that initiated the report;
c. the policy team;

3. improve the user friendliness of the docs; pretier URLs (URLs made for people not machines) can help; do not limit the improvements to this; I can think to more improvements easily, but since this is not the purpose of this post, I am refraining from doing that.

4. improve intra-team collaboration; it makes sense that you want to isolate the policy team from users but it makes no sense to isolate the policy team for other AdWords teams;

5. design a system that checks for errors in the policy team; the ticketing system that I proposed above is a step in the right direction but it is not enough.

Make use cases for common scenarios: if one of more members of the policy team are less competent they would need more training. How would you spot these situations when the whole reporting process is a black whole without any form of feedback?

The whole reporting process is a shame for Google. In my view, this whole process looks like it's designed by a starup with 2 engineers. 2 bad engineers.

AdWords's reporting process is the highest threat to my online business. Please do something about it.

Best regards,
Razvan Mihaiu


1 Expert replyverified_user

Re: Google internal processes: reporting

Google Employee
# 2
Google Employee
Hi Razvan,

I've passed this along to the team that is working on improving the complaint queue and the processes around it.

If I may make a suggestion, your post came across -- to me at least -- as abrasive and somewhat arrogant. I suspect that may make readers take it less seriously than they might otherwise. I suggest toning it down a bit in the future.


Re: Google internal processes: reporting

Explorer ✭ ☆ ☆
# 3
Explorer ✭ ☆ ☆
Hi Laura,

I am apologising if I gave the wrong impression. I have no intention or reason to have a superior attitude. What you are seeing is pure frustration. I simply don't understand how can Google design a system with such obvious faults.

Before having anything to do with AdWords, I had the impression that Google is the Holy Grail is engineering. Not any more. The way you approached the reporting system for AdWords is a big disappointment.

You guys have to understand this: no matter how brilliant each of you are individually, this system will not allow you to perform more than at sub-mediocre levels.

The reasons for the isolation of the policy team are clear: there is a lot of pressure on it. And not only pressure, some people could loose a lot of money because of the enforcements done by the policy team. In this situations, some of them might even try to "gen even" with the policy team. So, yes, it makes sense to do everything in your power to protect the policy team, I would do the same thing. The only problem is that you went too far. You have cut off all communication channels and all feedback (internal or external) from any operation. This is affecting business and I am pretty sure that it also increases your costs while dramatically lowering the efficiency.

It's a loose-loose situation for everyone.

With a bit of creativity you could maintain the same very strong protection for the policy team while allowing communication when needed.

Best regards,
Razvan Mihaiu

Re: Google internal processes: reporting

Google Employee
# 4
Google Employee

Thanks, Razvzan.


For whatever it's worth, your post is getting lots of attention. A link to it was included in a weekly advertiser feedback report that gets sent to lots of people working on AdWords, from across engineering, sales, and policy. It also got forwarded around separately inside the ads quality / policy organizations.


I also found out the ops folks had already started a project to make the complaint experience better. I may end up getting volunteered as an engineering representative to that, though I wouldn't be doing any coding for it. It's too soon to know what will come out of it, but we are trying to make the process better.



Ads Review Engineering

Re: Google internal processes: reporting

[ Edited ]
Explorer ✭ ☆ ☆
# 5
Explorer ✭ ☆ ☆

Hi Laura,

These are great news. Hopefully, my message will give more credibility to the ops folks that are already looking into the shortcomings of the current system.

Now that the iron is hot and the people are reading this thread, I should provide a bit more info into the issue. I want to explain why some niches really need Google's attention all the time, while others don't.

Let's look at the "IT" and "weight loss" niches.

The IT niche (selling computer parts):

We have two competing products:

a. PC configuration 1 from company A
b. PC configuration 2 from company B

How hard is for the average person to choose between the 2 products? Well, it is hard. In order to be able to make an informed decision, a buyer would need to read a few days about the features of both products. He also needs a somewhat technical mind in order to grasp the information. If this is not possible then he needs to talk to someone that he trusts (a friend, family member) that has more knowledge on IT. Usually, finding that someone is not that hard.

Every buyer must perform these 2 operation for a successful buy:

a. select the best product(s) for him
b. make sure that what he received is what he ordered / needs

Let's rate these 2 operations for the IT niche (how hard it is to accomplish them):

Choosing the best configuration for a given user: HARD
Checking the product after it is received: medium to easy

The "Weight loss" niche:

a. natural weight loss product 1 with 11 plants;
b. natural weight loss product 2 with 15 plants;

How hard is for the average person to choose between the 2 products? Almost impossible. In order to make an informed choice, the user would need serious medical training. And not only that. He would need to understand what substances those plants contain (each plant from each product), how those substances interact with the metabolism of most people. He would also need to understand if the mix of those particular plants is really good, bad or anything in between. In other words, some actual practice in the nutrition field would be needed.

How many people can do that? Almost none.

When people choose a weight loss product, the choice is never technical / based on facts, simply because people don't have the required experience to make an informed choice. In these conditions, the buying decision is simplified at the extreme and the buyer is extremely vulnerable to what the seller is saying.

What is worst, is that it is very hard to find a knowledgeable person that could help the buyer in this niche. In the IT niche, local "IT guys" are relatively easy to find but local "weight loss guys" are quite rare.

Let's look at 3 weight loss ads:

Loose weight naturally
Loose 35kg in 2 months
No exercise or diet is required

Loose weight now
Loose 25kg each month
No exercise or diet is required

Loose weight with ease
Loose 2-7 kg each month
We recommend diet and exercise

How would people choose among the 3 solutions? Most of them will use simple math to make a decision. The most effective solution seems to be the second one while the worst seems to be the third one. The third one gives significantly less results while requiring significantly more work to be done.

Obviously, the first 2 ads are not obeying AdWords policies for user safety.

In practice, we have seen statistics such as:

1. a scammer needs 1 to 2 months to become the top dog for a niche like "weight loss";

2. two or more scammers will almost suffocate the niche; If there are 15 playes in the niche and 2 of them do not respect the policies - as in the above case- they will typically drain more than 50% of the income from that niche. All the remaining players (13 of them) that are honest and give realistic expectations to the customers will have to live from the remaining 50% of the income generated by that niche.

The IT niche (selling computer parts) is what I call a self-regulating niche where scams will be taken out with reduced interaction from Google. If somebody orders a Dell monitor and they don't receive a Dell monitor then their reaction will be very strong.

The weight loss niche is not a self-regulating niche. In fact, without Google's intervention scammers will only get stronger in time. The scammers will only get weaker when the whole niche is destroyed due to reduced consumer trust. Even when it was obvious that the promises were not kept, people are not reacting. Many people will find some blame on something that they did and others will simply not admit in public that they have used a weight loss product. The reaction the people have works for the scammer.

I hope that I managed to prove this point: we need Google to enforce the policies. Some niches really needs Google's attention all the time. And no, Google doesn't need to have staff to read all the websites all the time. Google only need to have staff to read the reports and act on them where there is sufficient ground as the honest advertisers are the first to react when in the market appears a new player with obvious false claims.

A timely answer is also critical. From our data, Google should suffer temporary financial looses when a scammer is allowed to survive in a niche for longer than 6 months. 2 scammers in a niche like weight loss will certainly drive out of business some advertisers, while some will make the decision to halt all spendings until the niche becomes regulated again. Thus, when a scammer is stopped after a lot of time, Google should notice some temporary financial losses because the honest advertisers are too weak to cover for those losses immediately.

If Google would act on reports in 1 or 2 months then most probably there would be no impact on Google's income when a scammer is stopped. The honest advertisers are still there to make up for the loss fast enough to be unnoticed.

In the end I would like to propose you something that will make a difference immediately. The Romanian AdWords market is pretty much Wild Wild West. I am offering you my reporting services for free to help you maintain a safe and healthy market. In case you want to go forward with this proposal, I can promise you 2 things:

1. I would respect to the letter the protocol that would be set
2. you will get reports that have a high accuracy

All I need is to speak with some people with real power to act when the policies are not respected.

Best regards,
Razvan Mihaiu