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Understand Google's advertising policies, including ad approval status and account suspension
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Misleading Content Policy - Doctors

Explorer ✭ ☆ ☆
# 1
Explorer ✭ ☆ ☆

We have had several client websites suspended under the Misleading Content Policy. The policy can be found here:


Interestingly, the Misleading Content Policy is just a few paragraphs long, and mostly communicates the point that they don't want people to be misled by things like "miracle cures."


- None of our clients have this type of miracle cure language.

- They are Board Certified doctors with decades of experience and excellent reputations.

- Further, their websites have disclosures throughout (some pages have a disclaimer asterisk in virtually every sentence next to anything that even remotely sounds like discussion of possible results).

- Further, each before and after photo, and every video has a disclaimer directly under it.

- Lastly, anywhere we reference anything remotely specific; like the number of months Botox may last, we include a reference next to the statement, and reference the actual studies and scientific documents.


Yet, we still cannot get the websites re-approved. With one client, it's been 6 weeks. Sadly, this is all based on a policy that is just a few paragraphs long, and has no concrete examples. This leaves it very much to interpretation. Therefore, I've received very different guidance from different people, and none of the reps seem to know what the actual policy is. Here are just some things I've heard from representative:


-  Including a blanket disclaimer at the bottom is enough.

-  Including a blanket disclaimer at the bottom is NOT enough, and instead every sentence subject to the Policy should have an asterisk.

-  Including an asterisk is NOT enough, and instead every sentence that falls under the policy should have a disclaimer in parentheses at the end of it.

-  Including an asterisk next to a before and after picture and referencing it to the footer below is enough.

-  Including an asterisks is NOT enough, and every before and after image needs a disclaimer below it.


Every person I talk to seems to have a somewhat different idea of what the policy actually is.


It seems also that some of the reps have started to re-define the English language. For example, one of our clients offers a fat reduction procedure that "may damage up to 24% of fat cells at the treatment site." I was told that this is a specific claim.


I explained to the rep that "up to 24%" can mean 0.001%, 0.002%.....23.999%, 24.000%. This provides at least 25,000 possible outcomes - which is hardly a specific promise. However, to make a good faith effort, we still included a disclaimer next to this. Unfortunately, we were then told that this 24% figure constitutes a guarantee. I was somewhat baffled by how "up to 24%" is a guarantee, since the number provides for so many outcomes and there is a clear disclosure that says results are not guaranteed. Yet, for some reason, the rep still believes that it is a guarantee.


So I included a reference to an official medical study for this procedure and resubmitted the website for review - a study that fully backs up the "up to 24%" figure. Unfortunately, having an official study that was also submitted to the FDA was not enough. And the website was still not approved.


The reason, I kept going back and forth with the reps about it is because it's the theory that's important here. There is absolutely nothing in the policy that talks about this. The policy is being interpreted differently by different people and there is no consistency. So how can we take proactive steps to make sure that a site is in compliance, if there is no consistency? Further, why are be being asked to damage the informational value of client websites by removing valuable facts, if no one is truly sure whether it's necessary?


Interestingly, our clients' competitors are still running ads with NO disclosures on their sites, and blatant claims of permanent results. This lack of consistency in enforcement of the Misleading Content policy is baffling.


The most frustrating part is how long it takes to get replies and clarifications. In some cases I have waited 9+ days just to get a reply. Follow ups get ignored. At one point I reached out to our agency rep at Google and asked for help. He connected me to an Agency Account Strategist.


Unfortunately, the Account Strategist seems to know less about AdWords than I do. At one point, she said that the website was suspended due to Restricted Drug Terms. Except that the Restricted Drug Term doesn't result in site suspension, but rather limits the circumstances in which the ads are shown (of course you need a Pharma Cert first). She also said that the Pharma Certificate may have expired, except that the Pharma Certificate doesn't expire. So I had to educate her - the person who is supposed to know more than me - about these things. Yet she is supposed to be the one helping us.


This particular Agency Account Strategist has also promised to help us resolve the Policy issues multiple times, and even promised to send an example of a website that meets all policies. Except that she never did either of those things. I waited about 10 days and then had to follow up with her again.


After I resubmitted another suspended site for Policy Review via the official form, I received no response from anyone for 5 business days. I reached out to both the support team via Chat and again this Account Strategist. The latter said she would ask for help from someone she knows. When I followed up with her 3 days later, it turns out that this other person was out of the office for the week. So our client account is just sitting there, waiting for someone to come back from vacation.


I guess I just don't understand why:

1) An incredibly broad policy is applied so differently by different people, and why there is no consistency. Why does one rep say one thing and another says something completely different? This all has real world ramifications for clients - some of whom significantly depend on their ads running to support their businesses, their employee salaries and their families.

2) Why is it so difficult to get assistance with this. It takes very long times to get any responses at all. Meanwhile, this wreaks havoc on the client's business. There is absolutely no sense of urgency. Instead, I just get excuses like "this person is out of the office this week." Meanwhile, the client's entire organization is waiting on this one person to come back from vacation. I find this sort of attitude baffling.


I am wondering if anyone else has experienced this and if anyone has suggestions on what to do about it. I really just don't know what to do anymore. If the policy was clear, I'd be more than happy to do what is asked. But the Misleading Content policy is just a few paragraphs long, without detailed examples. Further, with such different guidance coming from different people, it's incredibly difficult to make sure that anything adheres to the policy.


Has anyone had any similar experiences? Can anyone suggest any course of action or a contact at Google who can help?






2 Expert replyverified_user

Misleading Content Policy - Doctors

Top Contributor
# 2
Top Contributor

Hello there;

The policy is enforced without any prejudice  / bias among all  advertsises. (And I have seen thousands  of cases). Indeed, Google does not disclose the  audit protocol used to check  the site and verify compliance. 

Please share  sites in question. We can have a look.

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
Did you find any helpful responses or answers to your query? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer’

Misleading Content Policy - Doctors

Explorer ✭ ☆ ☆
# 3
Explorer ✭ ☆ ☆

Hi Moshe,


Thank you for your time and for your response. I hope you can understand that I cannot share client URLs in an open forum with non-Google staff due to privacy reasons.


I completely agree and understand the idea of not disclosing protocols, how the pages are sampled, how often the pages are reviewed, etc. – making this information public would lead to active attempts at subversion and lead to an unsafe browsing experience for users.


However, I am specifically referencing the vastly different guidance I have received to date on how to fix the sites - on rep will consider a situation to be OK, while another will suspend the site. I'm sure you can agree that such lack of consistency makes it impossible to follow the policy - it becomes completely arbitrary, and whether the site is suspended becomes dependent on the person reviewing it, rather than an actual rule.


Thank you.


Misleading Content Policy - Doctors

Top Contributor
# 4
Top Contributor

Correct; The Reps are customer service  account performance oriented specialists. They are not Policy specialists, hence serve as  intermediates between you and the policy specialists audit the site. Communication,  when there is a "middle man" could end-up in miscommunication... Smiley Surprised  especially if the Policy team  (for various reasons) does not communicate the whole picture. (e.g. concerning about reveling signals which should be kept undisclosed etc...)

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
Did you find any helpful responses or answers to your query? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer’

Misleading Content Policy - Doctors

Top Contributor
# 5
Top Contributor

Hi Alexander,


Share your URL and I'll take a look - I have dealt with many of these.


What literally isn't a guarantee or specific claim, but can be subconsciously interpreted as such by a visitor, is the angle Google takes.


So if you say "guaranteed to work OR your money back", which is technically saying it could work or it might not... Google sees that as a promise that it definitely will work, because that is what the visitor will be thinking.


In your industry, for AdWords approval, it is best to not mention any numbers at all - percentages, time frames, weights...  Also don't use the word permanent, even if you are saying "this is not a permanent solution", because it triggers the bots.

It can be a long-winded process but there is always a way of getting your site compliant, although sometimes this means destroying copy that converts well.