Are Google Advertising Policies Becoming Too Strict?

As the world’s largest and most widely used search engine, Google wields immense influence over the digital advertising landscape. The policies and guidelines set forth by the tech giant have far-reaching implications for businesses of all sizes that rely on Google Ads to reach their target audiences. Recently, however, some have argued that Google’s advertising has become excessively strict, leaving advertisers and digital marketers frustrated. In this article, we outline some of the major policy updates that Google has implemented over the years and explore potentially why these changes have led to such frustration.


A History of Google’s Advertising Policy Updates

Google’s advertising policies are in a constant state of evolution as the tech giant works to create a safer and more trustworthy advertising ecosystem. Starting with updates within the last year, we’ve seen some major policy shifts that advertisers need to be aware of.


August 2023 Update: Ad Quality in the Spotlight

In August 2023, Google announced an upcoming policy update focused on ad quality and user experience. Taking effect in November 2023, this change was intended to limit ad impressions in scenarios that have a high potential for abuse or negative user experience. Only qualified advertisers are exempt from these new limitations. This could impact situations where the advertiser’s relationship to the brand is unclear, or where generic, unbranded ads are used.


June 2023 Update: Cracking Down on Discriminatory Targeting

In June 2023, Google implemented an update aimed at preventing discrimination in employment, housing and credit advertising. This prohibited advertisers in those sectors from targeting users based on sensitive demographics like gender, age, and marital status. The change stemmed from a settlement between Google and fair housing and civil liberty organizations.


2022: The Expansion of Advertiser Identity Verification

In June 2022, Google announced a significant update to its advertiser identity verification process. This move aimed to enhance transparency and accountability within the advertising ecosystem. Under the new policy, advertisers were required to provide additional information about their business, such as legal documentation and contact details. The policy update affected all advertisers, regardless of their industry or advertising budget.

The primary motivation behind this update was to combat ad fraud and ensure that advertisers are legitimate entities. Google sought to create a safer and more trustworthy advertising environment for both businesses and consumers. The verification process helped Google better identify and remove bad actors from its platform, ultimately improving the overall user experience.

For advertisers, this policy update meant an additional layer of scrutiny and due diligence. They were required to provide accurate and up-to-date information about their businesses to maintain their Google Ads accounts in good standing. Failure to comply with the verification process could result in account suspensions or the inability to run ads on Google’s platform.


2021: Restricting Ads for Certain Financial Products

In October 2021, Google announced a significant update to its financial products and services policy. The update aimed to protect consumers from deceptive or harmful financial products and services.

Under the new policy, Google prohibited the promotion of certain high-risk financial products, such as contracts for difference (CFDs), cryptocurrencies, and certain types of lending products. The policy also imposed stricter requirements for advertisers in the financial services industry, including additional verification and compliance measures.

This policy update had a substantial impact on advertisers operating in the financial sector. Many were forced to reevaluate their product offerings and advertising strategies to ensure compliance with Google’s guidelines. Some advertisers had to adjust their target audiences or modify their messaging to avoid promoting restricted products or services.

The financial products and services policy update underscored Google’s commitment to creating a safer and more transparent advertising environment, particularly in industries that have been historically prone to misleading or deceptive practices.


2020: COVID-19 and the Rise of Sensitive Event Policies

The COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for businesses and advertisers alike. In response, Google implemented a series of policy updates to address the rapidly evolving situation and protect users from harmful or exploitative content related to the pandemic.

One of the most significant updates was the introduction of Google’s sensitive event policies. These policies aimed to prevent the spread of misinformation, price gouging, and other harmful practices related to sensitive events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the sensitive event policies, Google restricted the promotion of certain products and services that could be considered exploitative or misleading in the context of the pandemic. This included prohibiting ads for products that claimed to cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19, as well as ads for COVID-19-related products or services that made exaggerated claims or engaged in price gouging.

Additionally, Google implemented stricter enforcement measures for advertisers who violated these policies, including account suspensions and potential legal action.

The sensitive event policies had a significant impact on advertisers across various industries, particularly those operating in the healthcare, e-commerce, and travel sectors. Advertisers were forced to carefully review their ad content and product offerings to ensure compliance with Google’s guidelines.

While these policies were initially implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have since been expanded to address other sensitive events, such as natural disasters, political unrest, and global conflicts.


2018: The GDPR and Enhanced User Data Privacy

In May 2018, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect, ushering in a new era of enhanced user data privacy and protection. Google responded by implementing a series of policy updates to ensure compliance with the GDPR and to align with the broader trend toward greater user privacy and control over personal data.

One of the key policy updates was the requirement for advertisers to obtain explicit user consent before collecting and processing personal data for targeted advertising purposes. This meant that advertisers had to provide clear and transparent information about their data collection and usage practices and obtain affirmative consent from users before serving them targeted ads based on their personal data.

Google also introduced new controls and settings for users to manage their advertising preferences and data sharing options. This included options to opt-out of interest-based advertising and to control the types of ads they see based on their online activities.

For advertisers, the GDPR and Google’s subsequent policy updates had a significant impact on their data collection and targeting practices. They were required to implement robust consent management systems and ensure that their data processing activities were transparent, lawful, and respected user privacy choices.

Additionally, advertisers had to carefully review their data handling practices and ensure that they were compliant with the GDPR’s strict requirements around data minimization, purpose limitation, and data retention periods.


2017: The Fight Against Fake News and Misinformation

In the wake of increasing concerns about the spread of fake news and misinformation online, Google implemented a series of policy updates aimed at combating these issues and promoting transparency in digital advertising.

One of the key updates was the introduction of stricter policies around misrepresentative content and the promotion of false or misleading information. Google prohibited ads that contained or promoted misleading or deceptive claims, as well as ads that sought to intentionally spread misinformation or fake news.

Additionally, Google implemented new measures to enhance transparency around political advertising. This included requiring advertisers to verify their identities and locations for political ads, as well as providing users with more information about the entities behind these ads.

These policy updates had a significant impact on advertisers across various industries, as they were required to ensure that their ad content and messaging were accurate, truthful, and free from misleading or deceptive claims. Advertisers operating in politically sensitive or controversial areas faced additional scrutiny and verification requirements.


2016: The Crackdown on Intrusive Advertising Experiences

In 2016, Google launched a major initiative to combat intrusive and disruptive advertising experiences that negatively impacted user experience. The company introduced a set of policies known as the “Better Ads Standards,” which aimed to identify and penalize websites that displayed particularly disruptive or annoying ad formats.

Under the Better Ads Standards, Google identified several ad formats that were deemed intrusive, including pop-up ads, auto-playing video ads with sound, and prestitial ads (ads displayed before the user can access the content they requested). The company began to penalize websites that displayed these ad formats by lowering their search rankings and potentially blocking their ads from being served on Google’s platforms.

For advertisers, this policy update represented a significant shift toward prioritizing user experience and creating a more seamless and non-disruptive advertising environment. Advertisers were required to review their ad formats and placements to ensure compliance with the Better Ads Standards, potentially necessitating changes to their ad creative and delivery strategies.

The crackdown on intrusive advertising experiences also highlighted the importance of creating engaging and relevant ad experiences that added value to users, rather than disrupting or frustrating them.


2014: The Rise of Explicit Family Status Policies

In 2014, Google introduced new policies around the promotion of products and services related to parenting and family status. These policies aimed to combat discrimination and promote inclusivity in advertising.


How Are These Policy Updates Affecting Advertisers? 

Google introduces multiple policy updates per year that affect advertisers who utilize this platform to varying degrees. Recently it seems Google has not only tightened its policies, but also increased its efforts to enforce these policies with automation. 

In the health sector, Google has begun restricting advertisers from promoting certain health-related products and services. Advertisers have resorted to reaching out to communities such as Google Ads Help, Quora, and even Reddit. Some, it seems, have found workarounds to these advertising restrictions in the health sector. This article by ClarityQuest identifies some of these workarounds, but also admits that Google’s enforcement of these policies is a bit overreaching. It states, “Even if you don’t think your medical device or pharmaceutical product fits the descriptions in this list, Google likely doesn’t see it the same way. Google reserves the right to disapprove any of your ads and landing pages if it deems your content falls into the overall ‘health’ category, and from my experience, they cast a pretty wide net over ‘health’.”

Google has been cracking down recently on religious advertisers as well. This article from Carnegie Higher Education highlights some of the challenges religious schools have experienced recently when advertising on Google, stating that “Once an advertiser is deemed non-compliant with Google’s religious policy, they are no longer able to target any non-Google audiences”. 

Although it’s understandable that Google wants to prohibit any hateful speech related to religious beliefs, some have identified that Google’s enforcement of these policies is confusing. This advertiser, for example, says that he or she was restricted for violating this policy after using the word “Christmas”. Another user commented, “These things are triggered by automated AI systems with opaque algorithms and a dodgy track record of accuracy. You have to appeal.” The advertiser then went on to explain that the appeal process was unsuccessful. 


What Can Advertisers Do to Combat Google Ads Policy Issues? 

Although Google set up an appeal system to allow advertisers to refute policy violations, many have experienced repeated denials of their appeals like the advertiser mentioned above.

As a last resort, Google also has support teams available via phone, email and chat messages. However, many have addressed concerns over Google Ads support, or lack thereof. In fact, earlier this year, SearchEngineLand said that “Google Ads support is at an all-time low”. In the article, SearchEngineLand shares feedback they’ve received from some business owners and marketing executives they interviewed about this issue. One Chief Marketing Officer said “I’ve called in over a dozen times – they tell me someone will call back, but they never do. They don’t respond to emails either. The whole process has been brutal.”


What Can Advertisers Do If They Can’t Get Support? 

Although the introduction of these policies is a testament to Google’s commitment to creating an inclusive and non-discriminatory advertising environment, it may be at the cost of potentially losing advertisers over time due to these restrictions and increased enforcement. 

With the introduction of other advertising platforms over the years, some of these advertisers and marketing professionals have shifted their focus away from Google. However, Google still remains the main powerhouse in advertising, and only time will tell how these policies will influence advertisers and marketing professionals. 

In the meantime, advertisers must stay informed, and checking the Google Ads Help Center at is one of the best ways to get the latest information directly from Google on policy changes that could impact your ad campaigns. Keeping a close eye on policy announcements and making necessary adjustments will be key for advertisers looking to navigate this ever-shifting landscape successfully.



How often does Google update its advertising policies? Google regularly updates its advertising policies to address emerging trends, technological advancements, and evolving user expectations. While there is no set schedule for policy updates, Google typically introduces new policies or revisions as needed to maintain a safe and trustworthy advertising ecosystem.


What happens if an advertiser violates Google’s policies? If an advertiser violates Google’s advertising policies, they may face a range of consequences, including account suspensions, ad disapprovals, or even permanent account termination. The severity of the consequence depends on the nature and extent of the policy violation. In some cases, advertisers may be given the opportunity to rectify the issue and bring their campaigns into compliance.


Can advertisers appeal policy decisions? Yes, Google provides an appeal process for advertisers who believe that their ads or accounts have been suspended or disapproved due to a policy violation. Advertisers can submit an appeal through their Google Ads account, providing additional information or clarification to support their case.

How does Google enforce its policies? Google employs a combination of automated systems and human reviewers to monitor and enforce its advertising policies. Automated systems can detect and flag potential policy violations, while human reviewers manually assess and make final determinations on more complex or nuanced cases.

Are there different policies for different advertising platforms or regions? Yes, Google’s advertising policies can vary depending on the specific advertising platform (e.g., Google Ads, YouTube, Google Display Network) and the geographic region. Advertisers should familiarize themselves with the relevant policies for their target platforms and regions to ensure compliance.

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