Brian’s Column: Google Evil Archive 2009-12-07

The “Don’t be Evil” company coughs up a fur ball

Note: This column documents a long ago experience when as a Web proprietor I interacted with the Google dynasty and its—let’s just say—”bizarre and/or arbitrarily applied” policy regarding the small fries it would do business with. Google, two weeks previous to this column, precipitously and inscrutably canceled my Google CPC[1] advertising account; there was no telling whether Google would further downgrade its valuation of my site, e.g. lowering the Coffee Coaster’s page rank—regardless of what I did or didn’t  do. So in the immortal words of Vince Majestyk, “There’s no sense getting on their good side.” I wrote this column as a warning to others at the time. And I resurrect it now, three and a half years later mostly for historical reference. Since Google has become the antithesis now of a company that doesn’t do evil.  — Brian Wright

Background and Context

For some time I have paid Google a small amount, limited to $20 a month or so, for CPC ads featuring a Coffee Coaster blurb.  The following shows my ad using a Google competitor’s (Miva) CPC ad service:

The Coffee Coaster
Wholistic-libertarian commentary–and insightful movie and book reviews–from leading freedom-movement writers and activists. The Coffee Coaster is for freedom people, peace people, reason people, eco people, Free Staters, and everyone else.
http://www.thecoffeecoaster.com

Really grabs you, eh? Well the above ad is fairly close to what I composed for the Google click-ad account. Conceptually my arrangement with Google is/was easy: I pay them a small amount, they let people know who I am and send them my way… so that I can “sell” them my ideas (via “wholistic” libertarian commentary, reviews, guest columns, human interest material, and so on).[2]

The Message Trail

Everyone seems to be going along fat, dumb, and happy, when, on November 16, 2009, I receive the following email message to my Google address:

Dear Advertiser:

We are writing to let you know that your Google AdWords account has been disabled due to one or more serious violations of our advertising policies related to Landing Page and Site Quality. As a result, your ads will no longer run through the Google AdWords system and we are unable to accept advertising from you in the future. Please note that future accounts you open will also be disabled. [!!! Talk about being damned eternally.]

As part of our commitment to making the AdWords experience safe and effective for our users and our advertisers, we routinely review the landing pages that our advertisers promote through our search and content networks. If we find that an advertiser has submitted a landing page that egregiously violates our policies, we reserve the right to take immediate account-level action.

Landing pages advertised via AdWords must have relevant, original content, and must be transparent about the nature of the business being promoted. Further, advertising certain types of sites will lead to immediate account disabling. These types of sites include, but are not limited to:

    • Sites that charge users or collect personal information in exchange for a product that is never delivered
    • Sites that charge for “free” software
    • Sites that trick users into paying for fake or poor-quality content
    • Sites that charge users for information that makes unrealistic promises of financial or personal gain
    • Sites that install malware software on a visitor’s computer

Please note that this action is related to sites that have recently been advertised through your account. In a review of your account history, we found that your account had submitted at least one site that egregiously violated our advertising policies. Although you may have removed these sites since our latest review, advertisers that have a history of promoting these types of sites are still subject to account-level disabling.

The Google AdWords Team

So there you have it. I immediately respond: “WHAAAA?!!” I literally have no idea what they’re talking about. I think the last scatological or profane reference I made was way back in 2007… and I went back and cleaned it up, in 2008. I don’t deal in porn or false sales claims or scams of any kind… and I’ve never sold stock in Goldman Sachs or pimped US government bonds.

Google Support:

Please help me with this. I’m using Google Ad Words for my site TheCoffeeCoaster.com, which is an indirect reference to http://www.brianrwright.com/Coffee_Coaster/index.htm.

I truly have no idea what you’re talking about.

I run Amazon ads, mainly, and do have a few affiliates listed on some pages. I have gradually been phasing out the affiliates. I also run AdBrite ads; are some of these Adbrite ads offending your policy? My site deals with political opinion and review. I do advocate the purchase of some of the books and movies I review, and make those works available through a linked Amazon page with my account tag. Do you disagree with some ideas I’m advocating? [All my ideas are consistent with human liberty and the nonaggression principle.]

Could you please be specific about what it is that offends your policy?

Thank you.

Then the reply from the Googlebot 10 days later:

Hello,

I’ve researched why your account was disabled, and found that this action was taken for the following reasons:

    • The URL(s) cited for a very poor-quality landing page
      experience is: thecoffeecoaster.com
    • The account was disabled because this URL is: an affiliate
      bridge page

As you know, we are committed to making the AdWords experience safe and effective for our users and our advertisers. We disabled your AdWords account after a review of your landing page quality evaluations because we believe that this kind of poor-quality site creates a seriously negative or possibly harmful user experience. [I might hurt somebody’s feelings? “So, are you my mother?”]

The decision to disable your AdWords account was not taken lightly, and we appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Google AdWords Team

I’m certainly glad they don’t take the decision lightly, but when did I say I planned to cooperate? Another letter of simple protest from moi that same day:

Hello <nameless person(s) who disabled my ad account>:

So, can you tell me what all that means? Specifically, what is an affiliate bridge page, and how can I change my thecoffeecoaster.com site to make it not an affiliate bridge page? What is it that you’re seeing that I’m not seeing that caused you to terminate our contract? Do you not like:

    • my political opinions?
    • my movie reviews?
    • my book reviews?
    • my Amazon Associates ads?
    • my Adbrite ads?
    • my business ads such as to DomainIt.com?
    • my links to political entities?
    • my so-called affiliate ads thru Esellerate.net (which I’m trying to discontinue, but you still find a few clocks and “stop smoking” books advertised)?
    • me personally?
    • my dog?

This is so bizarre I don’t think Jerry Seinfeld could have imagined it. I’m being disconnected from Google’s advertising process–by a nameless person (or is it AI[3], because if it’s AI, you need to seriously work on the core program)–because of something that I have no idea what you’re talking about.

IOW, I might play ball with you if you can tell me the ballpark we’re playing in.

And for heaven’s sake, please deal with me as adult human person… by having another adult human person continue the conversation. Email or phone. At this point I would prefer a telecon. EST.

Brian Wright
<phone #>

PS: Do you, nameless person(s) who disabled my ad account, understand the commercial concept of “good will?” Check it out when you get time, it will be in your Business 101 class notes. I am a man of good will, and my site is one of excellence and passion. Please “don’t be evil” and do something to rescue your good will account with me.

This time the nameless drone or automaton returned my message in a day. I receive the following (non)response on November 27:

Hello Brian,

We understand you want to know the definition of a bridge page. A bridge page is as follows:

    • Primary purpose of the site is to drive traffic to another
      site(s) with a different domain
    • Very little unique content or majority of content is
      duplicated on other sites
    • No significant value add for users to visit this site
    • Site profits off of sending users to another site through
      affiliate links

Your AdWords account was disabled after a careful review of its history and current landing page quality [boilerplate message that would be repeated ad nauseam with a reference to a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page, where I can go to read about the posies and leave them the heck alone.]

Google AdWords

And of course, the decision to disable “was not taken lightly”!

Thank you, <nameless human or defective AI program>:

Can you tell me how I may correct the problem? I mean, specifically, what would I have to do with my site to meet your approval? Is there a solution? I’m willing to try.

TheCoffeeCoaster.com is not a bridge page as I understand what you’re describing below. It is merely a cloak URL reference to my actual URL http://www.brianrwright.com/Coffee_Coaster/index.com. The idea behind a cloaked URL is to enable a site manager to name a subdomain something appropriate to the site.

The Coffee Coaster is my Website name for the http://www.brianrwright.com/Coffee_Coaster/index.com page and subpages. I felt a cloak address named thecoffeecoaster.com was more fitting. It’s really not a bridge in any way that you’re describing. It’s an indirect address is all.

And I take great exception to your assertion that http://www.brianrwright.com/Coffee_Coaster/index.com and its subpages is of no value. I’m doing quite well and a large number of visitors are repeat visitors. It’s an ideological site, and perhaps I’m articulating ideas or reviews of books and movies that don’t conform to your value judgments. I assure you the content of my site is uniformly excellent from any objective standard.

Please advise on what I can do, specifically, to correct the problem. Again, human contact would be nice. You are human, are you not?

Brian Wright
<phone #>

Now I believe the drone or automaton is reaching the end of its patience loop, and the bum’s rush is on. This is from November 30, 2009:

Hello Brian,

Please note that a site whose primary purpose is to drive traffic to another site(s) with a different domain is a bridge page, and we monitor such sites.

[Identical ending insipid boilerplate including: “decision not taken lightly.”]

Google AdWords

And my reply same day:

Dear Adwords Team,

Have you disabled my ad account simply because I use a reference url thecoffeecoaster.com to direct viewers to what it references, i.e. the index page of my opinion and review site: http://www.brianrwright.com/Coffee_Coaster/index.htm?

.or.

Have you disabled my ad account simply because I use a reference url thecoffeecoaster.com to direct viewers to what it references, i.e. the index page of my opinion and review site: http://www.brianrwright.com/Coffee_Coaster/index.htm .and. you do not like the content of my opinion and review site (whose index page is http://www.brianrwright.com/Coffee_Coaster/index.htm)?

Inquiring minds want to know.

bw

Then this is probably the final reply. I can see smoke billowing out from the Googlebot’s ears:

Hello Brian

I’ve researched why your account was disabled, and found that this action was taken for the following reasons:

    • The URL(s) cited for a very poor-quality landing page
      experience is: thecoffeecoaster.com
    • The account was disabled because this URL is: an affiliate
      bridge page

I am sorry, but I cannot provide further assistance in this matter. [No Christmas cards this year, either.] As you know, [… more of the usual insipid culminating boilerplate].

As you may recall, the Terms and Conditions to which you agreed when you signed up for AdWords make it clear that Google reserves the right to stop running any ads, at any time, for any reason. [Of course, this is an at will contract. But for the first time, I’m seeing they simply disabled my account on a whim or because “they don’t like me.”]

I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, and wish you well. [Yeah, right.]

Google AdWords

I doubt I’ll be hearing from them again… unless someone at Google AdWords reads this column and has friends in the CIA to properly rendition me to Zimbabwe. But for the record, this was my final appeal in early December:

Dear Nameless Entity,

I trust you are human.

If so, please go to my site and put your thinking cap on, read any of my reviews or commentaries or my guest opinions and contributions. Then call me by telephone, you know, that device a person may use to talk to another person. I challenge you to categorize my site as a “low-quality landing experience.” Just because you may not agree with my opinions or reviews does not make my opinions or reviews unworthy.

Is there any way we can have a telephone conversation? I feel this impersonal severance of my perfectly good and decent business is not only unjustified, it’s bad business. You are killing any good will I have toward Google. Further, by my ability to write and describe such antihuman behavior, thousands and eventually millions of other humans may come to a feeling of ill will toward Google as well. Why would you want to shoot yourself in the foot?

From what I can discern you or your computers are maligning me and my ideas for no reason whatsoever. Your actions are either totally arbitrary, or intentionally hostile to individuals who advocate reason and individual liberty on the Web. And I’m going to make that known… though I’m hereby giving you one more chance to renew my ad accounts or let me know specifically what I can do to satisfy you that my site is legitimate and a “positive landing experience” for thousands of human persons.

Thanks; I know you want to do the right thing, especially if you are human.

Brian Wright
<phone #>

PS: I still don’t know what an “affiliate” bridge page is. What is the difference between a bridge page and an “affiliate” bridge page?

I seriously doubt there was any human being in the loop on any of these email messages from Google. Humans aren’t that stupid or willfully self-damaging. [Well, okay, yes, humans are, but usually not while they’re at work for a multibillion dollar corporation.] A moment’s review of my site would tell a normal human—geek or nongeek—that the Coffee Coaster is a legitimate human site that serves a spirited clientele. You can find Google ads on political sites that are far more non-PC than mine.

Lessons Learned

This column page on Google as Big Mother I’ll keep open and updated as time goes by. Perhaps some real person from Google will eventually consent to discuss reality with me. I shall be polite, as usual. That’s the most irritating thing: to hear they don’t want to do business with me (that presumably I’m up to some unsavory practice involving click farms, illegal gambling, and pictures of Walter Brennan naked… whatever) and they won’t even talk to me.

If you surf the Web, several pages are found portraying Google as Big Brother. I say “Big Mother” is more like it, because of the apparent matriarchal tyranny of bureaucratic correctness they would impose “for the sake of a positive user experience of my site.” Images of a fat-woman commissar holding life or death power over fawning, clamoring peons in the Soviet Union come to mind. Who died and made the bitch queen? And for gosh sakes, at least have some technical understanding of what you’re doing. You’re geeks, after all. Have some Googlenator[4] pride!

It’s the latter that has me worried about Big G’s future. Like MicroGeek, it’s gotten so big it can’t distinguish between trees and foliage. Is there an intelligence barrier that cannot be penetrated beyond a certain organizational size? And once it runs into that barrier, does the force of repulsion cause it to go into an irretrievable tailspin? This behavior by the Giant Geek Fantasyland (that certainly does play ball with the CIA and the national security Death Star) from Mountainview (CA) is utterly incomprehensible and self-destructive…

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

So, let’s all take up the campaign to save Google. Write letters to chairman Eric Schmidt. Because when it comes to being on the train of consciousness to the next stage of human evolution, the Google bureaucracy has all appearances—in my little nanocosm of the world, anyway—of being sidetracked.

Note: I totally realize that this column has a quaintness to it because Google has moved toward working as a leading force in the Hive—party central committee for the Men of the Power Sickness. Ref. infowars.com: esp. its June 2013 newsletter, with column “The Crimes of Google.”  In other words it’s graduated from being just the neighborhood thief and bully to becoming a world class gangster in its own right.


[1] CPC stands for cost-per-click. “Click ads” are short blurbs, usually posted in an advertising panel of a site’s page(s), which when clicked take the viewer of the page to another page that’s selling something. In my case, I had a contract with Google to post a small number of Coffee Coaster blurbs out on compatible Websites. A typical CPC ad contract also pays the poster of the ad (in this case Google) a small fee for displaying the ad in listings returned by the browser on a browser search for certain keywords. For example, I might pay a few pennies for a click and display (at a given rank) of my Coffee Coaster blurb for the keyword, “freedom”. [But it’s complicated, and my understanding of the full process is rudimentary to say the least. A ton of info on CPC exists out here on the Web.]

[2] Note that in addition to being an advertiser through these click ads, the Coffee Coaster is also what is known as a publisher for click ads purchased by other sites to post on my site. Further, I am an associate or affiliate with Amazon.com, who pays me a small percentage of purchases that originate from traffic to my site. [So if you click on a book or movie link, typically, that click takes you to an Amazon.com page with my Coffee Coaster tag on it, and I get a small percentage of what you buy from Amazon during the session.]

[3] AI = artificial intelligence. There’s a fair chance I’m not truly interacting with a human being at all, rather a computer program.

[4] “Googlenator” is a term formulated by my good friend Don McCredie, also, literally, prime mover of the article I wrote on the famous Woodward Cruise (2009). He tells me all rights have been properly filed and claimed along with my obligation to buy him a beer tonight.


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