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Google banned 3.4 billion ads, suspended 5.6 million accounts in 2021

Google banned or removed 3.4 billion ads in 2021, according to its annual ad safety report, released today. Google has also tripled the number of acc

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Google banned or removed 3.4 billion ads in 2021, according to its annual ad safety report, released today. Google has also tripled the number of account-level suspensions for advertisers in the past year.

3.4 billion ads were blocked or removed. The top three categories of bad ads were ad network abuse (652 million); adult content (287 million); and the brand (137 million). Here’s the full graph from Google:

How does 2021 compare to previous years?

Earlier this year, Microsoft reported that it removed more than 3 billion ads in 2021. This means that Google and Microsoft have combined to remove nearly 6.5 billion ads last year.

5.7 billion ads are restricted. Certain ads cannot be shown to every searcher everywhere. All of these ads fall into the legally or culturally sensitive category. In numbers:

  • Trademarks: 1.4 billion
  • Other prohibited companies: 511.4 million
  • Financial Services: 223 million
  • Healthcare and medicine: 219.3 million
  • Alcohol: 128.5 million
  • Adult content: 126.1 million
  • Gambling and games: 108.1 million
  • Legal requirements: 105.7 million
  • Copyrights: 68.6 million

5.6 million advertised accounts have been suspended. Google stated that bad actors are operating “with greater sophistication and on a larger scale, using a variety of tactics to avoid detection.”

One tricky example: the bad actors created thousands of accounts simultaneously and used techniques such as anonymization and text manipulation to show ad content to Google and systems reviewers different from what the user might see.

Publisher’s assumption. Google also banned or restricted ads from displaying on 1.7 billion publisher pages, and took broader site-wide enforcement action on nearly 63,000 publisher sites in 2021.

The three most important categories Google has taken action: sexual content, dangerous or degrading content, and the promotion and sale of weapons. Here is a diagram:

The ongoing fight against misinformation and COVID abuse. Google has blocked ads from displaying on more than 500,000 pages for violating its policies against harmful health claims related to COVID-19.

  • This included allegations about vaccines and testing, as well as price gouging of vital supplies (such as masks).
  • Google has banned more than 106 million COVID-related ads since the pandemic began.

2022 Ad removals in Ukraine. Although this report covered 2021, Google provided an update on the number of war-related ads in Ukraine that have been blocked so far in 2022: 8000000.

Why do we care. These “bad actors” are bad for researchers, advertisers, and publishers. This big picture presentation is a great (and also somewhat shocking) reminder of how many threats out there are for legitimate advertisers who want to reach their target audience. This also provides more context as to why Google is pushing hard to verify advertisers and put in place things like the Three Violations Policy.


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About the author

Danny Goodwin is Senior Editor at Search Engine Land. In addition to daily writing on SEO, PPC, and more about Search Engine Land, Goodwin also manages a roster of Search Engine Land experts in the search field. It also helps with programming for our SMX Conference Series – Search Marketing Expo. Prior to joining Search Engine Land, Goodwin served as Executive Editor at Search Engine Journal, where he led editorial initiatives for the brand. He was also an editor at Search Engine Watch. He has spoken at many major research conferences and virtual events, and his expertise is drawn from a wide range of publications and podcasts.

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