At some point this month, Google will update its AdWords ad policy center. While the changes won’t affect the majority of advertisers, some sectors will be interesting to watch in the coming weeks. Google has been spotty in enforcing its policies on “dangerous weapons”, for example. It’s not clear if the advent of a new policy will make any difference in how these ads are policed.
The updated rules are meant to clear up misunderstandings and confusion about what can and can’t be advertised. Today, it’s easy to find current examples of ads that would seem to clearly violate existing rules without causing any confusion — “military knives” are banned under the current policy, yet ads for these products regularly appear in the search results, as I’ll get to below.
The new version offers some added explanation as well as further product restrictions to the dangerous weapons policy. However, in several cases also gives fewer explicit examples of banned products.
Let’s first look at the current and future policies on knives. Below is the policy as it appears today which includes a fairly extensive list of the types of knives that are not allowed to be advertised.
This is the new policy regarding the use of dangerous knives. It includes a description of the types of weapons uses that are but list of specific examples is shortened.
Now let’s a look at the types of ads that can be found on Google today. Military knives are, in fact, included in the list of banned products in both the current and new policies.
A basic “military knife” search yields both text and product listing ads promoting various types of military knives appear on the results for that query.
In early 2013, online retailer Knife Depot wrote about having its AdWords account suspended for advertising assisted opening knives even though the retailer repeatedly saw competitors advertising similar products on Google. At the time, Google issued the following statement to Search Engine Land, “Our AdWords policies do not allow ads for assisted opening knives. This policy applies to all AdWords customers. As soon as we become aware of ads that violate our policy, we work to remove them.”
This week, a search for “assisted opening knives” produces several product listing ads for products that would seem to violate current policy that explicitly includes “assisted opening knives” in the list of banned products. One of the advertisers is Knife Depot.
There are also additions to the list of banned products under the new policy that Google says it will enforce.
Gun scopes are allowed under the current policy, but will not be once the new one is ushered in. The new policy states the following are prohibited:
Theoretically, most of the ads in the screenshot below would not display once the new policy takes effect.
Similarly, ammunition belts are listed in the new policy. Many ads for these types of products can be found on results for “ammunition belt” related queries.
Google did not comment when asked whether these advertisers will suddenly find their ads disabled when the policy change takes effect in the coming weeks. It’s also not clear if ads that would seem to violate the current and new policy — such as the knife examples above — will be disapproved when the change is made. That said, advertisers should review the new policy and prepare for any changes that could affect their accounts when it goes live. Once that happens, we’ll see if the new policy works to clear up misunderstandings and confusion about what ads should and shouldn’t appear in the search results.
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