Google, the dominant player in online advertising, is more aggressive than ever against ads that violate its policies.
In an exclusive interview with Search Engine Journal, Alejandro Borgia, Google’s Director of Product Management for Ads Safety, offers insights into the company’s evolving strategies.
Over the course of the interview, we delve into the following topics:
- How Google is constantly evolving its strategies to combat abuse trends.
- The role of Google’s sensitive events policy in preventing the misuse of tragic events for profit.
- How Google’s handling of serious policy violations led to the suspension of 6.7 million ad accounts last year.
- Recently updated guidelines for a safer ecosystem.
- Introducing the Ads Transparency Center.
- The future of ad safety at Google.
Join us as we shed light on these crucial areas and give you a glimpse of Google’s efforts to maintain a safe and reliable advertising platform.
Increasing violations of advertising guidelines
With over 5.2 billion ads blocked or removed for policy violations in the past year, Google’s enforcement has become significantly stricter.
“Bad actors are constantly changing their techniques and strategies. Every year we see new and different abuse trends,” Borgia explained.
To counter these trends, Google is taking a vigilant approach, evolving policies and investing in enforcement mechanisms.
“Sometimes a whole new type of abuse emerges in the ecosystem that we don’t have insurance coverage for. So we create guidelines,” Borgia explained.
Responding to changing global circumstances is another important part of Google’s ad safety strategy.
Notable events such as the outbreak of COVID-19 or the war in Ukraine trigger the development of new policies to adapt to these unforeseen circumstances.
“Fighting policy violations is a relentless endeavor. We cannot become complacent because these bad actors are creative and always trying to find a loophole.”
Policy on sensitive events and their challenges
Google’s sensitive events policy is vital to prevent the exploitation of tragic events for profit.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that our platform is not misused to exploit real-life tragedies. We will not allow our platform to be abused, especially when people are suffering.”
The recent war in Ukraine showed some policy effectiveness: Google blocked over 17 million ads related to the conflict.
“The sensitive events policy is actually designed to prevent ads that aim to exploit or profit from a tragic event,” Borgia explained.
As the war escalated, Google quickly adjusted its policies and tightened enforcement measures to block ads designed to take advantage of the situation.
Borgia highlighted Google’s multifaceted response to the crisis:
“We have paused all Google ads for real estate in Russia. We’ve also paused all ads from advertisers in Russia for all properties worldwide. And we stopped Google’s monetization of Russian state-funded media.”
Addressing serious policy violations
Google reportedly suspended more than 6.7 million ad accounts for serious policy violations last year.
Borgia clarified that these bans target malicious actors who intentionally cause harm.
He said, “When advertisers are deliberately working to harm users, blocking a single ad is not enough. We want to prevent this advertiser from doing more harm in the future.”
Borgia emphasized the difference between well-intentioned advertisers who inadvertently violate a policy and “bad actors” who intentionally cause harm.
“For advertisers with good intentions, we try to take action against the ad itself and then notify the advertiser,” Borgia said.
“We cannot and will not tolerate advertisers who intentionally harm our users. Our goal is not only to stop the damage, but to prevent it from happening again.”
Updated guidelines for a safer ecosystem
Google updated or added 29 policies for advertisers and publishers over the past year to stay ahead of evolving threats.
“We are committed to protecting the users of our platform, so we regularly review and update our policies. These changes reflect our proactive approach to providing a safe online environment.”
Borgia highlighted some key changes, including a sensitive events policy in response to the Ukraine war, an expanded financial services certification program, and a tailored policy for youth to ensure they receive age-appropriate advertising.
“We have been offering protective measures for children on our platform for years. We expanded this protection last year to have policies specifically tailored to youth,” commented Borgia.
Ads Transparency Center: Improving Accountability
Google’s commitment to transparency culminated in the launch of the Ads Transparency Center in 2023.
“We believe in the power of transparency and the Ads Transparency Center is a huge step in the right direction. It is our commitment to build trust and accountability in the advertising ecosystem.”
The Ad Transparency Center is a searchable hub for verified advertisers’ ads. On this platform, users, researchers and other stakeholders can see the ads that are displayed on all Google platforms.
Let’s say a user is interested in a skin care product but doesn’t know the brand. In this case, they can use the Ads Transparency Center to search for the advertiser and learn more before they buy or visit their website.
Users can access the Ad Transparency Center directly or through My Ad Center using the three-dot menu next to the ads they see.
“We are very excited and very proud to see this in the market.” [to see] “People are engaging with it and finding it useful,” Borgia noted.
The future of advertising security
When asked about the future, Borgia reiterated, “We’re constantly raising the bar, developing new policies where necessary, developing new enforcement mechanisms, and building on transparency.” It’s just a wonderful opportunity for me to talk a little bit about what we each do day.”
Google’s advertising ecosystem is an ever-evolving space that requires constant vigilance, innovation, and transparency.
As Borgia and his team work to keep the ecosystem safe, their work is ongoing proof of their commitment to making the world a safer place.
Google’s constantly evolving advertising policies underscore its commitment to ad safety.
Key takeaways from our conversation with Alejandro Borgia include the need to adapt to emerging abuse trends, the importance of policies to prevent the exploitation of real-life tragedies, and taking a firm stance on advertisers with serious policy violations.
Borgia shared that the future of ad safety lies in raising the bar on existing measures, developing new policies and improving transparency.
Google’s fight against advertising policy violations is a relentless battle that puts innovation, vigilance, and user safety first.
Featured image created by the author using Midjourney.