Search Engine Optimisation

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

Google blocked or removed 3.4 billion ads in 2021, according to its annual Ads Safety Report, which was released today. Google also tripled the number of account-level suspensions for advertisers in the last year.

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

How does 2021 compare to prior years?

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

5.7 billion ads restricted. Certain ads can’t be shown to every searcher in every location. These ads all fell into the category of either legally or culturally sensitive. By the numbers:

  • Trademarks: 1.4 billion
  • Other restricted businesses: 511.4 million
  • Financial services: 223 million
  • Healthcare and medicines: 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 advertiser accounts suspended. Google reported that bad actors operated “with more sophistication and at a greater scale, using a variety of tactics to evade our detection.”

One challenging example: bad actors created thousands of accounts simultaneously and used techniques like cloaking and text manipulation to show Google’s reviewers and systems different ad content than what a user would see. 

Publisher enforcement. Google also blocked or restricted ads from serving on 1.7 billion publisher pages, and took broader site-level enforcement action on about 63,000 publisher sites in 2021. 

The top three categories Google took action: sexual content, dangerous or derogatory, and weapons promotion and sales. Here’s a chart:

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

  • This included claims related to vaccines and testing, as well as price-gouging on critical supplies (e.g., masks).
  • Google has blocked more than 106 million COVID-related ads since the pandemic began.

2022 Ukraine ad removals. Although this report covered 2021, Google provided an update on how many ads related to the war in Ukraine have been blocked so far in 2022: 8 million.

Why we care. These “bad actors” are bad for searchers, advertisers and publishers. This big picture view is a great (and also somewhat shocking) reminder of how many threats there are for legitimate advertisers who want to reach their target audience. This also provides more context to why Google is pushing hard for advertiser verification and instituting things like its three-strikes policy. 

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About The Author

Danny Goodwin is Senior Editor of Search Engine Land. In addition to writing daily about SEO, PPC, and more for Search Engine Land, Goodwin also manages Search Engine Land’s roster of subject-matter experts. He also helps program our conference series, SMX – Search Marketing Expo. Prior to joining Search Engine Land, Goodwin was Executive Editor at Search Engine Journal, where he led editorial initiatives for the brand. He also was an editor at Search Engine Watch. He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.

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