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Google Bans "Sale of free items" Ads

13 September 2019 | 0 comments | Posted by Che Kohler in nichemarket Advice

Google Bans Ads Selling Free Services

Google search is an ever-changing landscape with updates added to both its paid search and organic search elements making it hard for marketers in the space to keep up. I tend to find myself lurking around the various Google forums where marketers tend to leave questions and answers, similar to Quora but a lot more in-depth on Google products.

It's often where the answers lie when things break or start to act strange. These forum offers you access to a global community willing to share their insights, which is especially essential when Google doesn't share information directly with marketers. Or provide enough explicit detail as to how changes are deployed to their various products.

A clampdown on advertising markups on services

Recently I've noticed Google starting to roll out a ban on ads that promote products that could be acquired for free or cheaper by a government institution. There have already been a few complaints from paid search marketers stating Google is disapproving their ads.

This ban is especially vexing what it seems to be only affecting individual accounts. The ban seems to be a staggered rollout with competitors still visible for those same keywords with similar ad copy.

Google is the front door to the internet for the majority fo the world and listing on its first page lends tremendous credibility to the services and service providers displayed on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). What has been happening is users have found they could advertise on certain services keywords, collect the leads and charge people more for a cheap or free service.

While this practice isn't inherently a bad thing with many companies offering the convenience of handling the admin for you, some have been using their top serach results and combined them wit predatory pricing to earn great returns by grossly overcharging customers. 

Googles definition of Sale of free items

Charging for products or services where the primary offering is available from a government or public source for free or at a lower price

Examples (non-exhaustive list):

Services for passport or driving license applications; health insurance applications; documents from official registries, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, or company registrations; exam results; tax calculators; paid for directory/call forwarding/call recording services advertising contact numbers for unaffiliated businesses (in ads and/or keyword content) as opposed to their directory services/call forwarding services

It's not a blanket rule

You can bundle something free with another product or service that you provide. For example, a TV provider can bundle publicly available content with paid content, or a travel agency can bundle a visa application with a holiday package.

But the free product or service can't be advertised as the primary offering.

What to do if your account gets flagged

If your ads start getting disapproved with the reason "Sale of free item"

  • I would recommend you start by pausing all affected campaigns and start reviewing all targetted keywords that could be seen as misleading.
  • Then update copy to explicitly talk about the additional services you provide and the benefits of using your service and not the actual product the user is interested in
  • If your ads still get disapproved, try contacting a Google ads representative to evaluate your account manually and motivate as to why your account should not be flagged. 

Mitigate the risk of a flagged account

If your business model is under threat by Google, but you still provide services users are willing to pay for then you need to start looking at alternative means of advertising.

  • Look at creating ad campaigns around service-related keywords instead of the product themselves.
  • Start to work on your websites SEO
  • Develop and put into play a content marketing strategy
  • Start a referral program
  • Collect email addresses and start marketing directly to your audience
  • Run ads on social media 

If this Google Ads ban is indeed something you cannot overturn, you will need to start getting more creative with your marketing. Remember, everyone in your space will be affected, so the more proactive you are in marketing, the larget the market share you're able to capture as others sit around or look for easy alternatives.

Contact us

If you would like us to help set up your Google Search Ads or want to know more about digital marketing for your business, then don’t be shy we’ re happy to assist. Simply contact us

Are you looking to promote your business?

South African Business owners can create your free business listing on nichemarket. The more information you provide about your business, the easier it will be for your customers to find you online. Registering with nichemarket is easy; all you will need to do is head over to our sign up form and follow the instructions.

If you require a more detailed guide on how to create your profile or your listing, then we highly recommend you check out the following articles. 

Recommended reading

If you enjoyed this post and have a little extra time to dive deeper down the rabbit hole, why not check out the following posts on Google Ads.

Tags: Google Ads

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