Google makes a lot of money from their advertising platform, so it makes sense that they have a solid process in place to review ads as they’re created. It wouldn’t be sensible for them to have a team of people manually reviewing everything, after all; it would be a full time job for thousands of people. No, in large part the review is handled by a series of algorithms, with a higher level overview performed to spot-check ads manually, refine the algorithms, and review ads that are left in limbo.
When you create an ad or edit an existing ad, the ad must go through the approval process in order to run successfully. This approval process is basically a series of sophisticated filters that scan and look for anything that is too objectionable and violates the Google ads policies.
The ad analysis algorithm will check the headline, description keywords, and destination – website or app – of the ad. If an issue is discovered, the ad will either not run or stop running, depending on whether or not it was running before. If your ad has an issue, Google will send your email address a message of what policy your ad violates. You are then free to change the ad and try to get it through the filters again.
There are a bunch of different possible status levels for your ads. They each mean something different, so I’ll summarize them here.
You can also have non-approval-related status codes. Paused, Ended, and Pending, for example, have their own meanings. They are however determined by your own actions rather than those of Google. If an ad is paused, it means you paused it. If an ad is pending, it means you scheduled it to start running at a later date that has not yet arrived.
There are also specific codes for the approval status of ad extensions. Ad extensions are a type of additional content that can be displayed along with an ad. They are not part of the ad itself and thus need to pass through their own approval process. Ad extensions can show additional information like your geographic location, your affiliate locations, mentions of additional features like free delivery, phone number call to actions, and so forth. You can read more about them here. Ad extension status codes are the following.
So there you have it; the possible status codes for your ads. You can check these in your AdWords account, from the campaign section. The overview of all of your ads will list whether or not the ad is approved and if not, why.
So how long until your Google ads are actually approved? Well, once you submit them to review, Google claims it will take 1 business day. From what we’ve seen, new ads are approved within a few hours. However, there are some extenuating factors that can change this calculation.
Most simple ads for benign businesses, that fall well within the AdWords policies, will be approved in anywhere from one to four hours. I’ve seen a lot of new ads take less than an hour to be approved. Once you’ve built up a good quality score and have a reputation as a good ad creator, Google is more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt and push your ads through right away. There isn’t exactly priority treatment, however, it proves you know what you’re doing and any mistakes are likely just that: mistakes.
Anything that strays away from that ideal will make it take longer to approve the ad. For example:
If it’s been more than a day, go ahead and contact Google support. Sometimes the system glitches up and loses ads in the cracks. Sometimes an ad waiting for manual approval needs personal attention, and can get it faster when support is notified. You can use this form to submit your request for approval. As they say in the instructions, if your ad has been disapproved or if you have submitted or edited it within the last 24 hours, don’t use the form. Otherwise, feel free.
Sometimes your ads will be disapproved. When that happens, you need to take action to correct whatever mistake made them fail inspection. Sometimes it’s just a glitch, but that’s rare: I would venture to guess that 99.99% of cases it’s user error and policy violation leading to a disapproved ad.
Step 1: Figure out which ads are disapproved, and why. When you go to your ads manager, you can click at the campaign level to see individual ad sets and any policy details attached to them. An ad group might be paused because the site is suspended, or individual ads and extensions might be disapproved for various reasons.
The AdWords policies are quite robust. You can read through them all here. Most common causes of ad disapproval come down to using trademarks the wrong way, misrepresenting the destination of the ad, trying to promote a prohibited product, or a mix-up between ad content and destination.
Step 2: Decide whether or not your ad is worth fixing. If, for example, your ads are broken because your site is suspended, you don’t need to do anything to the ads themselves. Instead, you would want to fix the site. If you’re trying to promote a single product that Google has determined violates their policies, no matter how much you change the ad, the product won’t get through.
Step 3: Wait for the approval process again. Once your ad has been disapproved once, chances are it will be given a bit more attention the second time through. Ideally, your changes mean it will pass, but it’s possible that your account is flagged as needing manual review. If you’re a known bad actor with a lot of disapproved ads, this can happen, though of course you can also just be removed from the ads system entirely. Not that any of my savvy readers would fall into this trap, right?
If your site as a whole has been suspended, it’s a big issue. You won’t be able to run any ads that point to that domain at all, regardless of what page it points to or what the ad content says. As with disapproved ads, Google will generally email you with the cause of the suspension, but in case you missed it you can go looking yourself.
Reasons your site might be suspended are similar to reasons ads might be disapproved, but it’s more difficult to revamp an entire site as opposed to changing an ad. Sites that use trademarks they don’t own – like if I tried to make a Facebook clone – are often suspended. Sites that serve malicious code, sites that are broken, sites that promote or sell illegal or restricted goods, adult sites, sites that are misleading in some way, are all sites that can be suspended. A site can also be suspended if the domain lapses and is parked, even temporarily.
Once you know why your site has been suspended, you can determine if it’s something you can fix or not. If it means abandoning an entire storefront, it’s probably time to find a different ad network. If it’s a matter of removing some objectionable content, go for it.
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