Ad policies — the year in review

We’ve always said that a top priority for us is making sure that your search results are relevant, useful and safe. Of course, this commitment to a positive search experience extends to the ads you see on Google too. Earlier this week we took a stand to fight Internet scams, and in recent months, we've also put a new procedure in place to eradicate "scammy" ads. But that's not all we've done in the past year to help you get the best possible information from our ads.

Given that there are hundreds of thousands of businesses running ads through our AdWords system, you can imagine that reviewing all the ads is no easy feat! That's why we have both automated and manual ways to check them, and advertising policies meant to ensure that the ads you see on Google — and on partner sites that show our ads — are appropriate, fair, consistent and of the highest quality. We regularly review and update our guidelines to make sure they continue to provide the best user experience. Here's a recap of the improvements we’ve made in 2009.

Making sure the ads work
When you click on an ad for a holiday gift basket, you probably want to go directly to a website with gift basket choices. That's why we have link policies to ensure that the URLs in our ads actually get you to the sites you want to visit. For example, our updated Display URL policy helps advertisers better organize the URLs in their AdWords campaigns to make sure that when you click on an ad for gift baskets, a webpage with gift baskets is exactly where you go.

Making sure the ads are legitimate
To protect you from unsavory online entities that hope to victimize folks, we've shared tips to help you avoid falling for scams that sound too good to be true, and have taken recent legal action against fraudulent online schemes. To make sure that the ads are safe, we've also increased our efforts to detect scam ads and remove them from our system. For example, we’ve recently implemented a new process for permanently disabling AdWords accounts that attempt to harm users by doing things like installing malware on your computer, or offering free services that bait you into accepting hidden fees. This practice better protects users and is even stricter than our previous process of disapproving scam ads and disabling their domains. We're now trying to proactively prevent suspicious characters from creating new accounts with us regardless of their websites.

Making sure the ads are appropriate
We try to make sure that the ads you see aren't obtrusive, inappropriate or offensive. Our editorial policies help verify that ads meet basic grammar, spelling and composition rules. For example, we don't allow excessive punctuation or capitalization, because it would be really annoying if all ads were littered with lots of exclamation points or used all caps for their messages.

Our content policies make sure that the types of things offered in ads are appropriate. There are some things we don't allow because they are not legal in many countries — like child pornography and drugs — and other things we don't allow because they're offensive and considered socially unacceptable. To help us figure out where to draw these lines, we consider factors such as legal regulations, public sentiment and general codes of ethics and values.

Our commitment to appropriate ads also applies to the sites we accept to our AdSense program. We want website owners who have news and shopping-related information on their sites to be able to show you relevant ads. But we don't like sites that do inappropriate things, like repurpose copyrighted material without permission or automatically initiate unwanted downloads. To protect users and ensure we work with good sites, we take a look at website content and practices in accordance with our AdSense policies, and don't allow sites that violate the policies in the program. We act quickly to weed out the non-compliant sites so that someone who's looking online at sites that, for example, have illegal content like child porn or engage in shady invalid click activity won't see ads from Google there.

As new issues crop up, we revisit our content policies to make sure they're comprehensive and help to show you the best ads we can. Over this year, for instance, we've updated our global alcohol policy and U.S. trademark policy to give you additional relevant ad options. You can find more information about these changes and all our other policies on our Advertising Policies page.

To make good on our promise to show you ads and sites that help you find what you want, we enforce our advertising policies in both automated and manual ways. These are rules that aren't meant to be broken, so when we discover violations, we stop any offending ads from running. We also encourage users who’ve had a poor experience with an ad to report it, so we can look into it and take any necessary action.

While we've done a lot in 2009 to make ads better and more useful, we recognize that our systems aren’t always perfect. We'll continue to work hard in 2010 to show you only the most relevant, high quality and safe ads possible.