Google Changes Policy for AdWords, Reflecting Changing Social & Political Climate

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Google has recently contacted advertisers about a policy change to its Paid Search (PPC) programme, AdWords and related advertising.

The changes pertain specifically to how Advertisers target users on the Google AdWords platform but also relate to areas dealing with in-app advertising and remarketing. As with most policy changes drawn up by internal committees and overseen by lawyers, the content matter can be quite heavy. In order to make it easier, I have broken these policy changes into three core areas and where appropriate, have quoted directly from the policy changes document.

Though this will not affect mainstream advertisers, the shift in policy is seen by many as being progressive and also reflective of current events. It also highlights how certain advertisers see the AdWords platform as a powerful and direct way to sometimes target those that may be viewed as more vulnerable members of society.

So, what are the changes?

Well, at the end of May and after much consideration, Google decided to offer a more ‘optimal’ experience to all its users. These optimal experience encompass related AdWords properties alongside the core platform, namely:

  • remarketing
  • affinity audiences
  • custom affinity audiences
  • in-market audiences
  • similar audiences
  • demographic and location targeting

Though fairly self-explanatory, the policy change may also apply to other aspects of Google’s interest-based advertising, including remarketing lists, ad content, data feeds and advertiser websites.

On top of the areas highlighted and the growth of app and in app advertising, the policy changes also have guidelines retaliating to this. These include:

  • When creating a remarketing list, you cannot use any sensitive information about your website or app visitors, whether you collected it directly or associated it with a visitor, based on the visitor’s profile or behaviour on your website or app
  • Restrictions on list creation may apply to both individual web pages and entire websites or apps
  • Ad content may not imply knowledge of personally identifiable or sensitive information

All of the above means that from now on advertisers will no longer be allowed to target ads as highlighted  and additionally, the content of the ad cannot be related to the following topics:

  • Personal hardships related to relationships (example: bereavement products or services)
  • Personal hardships related to abuse and trauma (examples: domestic abuse shelters or victim advocate services)
  • User identity related to marginalised groups (examples: immigration services or legal services for refugees)
  • User identity related to transgender identification (examples: information about gender transitioning or transgender discrimination lawyers)

Though the changes make sense, the cynics amongst us may say that Google is changing its shift for the forthcoming lowdown with European Antitrust Commission. Either way, the policy changes are welcome.

See the full policy updates here and T&Cs changes here.

Reggie James
Having built and sold various technology businesses over the years, Reggie heads the consultancy and commercial side of the business. Approachable and pragmatic, Reggie previously ran the first dot-com to list on the Singapore Stock Exchange as well as developing business strategies for brands whilst at AltaVista and Yahoo! before launching Digital Clarity. As a passive investor, he is also involved in the US public OTC markets.