Did you launch your big Google Ads campaign only to find out, hours later, that Google rejected your new ad? If so, here’s what you have to know to resolve the issue and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
With a library of editorial policies, it’s hard to keep up with what you can and can’t do in Google Ads. Even the best advertisers find themselves revisiting their ad copy and design after seeing that familiar ‘Disapproved’ in the status column.
Getting an ad flagged as disapproved or rejected is a simple ordeal, and one that can typically be resolved with a quick edit of your ad copy. However, if time is of the essence, the key is to be able to spot these potential problems before Google has to, so that your campaign can get up and running sooner.
Fortunately, the vast majority of rejections come down to a small handful of reasons, the most common of which we’ve outlined below. Get acquainted with these Top 10, and your search advertising should be easy sailing from here on out:
1. Spelling or grammatical errors
As a Google ad is a reflection of Google’s own standards of professionalism, the advertising behemoth imposes strict policies around an ad’s quality and relevance—including requiring standard spelling and grammar. Accordingly, ads containing typos or misspellings may get rejected until the issues are fixed.
There may be cases, however, when a word is intentionally spelled in a non-standard way. This is common with branded company or product names, such as DiGornio’s wing-less “Wyngz.” If your ad is rejected for a spelling consistent with your marketing efforts, you may request a human review to get a special exemption. (We’ve detailed this process at the end of this post.)
When it comes to grammar, Google is a little more lenient. You’re free to use sentence fragments if you want to be a little punchier with your ad copy or make the most of the 35 alloted characters for the description. Likewise, you probably won’t be punished for having a dangling modifier or using a comma where a semi-colon would probably be more appropriate. However, grammatical errors remain a common reason for ad rejections, so it’s worth double-checking your copy before pushing anything live.
2. Non-standard capitalization
Perhaps the single most common cause of rejected ads is writing in all caps. While it may feel natural to call out certain elements of your ad’s copy with all-caps (e.g.: “Try for FREE!”), such capitalizations are a violation of Google’s policy and likely to get rejected.
Similarly, avoid other non-standard punctuation formats, including:
- Not capitalizing the first letter of proper nouns (e.g.: “Meet us in las vegas”)
- Mid-sentence capitalization, or capitalizing select non-proper nouns for emphasis (e.g.: “Meet us In Las Vegas”)
- “Random” capitalization, or capitalizing in a seemingly random sequence (e.g.: “mEEt uS In LAs VeGaS”)
Occasionally, a common abbreviation (“ASAP”) or coupon code (“Save 10% with code: BLACKFRIDAY“) may trigger an erroneous rejection. If this is the case, scroll to the bottom of this post for instructions on challenging the rejection.
3. Trademark infringement
In general, advertisers are advised to avoid potentially trademarked names of competitors or their products. While Google’s algorithm is only able to recognize the bigger brands, ads can be reported by viewers (and potentially, your own competitors) for a human review, at which point they may be pulled for infringements that initially passed undetected.
There are two cases where use of trademarks is acceptable:
- For re-selling purposes: A recognized reseller of a product may advertise said product.
- For informational purposes: An advertiser may promote content about a specific third-party brand or product.
Many advertisers, particularly in business-to-business software, have gotten away under the informational exemption by creating dedicated landing pages directly positioning themselves against a named competitor. If your landing page has no mention of your competitor, however, we recommend staying clear of using any of their names in your ad copy—although you can bid on them as keywords.
You are more than welcome to use any of your own registered trademarks.
4. Alternate calls-to-action
Under a Cost-Per-Click (CPC) model, Google makes money every time a user clicks on an ad. As a result, it prioritizes the click as the sole call-to-action (CTA) of an ad and rejects alternate CTAs that may bypass the click. These include:
- Leaving a phone number in the ad copy. (This can still be done through a clickable call extension.)
- Leaving an email or website address in the ad copy.
While uncommon, writing a broad CTA (“Click the link”) that doesn’t say anything unique about your ad or offering can also be a reason for rejection.
5. Incomplete sentences or thoughts
Let’s face it. It’s hard to pack your message down to 35 characters.
Instead of revising, many advertisers that run into the character limit simply stop typing as soon as they’ve used up the allotted space. While it sounds like an easy hack, this often leaves an incomplete sentence that requires a few more words to be truly understood. As part of Google’s commitment to quality, such fragments may be subject to rejection, so it’s worth the extra minute to figure out how you can wrap up all of your thoughts using as few characters as possible.
6. Exclamation points in the ad headline
It’s one thing to be excited about what you’re advertising, and another to come off as gimmicky. It’s in the latter category that Google considers exclamations in either of the two headline fields—and another common cause of ad rejections.
If you’re having trouble capturing the excitement without using an exclamation point, consider using strong verbs and dictions to relay your message. For example, “The Software You Need!” can easily be swapped out with more descriptive language around benefits: “Save Time, Save Money.”
7. Excessive exclamation points in the ad description
While exclamation points are allowed in the description field of an ad, we recommend using them sparingly (ideally no more than one per ad). Using too many exclamations or a series of exclamation points (“Try for free!!!”) will trigger—you guessed it—a rejection.
8. Text speak and gimmicky spelling
It’s a common tendency to employ shortcuts when typing on a digital screen: Substituting “u” for “you” in a text or using a simple emoji to express emotion. If you want to see your ads approved, however, it’s best to leave these shortcuts to SMS.
(If you can’t bear to part with your emojis, it may provide some peace of mind knowing that Google is rumored to be beta testing our smiley friends in AdWords. Last year, the company made the first step by bringing emojis back to organic search results.)
Google encourages advertisers to make the most of their character limit by using each line to express an original thought. If the company detects duplicate or repetitive content, it may send the ad back to the drawing board.
Duplicate content includes unnecessary repetition of names or phrases, as well as repetitive punctuation (“Interested in growing sales????”).
As a matter of best practice, avoid sharing the same wording across your headline and description fields, along with any extensions associated with your ad.
10. Non-standard spacing
Both excessive spaces and omitted spaces may trigger an ad rejection. Going back to the first policy, around proper grammar, exactly one space should separate each word in your ad’s copy. The following types of spacing will be rejected:
- Omission (“thebestlocaladvertisingsoftware”)
- Excessive (“the . best . local . advertising . software”)
- Gimmicky or non-standard (“the best local a d v e r t i s i n g software”)
Additionally, bullet points and numbered lists are not supported. All text should be read as a single line.
Bonus: 11. Content unsuitable for all audiences (Limited, Non-Family, or Adult)
Last but not least, some advertisers may see their ads approved on a limited level, with a status reading “Approved (Limited).” If this happens, your ad may continue to show to a select portion of your targeted audience, but is deemed unsuitable for part of your target. Often, however, the ad’s reach will be so limited that you’ll only see a slow trickle of impressions, making it essentially rejected.
An ad can be limited for various reasons, but they typically come down to a mismatch between the copy and one or more regions, age groups, or devices the ad is targeting:
- Regional limitation: An ad about gambling is restricted from delivering to regions where gambling is banned.
- Age limitation: An ad about alcohol is restricted from delivering to minors.
- Device limitation: An ad linking to a landing page that performs poorly on the mobile web may be restricted from delivering to smartphones and other mobile devices.
For a full list of potentially limited or banned topics, refer to Google’s editorial policy.
Google’s detection algorithm is designed to catch the majority of policy violations, but tends to skew on the side of being overcautious. If you believe your advertisement was rejected in error, you can always request a human review by filling out this form.
Google’s team will then review your ad over the next 48 hours and remove the rejection if they find the ad to be in compliance.
While navigating Google AdWords can be like navigating a minefield, most of the platform’s ad rejections come down to just a handful of straightforward rules. We hope you’ll be able to recognize the ten cases above, but don’t feel bad if you’re sent back to the drawing board every now and again. It happens to all of us.
Fortunately, Google is good at letting you know which policy your ad potentially violates, and most errors can be fixed with a quick edit or re-phrasing.
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