TL;DR: Google Ads is a lousy business partner. They will screw you and you’ve got no chance of fighting against it.
A Tiny Bit Of Background
Between 2008-2012, I was in the business of making Flash games. During this time, I also ran this portal, as a means to showcase the games I made and the games I played and enjoyed.
During the 2 reincarnations of the site, I ran Google Ads, with a few banners placed here and there. It wasn’t until May 2010, when I self-sponsored/released Born Of Fire TD, that I started to make some coffee money of out of the ads. Not expensive coffee, though: around $500 between May 2010 and June 2011. Which I never withdrew. See below.
I think it was the summer of 2011, that I’ve received an email from Google Ads saying that their system detected click fraud and they were confiscating all the ad revenue. All, since I’ve started showing ads in 2008.
Needless to say, making click fraud is not exactly my goal in life. I was way too busy creating games, dammit! 😀 So, I’ve submitted a recourse with their system, but an automated reply came back saying something along the lines of “fuck off dumbass, we’re right, you’re wrong”.
For the right reasons, I was pissed off. It wasn’t a big sum of money, but the principle of it, “we’re using you’re site for our services for free because we’re Google and we can do whatever we please”, that was enraging.
The 150px Rule?
I’ve tried to figure out what went wrong. Earlier in 2011 (or maybe end of 2010?), Google published new rules for ads, including the famous 150px distance between ads and interactive content. I think that came in force around April 2011. I gotta admit that I missed the news of this change and at that time, my interactive content and ads were at about 75px distance. For comparison, here’s how Kongregate and Armor Games were showing the ads at the same time:
I reckon that couldn’t have been classed as “click fraud”, because it was a rule that was enforced only starting from spring of 2011, whereas the “click fraud” spanned, in their opinion, for the whole 2008-2011 time period. Perhaps they applied the rule retroactively. That wouldn’t surprise me even a bit 😀
Even so, as you could have guessed, the 150px rule didn’t apply to big sites 😀
As a side note, check the 2018 version of Orbital Decay that is only available on my site. Doesn’t it look…awesome? 🙂
Eventually, I did switched to Epic and CPMStar Ads, but the bitterness against Google Ads survived to this day. Trying to make a living as a solo game developer is difficult as it is, and being cheated out by a business partner you thought reputable is not something anyone looks forward to.
That ad revenue would have invested back into making games anyway and perhaps Loose Cannon Physics and Knight and Witch would have had better quality if it were for even that tiny ad income. But what can you do…
The Current State Of Affairs
I’m sure that there are people that would speak highly of Google Ads, but I’m also sure there are also other people that have been cheated out by the their system. Choose…wisely 🙂
As for me, I have dropped ads from my site altogether. I believe web monetization should be more direct and this is why switching to Coil made more sense.