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Google and “Information Harvesting”

Google and “Information Harvesting”

One day this fall, we received an unpleasant surprise in the form of an email message from Google informing us that one of our sites had been suspended from AdWords for policy violations with respect to “information harvesting”. The message implied that they might remove us from organic search results as well.

It turns out that they were objecting to the fact that we had a contact form on our site and we did not have a Privacy Policy.

We have the contact form to enable our site visitors to get in touch with us if they want to find out more about our services. They are not forced to use it to view the site.

To me, this is reminiscent of the warnings on the back of those auto sun shades that tell you to remove them before driving, because otherwise you won’t be able to see where you are going.

But, I digress. To make a long story short, in order to comply with Google’s policy, we had to create a new Privacy Policy page and link it from every place on the site where the contact form is displayed. They were very insistent about the fact that the link had to be right next to the “submit” button.

It took almost a week, many hours of work, and several back-and-forth exchanges with Google before our site was reinstated and our AdWords campaign was running again. We are a small business, and AdWords is only one part of our marketing strategy. But if our business relied more heavily on AdWords, just think how devastating the loss of an entire week during the most important buying season of the year would be?

So here is my advice. If you have a web site and it has a contact form on it (and most do), get busy and create a Privacy Policy right now, if you are running AdWords, or if you think you might run AdWords in the future. And be sure to review Google’s Privacy Policy guidelines very carefully!

I was very annoyed by this experience, but the fact remains that Google is entitled to control what ads they run on their site. On the other hand, I find this policy a bit over-zealous.


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