As you know, I have been having some problems with Google AdSense (here and here).
Today I got another automated email message from Google, informing me:
Four pages were reviewed at your request and no policy violations were found on those pages at the time of the review. Ad serving will be restored on these pages and your monthly review limit will be credited.
Hooray! Success! I still don’t know whether or not an actual human being was involved in this process at all, or whether it was all done automatically using computer algorithms. But at least it’s done.
Well, I got back another automated email from Google about my Google AdSense violations. It looks like I got absolutely nowhere in requesting a review, which is what I was expecting:
In the last 24 hours:
4 page-level review requests were received. You’ll be notified when the reviews are completed. 4 pages were reviewed at your request and found to be non-compliant with our policies at the time of the review. Ad serving continues to be restricted or disabled on those pages.
What I find really annoying is that I cannot access the list of violations using my desktop computer (it gives me an error message), so I have to use either my iPad or my iPhone to check the exact wording of the policy violations to see what’s going on. Pain in the ass!
I also found it amusing that, the past three times I checked the Utherverse blogpost, that Google AdSense did not disable ads on that post. Instead, it simply served advertising for the cheating-on-your-spouse website Ashley Madison! So it would appear that, rather than disable ads outright, AdSense will try to match adult content with adult ads. Interesting!
So, for the most serious offender, the Utherverse blogpost, it looks as though I am going to have to remove a couple of images and the link to Utherverse, then resubmit it to see if it passes muster. Frankly, this automated, terse warning system, with its lack of specifics, is irritating. You don’t get an opportunity to talk with a real person to find out what’s wrong (if there’s a person involved in this system at all). It makes you have to guess at what’s wrong, and you have to keep submitting it for review until it is approved. Again, pain in the ass.
As for the other three blogposts, well, I guess I am going to have to put black boxes over naked avatar boobs and asses to get them cleared. So ridiculous!
Were it not for the fact that my Google AdSense ads are bringing in more money than my WordPress WordAds, I would seriously consider just cancelling my AdSense account altogether. But, for now, I’ll make the changes and resubmit all four blogposts for review—AGAIN.
And I will now be checking my email regularly for any future reports of blogposts that have run afoul of the fickle Google AdSense policies.
In addition to the WordPress advertising from WordAds that I have been using in my blog since March of 2018, I recently opened a Google AdSense account and began serving ads from AdSense. (If you are connecting to this blog via desktop computer, you can see one such ad under “Advertising” in the left-hand column, underneath the “Follow RyanSchultz.com via email” link.)
Today, I was surprised to discover an email from Google telling me:
This Google Publisher Policy Report gives you an overview of recent activity related to violations found on specific pages of your websites. As enforcement statuses may change over time, please refer to the “Page-level enforcements” section of the AdSense Policy Center for the current list of active violations.
Please note this report doesn’t cover violations that may happen on an overall site or account level. You may be notified by a separate email if site or account level violations are found. Ads will continue to serve where no policy violations have been found, either at the page- or site-level.
In the last 24 hours:
New violations were detected. As a result, ad serving has been restricted or disabled on pages where these violations of the AdSense Program Policies were found. To resolve the issues, you can either remove the violating content and request a review, or remove the ad code from the violating pages.
Now, I was very surprised to see this, since I have always strived to keep things at a PG13 level at all times on my blog. And, when I click over to see what the “violations” were, I find that four of my blogposts were flagged for “Adult, Sexual Content” violations, which are defined as:
Adult: Sexual Content
As stated in our Program policies, we may not show Google ads on pages or apps with content that is sexually suggestive or intended to sexually arouse. This includes but is not limited to:
– pornographic images, videos, or games – sexually gratifying text, images, audio, or video – pages that provide links for or drive traffic to content that is sexually suggestive or intended to sexually arouse
So, which blogposts triggered the violations? Glad you asked. There were four. Here are the first three (all linked, so you can visit and see for yourself how unoffensive and safe-for-work they are):
And then, finally, a double strike against this fourth and final blogpost: “Adult: Sexual Content” AND “Adult: Sexual Merchandise”, the latter of which is defined as follows:
Adult: Sexual Merchandise
Google ads may not be placed on adult or mature content. This includes fetish content as well as sites or apps that promote, sell, or discuss sexual aids. Examples include, but are not limited to:
– sexual fixations or practices that may be considered unconventional – sexual aids or enhancement tools such as vibrators, dildos, lubes, sex games, inflatable toys – penis and breast enlargement tools
The blogpost Google finds so offensive? Utherverse and the Red Light Center: A Brief Introduction. Now here, I can begin to see why it might have gotten flagged. All the female-presenting nipples and vaginas and such are completely blurred out, but it’s still clear from at least one photo that some (as Google calls it) “sexual fixations or practices that may be considered unconventional” could be taking place. And I do also include a link to the Utherverse/Red Light Center with a VERY CLEAR warning that the link is Not Safe For Work (NSFW). So now I have to think twice before I put in any links like this, even with a warning label? (UPDATE: I have decided to go in and blur out the offending images in this blogpost even more strongly than before, including completely blurring the kinky one.)
I would argue that my blogpost is simply TALKING about an adult virtual world at a PG13 level. I am tempted to remove the link to Utherverse/RLC, but instead, I have called for a review of all four “violations” (which I am told can take up to a week or longer to process).
The first three “violations” are ludicrous. Am I supposed to start blurring out AVATAR REAR ENDS OH MY GOD THE CHILDREN THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!! This is ridiculous. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT AVATARS, PEOPLE. THE DIGITAL VERSION OF BARBIE DOLLS. The fourth one, well, if the review is rejected, then I supposed I am going to have to go in and sanitize it even more. But this is a slippery slope; am I going to have to go back through 1,255 blogposts over two years and check each one for inadvertent tits and ass?
I have subtitled this blogpost “Part I”, because I have a horrible sinking feeling that this issue is not going to go away so easily. If the four blogposts above were flagged (either by machine or human), there a probably dozens more that would also fall afoul of Google’s AdSense rules. I have written about (and linked to) other adult/sexual worlds, always with a very clear NSFW warning. Should I remove the links and tell people to just Google them? (Now THAT would be ironic.)
But to date, I have never seen the need to blur out an avatar rear end (male or female) as I would a penis, a vagina, or a “female-presenting” nipple. And we are talking about AVATARS, which are not to be confused with real people. I’m not serving porn here, I’m talking about mesh avatar bodies! GET A GRIP, GOOGLE ADSENSE.
This is NOT over. Even though I have a feeling I am in a losing battle here. The good news is that it would appear that Google AdSense has blocked advertising only on those four blogposts.
As I progress towards the second anniversary of this blog, I’m learning new things about blogging all the time, like AMP, which I had never really paid much attention to before. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, and it is a project launched by Google in 2015. AMP uses simplified HTML (hypertext markup language, the “code” of your webpage) and streamlined CSS (cascading style sheet) rules to make Google search results display more quickly on mobile devices.
I discovered yesterday that, many times when I use Google on my iPhone to search for and pull up one of my blogposts, it is now formatted differently than before. It would appear that Google is now delivering the AMP version instead. And to be honest, I’m not quite sure whether or not I like this.
Here’s a side-by-side, before-and-after comparison. On the left is what my blogposts used to look like on my cellphone (it’s using exactly the same fonts and design as if you were reading them on a desktop machine). But now, most of my Google search results on mobile come up looking like the image on the right (the AMP format).
Notice that the web address of the image on the left (my regular blogpost style) says “ryanschultz.com”, while the web address of the image on the right (the AMP version) says “google.com”. Google is serving a cached version of my content.
Now, the good news is that these AMP blogposts are supposed to load faster for mobile users, but the bad news is that the AMP display strips out several user navigation details I had deliberately put in, such as the the “sandwich” menu in the upper right hand corner of the picture on the left, which led people to my blog’s search box and to other areas of my site. The AMP version also strips out the three related blogposts links that appear at the bottom of each of my blogpost pages. In other words, AMP is removing many of the ways that users could navigate within my blog, instead forcing them back out into Google. Google is basically using AMP to drive more traffic back to itself, rather than keeping people clicking around within my blog, and exploring. I hate that.
AMP has been widely criticized by many in the tech industry for being an attempt by Google to exert its dominance on the Web by dictating how websites are built and monetized, and that “AMP is Google’s attempt to lock publishers into its ecosystem”. AMP has also been linked to Google’s attempt to deprecate URLs so that users will not be able to immediately see whether they are viewing a webpage on the open Web or an AMP page that is hosted on Google’s servers.
Now, there’s nothing stopping the user of the AMP page to click on the chain link icon found in the upper right hand corner (it’s right next to “ryanschultz.com”, below “google.com” in the image to the rght) and use that link to see the page as I really want them to see it. But really, who is going to be bothered to take that extra step? Most people just take the info they need and run.
So now I have a difficult decision: turn off AMP completely on my blog and give everybody the same design experience, or leave AMP on and give up some more control to Google (which, I might add, drives a significant amount of traffic to my blog).
So, what do you think? Does it matter to you which version of the blogpost you see when you search Google? I’m willing to bet most people didn’t even know about AMP and could care less, as long as they find what they are looking for. So (for now), I am leaving AMP turned on.