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Don’t Strike Out: Learn About Google’s New 3-Strike Ad Policy

Last updated on August 26, 2021
10 minute read
Key Takeaways

  • Google is piloting a 3-strike policy for ads that violate their guidelines.
  • Ads are often incorrectly flagged as inappropriate.
  • Learn about the policy and what to do if your ads are flagged.

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In recent years, Google has implemented a variety of policies and features that aim to improve consumer safety on the SERP. This includes features like “About this result” — which creates greater transparency around ranking factors — and more stringent ad policies. 

Starting in September 2021, Google is piloting a new three-strike ad policy program in which repeated violations of specific policies could result in an indefinite account suspension. The three policies in question are:

  • Enabling dishonest behavior: This includes advertising products or services that help users mislead others (like creating false documents), products or services that enable a user to gain unauthorized access (like hacking services), and products or services that enable a user to track another person without their authorization (like spyware technology). Read some examples
  • Unapproved pharmaceuticals or supplements: Google has an extensive list of pharmaceuticals and supplements that they don’t allow, including weight-loss products, ephedra, and anabolic steroids. 
  • Dangerous products or services: This includes products such as explosives (as well as any related instructional content), guns and related parts, knives designed to injure others, recreational drugs, tobacco, and more

Google plans to roll out the policy for future categories in the future. 

Glancing at this list, you’re probably thinking, “none of these categories apply to my ads.” But it’s still important to understand these policies because ads are incorrectly flagged often (more on this later). 

How the Three-Strike Policy Works

The three-strike policy gives you plenty of opportunities to address the ad that has been flagged. You’ll receive notice at every one of these stages via a notification on the Google Ads platform as well as an email. 


Before you get a strike, Google will issue a warning if one of your ads violates one of the three policies outlined above.

Consequence: The ad in question is taken down until you update it. 

Action: Correct the ad in question in accordance with Google’s guidelines. If you think your ad was flagged by mistake, you can submit an appeal

number 1 iconStrike One

You’ll receive your first strike if any portion of the ad still violates the policy within 90 days of the warning. 

Consequence: Google places a temporary hold on your account for three days, meaning you can’t run any ads during this period. After the three days, your ads start to run again, except for the ad in question until it’s updated. 

Action: Submit the acknowledgement form provided by Google and correct the ad in question. 

number 2 iconStrike Two

You’ll receive a second strike if your ad violates the same policy within 90 days of strike one. 

Consequence: Google places a temporary hold on your account for seven days. 

Action: Submit the acknowledgement form provided by Google and correct the ad in question. 

number 3 iconStrike Three

You’ll receive a third strike if your ad violates the same policy within 90 days of strike two.

Consequence: Your account is suspended for an indefinite period.

Action: As we mentioned before, you can submit an appeal if you think the suspension is a mistake (but you should start that process well before reaching strike three). 

The policy is quite straightforward, but there are a couple things to keep in mind: 

  • You may have heard grumblings in the marketing and PPC space about the new policy, not because it’s unfair, but because ads are often incorrectly flagged. Advertisers have expressed concern about the process due to the frequent disapproval errors. For example, here’s what one PPC expert shared:a hand cleaning a windshield with a cloth, with a caption saying it was flagged by Google for "partial nudity"
  • It’s not just the ad copy that can lead to disapproval. It can also be due to content on the landing pages, images, or any ad extensions you may be using. If an ad gets flagged, be sure to review all the content on your account. 
  • If you successfully appeal a warning or strike, it will be removed from your account, giving you a clean slate. 
  • Warnings and strikes expire after 90 days, so if you heed the first warning in a timely manner, you shouldn’t get any further in the strike process. If there’s a violation after the 90 days, the process would start again at the warning stage. 
  • Remember that the successive strikes are for the same violation. 
  • Outside of the three-strike policy, there are other violations that could lead to immediate account suspension. If you want to learn more, read up on Google’s policies. It’s important to note that, if your account is suspended, you should never create a new account to continue running your ads. Google would consider this “circumventing our systems,” which would result in immediate suspension. 

How to Prepare for the New Policy

If you’re concerned about any of your ads being flagged, take these steps before September 1, 2021, to cover your bases. 

  • Review any ads that are currently disapproved and either update them or, if you believe it’s a mistake, submit an appeal. 
  • Double and triple check all your existing ad copy, images, landing pages, and any other assets in your ad account to ensure there’s nothing that could potentially be misconstrued as violating one of Google’s policies. 
  • Have new ads planned for September and beyond? Try to publish them before September. That way, if they get flagged for any reason, you have time to resolve the issue before receiving a warning under the new policy. 

This might all sound a little scary, but remember that the criteria for getting a warning or strike are quite specific. It’s highly unlikely that your business is engaging in any of these practices. However, you should familiarize yourself with Google’s policies so you can be prepared to appeal in case your ads are ever incorrectly flagged. 

Looking to get more out of your Google Ads? Explore our guides on Smart Bidding and SEO forecasting

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