How I Got Google AdWords Reinstated

Web developers are humans too, and like all of humankind, we make mistakes. One Saturday night, my mistake seemed to be pretty bad.

“My site has been hacked!" That is a message you never want to receive from a client. As soon as I was notified by my client about the attack, I immediately started scanning the site using all tools at my disposal. Everything turned up clean. It wasn't hacked! So why was he claiming his site was hacked?

After a quick follow-up, he revealed to me that he was trying to run a Google AdWords campaign and all attempts were being denied for “malicious or unwanted content.” What to do now? Well, you go straight to Google. A Google search suggested scanning the site with an external service as well as using the Google search console.

All the scans came back clean so I registered for the search console.

I then reached out to customer support. They provided me with a list of links to remove from my site. The list did not make any sense, as a bunch of the links were completely empty files (for customer changes to plugins). Nevertheless, I preceded to remove every link they had supplied me with but still no dice. The site was still flagged.

I contacted customer support again. This time, they provided me with a new list of links but the list included the actual URL! "So in order to clean my site from malicious content I have to remove my site??" I responded. The representative agreed that it was strange. He escalated the matter and said I would receive a response in 24-48 hours. Two days later, they responded that they weren’t able to view the site at all.

At this point, we were ready to throw in the towel. We bought a whole new domain, ported the site, and proceeded to submit the new site to AdWords. The new site was initially accepted but after an hour, it too was rejected. I had a look through the site and saw that I had left some functions linking back to the old domain.

I went back to chat with Google. We went through the same back and forth as before. This time I stressed that even Google search console couldn’t find any issues. The rep requested screenshots from within my Google search console that showed no issues.

Two days later, I received an email stating that they had approved the ad campaign! While there was no explanation provided by Google, I believe that a previous owner of the domain violated Google's policies. Therefore, the domain was blacklisted. Only after I was able to convince Google support to conduct a manual review, they finally removed the blacklist.

AK launch is a full-service software and web development agency based out of the US and Israel. Services include enterprise software, web development, cybersecurity, and digital marketing.