Google Ads and their Evil Trickery

Don’t get me wrong — Google Ads wouldn’t be the success it is if most advertisers didn’t benefit from it. We aren’t collectively that stupid to fall for a scam.

But for smaller advertisers, Google does, purposefully, grab money from advertisers through settings that do not suit them, and various other tactics.

Experienced advertisers know how to avoid these. Newbies, not so lucky.

Presence or Interest

In Campaign settings, by default, Google will show ads to someone in the location you have chosen, or if they are “interested” in that location. As determined by Google. I regularly see accounts advertising local services (for example, a plumber) having 5%, 10%, even 20% of ad spend coming from outside the location they selected.

Gmail Ads

A few years ago, Google offered Gmail ads as a stand-alone offering. Results were terrible. You paid for someone to “expand” the ad, which means to read it. That is very different to most other Google ad clicks which become website visits.

Gmail ads were unloved, but Google has a massive ad inventory in Gmail accounts, and of course won’t provide email for free.

So Gmail ads are now bundled with, and not reported separately on, many campaign types. You can tell via Analytics though, by comparing clicks paid for and the lack of website visits.

Click Fraud

On the Display Network, website owners get 65% of the click cost on ads they host. This creates a massive incentive for them to cheat, from asking their cousin to click on ads once a week, to serious tech endeavours.

Google does put a lot of effort into countering this, but experienced advertisers can easily identify fraudulent sites in the Placements Report— low quality content, high CTR — that Google has not removed.

Such sites often make fake conversions (if they are leads, for example), to dissuade you from removing them.

Ad Credit Promotions

While Google does explain how the promotions work (in the small print), a decent portion of advertisers wrongly believe they are getting free ads. Yet always you need to spend and pay for ads before getting credits for future advertising.

This is especially bad with the recent Google Business Profile promotions that don’t even make the terms obvious.


When a massive organisation that has over a $100B in cash and has a complicated product, expecting even basic competent support is a given.

Not Google. They are phasing out human support, and if the automated support doesn’t suit your unique situation, they don’t care.

Monopoly Abuse

Most monopoly issues revolve around making profits from a reduced level of competition.

Google is unique — it is hard for many businesses to succeed without advertising on Google.

And yet Google suspends Ads accounts for innocent mistakes, and bans those advertisers for life. Google is beyond harsh, beyond cruel, and has zero empathy.

Audience Expansion

Remarketing is a common use of Google Ads — show ads to people who have visited your site, to inspire them to return and buy.

By default, Google adds people “like” your visitors to the ad-serving audience. Not only is this not obvious during setup, finding the setting to remove it is difficult — I still struggle to find it.

Automated Ad Copy

If you use a Smart campaign (the default for new accounts), Google can rewrite your ad copy to what their AI thinks is better, potentially misrepresenting your business, without telling you.

Google will also add automated Ad Extensions written by a machine, unless you opt out.

Optimisation Score

Google has gamified optimising your account by giving you a score. To get 100% you need to agree to automated recommendations that have no consideration of your business type, needs or goals. Common ones are “raise bids” or “raise your budget”.

The score makes no difference to your account performance, but Google pushes the recommendations constantly.

Also there is a score for ad copy, which is equally unimportant to an experienced advertiser.

Zero Care for SMBs

Google’s emails to advertisers are always about success stories about corporations, and of course they cherry pick.

There is zero information, tips, ideas for small businesses. Google doesn’t care.

Zero Care for Agencies

The lack of evolution of the Ad Preview feature of the Ads Editor says it all. As does the removal of account managers for agencies.

Imperfect UI

Years into their latest interface there are glaring issues that Google hasn’t bothered to fix. MCC users suffer filters being applied to every account instead of just the one you are working on (this could suit some advertisers, but it should optional). Try changing Conversion Actions settings and see how many clicks it takes. There are dozens of UI issues that are glaringly obvious and an easy fix for a company with so much cash and talent. Their hubris is disturbing.

Run by Artificial Intelligence??

While I doubt we are anywhere close to a General AI that we should be worried about, Google’s operations suggest they are at the least guided by some AI.

  • Lack of empathy, or even any level of care for small advertisers



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store