Tired of Ad Revenue Deductions? 7 proven ways to stop them

Ad Optimization
December 15, 2023 | by Aleesha Jacob

Google could deduct money from your account: (1) If advertisers fail to pay for the ads displayed on your site or app; or (2) If invalid activities have been detected in your account.

When notifying publishers about the clawbacks with any invalid activity, notice that Google would normally provide, if at all, vague or generalized reasons. They don’t want publishers to play the system and find their way to circumvent it. Now that’s something publishers don’t have control over. It is, therefore, important to focus on the things you can control.

Reasons for Ad Revenue Deductions

Ad revenue deductions can be a challenging aspect for publishers using platforms like AdSense, Ad Manager, or Ad Exchange. Understanding the common reasons for these deductions is crucial for maintaining healthy revenue streams. Here are the primary factors that can lead to deductions:

1. Invalid Traffic

This includes clicks or impressions from automated sources like bots or users attempting to fraudulently boost their earnings. Google employs sophisticated technology to detect such invalid activities and will deduct earnings accrued from them.

2. Policy Violations

AdSense has stringent policies to ensure ads are displayed in a safe and appropriate environment. Violations of these policies, such as inappropriate content or ad placement, can lead to deductions in earnings.

3. Advertiser Non-Payment

In some cases, deductions occur because advertisers fail to pay for the ads displayed. This might happen due to bankruptcy or other financial issues on the advertiser’s part.

4. Aggressive Ad Refreshes

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Google recommends a certain interval between ad refreshes. Overly aggressive refreshes (less than the advised time limit) can be flagged as invalid traffic, leading to deductions.

5. Low Ad Viewability

Ads that aren’t easily viewable due to poor placement or other factors may not perform well, leading to lower revenue and potential deductions if they fall below certain thresholds set by platforms or advertisers.

6. Accidental Clicks and Low Engagement

Layouts prone to accidental clicks or that register low engagement rates can affect the relationship with advertisers and lead to deductions.

7. Sudden Spikes or Drops in Traffic

Unusual changes in website analytics, like a sudden spike or drop in traffic, can signal issues like invalid traffic or technical problems, leading to revenue deductions.

8. Double-Serving

Showing the same ad more than once to the same user or displaying more ads than permitted can result in deductions.

To avoid these deductions, publishers should adhere to the platform’s policies, ensure genuine traffic sources, monitor ad performance, and use tools to detect and suppress invalid traffic. Understanding these factors can help in effectively managing ad revenue and reducing the risk of deductions.

Is it legal? Is it a standard practice?

When you sign up with AdSense, Ad Manager, and/or Ad Exchange, you are presented with their verbose program policies and guidelines, which I’m sure almost nobody even pays attention to. Here is a screenshot of part of the “Invalid Activity” section with details on what they expect from you as a publisher partner.

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You are signing into a contractual agreement with Google when you opt to accept the terms of service. In terms of how they are detecting invalid activity, we’ll count on Google with their high-end tech and sophisticated strategies around it. For as long as you abide by the rules, you get to keep your earnings, and it’s a win-win situation for both parties.

Getting clawbacks due to advertisers declaring bankruptcy or disappearing and running away with all the money that should have been yours is another elephant in the room. Although Google works hard to filter out these advertisers and protect the advertising ecosystem, it’s inevitable. The good thing is, this type of clawback is extremely rare nowadays. Thanks to Google for blacklisting them from the platform.

Imagine celebrating a huge increase in revenues only to end up getting a clawback notification on your account. That’s one hard pill to swallow. I guess everybody should postpone the celebration until the money actually hits the bank account.

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Clawbacks due to invalid activity – ok, I get it. But clawbacks due to advertiser non-payment – no. We hear you. It remains a mystery why publishers are the ones penalized when it’s not their fault. However, other Ad Networks pay their publishers the reported earnings regardless of whether the advertisers go bankrupt or not. They are one of the special few.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Google. Other Ad Networks also follow the same set of rules. At the end of the day, it is your choice whether to continue working with Google or not. Read and understand the fine print when entering into any agreement. If you feel it’s worth taking the risk, go for it.

No, you’re not singled out. It can happen to any publisher, big or small.

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How to stop ad revenue/AdSense deductions?

Let’s break down a few important things that publishers CAN control:

#1 – Partner only with genuine traffic sources

We heard a few publishers complaining that their traffic comes mostly from Facebook, and therefore, it should be 100% genuine. But how come they are still getting “ad serving limited” issues, specifically in AdSense? Only Google can tell.

There is possibly some user behavior detected by Google that seems to be unusual or abnormal. It could be a user that was just mindlessly clicking or refreshing your site pages or someone who loves playing around moving the mouse pointer in a repetitive pattern. Who knows?

Monitor when this happens, if there’s a trend or pattern. If working with multiple traffic sources, you might want to consider testing one at a time to isolate the issue in case something comes up easily.

#2 – Avoid aggressive ad refreshes

If you must, Google recommends no less than 240 seconds between ad refreshes. Publishers are testing 60, 90, and 120 seconds, and most are doing fine. Never go lower than 30 seconds for sure. This strategy, for some reason, is sending an IVT signal to Google and other bot detection tools, which could eventually get your account blacklisted.

Watch out for ad networks injecting aggressive refreshes as well. Audit your site regularly to catch any bad actors as they can sneak in without warning.

#3 – Pay attention to your ads’ viewability

The IAB recommends at least 70% viewability as that’s when ads usually perform best. Breakdown your report by Ad Unit > Active View Viewable.

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The Ad Units with the lowest viewability are the ones that usually need your attention. Check if they can be repositioned to a better spot on the page. If not, try to disable or pause it and observe how it impacts your overall performance. Keep experimenting.

#4 – Audit your Ad CTRs

Advertisers don’t like paying for ads that don’t convert. If your layout is prone to accidental clicks and registers low engagement rates, that could eventually hurt your relationship with advertisers.

Imagine a click that was not of genuine interest. The user accidentally clicked your ad, and lands on the advertiser’s landing page but exits and returns to your site within a second or two. It’s ok if that happens to very few users only. What if this behavior happens from a statistically significant amount of users? Boom, you’re done.

Check here on how to prevent a 2-click penalty from Google. PubGuru Ad Inspector is also able to detect if your site has 2-click penalty enforcement.

#5 – Sudden spikes or drops could mean something isn’t right

Any unexpected changes in your data should merit an investigation. Dig into every corner of Google Analytics. Pay attention to sudden changes, particularly on the following:

  • Bounce rate
  • Pages per session
  • Average session duration
  • Acquisition (traffic sources)
  • Audience > Behavior
  • Behavior > Site Speed

On your Google Ad Manager report, check any abnormal changes on the following metrics:

  • Unfilled impressions
  • Average eCPM
  • Active View % viewable impressions
  • CTR
  • Fill Rate
  • Ad server tracked ads
  • Ad server unfiltered tracked ads

#6 – Any recent changes deployed

Document every little change deployed on your site. When something goes wrong, you have a reference to go back to, and you know where to point your fingers to.

#7 – IVT/ASPV detection & suppression tool

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Bots are getting smarter and harder to catch these days. One of the best ways to combat invalid traffic is to run a robust and reliable bot detection & suppression tool. Don’t wait until your account gets banned before you act. Even with the appeals process, it shows Google that you are taking issues seriously when taking steps to curtail IVT. The two-time award winning bot blocking tool Traffic Cop from MonetizeMore detects and suppresses invalid traffic and invalid activities such as abnormal mouse movements, browsing behaviors, and drastically zeroes down your chances of getting revenue clawbacks.

So, what are you waiting for? Say See Ya to Revenue Deductions for good! Get Started here.



What are the common reasons for AdSense deductions?

There are several reasons why AdSense might make deductions from your earnings: - Invalid traffic: This includes clicks or impressions that come from automated sources, such as bots, or from users who are attempting to fraudulently inflate their earnings. - Policy violations: AdSense has strict policies in place to ensure that ads are shown in a safe and appropriate environment. If you violate these policies, your earnings may be deducted. - Double-serving: If you show the same ad to the same user more than once, or if you show more ads than the number permitted by AdSense, your earnings may be deducted.

How can I avoid AdSense deductions?

To avoid AdSense deductions, you should make sure to follow AdSense's policies and guidelines. This includes ensuring that your website or app is safe and appropriate for all audiences, and that you are not serving ads in a way that violates AdSense's policies. You should also be careful to avoid invalid traffic and double-serving. This includes making sure that you are not using any automated means to generate clicks or impressions, and that you are only showing each ad to a user once.

What can I do if I think I have been unfairly deducted?

If you believe that you have been unfairly deducted, you can contact AdSense support for further assistance. Make sure to provide as much information as possible about the deduction, including the date and time it occurred, the type of activity that led to the deduction, and any relevant screenshots or other documentation. Google will review your case and provide further guidance on how to proceed.

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