Google Warns Scammers: We're Watching You

Dennis Faas's picture

In a recent blog post, Google gives interested users a glimpse into some of the tools it uses to make sure ads for bogus products and services don't show up on its sites.

The company is also trying to direct more attention toward genuine advertisers who have proven to be trustworthy and reliable.

These revelations came after a company blog post was written by David Baker, who is in charge of the engineering side of Google's advertising business.

Google: Three-Pronged Approach Highly Effective

Baker's post explained that Google looks for signs of bad advertisements on three levels. (Source:

The first level is the individual advertisements.

Baker says Google's automated systems don't just examine the text of an ad, but also look at the page to which the ad links. If there's any doubt about whether the advertiser is legitimate, the system refers it to a Google employee for further examination.

Level two is an examination of the entire site to which an advertisement links.

The company has built up and maintains a database of all the pages on every site that are destinations for links in advertisements.

Google recognizes that individual ads on their own might not show up clearly as a scam, but has learned that a pattern of suspicious pages on the same site may be a sign of something amiss.

Where appropriate, Google will block all ads that link anywhere into a suspicious website.

On the third level, Google looks at patterns of behavior by individual advertisers.

After an advertiser has put up one or two ads worthy of blocking, even if those ads point to different websites, Google's system watches them more closely and may flag them as a potential source of problems.

Other warning signs that Google looks for include:

  • Frequent changes of business address.
  • A high proportion of websites closing down after an advertisement has run its course.

Either of these could be an indication that a scammer is trying to "cut and run".

Legit Advertisers Display Special Logo

In a separate announcement, Google says it is stepping up its Trusted Stores program. Under these guidelines, Google explicitly acknowledges the reliability of certain online retailers.

To get this accreditation, a retailer must provide data proving it ships all its products quickly, and it deals with customer complaints adequately. (Source:

Google is hoping to generate more impact for its Trusted Stores program by adding a special logo beside the advertisements of companies that have earned this accreditation.

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