Your AdWords Account: Ad Disapproved – Malicious or Unwanted Software – Why Did My Ads Get Disapproved?

Red Alert

Last night, 9:33pm, a slack notification lit up my watch from our lead developer with the preview, “red alert?”

Ok, so, that’s probably not a Slack to skip.

I jumped into the conversation while at the same time peeking at my email inbox only to notice the “Your AdWords Account: Ad Disapproved” emails warning that 800+ of our ads had been disapproved for “malicious or unwanted software” found on our site.

After checking our site and code manually alongside our lead developer, running it through some tools that check sites for spam, malware, etc. and looking for warnings in Google Search Console we found… nothing. Our site was clean. Perfect. Untouched.

So I jumped into a support chat with an Adwords support rep who escalated my issue to their review team. After waiting 10-15 minutes my chat rep responded that her team had confirmed our site was clean…

She apologized and promised that our ads should be live again within a few hours.

Then it happened.

Another email came through, but this one mentioned a different site – one that I’m also managing the Adwords for. The email had identical content, same warning, same explanation about ads being disapproved for “malicious or unwanted software.”

This second round of Adwords disapproved ad warnings showed up in the middle of the night so I left it there to take care of the next morning. But a few hours later another automated email came through from Adwords saying everything had been reviewed on this second site and the ads were approved again.

Aka… Google caught their bug falsely disapproving ads as linked to malicious sites.

More of the story: What should you do if you get an email telling you Adwords has disapproved some or all of your ads because you have malicious and unwanted software on your site…

Step 1 – Check Your Site

Check your site to make sure you weren’t hacked.

Step 2 – Wait

Wait a few hours to see if the Google machine will correct itself. If not contact Adwords support and really press into them to look into it. My chat support rep tried to shoo it away as if I actually must have had spam on my site somehow. There was no way in her mind that Google could’ve been wrong. But after getting her to escalate it to their review team (which took 10-20 minutes on chat-hold) she agreed there was nothing wrong with our site and the alert was in error.

Step 3 – Ask Them to Make It Right

Ask for a credit. I did and after hemming and hawing that several hours of our ads being down meant $X in lost revenue, got approved for a small amount in ad credits.