Idris Sami is a 19-year-old French-Moroccan entrepreneur who set up a website that lets people text their friends for free. Don’t have a phone, or want to avoid mobile data charges? No problem. MesTextos lets French-speakers text their friendsfrom the website. MesTextos isn’t going to threaten WhatsApp anytime soon, but in Europe and the Middle East, where alternative messaging services are more popular, free texting is a nice little niche to occupy.
And until the beginning of this year MesTextos.com was doing very well indeed.
Sami was running Google’s AdSense advertising system on his site. It allows website publishers to display search ads powered by Google and take a cut of the revenues.
By December 2013 so many people were clicking on MesTextos’ ads that Sami’s Google account hit $46,000.
But then he learned that if you’re an AdSense partner and you don’t run ads on your site exactly the way Google wants, the search giant will punish you.
Banned By Google
Google cancelled Sami’s account and returned all the money he had earned to his advertisers.
All $46,000 of it.
He is banned from Google’s ad programs until further notice.
Sami is furious about the money he earned and then lost. Although this is an extreme example — a huge portion of Google’s client base consists of individual publishers making only a few hundred dollars a month — it does typify one of the frustrations Google’s clients have dealing with the company.
Google is currently being sued in the U.S. over allegations that it suddenly and without explanation withholds ad money from website publishers once their sites become successful. And the company is the subject of an infamous, and obviously fake, conspiracy theory that publishers who make $5,000 or more per month are banned from the system right before their checks are paid. (The theory has a giant hole in it — Google collects revenues only when it delivers those ads, so banning successful sites would actually make Google poorer.) This theory has been making the rounds for years.
Emails From Google Praised The Site
In an email Google sent to Sami, Google says MesTextos was incentivizing or forcing people to click on ads to use the site, which is against the rules; Sami denies that. He says two different Google sales staff praised his revenue-generating efforts and, in separate emails, offered to help optimize his site to improve its performance. He says he wasn’t warned there was something wrong with his site until it was too late.
Google declined to comment on Sami specifically, but a spokesperson told Business Insider:
… we always send a note to the publisher explaining which policy was in question and, in many cases, give them a chance to make changes to their pages to keep the account in good standing. Publishers are also given an opportunity to appeal policy decisions.