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The Common Pitfalls of Ad Disapproval in AdWords

From medical terms, the selling of alcohol & gambling products, and issues with copyright and URLs, there are many reasons why Google might disapprove your ads within AdWords. This blog takes you through some of the most frequent problems and how to avoid them, as well as some general ad copy dos and don’ts.

Medical Terms

Google is very strict on the use of medical terms in ads and landing pages, which causes more issues with ad approvals then you may initially think.

In most countries Google doesn’t allow the use of ANY prescription drug terms in ad text, landing pages or keywords. The exception to this is Canada, New Zealand and the US where you can use prescription terms if you are a registered drug manufacturer or a Google certified online pharmacy. 

Although most clients don’t sell prescription products, ad disapproval for medical terms is still very common. The main reason for this is that Google uses a computer ‘crawler’ to scan landing pages for prescription terms and will disapprove ads if a drug term is identified, no matter what the context. For example, it’s occurrence is very common for clients selling beauty products, as lists of ingredients occasionally contain names of medical products even though the product itself is not a prescription drug. The result is a disapproved ad.

Solution: If your ads do get disapproved for the use of a medical term and you are not selling prescription drugs you can apply for a manual review. Your ads will be looked at by a member of the Google team who, unlike a computer, will take context into account.

Alcohol & Gambling 

You can advertise alcohol in most parts of the world as long as you keep to AdWords policies. However, your ads will be disapproved if you are advertising alcohol in countries where it is banned.

A common occurrence when advertising alcohol is to get a status of ‘approved (limited)’. Don’t let this panic you. It’s more likely that you are targeting a list of countries, some of which you cannot advertise alcohol in. In this case your ads will only show in the countries where the ads are allowed.

However, there are some campaign types where you cannot advertise alcohol: 

  • Gmail
  • Dynamic search ads
  • App image and video ads 
  • Consumer ratings annotations 

Like alcohol, advertising casinos and online gambling is approved by Google for most ad formats, however you do need to apply for a Google certification for certain types of gambling ads. 

You cannot advertise gambling here: 

  • On the Seller Network 
  • On the DoubleClick Ad Exchange 
  • Gmail
  • Shopping
  • Dynamic display ads

Trademarks & Copyright

Unsurprisingly, ads will get disapproved if they contain copyrighted content. Although this seems obvious it’s a very common reason for ad disapproval, especially if you are a legal re-seller of a copyrighted product. If Google finds another brand name in your ad copy that does not match your own, your ad can be disapproved. An example of this might be if you are advertising a conference and your ad copy contains the brands appearing as your speakers. You can use trademark symbols in your ads e.g. TM, but you must always check that you are eligible to use them. The wrong use of trademarks however does not tend to be such a common reason for ad disapproval. This is because a complaint must be manually submitted by the trademark owner for it to be disapproved.


Your domain name must match your display URL domain e.g. if your website is ilovePPC.com you can’t have your display URL as SEOisthebest.com as Google deems this to be misleading. You can of course still customise path 1 and path 2 of the display URL e.g. ilovePPC.com/SEO.

Another one to watch out for is 404 pages; these are obviously a no for Google. So, if your landing page is not yet live or is broken then your ads will be disapproved. 

Ad Copy Dos & Don’ts

So far, we have covered some of the lesser known reasons for ad disapprovals. There are also some very basic rules to stick to when writing ad copy so your ads get approved.

Here’s what not to put in your ad copy (unless you’re asking for a disapproval!)

  • Excessive use of punctuation e.g. f-r-e-e!!!
  • Excessive capitals e.g. FREE GIFT AT CHECK OUT!
  • Exaggerated statements and misrepresentation e.g. 'number one UK phone provider'. This needs to be backed up by a third party. To avoid this use more general statements such as ‘trusted UK phone provider
  • Click bait – any phrase that includes ‘click here’ terms will be disapproved; stick to calls to action such as ‘shop online today’.
  • Phone numbers in the ad text. These must be added as a call extension instead.


To summarise, not only do ad disapprovals reduce traffic to your site but constant or significant amounts of ad disapprovals can lead to the entire AdWords account being suspended. It is therefore important to check for ad disapprovals from time to time and to fix them ASAP