Supplements and Google Ads: Dealing with difficult verticals

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Over the years, those of us here at Metric Labs have dealt with any number of campaigns that have run afoul of Google Ads (formally AdWords) policy restrictions. Google’s automated systems often disapprove ads that seem entirely innocent, and can sometimes wipe out entire campaigns that have been running for some time.

I remember trying to advertise a New Year’s Eve event campaign for a restaurant. Our main selling point was the clear view of the fireworks on Sydney Harbour, which lead to repeated disapprovals and many hours talking to Google representatives about how the business in question wasn’t trying to sell fireworks of any sort.

Today, we’re going to be talking about the “Supplements” vertical, and giving you some tips on how to deal with your non-infringing ads in areas where Google’s automatic censors are a tad overzealous.


It’s pretty clear why Google might be strict in this vertical. The industry abounds with people selling products that are ineffective, quasi-legal, or even outright dangerous. Some are trying to sell pharmaceuticals as supplements. Google has been rigorous in banning individual products and product groups, such as steroids, that violate laws or Google guidelines, but these often end up being too broad regardless. Here are some tips to help manage ad creation on these often difficult accounts.

  1. Read the policy, prepare your creative

Take, for example, a client selling nutritional or bodybuilding supplements. Make sure to closely audit all landing pages, for claims that might breach (or appear to breach) policy. Pay special attention to weight loss claims, including claims made about weight maintenance (important for muscle focussed supplements). Remove anything specific, such as “proven to aid in weight loss”, even if sources back it up.

  1. Expect things to go wrong, and research why

Despite all these measures, you may immediately have a number of ads disapproved. In fact, this happened to us recently. We had trouble even uploading the shopping ad feed. Luckily, we’d identified where the algorithm had slipped up, namely on the use of weight loss associated terms.

  1. Call Google and explain exactly what went wrong

Google representatives can be quite reticent about allowing ads to be re-approved, but if you can explain the purpose of the ad (why it was likely flagged for disapproval, and why it was incorrect), you can usually get them to agree to review upon resubmission. With our preparation, we were able to get our ads up within 48 hours of disapproval.

  1. If all else fails, try a different approach

Sometimes the nature of your product means that you’re doomed to a constant cycle of disapprovals and re-approvals. In the case of the fireworks above, we eventually changed our NYE creative to refer to celebrations rather than fireworks, which lowered our quality score, but saved us hours of work dealing with Google reps. Sometimes you just need to cut your losses.

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