Google declare war on desktop software (for now)

Posted by Aaron WeinerDigital Marketing, Google Ads

Don’t skim this post. It may affect you – if not today or tomorrow, then at some point.

If you sell desktop software through AdWords, you need to be aware of Google’s new stance against your business.

Google recently unveiled a new AdWords policy on desktop software, “Unsupported content: free desktop software”.  

“The AdWords policy on unsupported content will change in April 2015. The policy is changing to prohibit the promotion of free desktop software unless the ad names the specific software being promoted and leads to the site designated as the primary online distribution source. After the new policy goes into effect, the policy description will be updated to reflect this change.”

Companies selling software may think that this doesn’t apply to them, as they don’t offer free software.

They should think again.

Companies who don’t sell software may think that this doesn’t apply to them at all.

They should also think again. See I’m not a software company, I don’t care below.

While it’s still early days for Google enforcing this policy, they appear to be disapproving ads that offer demo/free trial software, and not only ads that are offering free software.

All hope is not lost.

You can still advertise free desktop software through AdWords, you just need to do the following:

  • Your ads must point directly to landing pages on a site designated as the software’s primary distribution source.
  • Your ads must include the promoted software’s name. (Yes, you did just read that correctly.)

In the fine print of this new policy, there’s a form that needs to be filled out in order to set that primary distribution source. It’s the “Application to advertise free desktop software as an authoritative distribution site” form.

Anyone that’s been hit by this new policy will need to fill out that form.  

My main issue is with the second part of the policy: the requirement to name the promoted software within the ad. As advertisers, we have a limited amount of space within our AdWords ads. Being forced to wedge in the name of your software will be at best limiting, at worst disastrous.

You may be thinking: “I’m not a software company, I don’t care.”

Although this recent change only affects software companies, it’s a worrying trend for everybody.

Google’s sudden policy changes are having a dramatic impact on many businesses. They’re not doing anything wrong, they’re not trying to trick the system, and they’re not in any way deceiving the people clicking their ads. Yet they may come into work one morning to find their accounts frozen.

Google are moving the goal posts, changing the rules and redefining legitimacy – both for AdWords and their organic listings. You might well be next. And when it happens, it hurts.

adwords - drops like a stone