[Update:] Google has deemed the site safe again.
[Original article:] You may have been greeted recently with a warning message from Firefox or Chrome that One Angry Gamer is an evil website looking to take your personal info, raid your house at night, eat the few remaining Oreo cookies you have stashed away and even dip them in some milk before stashing some girlie magazines under your son’s bed and slipping a morning after pill under your daughter’s pillow. The truth of the matter is that the site is not some home invader, nor is it some back-net terrorist organization who was found out to be peddling in rare Pepes on the black market after the ADL banned the green frog meme.
The truth of the matter is that Google changed the way they dole out punishment to websites associated with ad vendors they don’t like.
The message that Google sent out indicating that One Angry Gamer is no longer safe, reads…
“Google’s Safe Browsing systems have detected that some pages on your site might be hacked or might include third party resources such as ads that are designed to trick users into installing malicious software or giving up sensitive information. To protect your site’s visitors, your site has been demoted in Google’s search results and browsers such as Google Chrome now display a warning when users visit your site.”
It doesn’t matter if your site is actually clean, does not contain any malware or does not partake in deceptive practices, if an ad vendor displays an ad that could be deemed deceptive or malicious then your entire site will be hit with a label of being unsafe.
Earlier this year Google began cracking down on deceptive ads. Back on February 3rd, 2016, a member of Google’s Safe Browsing Team, Lucas Ballard, wrote…
“In November, we announced that Safe Browsing would protect you from social engineering attacks – deceptive tactics that try to trick you into doing something dangerous, like installing unwanted software or revealing your personal information (for example, passwords, phone numbers, or credit cards). You may have encountered social engineering in a deceptive download button, or an image ad that falsely claims your system is out of date. Today, we’re expanding Safe Browsing protection to protect you from such deceptive embedded content, like social engineering ads.”
Some of these ads include things like “Click Here to Secure Your Browser” or “Download This Media Player Now”. They show a few visual examples.
Websites that contain these sorts of ads will be labeled by Google as “deceptive websites”.
So how did One Angry Gamer get on there? Because some of the ads cycled through by an ad vendor contained things like “Download this Update” or “Click Here To Play Media”, and that was enough to get on Google’s naughty list.
You might be asking… “Why would you allow those ads on your site”?
The answer: As a publisher/webmaster, you don’t have a choice. From some ad vendors you simply pick the container size and sometimes they’ll ask if the site is adult oriented or not, and from there they target your viewers with ads based on their own metrics. It’s an automated process and we’ve been using that particular vendor off and on for over a year.
Some of you are probably asking… ”Why would you choose an ad vendor with shady ads even though Google said they were punishing sites for running those ads?”
The answer: Honestly this new ad policy is news to me. In fact, Google never notified webmasters that they were even making this change. In the messages center there were a few notifications about errors and link updates, but nothing about ad policy changes. As you can see in the webmaster backend, Google never sent out a notification that they would be enacting this penalty after February 3rd, 2016.
I’m sure some of you are also asking… ”If you can’t choose your ads then how do you know Google won’t penalize your site again if another ad vendor runs ads that Google deems deceptive?”
The answer: You can’t know. The reality is that publishers don’t actually get to choose ads from vendors, it’s an automated process. So if another vendor decides to run an ad that has “Download Now” in the banner or display box, Google will demote your website and label it as deceptive and malicious.
On the upside, search engines like Bing or Yahoo will notify you first about potential problems before instantly dropping ban-hammers on your site. However, in this case there was no notification because Bing and Yahoo don’t have this particular penalization based on what ad vendors might run on your site.
”So is there any way to prevent this from happening in the future?”
The answer: If you sign up with Google’s AdSense then sure, you can avoid Google penalizing your entire site for an ad vendor’s ads. However, Google AdSense is very strict, and it’s very easy to have ads pulled based on the simplest of violations. But of course, the flip side is that Google can still penalize you based on an ad vendor supplying your site with ads they don’t like, so it’s a tricky situation no matter what.
”So is One Angry Gamer still safe to browse?”
Yes. The site is still the same as it’s always been, the ads are just Google-friendly now. According to the notification, Google will review the site over the course of 72 hours and determine whether or not to remove the deceptive website notification to users and restore the page rank to the site.