What's up with Google's new Sensitive Events policy?
Join our host, Toby Rosen, as we dissect the new definition of a sensitive event as it pertains to Google's inappropriate content policy. We'll explore the broad strokes and the fine print that could put legal marketers in hot water during times of crisis.
It's not just about staying compliant. Discover how Google's policy could alter the trajectory of your marketing efforts when society faces emergencies and tragedies.
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Welcome to Legal Marketing 101. I'm Toby Rosen. Happy 2024. We are back once again with the weekly episodes, and today we are starting with some actual news for once. If you get the emails that Google sends out, like announcements about new policies and things, you may have received the email about a policy update that came out in the last couple of weeks. That was regarding sensitive events. Google is updating its inappropriate content policy to go ahead and clarify the definition of a sensitive event, and while this probably isn't going to apply to most of you, it will apply to some of you and, in some ways, it applies to everyone. But it also just gives me a good chance to talk about Google's policies for ads. This is something we're going to talk about a lot more this year. So what are Google's policies? Well, there are a lot of them. The link to the main page for Google's ads policies is linked in the show notes and you can feel free to peruse those at your leisure. We're going to cover more of them here on the show. They're really not that exciting and more often than not, they're not particularly detailed. And before you get excited, no, this does not mean that there are some loopholes that you can exploit. It actually means that Google gets really huge leeway to decide what is and what isn't against the policy, and of course that is their prerogative, regardless of how frustrating it may be for me. But let's talk about this update that's getting rolled out in February about sensitive events. Google is clarifying their definition of what a sensitive event is and they're basically saying that it's any major news event, and they've included a bunch of examples like civil emergencies, natural disasters, public health emergencies, terrorism, conflicts, mass acts of violence and other things that will probably get my podcast flagged. Basically, it's any event with significant social, cultural or political impact, and I could suppose you could say that kind of covers pretty much everything. But we're going to assume that they're going to use this policy wisely to try and limit this or misinformation. I also don't really care to get into the politics of this. If I needed more stress in my life, I'd just go and watch Parasite again. So now that we've gone through what a sensitive event is in Google's perspective at least, what's the actual limitation here that they're implementing and how does it affect us? Well, basically, during these sensitive events, or if you're advertising on something that's related to one of these sensitive events, google is making it a policy to prohibit a few types of content. These are, in Google's words, products or services that exploit, dismiss or condone the event, and this includes price gouging via ads or using ads to artificially inflate prices in a way that could prohibit or restrict access to vital supplies. I think you can see what event we're talking about for that one. But you also can't sell products or services which may be insufficient for demand during a sensitive event, and you cannot use keywords related to a sensitive event to attempt to drive additional traffic. And this is kind of a good thing actually, this part of the policy, because if you're using a crappy pay-per-click manager, they might do this. But you also can't claim that victims of an event are responsible for their own tragedy, or you can't really do victim blaming generally, and you can't claim that victims of a tragedy are not deserving of remedy or support, and you can't claim and I'm quoting here that victims from certain countries were responsible or deserving of a global public health crisis. So we can see this sort of picture we're getting from Google here, which, for better or worse, is probably closer to impressionist art than a real legal policy. And don't get me wrong, I am totally against misinformation. It's not good for me If my tone is seeming increasingly sarcastic, it's only because I can see all the problems that Google is going to deal with and that people are inevitably going to be mad about, because Google wrote this policy with let's call it penumbra's and emanations of the limitation that they're trying to create here. Obviously, in marketing legal services, I generally don't have to respond to events like this. Everyone, sure, we made adjustments during the pandemic, but only a handful of my clients even really addressed it specifically in their market. Most of them just posted a notice about virtual meetings on the website, and they moved on. Business went on as usual, and some of you have just taken those notices down, and you might even still have those up. You can take that pop up down now, okay. So why do the holes in this policy make me so anxious? Because it means we're likely going to see some really interesting ad rejection reasons soon. Google's filters for ad approvals are notoriously bad, and they have some really old school systems for detecting the disallowed content we're talking about here. If you've ever been an ad appeal hell, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Perhaps, though, there is a little bit of hope with this. With all of the competition in the AI space still as hot as when we last talked to each other, maybe we can hope that Google is integrating more AI into their filters and into their ad approval system. I'm still getting the same rejections, as usual, as of the recording of this episode, and the same issues are coming up, with Google detecting pages as non existent even when they're actually working. But nonetheless, I am still holding out hope and we're going to talk about ad policy more soon. There are a lot of policies that really specifically apply to lawyers and I think I'll apply specifically to the people listening to this now and we're also going to talk about some of my favorite stories from talking to Google support, and I'll tell you why. It's been a few years since I've taken a call from Google support, but for today, I just want to say welcome back, welcome to 2024. And that's it for Legal Marketing 101. Check out rosanadvertisingcom for more Thanks.