Hacking AdWords – Who Said Black Hat Was Just Organic?

In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), there’s often no better place to keep up to date than with drugs, sex, and casinos. Sheesh, no place sounds better in the world than all three combined, but let’s digress.

It isn’t often in your comfortable little niche that you get to witness such amazing black-hattery as you do in these competitive terms. That’s why, to stay ahead of the curve, you need to watch daily and take in absolutely everything.

I used to think Google’s AdWords program was like an iron wall, impervious to hacks, free from all that is apparently illegal, immoral, or just downright dirty. Turns out, it isn’t. It’s quite easy to get almost anything listed in here.

Let’s quickly review some things Google AdWords prohibits:

  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Pharmaceutical and prescription drugs
  • Casino and gambling

Sounds fair enough. So let’s take a quick look and see how good a job Google does of preventing these sites from entering AdWords.

Drug Paraphernalia

Hmmmm. Not doing too well on blocking the drug paraphernalia now are we?

Head shop


OK, this one’s likely an editorial/review slip on the AdWords team. You kind of need to “know” these terms right? Not everyone in the world would know these terms, so I can see how these could get through.

It’s just a tiny drop in the pond anyway. Google probably isn’t making that much money off the paraphernalia items!


Ahhhh! Typos. I can totally see how someone at Google could miss these ads!




“Buy Cheap VLagra” is totally acceptable — VLagra isn’t a prescription drug is it? For those of you who don’t know, VLagra is V|agras little brother! Cha-ching, more cash in Google’s pockets on these clicks!

Online Gambling

OK, so there’s tons and tons and tons of ads to review. Keywords get changed all the time. And here’s another AdWords slip up.

Online Blackjack

Online Gambling

Online Slots

How can these sites get through? There are no typos here. The ad copy even has the keywords in it.

Google AdWords specifically states that online casinos and gambling is prohibited. However, it explicitly states that “physical gambling equipment” is allowed.

If you’re clever, you’ve noticed that a lot of these sites in the AdWords sponsored links sections for the casino terms “look” like they have something to do with “physical gambling equipment,” either by domain name or ad copy.

Try clicking on one. Go on… Site doesn’t look like a “physical gambling equipment” page now does it?

Let’s Dig Around Some More

Take one of these domains in the sponsored links, throw them in Google, and look at the page cache. Is it any surprise that these guys are cloaking for Googlebot (and I assume the whole Google IP block — this is probably why they pass editorial review)?

I just wonder how it isn’t at all suspicious that there seems to be a bidding war going on among these banned and typo terms.

Why Haven’t People Complained?

Actually, they have. A quick Google search will bring up numerous complaints (even on the AdWords groups). Many of the sites seen breaking these rules have had complaints filed against them for at least 12 weeks.

Bottom line: this has been going on for a long time and nobody at Google wants to fix it. Maybe Google is too busy playing with their toys to care about this, maybe it’s too profitable to lose. Who knows.

Obviously, AdWords isn’t totally secure from black hat techniques.

Oh, one last thing. If you want to see something really cool, check out [Buy Viagra” and play “Count the Hacked .edus.”

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