How Google HoneyDicked Us

Posted Nov 29, 2014

After we launched, a Google AdWords team extended a helping hand, but then things took a different turn after applying for Google Surveys. Someone from that team took it upon themselves to get us booted off AdSense. Basically, learn about Google products for monetization and #honeydicking.

When we first launched CodeBabes we were the "worst thing on the internet" for at least three weeks. The maximum amount of time people stay angry about something before hitting the internet outrage reset button.

Even though we were the "worst" it didn't stop people from tweeting, sharing and generally promoting us into oblivion. Which is great! That kind of publicity is usually expensive!

On the worse end of it were companies publicly dropping us for a little street cred in the insulated tech world, like Stripe. Others privately screwed with us, Recurly, we'll come for you eventually. But, a few companies welcomed us with open arms, one being Google.

Let the HoneyDicking Begin

A few weeks after launching, an Adwords team emailed us to be a part of a special on-boarding program, ya know, just for the cool kids, the "Digital Strategy Team". We were contacted through Facebook AND email. The heart wants what it wants.

Invite to Google Media Partnerships Invite to Google Media Partnerships

Facebook Invite to Google Media Partnerships Facebook Invite to Google Media Partnerships
We're a niche team here at Google. Our primary focus is developing strategies and providing support to businesses that are looking for rapid expansion or trying to drive significant growth.*

* Translation: Gives us all the Adwords monies!

The Super Cool Adwords Kids Club Team

Holy SHIT, look at the diversityImage engineered to exhibit the maximum allowable amount of ethnic/gender diversity possible, EVER. So diverse, much ethnicity, wow. DOGE APPROVED!

We didn't participate, cordially thanking them and going on our way. "But Google was down with us!", we thought, so we decided to apply for an Adsense account, since we were already monetizing our YouTube content. AdSense is the Google program that let's sites put up annoying banner and text ads, which things like AdBlock hide for you. Unless you get millions of views it doesn't amount to much cash money, but every little bit counts for us, especially since we're not milking that sweet, sweet, Venture Capital teet.

We were approved for Adsense and we started placing ads on the site. Being on a roll, we applied for the Google Surveys program.

Google Surveys

Google Surveys is a program that lets websites place consumer surveys for users to fill out before accessing content. They fill out a few questions and get access to your site. You can set access levels by days. It amounts to about .05-.10 cents per survey. Doesn't sound like much, but we've had over 300,000 quizzes completed so that could add up if a small survey is integrated into each one.

After applying we never heard anything, but toward the end of 2014 Google opened up Surveys to the masses. We jumped on that shit!

How Google Surveys Work

You add this script to your page. For our purposes we modified the script a little bit because well, running a document.write on your page is not that great.

<script type="text/javascript">
(function() {
  var ARTICLE_URL = window.location.href;
  var CONTENT_ID = 'everything';
    '<scr'+'ipt '+
    (CONTENT_ID ? '&cid='+encodeURIComponent(CONTENT_ID) : '')+
    '&random='+(new Date).getTime()+
    '" type="text/javascript">'+'\x3C/scr'+'ipt>');

Then you wrap the content you want to protect, or in our case the submit button for our quizzes in this:

<div class="p402_premium">
<script type="text/javascript">
  try { _402_Show(); } catch(e) {}

Once a person fills out the survey the script shows the hidden content via CSS.

Google Survey in the WildGoogle Survey in the Wild

Shit Gets Weird

At this point there's no reason to believe Google has any problem with our content. We're AdSense approved and they've contacted us to be a part of their super cool Adwords program. Both indicate we're within all guidelines. So when we get an email that our Google Surveys account was disabled we're surprised.

Google Surveys DenialGoogle Surveys Denial

We're sick of companies pulling this shit with us so we forward them the original email from Google AdWords and ask why our content is ok for that and Adsense, but not Google Surveys? And booyah, we get reinstated.

Surveys Account Re-instatedGoogle Surveys Re-instated

Or so we Thought

Two days later we get an email from a different person at Google Surveys, it's hard to tell since every email only contains generic first names. For brevitys sake, let's call him 'Jim'. Jim says we're out, done, finito. 'Jim' sounds kind of dickish, no?

Google Surveys ReversalGoogle Surveys Reversal

This email comes two days after they reinstated us, after we've spent time integrating Google Surveys. Almost like they're deliberately fucking with us. Other companies pulled the same shit in the past (Recurly). They say we're all good, let us spend some time integrating their API or service, and then pull out. Not the good kind of pull out either.. i.e. #HONEYDICKED.


Ok, Google Surveys doesn't want us, we don't agree, but we persevere, water under the bridge as they say. Unfortunately, somebody at Google Surveys didn't feel the same way. Somebody wanted to #HONEYDICK us as hard as possible. They do this by getting our AdSense account pulled. Here is the email we got three days after the Google Surveys shutdown email.

AdSense SuspendedAdSense Suspended

A few things that make this total, utter, complete, bullshit.

  1. We passed the AdSense approval process, and our site hadn't changed since that time, here's the email in case you're curious.
  2. There were ZERO ads on our front page, the URL they reference.
  3. None of the things they reference as violations happen on that page, if anyone can find one let us know!
  4. It happened THREE days after someone reversed the Google Surveys decision. Coincidence, my dear Watson? We think not.

That leaves two scenarios. First, Google employees aren't objective. They let personal bias influence decision making. For a company like Google, a veritable monopoly and gatekeeper of information, that's fucking scary.

Google's arguments versus antitrust investigations usually are based around two things. First, they argue people are free to go to any search engine they want and second, their search results are generated by un-biased algorithms. The only manipulation of search results is to make them better at giving people the information they want, not the information any outside entity, including themselves, want. When you start seeing people within Google affected by personal bias you start to worry that their sacred search results may not be so sacred after all.

Second scenario, their approval process for advertising related services is broken. Which is strange because that's Google's bread and butter, where the majority of their earnings come from. So if that's broken, any business advertising with them should be a little nervous.

We always ask companies if it's ok that we use their services before we actually do. A general courtesy since we know we're a little controversial. When a company assures us we're good to go, then they don't stand by their word, that wastes our precious time and resources. It delays new content when we're constatnly re-integrating APIs. Ain't nobody got time for that!

And this wasn't even the first occurence. A few months after we launched Stripe booted us even though we had gone through their approval process. We asked Recurly if we could use their platform and they intially told us it would be fine. What happened next is that they both strung out the transfer for almost two months, until Recurly just told us to get lost. Keep in mind this was after we asked them up front to get confirmation that they were ok with us. We'll elaborate about that one eventually.

Admittedly, that was kind of a rant, but we'll get some sweet SEO for using the term HoneyDicked like ten times. We've finally got all the BS sorted out and are working on new courses. So stay tuned!