Allow me to be candid. Fuck google.
Let me just start by giving a personal background of my time with the server. I started as a player in roughly September 2010, then was made owner around November 2010. I was there when we wiped Legacy Map for the Old Main World, and took more and more of a leadership role until July 2011, when I took over primary ownership of the payment system (before that things came out of Saint IMGARY'S account) so that means bills for the server came to me. Some time before that, roughly March 2011, I made this site to connect the community and to make some things of interest with the hopes of earning some ad revenue. Depending on where we hosted, the server has cost between $35-$65 per month (currently $65).
Most of our revenue from users came in the form of donations, in super irregular spikes. Really, it was always paid for by some sort of split of owners (in the form of like $50 donations to the firstname.lastname@example.org account, which was always tied to IMGARY's bank account)..For those of you that don't know how Google AdSense works...you put ads on your site, then they have a very strange page where you see 4 values: "Today's Earnings," "Earnings This Month," "Earnings Last Month," and "Total Unpaid Earnings." I'm sure there's a way to see how those numbers come about, but I've never understood it. All I know is that every month has been around $6-$12. Google doesn't pay out until you hit an increment of $100...so much to my surprise, we were at $92 at the end of July. August, with the increased traffic due to 1.3, should have been a slam dunk to get our first payout! Now, the money really isn't that much...it'd pay for 1.5 months of the server, but hey, it counts!
Well...imagine my surprise when I receive the following e-mail:
With our advertising programs, we strive to create an online ecosystem that benefits publishers, advertisers and users. For this reason, we sometimes have to take action against accounts that demonstrate behavior toward users or advertisers that may negatively impact how the ecosystem is perceived. In your case, we have detected invalid activity on your site and your account has been disabled.
We're limited in the amount of information we can provide about your specific violation. We understand this can be frustrating for you, but we've taken these precautionary measures because intentional violators can use this information to circumvent our detection systems.
In some cases, publishers can make significant changes to correct the violation and are willing to comply with the AdSense program policies (google.com/adsense/policies). For this reason, we offer an appeals process as an opportunity to work with you to resolve the issue. To help you with the process, we’ve created a list of the top reasons for account closure for you to review before submission at http://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?answer=2660562. Please be sure to provide a thorough analysis in your appeal, which you can submit at https://support.google.com/adsense/bin/request.py?contact_type=appeal_form and we will follow up accordingly.
Thanks for your understanding,
The Google AdSense Team
Huh, that's weird. We've been doing exactly the same thing we've always done since March when we created all this, and suddenly, right when we deserve a payout, we get this? What does it mean "invalid activity?" I figured I'd log into my AdSense account to see what the activity is...oh then I see this:
So...to clarify...that means I can't log in to see the click logs. I have my Analytics account so I can see traffic, but I can't see any sort of detail of what would be described as "invalid activity." They removed my ability to look at the evidence against me...the same evidence I would use to construct my appeal.
So let's get to my appeal...let me paste exactly what I said in the appeal:
This message confirms that we've received your appeal submission.
We'll get to your appeal as soon as we can, though due to the high volume of emails we receive, it may take us up to a week or more to process it. If you've previously submitted an appeal for this account, you might not receive a response to this or future appeals.
Also, please be aware that appealing the disabling of your AdSense account does not guarantee that it will be reinstated.
If you have any questions or concerns about accounts disabled for invalid activity, please visit https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153.
Thanks for your patience and understanding.
The Google AdSense Team
Original Message Follows:
Subject: Invalid Activity Appeal
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2012 18:00:22 +0000
07_Name: Joseph Gullo
18_WebAudience: Minecraft Server Members
20_UserAccessMode: Home Internet and Mobile
22_ContentSources: Minecraft Server Members
24_UpdateFrequency: Daily or Weekly Depending on Submissions
27_TrafficSources: The site is a companion to a minecraft server I host. I encourage my members to visit the site for news, updates, and tools.
28_AdvertiserValue: We have had between 300-350 regular players of all age groups that are engaged in my community.
29_UserIncentive: It's possible users click to support the server, however we never ask them to do it. The site shows a "donation" link which is how we encourage our users to support the community.
31_InvalidActivity: Minecraft recently updated to version 1.3, which brought a lot of inactive members back to the community, driving traffic up to the site. Two tools on our site allow users to be engaged in gameplay without actually being logged into the game, and these pages (a chat client and a real-time map of the game) result in people leaving the window open for long periods of time. These pages: http://www.teh3l3m3nts.com/?page_id=2415 and http://www.teh3l3m3nts.com/?page_id=2598 I noticed the uptick in traffic but just thought it was a result of the increased traffic we were seeing in game. I also noticed how this was our highest month of revenue generation, specifically around the days the 1.3 update came out, so I had figured that was a result of so many old members coming back to the site. That revenue AND traffic spike have gone back down as we get further away from the 1.3 update.
32_SuspiciousData: Look here: http://www.minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Version_history Our traffic has gone up since version 1.3 was released, on August 1, and that's when we had our ad revenue spike. There was no fraud, we have been a server in operation for almost 2 years and a ton of veteran players flooded our community in a short time due to the update.
AutoDetectedBrowser: Google Chrome
Read that and comment to tell me if anything in there wasn't fair. Also...let me show you some screencaps of our traffic monitor:
And all time:
So...come this morning, this is the e-mail I get about my appeal:
Thank you for your appeal. We appreciate the additional information you've provided, as well as your continued interest in the AdSense program. However, after thoroughly re-reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into consideration, our specialists have confirmed that we're unable to reinstate your AdSense account.
Please know that, once we've reached a decision on your appeal, further appeals may not be considered, and you might not receive any further communication from us. Note that AdSense publishers whose accounts are disabled for violations of our Terms and Conditions are not eligible for further participation in AdSense. For this reason, you may not open new accounts.
Also, accounts disabled for invalid click activity will receive no further payment nor any reissue of previous payment. Your outstanding balance and Google's share of the revenue will both be fully refunded back to the affected advertisers. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.
We understand that you may want more information about your account activity. However, because we have a need to protect our proprietary detection systems, we're unable to provide our publishers with any details about their account activity.
So that's it. Appeal denied, no evidence, we don't get our money....and my e-mail address can no longer request to put ads on ANY site. What if this had been the account I used for other site's ads too? It's bad enough that our site's campaign is disabled...my entire ACCOUNT is disabled. No evidence. No further appeals. Just done.
I have a lot of problems with this. A lot of companies got advertising on OUR SITE with OUR CONTENT for a long time. Sure, Google says "Your outstanding balance and Google's share of the revenue will both be fully refunded back to the affected advertisers" but that's bullshit. As far as I'm concerned...if Coca-cola showed on my site for 1 second, and there's at all a chance next time you buy a drink seeing that ad pushes you ever so slightly in the direction of coca-cola.....then they owe me. Period.
So what do we do now? As you can see, there's no more ads, there's just blank spaces. I can go and find us a new ad network, but there's problems with that. Google has reputable ads. I could find an ad network that does those "CONGRATS ON BEING THE 1,000,000th VISITOR!!!" ads...some of those networks have problems with injecting malware into their ad frames. Also their payouts are bullshit, and they don't track traffic like google did...so even though I'm sitting here now with no data to defend myself, that's likely more data than "Super Dave's Awesome Ad Network!" might provide.
Let's realtalk for a second. I will keep paying for this server for as long as people want to play on it...but we just moved across the country, bought a lot of really expensive things, and I currently don't have a job. I've built the cost of the server into my wife and my monthly recurring budget, but money is tight right now. We're having conversations like "we can probably afford to get a dresser in January at our current rate of eating at restaurants/seeing movies." That $100 would have really helped, not make or break helped, but somewhat helped.
So my question to the community is this: How should we proceed? I can look for another ad network, but there's risks in that, and you always feel like a whore. I would love to live in a world where donations cover the cost of the server, but it's not realistic (donations are prolly, averaged over the life of the server, $15 a month). In SUPER PERFECT world we would build new hardware for the server and host it out of my house, but my new internet CANNOT handle it, so I have to pay for business class (the eventual plan anyway) and probably $300 for new computer hardware. But for the forseeable time being, we're hosting with a great company for about $65/month.
Again, I hate to bitch about money, but this just has left me feeling defeated. We've developed a great community and have spent almost a year and a half developing this site...only to have it taken away RIGHT at the point we would have actually made some money off of it. You know what...straight up, I believe Google has committed fraud and theft. Until they allow me to see the evidence against us, and show me the receipts for the refund of the ad money they gave to their advertisers, I believe they flat out stole space on our website. What I really need right now is for you guys to help me spread this story (clicking the sociable links) and help bring veteran members of the community (even those that aren't playing MC anymore) to see this post and just remember how fucked up Google is. I know I'm not the first person this has happened to, and I know in the grand scheme of things I'll never get this rectified, but if I can get 150 people saying "FUCK GOOGLE" I'll feel slightly better as I cry my tears of impotent rage.
As always...I love you all :D