How to Deal With Google’s Two Click Penalty?

Updated on: January 8, 2024
Double click penalty also known as two-click penalty ​​is a measure Google takes to prevent unwanted ad clicks.

Dealing with a terrible click-through rate? Are bounced rates skyrocketing? If so, this post will be very useful for you. Google’s penalties are quite scary to deal with at times. Not all is lost, however!

While one is left wondering what the cause was, effective strategies for penalization recovery are often hard to find. Take a look at this post to get some tips on how to deal with a double-click penalty.

What Is Two Click Penalty (Or Double Click Penalty)?

Normally, when an ad is clicked on your website, the user directly reaches the ad’s landing page. But if the double click penalty is levied on your website, a button with the text “Visit Site” will appear over the ad whenever a user clicks it.

The user has to click the “Visit Site” to reach the ad’s link. It is Google’s way of confirming whether the user wants to click the ad or is it an accidental/invalid click.

DoubleClick Penalty

Although Google doesn’t consider it as a punitive measure, the additional friction created by the button causes a significant decline in the ad’s CTR, resulting in reduced revenue. The existing earnings are also deducted for invalid clicks.

Why Does Google Impose the Two-Click Penalty?

Google uses the two-click penalty as a preventive measure. Implementing the double-click penalty, it makes sure that the clicks on the ads are not accidental. 

Accidental and invalid clicks are harmful to Google’s advertising business. The advertiser still pays for such fake clicks because the accidental clicks have no purchase intent. The money wasted on invalid clicks makes the advertiser’s campaign less effective. Due to this, Google’s credibility gets questioned.

Google policies clearly say the webmaster’s responsible for averting false clicks. But still, when your site sends too many such clicks to Google, it has no other option than to take preventive measures.

As a publisher, if your site has such issues, it can also be a credibility problem for you. Not only Google but other demand partners also wouldn’t work with you. Therefore, no matter whether your site is being penalized or not, you must always maintain the quality of your site in the eyes of Google.

So, What Are the Factors That Cause a Double Click Penalty?

Several reasons can induce Google’s double-click or two-click penalty, but below we have highlighted some major factors:

Lack of padding – When you display ads next to the page’s UI elements, such as the navigation bar, buttons, widgets, etc., such ad placements are prone to invalid clicks as the implementation might confuse users. As a result, you might end up with Google’s two-click penalty.

Creating content that looks like ads – A blurred line between advertising and content can be a factor for Google’s two-click penalty. So, if your page’s neighboring content resembles ads’, you must consider it. Here’s an example of the content formatted similarly to the ads:

Content mimicing ads

Displaying ads under the misleading header – An ad displayed without proper header disclosure and under the misleading header is one of the reasons for the double-click penalty. Misleading headers include keywords like “resources”, “helpful links”, and more. Besides, the following languages are also responsible for leading the users to click:

  • “Feel free to click an ad.”
  • “Contribute to the cause by clicking an ad.”
  • “Help keep this site running. Check out our sponsors!”
  • “We need a new server. Support us!”

Misleading ad header

Content jumping – If your website’s elements move around, it may cause the ads to jump in and shift all the content. Not only does it hurt the user experience, but it also encourages the users to click on the ads accidentally. As a result, Google’s click penalty.

How to Know if You Are Affected?

The problem with the double-click penalty is that Google wouldn’t notify you about it. So, if you are not attentive, and a very small portion of your revenue comes from Google, you wouldn’t even know about it. However, if many of your ad units are served by Google (which is the most likely case), the significant revenue dip will draw your attention. Look out for the following symptoms to be sure:

  • A sudden dip in the overall revenue from AdSense/AdX.
  • An unnatural decline in CTR while the traffic remains the same.
  • Clicking on the ad unit shows the “Visit Site” button.

Sidenote: Do not click your ad units without using the Google Publisher Toolbar. Clicking the ads by yourself is considered ad fraud. The toolbar will help send the signal that the clicks are being made for testing purposes, not malicious intentions.

How to Solve the Problem?

Once you are sure the penalty has been imposed on you, contact Google’s support team and ask them why this is happening. There is a good chance that you won’t get a specific answer from Google, but you will have a little idea about the cause of the problem.

Determine why it happened and determine where the damage is the highest. Is it on mobile devices? PCs? A specific ad unit? Examine the relevant ad units. Find out what is causing the users to click on them accidentally. Is the website’s content jumping? Are the ad units covering the content? Are there any links very close to the ad unit? Make the necessary changes to solve the problem.

Check if you are receiving invalid traffic. Are there a lot of bots? Is there suspicious referral traffic? Block any such sources on the website. You can also inform Google about the invalid traffic, but it would not make much difference as Google expects you to be responsible for the issue.

Here are some common solutions to the above-stated problems:

Content Jumping – Content jumping can be fixed by fixing your CSS, such as fixing the minimum height of image containers, transitions, font loading shifts, etc. If you are using Auto Ads in AdSense, then disabling it can solve the problem. AdSense has a list of guidelines publishers should follow for other ad formats to avoid a two-click penalty.

Links close to Ad Units – If your website offers downloadable content, email newsletters, etc., and the containers for these resources are adjacent to ad units, it can lead to accidental clicks on ads. Simply changing the location of the containers will solve the problem.

Bot Problems – You need to dive into your analytics tool and look for suspicious activity on your site, like a sudden spike in traffic, bounce rate, page views, etc. Filter out the IP Addresses of the bots and block them. Your hosting provider will help you in blocking IP Addresses. You can also take the help of ad fraud detection companies.

Once you have done your work, wait a few weeks. Just like the penalty was imposed automatically, it will be removed similarly.

How to Avoid Two-Click Penalty?

Prevention is better than cure. Even if you have never suffered from the double click penalty, you should ensure you are safe. In addition to the solutions provided above, here are some tips to avoid mishaps:

  • Label the ad units as “Advertisement” or “Sponsored Links” so users do not mistake ads for your content.
  • Enlarge the margins around the ads to keep them separate from the content. Ensure you have added padding to navigation buttons, play buttons, drop-down menus, etc., to prevent accidental clicks on the ads.
  • Report invalid clicks/traffic to Google but don’t expect much because Google has already put the ball in your court by saying it is your responsibility to control such traffic.
  • Use Google Publisher Console and other tools to identify if your ads are served correctly without hindering the user experience.
  • Do not encourage your visitors to click on the ads; it can get you banned permanently, and you may not be able to continue monetization indefinitely.

Final Thoughts

The first step to recovering from a double-click penalty is realizing that this is a common problem many publishers run into, not an exceptional circumstance. In other words, you’re not alone! 

The next step is to figure out what caused your penalty. Once you’ve identified the problem sources, there are several ways to avoid being penalized, and we’ve outlined some of the best options here. Be patient and persistent when you’re trying to deal with a penalty. It takes time, but you’ll rebound from a penalty pretty quickly if you follow our suggestions.

News and Tips for Publishers

Get the inside scoop on publishing and programmatic with our 5-minute newsletter.