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Technology

Who’s actually behind the ads you see online? Now you can easily find out

It’s no exaggeration to say that Google is the backbone of the web. Not only is its search engine used by 87.35% of the people online, but its ad services are also responsible for much of the digital economy as we know it today.

Google Ads can make or break a website or service. Getting to page one for search results is a Holy Grail-type goal for most companies, and buying ads with Google is one of the easiest ways to do it. Tap or click here to see seven things you didn’t know Google search could do.

Until now, anyone could buy a Google ad willy-nilly and call it a day. But swarms of fraudulent companies and products have prompted Google to require user verification for any ads purchased. Soon, you’ll be able to see who’s running an ad, as well as where in the world they’re coming from.

Identify yourself!

In a new blog post published by Google, the tech giant announced that it would now be requiring all ad buyers to verify their identity before publishing new ads.

The company says it’s making the change to stop advertisers from using dishonest tactics or misrepresenting their business and products. The new policy will also give users a clue as to who is making the ads they see, as well as what country the ads are coming from.

Google frequently receives complaints about “malvertisements,” or malicious ads that trick the person clicking them. Sometimes, they’ll send users on wild goose chases to the far ends of the web for fake products. Others can lead to outright scam sites that try to steal your money. Tap or click to see how fake Amazon ads lead to phone scams.

By implementing the change, Google anticipates users will have an easier time spotting ads they want to avoid. Businesses looking to buy ads will have 30 days to submit their information before their accounts are suspended. Suspended accounts can be reactivated once verification is provided.

How do I verify myself for Google Ads?

The verification process involves submitting paperwork like a W9 or an IRS document showing the organization name, address, and EIN. Once these are submitted, additional verification like a photo ID for the account manager will be required to complete the process.

Once these documents are submitted, all you need to do is wait three to five business days for Google to complete the process. Once it’s done, you’ll be able to fully access your Google Ads account. This same process is also required for agencies representing multiple ad accounts, as well as individual advertisers.

As mentioned above, existing Google Ads customers will need to submit their verifying information within 30 days to keep themselves up and running. Otherwise, the account will be temporarily suspended until this information is provided.

Users, on the other hand, will have a chance to look closer at ads and see where they come from by clicking “Why This Ad?” which will appear on Google promoted ads this summer.

This might sound like a pretty drastic change from how things were, but this process has already been unrolled for a specific subset of advertising: political ads. And in a world where foreign interference has become commonplace, knowing where ads come from is more important than ever. Tap or click to see Google’s updated policies for 2020.

Google doesn’t always think you’ll like your results

Adjusting the way we see ads is par for the course for Google, which is becoming more of the internet’s official “gatekeeper” as time goes on. Censorship of results is one thing, but steering users toward specific search results is just below the line enough for the company to get away with.

And that’s just what’s starting to happen with a new feature rolled out by Google that warns searchers when the company thinks they won’t like the results they get. Yes, really. Starting April 23, Google will now warn users with an alert that reads “It looks like there aren’t any great matches for your search,” if results are slim or irrelevant.

On top of the alert, Google will also provide suggestions that can steer you to what the company views as more “relevant” results. You’ll also get alternative search terms to try out instead of your query.

This might sound all well and good, but it’s easy to imagine how this system could be abused to steer people away from certain search terms. Plus, it would leave enough plausible deniability that Google was only “trying to help” rather than direct you one way or another.

Google continues to surprise us with useful features and what seems like good ideas. But based on previous mishaps with user data and privacy, can we fully trust it to know what’s best for our searches? Tap or click here to see how Google was listening to users via Google Assistant.

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