Restricted Keywords on Google Ads – How to Identify or Find a List of Restricted Keywords

Certain keywords are “restricted” on Google Ads, which means either that they are completely banned (meaning you can’t run ads against them), or that you have to be approved, get a license, etc. Google is not transparent about which words are on the list and what the restrictions mean.

I’ve learned about them as I run into them for clients. Here are some examples –

#1 – d / r/ u / g rehab, alcohol t / r/ e/ a/ t/ m/ e/ n/ t and related keywords. These are not totally banned. If you have a certification in the United States, you can run Google Ads against them – but you have to meet certification requirements.

#2 – printer repair. You can run ads “triggered” by this keyword but not include the term “printer repair” in your ads; except possibly in call outs. So no “printer repair” in headlines, but OK in call outs.

#3 – totally banned – no ads at all. The words “AdWords” or “Google Ads” are examples here. No ads are allowed, even if the ads do NOT include the trademarked terms.

#3b – totally banned INCLUDING on your website.  These would be words like P / R / P; if the word even occurs on your website ALL ads are banned for that domain. You can’t advertise ANYTHING until you remove the offending terms.

#4 – trademarked terms. These often are allowed as “triggers” but you can NOT use the term in the ad unless you have an approval from Google and the mark owner. Example – Rolex or Botox.


Google Help on Restricted Terms

Does Google have a clear list of restricted terms or the rules? Of course not. Check out this unhelpful thread on the AdWords community, here and here. So, no there is no list. No coherent rules. No transparency. Your best bet is to run ads and then debug why they are not running. If they are not running, look at your scenarios –

  1. Restricted term can trigger the ad but not be in the ad itself. Example: “Printer repair”
  2. Restricted term can trigger the ad AND be in the ad itself IF you have an approval. Example: “Rolex” or “Drug Rehab” (USA only).
  3. Restricted term cannot be advertised against – at all. Example: AdWords or Google Ads.
  4. Restricted term can not even be on your website. Example: PRP.

Create ads. See if they run, and if not work on the scenarios above to figure out what the actual rules are. So often with Google Ads there ARE rules but they just do not make them public. Happy advertising!

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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.