“Your AdWords Account Suspended Due To Repeated Site Quality Violations”


Google seems to have decided it doesn’t want the money from many people using AdWords to drive traffic to thin affiliate sites, which it’s already been penalising out of its organic results for several years. The move became clear on Friday 25 September 2009, as noted here, when AdWords advertisers were sent the following abrupt message:


Your Google AdWords account has been suspended due to multiple submissions of poor quality landing pages. We are unable to revoke your account suspension, and we will not accept advertisements from you in the future.

Please note that our support team is unable to help you with this issue, and we ask that you do not contact them about this matter.

As I understand it, the result is that the account owners can still log into their accounts, but everything’s been stopped and there’s nothing which can be added.

Fortunately, I’ve never really tried this sort of stuff anything other than playfully, so it won’t affect me, but this must hurt a lot of people who aren’t exactly Google’s worst enemies. As a publisher, Google is quite within its rights to accept advertising from whoever it wishes, and in general, I’d applaud any publisher which is selective about who it’s prepared to do business with. However, I suspect that as is usual with Google, this latest move has probably been applied by some clumsy algorithm, also rejecting many advertisers whose material didn’t particularly detract from the user experience. Google has a track record of not being concerned about collateral damage from friendly fire.

In fact, on a number of occasions in the past, I’ve found that the AdWords > Affiliate Site > Vendor path has got me to the product I want to buy in two clicks, where the organic results were showing nothing and the vendor was nowhere to be seen in the AdWords column. Perhaps Google hopes the move will inspire the vendors to invest more in AdWords to make up for the loss of affiliate traffic, but I can’t believe many vendors have the resources in-house to put in the time and care identifying the opportunities which the affiliates do.

Some more reading, from the days before these messages went out, is here (by Dave Davis) and here (by Sugarrae).

Documenting a clean install of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard


I’m one of those obsessives who likes to reformat his hard drive and reinstall everything from time to time. Even if it doesn’t speed the system up with Macs like it so obviously does with Windows, I just feel better knowing that my machine only has on it what I need to have. With major operating system revisions coming along every year or two, coupled with buying a new Mac every two or three years, I probably end up doing a fresh installation once a year.

I’ve done this so many times that I have a list of core applications with any installation notes/codes, which makes things a lot easier (a bit like having a packing list for holidays). However, this time I thought I’d document the whole process, with timings, for future reference.

0 hrs 00 min – Plug in the old hard drive containing the previous Mac backup from the previous clean install a year ago. Looks a bit dusty, I reckon I never had to refer back to it. Make a copy of the very old “Documents” folder there, from over a year ago, to DVD, just to be on the safe side.

0:10 – Copy my existing Mac internal drive contents to this external hard drive, using Carbon Copy Cloner. Now there’s a full restorable backup of the Mac, which can even be booted-from if necessary! This’ll take a couple of hours.

2:15 – Export iCal and Address Book data, not that you can’t restore it from a backup, but it does go in some funny places. Print off list of all applications from Applications folder. Tick off the essentials to be restored later (seems to be only about 30 out of nearly 120 apps on the current setup are actually ones I think I’ll want in the future!). Make note of any add-ons to applications, such as Firefox, and export settings from any which have them (Fetch preferences, for example). Separately backup old Keychains directory from [user] > Library > Keychains.

2:25 – Make one last check of external hard drive backup, and look trustingly at my normal DVD backups of important stuff.

2:30 – Stick in Snow Leopard DVD, click “install”, then follow the Apple clean install instructions: in the first pane of the installer, click Utilities, then click Restart; on restart, choose Utilities > Disk Utility, select your disk, click the Erase tab, select Mac OS Extended (Journaled), type a disk name, click Erase, then afterwards, choose Disk Utility > Quit Disk Utility and follow the reinstall instructions.

3:20 – Admire lovely clean install of Snow Leopard. Then update with Software Update.

3:25 – Restore old keychain from/to [user] > Library > Keychains. Before launching iTunes, copy back iTunes library folder (similar for iPhoto).

3:55 (it’s a big iTunes library!) – fire up iTunes and iPhoto to test restored libraries. Open iCal and Address Book and import from previous exports. Install iLife applications. Software Update everything. Restore iTunes Applescripts by copying them from Library>iTunes>Scripts to a similar folder.

4:25 – Install other applications identified on printed-off list as being required. Check latest versions on each.

5:50 – Done! And yes, I have to say, it does feel a lot slicker. That’s less than six hours start to finish, of which about two-and-a-bit were spent actually sitting in front of the Mac doing something. Definitely worth it. See you again next year.

Natalie Williams at Alimentum, Cambridge


OK, being at The Rock on Wednesday to see England thrash Croatia was a cracking evening out. But it turned out to be my second favourite night of the week, trailing a little way behind the quite superb meal we had at Alimentum‘s Jazz Club. The wonderful Natalie Williams was the attraction, but I have to say I was more than a little curious about how good a £29.50 three-course meal could be at such a well-regarded restaurant. We needn’t have worried, it was fabulous. Great (cold) tomato soup, gorgeous pork belly, and a chocolate bavarois to die for, as they say. Sure, you end up dropping the same amount again on wine, water, coffee and service, but even at sixty quid, it was a great deal. Let’s face it, I’ve often paid twenty quid to some inhospitable concert venue just to listen to a music act not nearly as good as Natalie Williams. And we got to have a chat with her.

Writing this post has made me nostalgic for being a Cambridge restaurant reviewer again. It’s been a few years now, and the magazines I wrote for have long gone! But Alimentum is right up there with my favourite eating venues in Cambridge, even without the jazz. If you thought great food in Cambridge started and ended with Midsummer House, do try it.

PS: Come on John, get the blog going again!

Prefab Sprout – new album (September 2009)

You can’t imagine how excited I was when I read the interview with Paddy MacAloon in Word magazine‘s latest issue. But perhaps not half as excited as I will be when I get my hands on the Prefab Sprout new album Let’s Change the World With Music in a few days’ time. I don’t trust any of the local stores to stock it, so I’m preordering it tonight – it’s about nine quid on both Amazon UK and Play. What makes the album so exciting is that it’s not new, it’s a previously-unreleased follow-up to the incredible Jordan: the Comeback from 1990. What did Paddy have in mind to follow up such a great album? We shall soon find out.