Software principles

What's the policy?

For ads and websites designed to promote software downloads or other applications, Google AdWords requires that they meet certain requirements for user clarity, transparency, and control. These requirements cover the content of the ad, the website it points to, the download process, the application itself, and the uninstall process.

Examples Allowed?
Ads or websites that are misleading or deceptive about the nature of distributed downloads or that fail to give users the meaningful opportunity to make informed installation choices when downloading software to their computer Not allowed
Websites that are designed to distribute or bundle harmful or disruptive applications onto users' machines Not allowed

Below are the details of this policy, which are shaped by Google's corporate Software Principles.

Requirements

Compliant ads

  • AdWords ads must comply with all AdWords policies.
  • Image ads also must comply with our image ad policies. Please pay careful attention to our content requirements, specifically trick-to-click and mimicry.

Transparent installation

  • Users must be given a meaningful opportunity to review all proposed installation options and system changes when downloading software, and they must not be misled or deceived when approving such changes.
  • Advertisers are prohibited from raising misleading alerts (such as those related to privacy or a user's computer) when promoting software downloads.
  • Multiple solicitation prompts are prohibited during the download process.
  • Users must be given a "skip all" functionality on the first offer page for all ads or offers included in bundled software.
  • Download buttons must use clear language that communicates that the download will begin (for example, "download," "install," or "installation").
  • Downloads or other actions can only be triggered by clicking on tabs or buttons that clearly state the implied functionality.
  • Messaging in buttons is allowed to cycle, but each call-to-action must clearly state the implied functionality.
  • Browser compatibility must be made clear on the website.

Upfront disclosure

  • The name of each download or application must be clearly visible to the user.
  • At the time of installation or download, users must clearly understand the principal and significant functions of the software and the specific effects the software will have on their computers. This may be supplemented by "Learn More" links.
  • Bundled applications must be clearly disclosed prior to download.
  • When offering toolbar downloads, follow these requirements:
    • Websites must provide a visually accurate representation of what the toolbar looks like prior to download or installation.
    • Users must clearly understand the toolbar's principal and significant functions.
    • Toolbars that change user's settings may only do so in a manner that is compliant with this policy, and these changes may only take place in the host browser.
  • The download page is required to include Terms of Service (TOS) or End User License Agreement (EULA).
  • The site must have a physical mailing address and email or telephone information that's clearly visible and/or accessible.
  • Unproven or misleading endorsements must not be used to confer legitimacy. Icons, awards, badges, or similar qualifications must be clickable and linked to the actual endorsement or award.
  • Free bundled software or freeware must make clear on the download page that it is available for free from the manufacturer. For example, when users are being charged for applications or drivers, they must be told that the applications are available from the manufacturer for free.
  • Uninstall guidelines must be clearly accessible on the website during the download or installation process.

Simple removal

  • It must be easy for users to disable or delete an application. Uninstall information must be easily accessible and clearly identifiable after the software and/or applications have been installed.
  • Users must not be charged for software removal, and they must not be required to go through a lengthy process of unrelated uninstall tasks.
  • Install and uninstall functions must mirror each other. For example, if there is a bundled installation option, there must be a bundled uninstallation option.
  • Once an application is disabled or deleted, it may not leave any remnants or programs and must not remain active or be automatically enabled later by itself or another application.
  • Uninstallation cannot impact unrelated files or otherwise utilize tricks or scare tactics to deter uninstallation. An example of such a tactic is a misleading claim about negative effects to the user's computer or privacy.
  • Additional prompts or offers that are unnecessary to the uninstall process are prohibited.
  • During the uninstall process, users must be presented with a choice that gives them the option of returning their browser's user settings to the previous settings.

Clear behavior

  • Applications that affect or change a computer's settings must make it clear what the changes are, that they are the reason for those changes, and how the user can undo those changes.
  • Applications may not change a user's computer settings (like homepage setting) unless the change clearly relates to the function of the application.
  • Applications may not require user action that is not disclosed at the time of download.
  • Applications must contain the following information:
    • Name of application
    • Clear explanation of key functionality
    • Notification of the application's compatibility with browsers and operating systems
  • Applications must display taskbar or tray icons when running.

Respecting privacy

  • Applications must not collect or transmit any personally identifiable information, financial information, or other sensitive information from users without their clear and express opt-in consent.
  • Applications that seek to collect or transmit personally identifiable information, financial information, or other sensitive information must do so in a transparent and upfront way by clearly stating the specific information that will be collected or transmitted.

Keeping good company

  • Application providers may not allow their products to be bundled with applications that don't meet these guidelines.

Complying with other AdWords policies

Advertisers must not violate any other AdWords policies when offering software downloads or installations. For example, advertisers may not engage in the following:
  • Arbitrage: For example, displaying interstitial ad content in the download or installation process.
  • Sale of free items: For example, charging users for open source software that's normally distributed for free. (Providing paid support for open source software, for instance, through donations, is acceptable.)
  • Unclear billing: For example, not disclosing billing terms for free trials or subscription services and cancellation information.
  • Misleading and inaccurate claims: Here are a few examples:
    • Reporting system deficiencies or problems when none exist
    • Promoting unverified claims or endorsements
    • Using misleading terms (like "Start Free Scan") to initiate download clicks. Download links must explicitly indicate that a download will occur.
  • Information harvesting: For instance, collecting personally identifiable information in exchange for a free gift.

What can I do if my site gets suspended?

  • Review the guidelines above and see where your website might be causing issues. Make changes to your website so that it doesn't distribute harmful or disruptive software onto users' machines. Be upfront and honest in your website text about any downloads that may be available on your site.
  • Please note that we may look at other pages of a website for compliance, not just the landing page of an ad.
  • After making any necessary changes to your site, request a re-review of your site by following the instructions below.

How can I request a re-review of my website?

Once you've made sure that any software applications that you reference comply with our software principles policy, please contact us via the link below. You'll be taken to a form where you can request a re-review of your site.
Request a re-review

What happens if I violate this policy?

  • Ad disapproval: Ads that don't follow this policy may get disapproved. A disapproved ad won't be able to run until the policy violation is fixed and the ad is approved.
  • Domain disabling: We may suspend websites that violate this policy, meaning that the website can no longer be advertised with AdWords until the problem is fixed.
  • Account suspension: An account may get suspended if you have several violations or a serious violation. If this happens, all ads in the suspended account will stop running, and we may no longer accept advertising from you. Any related accounts may also get permanently suspended and your new accounts may get automatically suspended at setup. Learn more about suspended accounts.

Contact information

If you still have questions about this policy, you can contact us via the link below. You'll be taken to a form where you can write to us about your issue.
Contact AdWords Support