Everyone is facing new realities and adapting to a new “normal” way of life, from business to individuals and all the way down to pet goldfish. The craterous impacts of COVID-19 are felt everywhere.

Many businesses are taking this time to reassess their marketing and putting more effort into online advertising through Google Ads. This begs the question, what is Google Ads policy for COVID-19?

Let’s find out.

The Google Ads Response To COVID-19

Before we start discussing Google Ads policies for COVID-19, it’s a good idea to hear it right from the horse’s mouth. Here is the response they have posted on their support website:

The impact of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is evolving every day and we are working hard to maintain a safe advertising ecosystem for users, advertisers, and publishers…We will continue to evaluate the situation to both address new products/services that are being used to exploit users, as well as re-enable certain products/services when the situation stabilizes.

To translate, Google is trying to remain very vigilant regarding the products and services being advertised. Particularly, Google is interested in stopping unscrupulous advertisers from price gouging products, like face masks that are vital for healthcare workers, or otherwise exploiting the crisis for profit.

Google’s Sensitive Events Policy

To further understand Google Ads policies for COVID-19, you need to understand the “Sensitive Events Policy” issued by Google. This is a category that Google uses to classify inappropriate content.

Google flags content that it feels is trying to take advantage of a sensitive event, like a natural disaster, public health emergency, conflict, or other tragedy, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. When advertisers are trying to capitalize on a tragic event or create ad copy that lacks sensitivity to the subject, Google deems it as inappropriate.

On March 30, 2020, Google updated its sensitive events policy to clarify that public health emergencies also qualify as a tragic and sensitive event.

Some of the activities that will trigger this policy and potentially cause Google to flag an ad or account are:

  • Attempting to profit from a tragic event with no benefit to users or those affected.
  • Price gouging or inflating prices on items that are limited because of the event.
  • Selling products or services that may be vital, like personal protective equipment.
  • Using keywords related to the tragic event with the sole purpose of attracting website traffic.

Other Updates To Google Ads Policies For COVID-19

Along the way, Google has made some amendments and pay per click and changes to its approach to advertising during COVID-19. Here is a short timeline of some of these changes.

Facemasks: On June 15, 2020, Google restricted the sale of masks during the COVID-19 outbreak because it may be vital for healthcare workers. With the global supply of this protective face wear running low, it became necessary for Google to crack down on advertisers hoping to capitalize on the coronavirus disease and the shortage of face covers.

Ads Related To Coronavirus Disease: Google wants users to have access to important information related to the coronavirus, particularly information relevant to their area and local services. Google has begun approving some advertisers to run ads related to the coronavirus.

“We are currently allowing ads from government organizations, healthcare providers, non-governmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations, verified election ad advertisers, and managed private sector accounts with a history of policy compliance.

Essentially, Google is allowing ads related to the coronavirus pandemic to be published by sources that are intent on getting valuable information out to the public.

Ensuring Privacy Of Users: Google has prohibited any form of audience targeting that is related to the coronavirus disease. This is in an attempt to prevent advertisers from targeting personalized ads to people based on search behaviors that may compromise their safety or security.

Staffing: Like many businesses, Google has dramatically reduced on-site staff to protect their employees and adhere to regulations regarding how many people can be working on-location. While this shouldn’t impact most Google Ads users, you may experience some interruptions to the normal customer service you’re used to receiving.

Free Product Listings With Google Shopping Ads

Not all of Google’s new policies are related to restricting advertisers and preventing malicious behaviors. Some of the steps that Google has taken are aimed at improving the well-being of small and medium-sized businesses. Many of these smaller entities are facing record lows in sales during the pandemic times, especially in the early stages of the mandated lockdowns.

To try and alleviate some of this pressure, Google announced that listing products on Shopping Tabs would now be free. Google recognizes that many businesses are being pushed to handle most of their sales in an eCommerce environment, which may be uncomfortable for owners that are more familiar with the brick-and-mortar side of their company.

By offering free shopping listings, it gives these businesses the opportunity to become familiar with online advertising and generate some e-commerce sales during tense times. You need a Google Merchant Center account to access these free product listings. Creating a Google Merchant Center account is free and easy to set up.

Ad Credits For Small And Medium-Sized Business Users

Aside from free shopping ads, Google has also granted $340M in ad credits to SMB users across the world. These credits are designed to help smaller businesses keep in contact with customers during the new and difficult environment. These credits can be used at any time until the end of 2020. Credits can be applied towards any of the networks or ad services within the Google Ads platform.

That said, there are some requirements for receiving these credits, which means not all SMB users will qualify. The main requirement is that you must have a steady and recent billing cycle with Google Ads. Specifically, you need to have spent money on ads 10 out of the 12 months during 2019 and in January and/or February of 2020.

How do you apply for free ad credits from Google Ads? You don’t! Google has a team of professionals dedicated to identifying SMB users on Google Ads and automatically dispersing the ad credits. There’s no application process. You will receive a notification email that tells you that credits have been added to your account.


The new realities facing businesses are difficult for many to navigate. The Google Ads policy for COVID-19 will continue to evolve as the situation changes. The good news is that these policies shouldn’t negatively impact any trustworthy advertisers with a good reputation. In fact, Google’s free shopping ads and ad credits will have a very positive impact on certain companies that are looking to bolster online sales during the coronavirus times.