Be Careful Where You Click! Google’s Deceptive Ads Trick Users…

no_downloadBe careful where you click to download software – Google’s AdWords are becoming increasingly deceptive, tricking users into clicking ads that feature “Download” buttons! You think you’re clicking to download the site’s software, but instead you’re being tricked into downloading something totally different. Read on…

The blame is squarely on Google. They allow ads that feature deceptive buttons and links that appear to be valid download buttons. For sites that offer real software downloads (like, and who use Google Ads to get some income to offset hosting costs (again, like , this is a big problem. Google could prohibit this kind of ad, and remove advertisers who create them. Instead, they allow them.

deceptive_google_adsMany users who think they are downloading the Social Fixer browser extension instead get tricked into downloading other software, download managers, or in some cases even malware. I have blocked a number of advertisers from my AdWords control panel, but that process is very inconvenient and doesn’t catch most ads.

Look at the site’s screenshot on the left. There are 3 ads shown, and a total of FOUR deceptive download buttons. It’s no wonder that some users get confused! I even added some disclaimer text, hoping that would prevent people from being confused. I’m not sure it has had any effect.

I’ve considered removing ads entirely from the site, but I cannot afford to lose the extra income that they generate. Google doesn’t respond to complaints about the issue. Other people have complained about the same problem, but it persists.

Until they confront this problem and put an end to deceptive download links in ads, users need to take extra precaution before clicking to download software. Web site owners need to be aware of what kind of ads are being shown on their site, and attempt to block the ones who participate in this kind of deceptive advertising.

What can you do? Contact Google and let them know that their policies need to change to prevent intentional download deception and protect users. Let web sites know when you see deceptive ads on their site. And above all else, be careful where you click!

Matt Kruse, author of Social Fixer