Advertising Alcohol with Google Ads

Google Ads & Alcohol

Back in 2008 Google decided to allow alcohol advertisers to advertise their products directly with Google Ads. In this article HammaJack co-founder, Jacob Moran outlines what alcohol advertisers can and can’t do when advertising with Google Ads.


By 2008 there was a magnitude of businesses utilising the power of Google Ads. However, there were (and still are) a lot of businesses who had restrictions, either through government regulation or another means, placed on where, when and to who they could advertise.

One of the biggest industries that were affected by these restrictions was the alcohol industry.

While a lot of these businesses were already utilising Google Ads they were doing this in ways that didn’t directly sell their product but instead was targeting their branded content or selling experiences such as brewery tours or masterclasses, and this is still fine (more on this later).

But businesses were getting annoyed that, while their advertising was restricted, it wasn’t illegal, and they lobbied Google to allow them restricted access to advertising in places and times that would be above board.

In response to this, Google added alcohol to its list of restricted content, basically meaning it can be seen sometimes and by some people. You can read more about it here but below we’ve listed out the categories and some examples.

Prohibited content

  • Counterfeit goods

  • Dangerous products or services

  • Enabling dishonest behaviour

  • Inappropriate content

Restricted content

  • Adult content

  • Alcohol

  • Copyrights

  • Gambling and games

  • Healthcare and medicines

  • Political content

  • Financial services

  • Trademarks

The key standard for alcohol is that Google abides by local laws and industry standards. While the second point is sufficiently vague the first one is pretty clear in Australia, i.e. don’t show it to people under 18 and don’t encourage unsafe drinking.

What restrictions are placed on Alcohol advertising within Google Ads in Australia

Luckily for us, Google is pretty clear in what they allow to be advertised through Google Ads in Australia.

Firstly, Google allows us to advertise the digital sale of alcohol and, in fact, even encourages it through Google shopping.

Secondly, Google allows us to advertise alcohol information which includes information about brands and generic alcohol information. This is important as it allows advertisers to get creative with their long-tail keyword bidding strategies.

But we can’t advertise all the time… So what are the restrictions? Below, I’ve outlined the main no-nos.

  1. You can’t target individuals below the legal drinking age

  2. You can’t imply that drinking alcohol can improve social, sexual, professional, intellectual or athletic standing

  3. You can’t imply that drinking alcohol provides health or therapeutic benefits

  4. You can’t portray excessive drinking favourably or featuring binge or competition drinking

  5. You can’t show alcohol consumption in conjunction with the operation of a vehicle of any kind, the operation of machinery or the performance of any task requiring alertness or dexterity.

Further to this, Google doesn’t let you advertise alcohol using personalised advertising (aka interest-based advertising). This can be an issue if you use a third-party connector, like Shopify, to create your campaigns and remarketing lists, as they may be in breach.

Do campaigns need to be structured differently?

When you are advertising alcohol you don’t need to change your campaign structure but you do need to be vigilant that you have a large enough coverage for both keywords and ads in every campaign as Google may restrict different ads because of their content.

Because Google seems to have more of an issue with the direct alcohol sales it is best practice to have ads that include alcohol references and others that are more generic. This will ensure that campaigns remain on at all times.

For example, let’s say we run a winery. See below an ad that would not be restricted, and one that would be;

  1. Not Restricted: {{Vineyard Name}} Is Amongst The Finest Vineyards In Victoria. Book A Tour and Visit Us Today!

  2. Restricted: Experience The Taste Of Our Authentic, Hand Crafted And Premium Wines. Visit Our Cellar Door Tastings Today.

The first ad passes the test because it doesn’t talk about alcohol or drinking, whereas the second refers to tasting the wines and could, therefore, be restricted if the audiences aren’t right and include minors or are pushed onto keywords where binge drinking is implied.

It is also best practice to target multiple audiences and continually review these for any particular issues.

Further to this, you need to be aware that potential major pillars of your strategy, such as remarketing and similar audiences are not options with restricted content.

How this could affect the ads

There is a mountain of ways this can affect the ads, and the issues can come from your ads, the keywords you are targeting or even the landing pages these ads are linked.

A lot of the time Google mark some ads as “limited” (i.e. restricted) on an account and leave others completely unrestricted, it really just depend on the combination of ad text, keyword and landing page.

If some of your ads are marked as limited, don’t worry they’ll still be served, but only when Google can be sure that no rules are being violated.

So we find it best to do several things in order to ensure you don’t have intermittent issues;

  1. Review your linked landing pages frequently to ensure they meet the guidelines

  2. Be very careful with your ads that reference the alcohol products themselves - be boring if you have to be (the product is fairly exciting on its own)

  3. Review these ads weekly if you can

  4. Review your Google Merchant account regularly

  5. Setup alerts so when things do go wrong you know about it.

Most Important Point

Advertising alcohol with Google Ads can be tricky. Being prepared, flexible and vigilant can help mitigate mistakes. This, along with constant testing and maintenance will ensure you stay ahead of Google's Booze Ad censors.