Third-party download ads will be a thing of the past soon on Google

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 7, 2015
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Google

When you search for software downloads currently on Google, for instance for Firefox, VLC or Google Chrome, then ads may be displayed to you before the organic search results.

The problem with this is that advertisers were free to buy spots regardless of their relation with the software.

This led to situations where users were redirected to third-party sites that had nothing to do with the original project.

Some may have sold the free software to those users, others may have pushed malware or adware on user systems instead, and a third group may have asked for information before redirecting users to the right download.

Advertisement may not be displayed at all times depending on various factors including your location in the world but at this point in time, it is still happening on Google and other major search engines.

Note: The examples below show how third-party ads look like. They make no claim that the linked pages are serving adware or malicious software to users.

download search result

While experienced users know how to distinguish ads from real content, the similarity between ads and contents, and the fact that ads are displayed at the top of the results, makes it difficult for less tech-savvy users to make that distinction.

It needs to be noted that Google is not the only company that is serving third-party download ads currently.

Search engines like Startpage, Bing or Yahoo all display third-party download ads on their properties.

Startpage ads
Bing ads
Yahoo ads

As you can see on the screenshots above, all ads link to third-party sites.

Google made the decision to do something about that finally. In an email to its advertisers, the company revealed upcoming changes to free software download ads on Google Adwords.

The two most important changes are that ads need to include the name of the promoted software and may only link to the official landing page of the software's "primary distribution source".

This means that ads have to link to the project website, set by the company, organization or individual responsible for the program, and no other destination on the Internet.

It is not clear what is going to happen if a destination has not been set by default.

The policy change goes live at the end of April at which time you should see a sharp drop of desktop software download ads on Google.

It is unclear currently if the change affects ads on third-party sites using Adsense as well. Considering that this is an Adwords policy, it is likely that it will affect ads on third-party sites as well.

Since Google is the largest adverting company, download ads will drop like a stone once the change goes live.

You will still encounter these ads on other search engines though.

Closing Words

It is about time that company's do something about deceiving download ads on their sites and third-party sites using their advertising system.

Third-party download ads will be a thing of the past soon on Google
Article Name
Third-party download ads will be a thing of the past soon on Google
A new Google Adwords policy will block advertisers from linking software downloads to third-party websites.

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  1. The Dark Lady said on July 9, 2023 at 11:19 am

    Martin, I would appreciate that you do not censor this post, as it’s informative writing.

    Onur, there is a misleading statement “[…] GIFs are animated images …”. No, obviously you don’t seem to have take much notice of what you were told back in March regarding; Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).

    For example, (if you had read my replies within that thread, you might have learnt something useful). I even mentioned, “GIF intrinsically supports animated images (GIF89a)”.

    You linked to said article, [Related: …] within this article, but have somehow failed to take onboard what support you were given by several more knowledgeable people.

    If you used AI to help write this article, it has failed miserably.

  2. KeZa said on August 17, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    AI is stupid, and it will not get any better if we really know how this all works. Prove me wrong..

  3. Database failure said on August 18, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    Martin, [#comment-4569908] is only meant to be in: []. Whereas it appears duplicated in several recent random low-quality non relevant articles.

    Obviously it [#comment-4569908] was posted: 9 July 2023. Long before this thread even existed… your database is falling over. Those comments are supposed to have unique ID values. It shouldn’t be possible to duplicate the post ID, if the database had referential integrity.

  4. Howard Pearce said on August 25, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    Don’t tell me!

    Ghacks wants the state to step in for STATE-MANDATED associations to save jobs!!!

    Bring in the dictatorship!!!

    And screw Rreedom of Association – too radical for Ghacks maybe

  5. Howard Allan Pearce said on September 7, 2023 at 9:13 am

    GateKeeper ?

    That’s called “appointing” businesses to do the state’s dirty work!!!!!

    But the article says itself that those appointed were not happy – implying they had not choice!!!!!!

  6. owl said on September 7, 2023 at 9:50 am

    @The Dark Lady,
    @Database failure,
    @Howard Pearce,
    @Howard Allan Pearce,

    Note: I replaced the quoted URI scheme: https:// with “>>” and posted.

    The current is owned by “Softonic International S.A.” (sold by Martin in October 2019), and due to the fate of M&A, has changed in quality.
    Many Authors of bloggers and advertisers certified by Softonic have joined the site, and the site is full of articles aimed at advertising and clickbait.
    As it stands, except for articles by Martin Brinkmann, Mike Turcotte, and Ashwin, they are low quality, unhelpful, and even vicious. It is better not to read those articles.
    How to display only articles by a specific author:
    Added line to My filters in uBlock Origin:,.home-posts,.home-category-post:not(:has-text(/Martin Brinkmann|Mike Turcotte|Ashwin/))

    By the way, if you use an RSS reader, you can track exactly where your comments are (I’m an iPad user, so I use “Feedly Classic”, but for Windows I prefer the desktop app “RSS Guard”).
    RSS Guard: Feed reader which supports RSS/ATOM/JSON and many web-based feed services.

  7. Anonymous said on September 14, 2023 at 6:41 pm

    We all live in digital surveillance glass houses under scrutiny of evil people because of people like Musk. It’s only fair that he takes his turn.

  8. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    “Operating systems will be required to let the user choose the browser, virtual assistant and search engine of their choice. Microsoft cannot force users to use Bing or Edge. Apple will have to open up its iOS operating system to allow third-party app stores, aka allow sideloading of apps. Google, on the other hand, will need to provide users with the ability to uninstall preloaded apps (bloatware) from Android devices. Online services will need to allow users to unsubscribe from their platform easily. Gatekeepers need to provide interoperability with third-parties that offer similar services.”

    Wonderful ! Let’s hope they’ll comply with that law more than they are doing with the GDPR.

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