AdSense updated their Policies today, and one of the changes made to the incentives section of the policies states:
In addition, publishers may not bring unnatural attention to sites displaying ads through unsolicited mass emails or unwanted advertisements on third-party websites. These activities are strictly prohibited in order to avoid potential inflation of advertiser costs.
The wording of this statement is interesting – what exactly is considered an unwanted advertisement on a third party website? Three things immediately come to mind – blog spam, guestbook spam and message board spam. I suspect, however, that the main target of this addition to the policies is blog spam.
Blog spam (leaving comments on blogs that are essentially keyword and URL rich messages that have nothing to do with the content of the blog entry; also trackback spam, leaving trackbacks to URLs where there is no mention of the blog) has been getting a lot of press lately, and the timing fits perfectly with other measures Google has been taking in an attempt to stop blog spam on the Blogger network.
The second new feature that has been introduced to hopefully reduce blog comment spam is an option for a Blogger user to require word verification for comments people post on a Blogger powered blog. In other words, a person who leaves a comment will need to enter a word or letters into a box to get the comments to post.
It is also worth noting that the spam does not even have to incite clicks in any way – simply placing an unwanted advertisement on a third-party site is enough to make it a policy violation.
Will this help the blog spam issue? There are many publishers promoting websites running AdSense via blog spam. And when there is a lot of earnings at stake, it could push some publishers to cease blog spam… at least for their AdSense sites.
It will be interesting to see if AdSense will be targeting those promoting their AdSense sites via blog spam only when the dates of the comments/trackbacks are from today onwards, and not anything dont prior to now.
However, a side effect of this is that AdSense will need to be careful that the publisher is the one responsible for the blog spam. If they are suspending publishers for this, it could end up being a quick and easy way to get a publisher suspended from AdSense by those with blog spamming tools.
And it is also worth noting that YPN does not have a policy that targets this kind of spam issue specifically. So YPN could inadvertantly result in being a “safe haven” for this kind of activity unless they also make a similar change to their own terms and policies.