When Google updated their AdSense policies this week, there was a lot of confusion about the removal of the a certain part of the competitive ad policy, namely the one that saw the removal of the following:
We do not permit Google ads or search boxes accessing Google search services to be published on web pages that also contain what could be considered competing ads or services. If you have elected to receive contextually-targeted Google ads, this would include all other contextually-targeted ads or links on the same page as Google ads.
Yet, as I posted yesterday, its removal from the policy pages did not mean much in itself, as the AdSense terms still included a clause (If You have elected to receive content or Site-based Ads, You further agree not to display on any Serviced Page any non-Google content-targeted advertisement(s).) that would prevent other contextual ads on the same page.
I followed up with Google on the situation, to find out of the removal of the clause would mean that competitor’s ads would be allowed on the same page as AdSense, provided they didn’t resemble or mimic AdSense ads, and that the AdSense terms would eventually be updated to reflect this policy change. And the answer is yes!
I spoke with Brian Axe, senior product manager on the Google AdSense Team on the issue. “As you and others have noticed, the AdSense Terms and Conditions haven’t been updated since 2005, and we’re working on an update to the Terms to bring everything into line. Traditionally, we don’t update the Terms as frequently, since all publishers must re-agree to the Terms whenever they change.”
“When it comes to enforcing policies on third-party contextual ads, we’ll be following the updated program policies instead of the T&Cs on this point. That is to say, publishers may now display other contextual ads on the same site or page as Google ads as long as they don’t have the same look and feel as our ads,” Brian Axe tells Jennifer Slegg of JenSense.
So what does this mean for AdSense publishers? Well, it depends what you want to use with it. Using Yahoo Pubisher Network is still a no go, because the YPN terms still contain a clause (For any webpage or RSS feed that includes the Ad Code, you agree not to display or link to any other advertising (including but not limited to any listing) that is mapped to or responds to the content of the Ad Page) preventing publishers from using another contextual ad network on the same page as YPN ads. However, I am following up with Yahoo on this issue to find out if they will be loosening this clause now or in the future to permit AdSense and YPN to run on the same page. I will update you on this issue if I get information about whether or not YPN will decide to do this.
However IntelliTXT is one I get plenty of questions on, and publishers can definitely run IntelliTXT with AdSense, provided the pop-up does not either mimic AdSense ads or obscure any AdSense ad units running on the same page.
And any other contextual ads are now fine to run, provided their own terms do allow other contextual ads on the same page, and they do not mimic the AdSense ad units on the page you currently run.
How can you ensure they aren’t mimicking your AdSense? If you are using the border-less technique, the simplest solution is to add a border or change the background color of the competitor’s ad unit. It is still unclear just how much of the text within a blended ad unit (an ad unit that matches the border and background to the background of the webpage) would have to be changed, but I would guess all three elements would need changing, the colors of the title, description text and the URL. So it is obviously easier to just throw up a different border or background on to the ad unit to make its appearance substantially different from your AdSense ad unit. The you can work on tweaking it later without borders once we get more confirmation on just how much of the text color needs to be changed within an ad unit to ensure you are not breaking AdSense policies. And of course, you can always contact Google support on this issue to ensure that your competitive ad units are different enough to satisfy the AdSense compliancy team.
All in all, this change is good because it does allow publishers to use competitive ad products on the same page as AdSense, something that was previously not allowed under the program policies. You just simply need to ensure that any other ads you use (whether contextually targeted or not) do not resemble the AdSense ads you run anywhere on that same site.
Update: I spoke with Yahoo Publisher Network on this issue, and they say that as of today, page level exclusivity still exists. This means you still cannot run YPN on the same page as another contextual ad network. However, they will listen to publisher feedback on this issue and take it into consideration for future YPN terms updates.
Update 2: I have had a few questions regarding whether using the same ad unit sizes would constitute having the “same look and feel”, and some others are reporting that using anything in an ad unit in the same style as Google’s (such as using something that looks like YPN) would violate this policy. Fortunately for publishers, the answer is no, just the fact the ad units share the same styling (as nearly all contextual ad networks do) will not break the policy as long as you take care to change the color schemes used by each.
Botton line, this means you can use the same ad unit sizes from two different programs, as long as there are clear differences in the color scheme (and things such as borders or backgrounds) used by your Google ads. It is also worth noting thaty proximity of the competitive ad units to each other also comes into factor when making changes to your site by adding competitive ads. I asked Brian Axe from AdSense to clear up just how different the ad units need to be so publishers do not inadvertantly violate the policy.
“”We’re asking that publishers use good judgment on how much they change the colors or formatting of the ads to ensure users don’t confuse third-party ads with Google ads. Proximity plays a role as well – if you’re placing the ad units directly adjacent to one another, we’d ask that you use clear borders and offsetting colors to indicate where one network’s ad unit ends and the other begins. If the ad units are on opposite sides of the page, using different backgrounds colors and/or a different color scheme for ad text and borders should be fine. Ad units that are virtually indistinguishable from the Google ads on a site would certainly violate the spirit of this policy,” Brian says.
NOTE: This post got corrupted in the database so it was reposted. You can view all comments for this post on archive.org.