Is your site content compliant with Google AdSense?

AdSense Optimization Boot Camp Tip #8 

I have just returned from Search Engine Strategies New York where I spoke on two panels, one of them being an AdSense & Contextual Advertising site clinic.  In this, we go and look at websites volunteered by audience members to be reviewed.  And most of the time, Bryan Vu from Google AdSense is one of the panelists.  And every time we do this clinic, it seems that there is at least one person who volunteers his or her site that is clearly violating the AdSense policies… and often in a not-so-subtle way.  And quite often, it is a content violation, meaning the publisher is running AdSense on types of content that is definitely not allowed.

So I thought I would give a refresher course on what kind of content you are not allowed to run AdSense on, so that you won’t suddenly finding yourself on the receiving end of a Google AdSense compliance warning or suspension.  Some of them may be obvious, but then again, some are a little more unusual and tend to trip people up.

And it is worth noting that the stipulation is “sites displaying Google ads may not include:” so just removing AdSense from those specific pages isn’t enough to cut it.  And it could technically apply to any text-links sold (that viagra or phentermine link in your side bar could be an issue), or even blog spam that isn’t removed regularly, although I am not aware of Google sending compliancy warnings for these reasons.

Prescription Drugs
This is one of those ones that tends to trip people up because there are specific parts that trip people up.  If your site is about these types of drugs, but strictly from an information providing point of view (think a site like WebMD) can run AdSense without any problems.  But if the site is promoting the sale of these drugs (where to buy, links to sites selling online, coupons, or selling directly) then it is against the terms.  And even if you just remove the AdSense from the pages promoting the sales, that is still not enough since it applies to the entire site.  And if you want to be technical about it, this would also apply to that “Buy Viagra online” link you sell in your sidebar for $5 a month…. not to mention those bloggers who have all kinds of blog spam that they don’t remove.

Counterfeit goods
Have a site detailing where to buy imitation Coach purses or just showcasing different imitations of designer goods?  This is against the terms, which surprises many people.  An article about counterfeit goods would be fine, the rule is for those pages for “sales and promotion”.  This i one that surprisingly a lot of sites run afoul on.

Essays & term papers
Think a free term paper site would be a great way to make money with AdSense?  Think again!  Sales and distributions are a no go with AdSense.  It probably stems from this.

Gambling & casino content
Sorry, no AdSense on your texas holdem spam site.  I am surprised at the number of gambling sites I do come across running AdSense though… and I suspect many of those know they shouldn’t be doing it.  The only legitimate use of AdSense on casino related content that I could see people being granted an exception on would be for travel sites who have pages on specific locations where gambling and casinos are prevalent – Las Vegas for example.

Weapons & ammunition
No surprise here.  But paintball sites have run into this one on a case-by-case basis, so that is a grey area.

Beer or alcohol
This falls under sales and promotion, so information sites are fine.  Wine does not fall under this though.

Tobacco & related
Again, no real surprise here.  And yes, cigar affectionado sites fall under this too.

Self explanatory.

Adult content
Self explanatory.  Forums have run into issues with this when members post NSFW content in a thread and it gets reported to Google by a fellow member/competitor.

Excessive profanity
Again, no real surprise, but no real clear guidelines as to when enough profanity is considered “Excessive”.

Illicit drugs & related paraphernalia
Self explanatory.

Racial intolerance, violent content etc
The official policy states “Violent content, racial intolerance, or advocacy against any individual, group, or organization”.  Usually these groups aren’t running AdSense, however, unless it is a case of a free host who is running AdSense in a sidebar or header in exchange for the free hosting.

Paid to surf/click/search/etc
I see a lot of this.  The full policy reads “Content regarding programs which compensate users for clicking on ads or offers, performing searches, surfing websites, or reading emails”.  It seems again to be a case-by-case basis, or when Google comes across it.  If your content is about clicking AdSense ads, you would bet Google acts on that much quicker than on an article about getting paid to read emails.

Anything illegal-ish?
Then we have the broad “Any other content that is illegal, promotes illegal activity, or infringes on the legal rights of others” which I suspect is there so there is a policy violation for specific cases that don’t fall under the above.

 Webmaster Guidelines
Now, we get into a whole new can of worms when you consider all the webmaster guidelines that have found their way into the “site shall not include” section.  So that little spamming technique you are using to rank higher for specific keywords?  Not only is it against Google’s webmaster guidelines, Google AdSense also has an issue with sites using it too… so much so that you could get suspended from the program for it.

Repetitive, excessive or irrelevant keywords
Those hidden keywords you stuffed in the footer?  Not allowed. Excessive mesothelioma keywords on your dog training site?  Not allowed.  Even if they aren’t for search results but are for attempting to target your AdSense ads, it is still not allowed.  

PageRank manipulation
Okay, the full wordy policy reads “Deceptive or manipulative content or construction to improve your site’s search engine ranking, e.g., your site’s PageRank ” which pretty much means if you are doing anything on your site to boost your PageRank or search rankings, it isn’t allowed to have AdSense on it.  However, unless it is completely blatant, I can’t see Google going after this.

Now, obviously, AdSense policies cover a lot more things that are also on-page, such as inciting clicks or mislabelling AdSense ads as anything but their approved terminology.  However, this is meant just to look at specific types of content and on-page factors that I tend to see webmasters running AdSense on, often without even realizing they are against the policies by doing so.

Don’t forget that it is on a site-wide basis, which means that one page you have on where to buy fake Coach purses means that your entire site is not permitted to show AdSense, it isn’t just restricted to the offending pages.  Sometimes it can just be a case of slanting the content to one that is non-commercial in nature, such as changing your prescription drug site into one that is only for information and removing anything that promotes or sells the drugs.

Worried that your sites may not be in compliance?  I offer full site reviews looking for compliancy issues – not just “site may not include issues”, but reviewing for anything and everything that could cause issues with AdSense if you end up getting a spot check by the Google AdSense compliancy team.  Please contact me with your URL and let me know it is for a compliancy review and I can send a quote 🙂 I usually have a fairly quick turnaround once payment is received or can do a rush if you are in the midst of a compliancy review and trying to make sure everything is perfect for Google’s eyes!

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5 comments to Is your site content compliant with Google AdSense?

  • I was in NYC and saw both of the adsense presentations. I submitted my site for review and was very pleased with the recommendations Jen and Brian provided.

    The presentations by Jen and Brian were also very informative and interesting. It was also interesting to see how other webmasters were trying to integrate adsense and how some people were just “clueless”.

    My favorite question on the whole site review session was “Can you briefly describe the different ad formats?”
    … Do these people even use the internet?

    Thanks again!

    Matt Bryers

  • Heh; I was initially declined by AdSense *and* AdWords for my fireworks site, until I could get ahold of a human who could determine that I wasn’t actually selling them, but just providing a database of places in my state where community displays are held. Haven’t had a problem since. Yahoo still can’t figure it out though – they’ve turned me down at least three times over the years because I’m “promoting fireworks or other explosive material”

  • Alex

    If one guy bought a casino link on my site (that isn’t in anyway related to it) does this mean I am braking the TOS ( “Gambling or casino-related content” )?

  • Howdy! I’m using the cleaker theme too! New site – nothing to see just yet!

    Anyway, in regard to the privacy policy, it does not seem obvious on your site here. Is it because you don’t run Adsense? I see you have the Google affiliate ad up top, but not the contextual ads. It that the difference? Just trying to get it right, and wondering how you did it. Little confused! Thanks!

  • Excellent guide jen, found answers to what I was looking for.

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