Are you guilty of these Google AdSense violations?

Google AdSense made a big push to get some of the bad apple publishers out of the Google AdSense system last year.  And of course, many publishers are absolutely terrified of running afoul of the Google AdSense police, and live in fear that they may have taken a slight misstep that will get their account banned.  Then there are those that try and push the line to see how far they can go before Google pushes back.

But many violations are simply because a publisher didn’t bother to thoroughly read the AdSense terms and policies before slapping up their AdSense code on every domain they own.  And I have discovered while doing audits that often publishers are clearly in violation of the terms and policies, all while trying to convince me they have always done it, didn’t know it was wrong, and are sure Google won’t mind since they have gotten away with it for this long.

So, while not all inclusive, here are some of the more common TOS and policy violation mistakes that publishers make without even realizing they could be jeopordizing their accounts.

Clicking on your own ads

Yes, I consider this one pretty basic, and if you are aware of it, you probably wonder how on earth anyone could possibly think it would be alright to be clicking on your own ads.  After all, it isn’t really being fair to the paying advertisers when you click ads you also earn money off of, because it always raises the question of whether you actually clicked because you were interested or if you only clicked because you wanted to earn some extra money.

Now, while many consider this a no brainer, I can’t count the number of publishers who are astounded they can’t click their own ads, and are actually shocked they could get their account suspended over it.  The usual excuses I hear are “But I was really interested in the ad!”, “but I even bought something from the place the ad was for!” or “I just wanted to check to make sure the ads worked.”  Well, think of it as if you were the advertiser.  Would you be happy you just paid $1 for that click, and then learn the person who did the clicking earned a % of that dollar you spent?  When put that way, it is easy to see why a publisher’s motives could be suspect when they are earning money when they clicked it.  If you were that advertiser, you’d be complaining to Google AdWords about it pretty darn click, and be expecting a refund for it.

And yes, unless you are super sneaky about it, Google will know it was you that clicked.  They might let it slide once or twice, but if you are making a habit of clicking your own ads, even if you swear you are truly interested in what the ad was about, you will quickly find yourself on the receiving end of a Dear AdSense Publisher letter.  An easy solution is to download the AdSense Preview Tool which will allow you to check out the ads appearing on a certain page – even with geolocation options so you can see what ads are being seen by visitors in other countries – and click away to your heart’s content without costing the advertiser a penny.

Creative attractions

Sure, we all would love to put some red blinky arrows pointing to the AdSense ad unit, but again, those advertisers won’t be happy to be paying for clicks so blatantly incited by the publisher.  And yes, even though you might not be specifically asking people to click on your ads, blinky arrows and the like are still considered “inciting clicks” in the eyes of Google, and is against the terms and policies.

My favorite example is from someone who posted on the AdSense forum at WebmasterWorld a couple of years ago, claiming that his account was banned for absolutely not reason at all… except when you went to his forum in question (that he so conveniently included in his profile), the cached copy of the forum pages showed a huge 600×600 or so pixel image of the webmaster pointing to the large rectangle AdSense ad unit, and with some added text threatening his forum visitors that if they didn’t click at least 5 ads each and every day, he would take the forum offline.  And yes, it is also a classic example of how many of those publishers who claim they are completely innocent are actually pretty guilty!

And those images lined up next to AdSense ad units that were all the rage a couple of years ago?  Since the thumbnail images would often be completely unrelated to the ads, and people were mistakenly clicking on the ads thinking it was taking them to a product page for whatever was showing in the item, it also quickly became one of those “thou shalt not” things to do with your AdSense ad units.   So leave the arrows and any other gimmicks away from your AdSense ads.  

Inciting clicks in any way

Yes, I know for most people this is common sense, but for others it will serve as a good reminder.  Don’t ask anyone to click your ads for you, whether telling someone privately or posting it somewhere obvious, like on a forum.  First, if you post publicly to get people to click your ads, someone will turn you in, I have seen this happen time and time again.  Sure, you might own a forum and think everyone loves you, but someone will have an ax to grind and won’t think twice about clicking on the “Ads by Google” and dishing up to Google all your click inciting crimes. 

Likewise, if you tell your best friend to go and click an ad on your site every day, that pattern will also stick out like a sore thumb when one person (and very likely the same IP address) goes and clicks X number of ads each and every day.  And since there isn’t really anything in it for him or her, except for your thanks, chances are pretty good all the clicks would be made on the homepage and in under a minute… again, another one of those big warning flags.

And it goes without saying that click circles, click bots and anything else along those lines is also against the terms too, especially if you don’t want to find yourself on the receiving end of a Google lawsuit (yes, Google won).

Creative coding

I think I have seen just about everything a publisher can do when it comes to creatively changing the AdSense code.  So you can’t change the size of your iframe to be slightly smaller to hide the Ads by Google, or change the color scheme so that any part of the ad unit text is blended right into the background of the ad unit.  Basically, the code you get from your AdSense control panel is EXACTLY the code you should paste into your webpage, without alterations, and the end result should be exactly what is shown on your website.

You also cannot change the code to open ads in a new window when clicked, run AdSense from within an application (I know at least one ebook publisher who ran afoul with this one)

Drop downs

Drop down menus can be both a navigational and an SEO nightmare.  And when someone combines fancy drop down navigation system with AdSense, more often than not, the end result is menus that drop down over the AdSense ad unit.  Having anything go over top of an AdSense ad unit is again the policies… this includes navigation menus, pop-ups and even newsletter slide in ads.  If anything covers up any part of the ad, it is in violation.  This is one of the more common AdSense terms and policies violations I come across in site reviews.  If you are wondering why it is a big deal, think about how frequently you use a drop down menu, and right when you go to click, you slightly move the mouse and it collapses on you as you click… and if the AdSense is placed front and center, the visitor will accidentally click the AdSense unit instead.  Sure, it’s good for your revenue (at least until you get caught!), but it makes advertisers cranky when they are paying for clicks by people who had no intention of leaving your site at that moment. 

And while on the topic of on-site behaviours, pop-ups and unders that could obscure AdSense ads are also not allowed.

Pre-Filling the Search Box

Yes, we would all love to put payday loans or mesothelioma as a prefilled search into the AdSense for Search box, but alas, it is against the terms.  Likewise is direct linking to a results page.

Privacy Policy

This is one of the newer rules, and one many publishers aren’t aware of, but make sure you do have a privacy policy on your sites that are running AdSense.  If you don’t have one yet, here is a privacy policy sample that JenSense readers can use, that covers all the areas Google wants publishers to cover.

1,000,000 visitors for $19.99!

If you are tempted to buy traffic that promises a million clicks for next to nothing, run far, far away.  First of all, the quality of the traffic, if there is even a real person behind the click, is very, very poor.  Second, Google has warned publishers to be wary of getting poor quality traffic.  So you are much better off throwing your $19.99 into PPC or advertising, and gain quality visitors that way.

Blabbing Your Stats

Except in specific circumstances, Google does not allow you to share details including your CTR, eCPM, etc.  You are only allowed to share your gross payment amount.  So if you ever wondered why people show off screenshots of their AdSense stats with a bunch of the info blacked out, this is why 😉


Sure, it might be obvious that you can’t put ads on certain types of content, yet I also see this rule being broken all the time.  And it is worth noting that this means it applies to the entire site, and not just individual pages.  So if you have a section about gambling, for example, it would technically mean you cannot run AdSense on the entire site. So here is a refresher of the types of content not allowed in AdSense, because I often hear “I didn’t know you couldn’t put AdSense on ____.”

  • Violent content, racial intolerance, or advocacy against any individual, group, or organization
  • Pornography, adult, or mature content
  • Hacking/cracking content
  • Illicit drugs and drug paraphernalia
  • Excessive profanity
  • Gambling or casino-related content
  • Content regarding programs which compensate users for clicking on ads or offers, performing searches, surfing websites, or reading emails
  • Excessive, repetitive, or irrelevant keywords in the content or code of web pages
  • Deceptive or manipulative content or construction to improve your site’s search engine ranking, e.g., your site’s PageRank
  • Sales or promotion of weapons or ammunition (e.g., firearms, fighting knives, stun guns)
  • Sales or promotion of beer or hard alcohol
  • Sales or promotion of tobacco or tobacco-related products
  • Sales or promotion of prescription drugs
  • Sales or promotion of products that are replicas or imitations of designer goods
  • Sales or distribution of term papers or student essays
  • Any other content that is illegal, promotes illegal activity, or infringes on the legal rights of others
  • That said, it is quite easy to email Google to ask about it.  If you have 1000 pages of unique content but happen to have a section on gambling, they might allow you to run AdSense on the rest of the site as long as you ensure you do not run AdSense on those pages in question.  It never hurts to ask!

    Following the Webmaster Guidelines & Landing Page Guidelines

    This is a tough one, since it can be open to interpretation, but one of the policies is that all publishers must adhere to both the Webmaster Guidelines and the “spirit” of the Landing Page Quality Guidelines.  The Webmaster Guidelines are mostly there for spam sites and arbitrage sites that might be running Google AdSense, but it doesn’t hurt to have a quick look to make sure you aren’t doing anything that Google could penalize you for, either in the natural search results, or your status in the AdSense program.

    If you messed up…

    That said, Google is pretty lenient to a certain extent.  This means if you have made a minor mistake, they will send you an email letting you know what you’ve done wrong, and give you a few days to fix it (usually three).  However, if you are blatantly trying to push the line, they could be far less forgiving, depending on how far over the line you went.

    Likewise, if you are a repeat offender and Google is constantly policing your account and sending you warnings over a variety of things you are violating, there has to be a point where Google decides you are more trouble than you’re worth, and will suspend your account rather than having to watch you and making advertisers mad about whatever it is you are doing.  I often think of this as a three strikes rule, so if you have received one or two warnings previously, it is worth going over your account with a fine-tooth comb and make sure you aren’t violating anything else you weren’t aware of.

    I will post part two and three later this week: What to do when you have received a warning letter and what to do if your account is terminated.

    Share this with others!
    • Twitter
    • Digg
    • Sphinn
    • StumbleUpon
    • Reddit
    • Technorati
    • Mixx
    • Google Bookmarks
    • Facebook

    24 comments to Are you guilty of these Google AdSense violations?

    • Pk

      That is why Adsense is the most honest and sensitive online biz on this Earth : ) Cheers…

    • Are you guilty of these Google AdSense violations? Keep your account in good standing with this!

    • Are you guilty of these Google AdSense violations?

    • Yeah, I got a nasty note from google when I first started using adsense because I clicked on a couple of my own ads. They were something I was interested in so clicked through (I mean, let’s face it, if we’re righting about things that interest us, it’s a good chance the topical ads will be of interest, too *laughs*).

      Google was very nice, though, and sent me an e-mail not to do that and including information on the ads preview tool so I could find the ads my site would generate. Now if I see an ad on my site that interests me, I load up the preview tool to get to the site.

      I know at least one person who got dinged because she talked about pain killers on her site (she had a medical condition that required various pain control techniques). When she talked to them about what she wrote about, though, and a live person reviewed the site, they restored her AdSense account. They really are nice if you talk to them and aren’t actually trying to scam the system.

    • Nice post Jen. I had and may still have the issue with adSense. So really looking forward to your part 2, 3.

      Cheers, Kent

    • Good reminder of the guidelines!
      I once got a mail from the Adsense guys, saying I wasn’t allowed to use adsense on Porn pages… I was totally puzzled, since the site they were referring to was a website for aquarium owners… But, it had a forum, and some spammers came in and posted it full with porn.
      Lesson learned: you are also responsible for what your visitors post on your website!

    • terlan

      The problem is when you breach the terms in some way, adsense send you a very generic note saying “found that your AdSense account has posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers” from what I have gathered from articles and other users this can mean anything from you have content that is undisirable (porn, guns, booze that sort of thing) to something as innocent as the lack of a privacy policy as you stated above.
      But google dont tell you anything, so when you come to appeal the decision, you have nothing to work with. I would probably say the large majority of people who break the TOS dont do it intentionally and if informed correctly would immediately remedy the problem. but as it stands you have to appeal using a generic and unhelpful automated form, you can spend days second guessing your own content, imagining every manner of misconstrued infringement and at the end of the day be left feeling infuriated and with no recourse. As google make it impossible to contact a human being in any way or to open any sort of dialog beyond the we’re sorry but dont reply to this email automated reply you get with every appeal form submission.
      And yes im speaking from experience. After successfully using adsense for over 2 years, I received the fatefull email containing the dreadful sentance above. I use adsense on only 2 sites, both are rated family and child safe, all content is original and written or created personally and no paid traffic or other dodgy practices are used on them, I rack up only a couple of dollars a day and its really only a hobby, but I enjoyed it and know I did nothing intentionally wrong and if i broke the TOS I would have rectified it in about 5 minutes had i been contacted.
      But nothing can be done, and to cap it all, there no mention of the money i had earned thus far in the program. I had about $400 roughly in my adsense account. All of which has been earned legitimately from adverts google placed on my websites and has been paid for and has generated sales for the companies that placed them. Now as I havent been accused of click fraud, surely google still legally owe me this money for the advertising service I provided. But no mention of it has been forthcoming from google. there is no department that I can contact to discuss the matter and any attempt to contact google is met with.. “please consult our FAQ and in other words go away”. Sorry to ramble on but peopel should know.. its not as simple as dont break the rules you’ve outlined above, because your interpretation of a condition and googles interpretation can be completely different.

    • Anonymous

      Google is not what it is cracked up to be. If you do loose your account simply go to another network is all.

      If they ban just one of your websites, do like me and put the ads in an IFrame from another unbanned site from your account. Simple and done deal.

    • aditi

      Dear jen,

      I started a blog on differnt cosmetic surgery treatments, pros & cons of cosmetic surgery and advices. Can I get adsense approval for this content ? After reading your article…I just got this doubt. Please clarify ….


    • Thank you, thank you and thank you!

      I totally forgot to add privacy polices to my sites, great site to added to my rss feed :)

    • […] inspiratie voor bovenstaande bericht kwam van Jensense en quickonlinetips. Blijf op de hoogteVond je deze informatie interessant, zorg dan dat je het […]

    • Pk


      If somebody uses Kontera with Adsense and many times Kontera drops downs over any Adsense units, (which generally happens on all the sites) than would it be against Google Adsense TOS? I scare thats why I have to remove my paying Kontera so asking, you, pl confirm, Thank You for providing wonderful info : ) Take care,

    • Eager to see parts 2 and 3. We had one of our larger sites suspended from Adsense and are totally clueless as to why. We try hard to play by the rules, so it’s infuriating that they won’t tell us what rule we are breaking.

    • Great post for AdSense Publishers from JenSense Blog….Are you guilty of these Google AdSense violations?

    • Yes, thanks for the reminder about Adsense TOS.

      I have had a site penalised (i.e. removed from Adsense) because I asked for clarification why the ads had been removed from it. I got no answer, but then after 3 days was told the site had been (permanently?) penalised. Oops. My bad! (As some might say).


      PS Some of the commenters above seem to verify your ‘Google not so good anymore (i.e. they banned me for doing nothing wrong) but look what I did (dodgy) to get around their ban’ theory of some Adsense publishers

    • Are you guilty of these Google Adsense violations? #adsense

    • I accidentally added 2 adsense “youtube” units, and it took 2 weeks before I realised.

      No emails from google, just a drop in traffic…

      Once I saw a drop in my SERPs, I did some digging and discovered I can only have a max of 1 youtube units per page :-(

      About 10 days after I fixed it, traffic from google is very very slowly improving (some pages rank well, but most don’t anymore)

      I’m wondering if I should just wait for the traffic to improve, or if I need to contact google…

      In some ways, I wish they had sent me an email… that way I’d know where I stand.

    • AdSense and Google search results are unrelated, so it would have been a coincidence.

    • Few, not breaking any of these yet. I’ll remember all of these so i don’t break them in the future. I’m surprised you can fill the textbox for them.

    • Lenny

      Here’s what I don’t get, couple of things actually.
      I’ve just been suspended by Google, I have 8 sites and one is a forum. I used adsense on the index of the forum, not inside the forum. The ads weren’t on my sites for very long. There were no other ads (I had removed all my other ads) The ads weren’t doing too badly, not great, but not bad.

      From time to time our forum will get a huge run of traffic. I suspect that being new with adsense and having x amount of clicks for the first few days, then seeing a semi dramatic increase on about day 4 or 5, they must have suspected something, but that’s how our traffic runs. But they take your stats page away, so you can’t see what happened. I can see in my logs that the traffic increased, but “my” logs don’t tellme anything about “their” registered hits. But, they want to know about “your” server logs, in your appeal.
      Why doesn’t Google ask “before” suspending you?

      I wrote them an appeal, but after reading over all the articles I have for the last day and a half, I don’t know if I’d want to be back with them. Talk about being paranoid about any little mistake I might make. Plus, your revenue goes ::::poof:::: when suspended.
      I’m not too keen on that. It was hard enough to lose the little pittance my sites had earned.

      I’ve heard about sites that post about big sporting events, like football, soccer and such, that when a tournament or a big game is on, the site experiences a huge increase in traffic and clicks, and some of them sites have been suspended as a result of “too many clicks”. To me, that’s just crazy

      Lastly, and this has to do with webmasters that click on their own links, Yahoo has a similar program, and what I don’t understand why Yahoo can ignore the webmasters clicks and Google cannot. They “know” when the clicks are coming from the webmasters…lol…duh, yeah cause they suspend them. I read that even beginner webmasters who didn’t reads the terms through and through, do page previews while designing over and over and they get suspended for that.

      Nah, I think I’ll pass on Google…
      Oh and I forgot to add, I joined adsense and adwords at the same time.
      I received an email from the adwords dept asking me why I haven’t started my adwords campaign yet…this was no more then 1/2 hour “after” I received my adsense suspension.
      lol, yeah I should give them more money….

    • I have a website about tattoos and i placed my google adsense code 3 times at the bottom of my page so there are 3 google adsense boxes all together,,,Is that against their rules? Your site has been a big help!

    • Marco Galante

      recently google sent me an email saying that they were removing my site from their index because I was using scripts that could be used by third parties for spamming! I have been indexed by google since 1997 and I have a page rank of 4 and all I get is a removal email with an incredibly obscure accusation. Of course this action will cause me quite a bit of hardship and loss of revenue but will google care? Of course not. Then doing a lot of research I realised that the offending item is a wordpress blog I have recently installed on my server! Since third parties can leave comments on a blog google sees this as a possibility for spammers to alter the code on my site and use it for their gain.

      This shows me that it is google that is having problems keeping up with the internet and it deals with their own inadequacies by punishing the innocent. Many people are now the target of their vagaries and inconsistencies and I am wondering how long it is going to be before their arrogance and callousness will hit them back.

    • Brad

      Jenstar, great article. I have a couple of follow-up questions which may be in the gray area and for which I haven’t been able to find a clear answer:

      1. If you are direct-linking to search results, but are doing so from a clear user-initiated action (i.e. user clicks on a hyperlink which reads ‘Search Drew Brees’), I’m guessing this would be a clear violation, but is this something Google may turn a blind-eye to since it is still following the ‘spirit of search’? (I think I already know the answer).

      2. In reading the TOS for Google Custom Search, it is clear that you shouldn’t manipulate Google’s provided source code. However, it doesn’t seem to put any limitations on how the search box is displayed (i.e. the code which makes the search box visible). I have a site with very little real-estate, and I’d like to display the search box in a drop-down menu. The Google code will remain identical, but the search box itself will be showed dynamically. Would you consider this a violation?


    Leave a Reply




    You can use these HTML tags

    <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>