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Clarification from Google on New AdSense Policies

With the new AdSense policies that were released last week, there was definitely some confusion about what would and wouldn’t be allowed, particularly to do with blending ads. I have gotten some clarification from Katie from the Google AdSense team on some of the policies that has people confused.

First, if you haven’t read about the new policies, you should read the full AdSense policies update I did here, which also has full commentaries on each of the new changes that Google made.

Now, onto the clarification from Google:

On the “Enouraging Clicks” section of the new policies, Google added the following to the “Publisher may not…” part:

  • Format ads so that they become indistinguishable from other content on that page.
  • Format site content so that it is difficult to distinguish it from ads.
  • So that raised my questions about just how “blended” would be considered too much for Google and thus be in violation of the AdSense terms. So here is Google’s response:

    I also understand you wanted some clarification on blending. I can assure you that all of our optimization tips are still valid, such as embedding your ad units within text and blending your ad colors. However, there’s a distinction between formatting the ads to fit your site and tricking users into thinking that the ads are your site’s content. For example, it’s OK to make the ad links match the color of the other links on your site, but it may be confusing if the ads are surrounded by lots of similar looking
    links and there is no distinction between the two. (You can see an example of this here.)

    The intent of this policy is to protect advertisers from accidental clicks made by users who are unable to distinguish the Google ads from other content on the page. We also want to make sure that our publishers are providing a good user experience with Google ads. If publishers would like additional guidance, they can look at this blog post and our Help Center entry regarding best practices for laying out their sites and ads.

    So this clears up a lot of the confusion that many publishers were having about the blending issue. AdSense has actually been sending compliancy warnings to publishers doing this kind of thing for quite some time, so in this respect it is nothing new and is similar to Google giving warnings to those publishers using images next to ad units.

    Next was the change in the Google Webmaster Guidelines section which included:

    Avoid hidden text or hidden links.

    Now, we all know that there are completely legitimate uses for hidden text, although they are most often used for far more devious purposes. But there was the concern that those publishers using the technique for legit reasons could end up getting a compliancy warning over this. Here is Google’s response:

    It also looks like you had a question about hidden text and hidden links (from the webmaster quality guidelines section). To clarify, this refers to any text or links that are solely for search engines rather than for visitors. As such, the spoiler TV site example would not be in violation of this, since that design is intended for the visitors.

    So as long as a publisher is using hidden text or links for purely legitimate reasons, and not to trick search engines for example, publishers do not need to worry about running afoul of this one.

    Lastly, there was an addition to the Ad Placement section, which saw this added:

    Google ads, search boxes, or search results may not be:

    • Placed on pages whose content or URL could confuse users into thinking it is associated with Google due to the misuse of logos, trademarks, or other brand features.
    • Placed on, within, or alongside other Google products or services in a manner that violates the policies of that product or service.

    Now, for sometime I have heard from publishers who had “AdSense” included in their site’s domain name who have had ad serving turned off on those accounts, and there were likely others as well using other Google trademarks who ran into this same issue. But this policy kind of brought everything into line. Of course, that could be interpreted many different ways, including whether this blog is in violation because the term Google AdSense is used on the page and in the URLs. Here is Google’s clarification on the new brand changes.

    Lastly, in regards to the use of Google Brand Features, what we’re primarily concerned with are sites that use a Google Brand Feature as the most prominent element on the web page, or sites that display a Google Brand Feature in any manner that implies a relationship or affiliation with, sponsorship, or endorsement by Google. That said, mentions of the word “Google” in a blog post, article, etc, are fine, as is any Google branding that is naturally associated with our Google products.

    And lastly, I commented on the fact that the policies were missing the time stamp, making it pretty difficult for publishers to be aware if there were any changes made, something publishers are required to check regularly. But fortunately (especially for me) this will be added back onto the policies page.

    First, thanks for pointing out that the date stamp is missing from the bottom of the program policies. We do usually include this information, and we’re working on adding it back in.

    This should help clear up some of the confusion last week surrounding the new policies Google introduced. What does everyone think about the new blending clarification? Now, it isn’t really that big of a deal for most publishers and most won’t be affected. And nice to know the blending technique that I (along with many other publishers!) have perfected will be perfectly within the new AdSense policies.

    Note: This blog post was corrupted in the database and was reposted, please see archive.org for original comments.

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