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January 17, 2007

Google AdSense updates their policies for January 2007

It's Google AdSense Policy Update Time!

We have had the same Google AdSense policies in place since March 2006, and with recent changes being made to things such as how publishers can use images with their ad units, I knew an updated Google AdSense Policy wasn't too far behind. And the policies have now been updated and revamped with a new order and look, and with one very significant change.

The policies have also been rewritten with some sections combined in order to make it easier for publishers to read and understand. Most of the legalese is also gone, which is nice.

I also talked with Google before this went live, so I have gotten clarification on some of the points below, to help answer any questions publishers may have had with the new changes.

First, the smaller changes.

Referrals

Publishers were previously restricted to having up to only four referral products, each with one button only, on their page at a time. However, there is now the text referrals available, something that wasn't reflected in the new policies. Now, they have changed it to allow publishers to place up to two referral links/buttons on the page, without being limited to only four products.

Up to two referral units from each referral product or offering may be displayed on a page, in addition to the ad units, search boxes, and link units specified above

I also wonder if this could be a sign that some new referral products might be on the way?

Using Referrals

Referral offerings must be made without any obligation or requirement to end users. Publishers may not solicit email addresses from users in conjunction with AdSense referral units.

I must say, I am not surprised to see this. I was seeing all kinds of gimmicks going on, especially for Google Pack, requiring visitors to submit email addresses or other information before being rerouted to a landing page to "claim their prize" of one of the free downloads from Google via an AdSense referral button.

AdSense ad units with images next to them

The least surprising of them all, AdSense has added rules regarding the use of images next to AdSense ad units.

  • May not direct user attention to the ads via arrows or other graphical gimmicks
  • May not place misleading images alongside individual ads

This was simply bringing it inline with the blog post they made about this last month, where they disallowed images next to ads that could be confused with being a part of the ad unit itself..

AdSense for Search

With the custom AdSense for Search option available for publishers, it looks like you can also place an ad link unit on that search results page now.

AdSense for search results pages may show only a single ad link unit in addition to the ads Google serves with the search results. No other ads may be displayed on your search results page.

Would be something good to put as a 728 width in the footer just incase a searcher doesn't find what they are looking for in the results.

Domain Parking

The reference to domain parking has been removed. However, placing AdSense on domain parked pages is still against the policies, and falls under the clause about not running AdSense on no content pages.

Selling or distributing student essays

The following has now been added to the "site may not include" section of the policies.

Sales or distribution of term papers or student essays

I am not sure how widespread AdSense is on sites that are selling or distrubuting term papers and essays, but a quick look at search results for a few different terms show a lot sites with AdSense (as well as premium partner AdSense) in the results, including plenty of arbitrage sites. It must be enough that they are deciding to add this new policy, which falls under the copyright issue as well.

Copyright Material

Formerly, this section read:

In order to avoid associations with copyright claims, website publishers may not display Google ads on web pages with MP3, Video, News Groups, and Image Results.

Now it reads:

Website publishers may not display Google ads on web pages with content protected by copyright law unless they have the necessary legal rights to display that content. Please see our DMCA policy for more information.

I did clarify that this still does cover the same things as before, such as MP3, video, news groups and image results. It could also cover anything else that is copyrighted, such as stolen content, something many publishers have a problem with.

Competitive Ads and Services

This is by and far the most significant change, and the one that will affect a lot of publishers, myself included.

In order to prevent user confusion, we do not permit Google ads or search boxes to be published on websites that also contain other ads or services formatted to use the same layout and colors as the Google ads or search boxes on that site. Although you may sell ads directly on your site, it is your responsibility to ensure these ads cannot be confused with Google ads.

In a nutshell, this change means that if you have any non-Google ads on your site that resemble AdSense - even if they are not contextually targeted ads - they will now put you in violation of the AdSense policies. If they look like your Google ads, even if they say "Ads by Jenstar" or whatever, you cannot use them on the same *site* as AdSense ads, even if they never appear on the same page. This would also include A/B testing where you rotate ads for testing purposes.

This is such a significant change, I am going to make a separate posting about the issue to deal with this, including the feedback I received from Google on how to use other ads, even if they aren't contextual, so there are not compliancy issues that could get a publisher a warning or suspension. Read my analysis on this change here.

You read it here first ;) The new policies can be found here.

Update: I have also discussed the implications of Google removing specific mention of contextually targeted ads from the competitive ads policy.

Posted by Jenstar at January 17, 2007 05:14 PM

Comments

Does anyone know if placing a banner ad above an Adsense "link unit" ad (ie - engadget) is still legal?

Posted by: Ken at January 17, 2007 06:40 PM

Thanks for the update Jen.. You should be fine with the banner Ken.

Posted by: MarkZZ at January 18, 2007 01:45 AM

Thanks for the great informational update !!

Posted by: Balakumar Muthu at January 18, 2007 02:46 AM

It would be nice if they actually enforced some of these rules once and a while and cleaned up their network.

Posted by: Evan at January 18, 2007 04:12 AM

Thanks Jen,

Looks like a lot of webmasters (including myself) have some work to do.

I agree that it does look like Google is trying to cut Yahoo and MSN off at the knees with their strict policy about no other contex ads on your "site". That's a biggie!

Okay, I get the NO Photo's "NEXT" to adsense, but what about above or below separated by a line. What's your opinion on those? I guess I'd better find out Googles definition of "NEXT TO".

Don

Posted by: Don at January 18, 2007 04:18 AM

What about a Google Image Ad right next to a Google Text ad?

Michael

Posted by: Michael at January 18, 2007 04:22 AM

Great post Jen, and thanks again for always making these changes easier to read and comprehend.

I'm surprised that you're not as upset with Google's changes in the competitive ads and services area. For many publishers, this will result in making a clear choice between AdSense, YPN and others. I feel like this is really a step beyond their boundaries and something that publishers should fight back against.

Ultimately, Google does not own our sites and should not be in a position to require us to no longer use competing methods of contextual advertising on our sites.

Posted by: Eric Lander at January 18, 2007 05:01 AM

I find the student essay part somewhat humorous considering how many adwords advertisers exist that sell student essays.

I don't sell them, but I get ads for places that sell them through Adsense all the time.

I like the copyright change though, my content is ripped off all the time and it'd be nice to see the theives kicked out of Adsense. All those Indian sweatshop-dataentry conglomerates are going to have to find a new source of revenue.

Posted by: Chris Beasley at January 18, 2007 06:32 AM

I think it's a bit bold of Google to go so far in telling me how I can monetize my site... I understand their disallowance of other contextual ads on the same page, but I think they are going to far now. They're saying I can't use YPN on any pages of my site, if I use Adsense on the same site. And nothing that even resembles a google ad... pretty ballsy if you ask me.

Posted by: Leroy Brown at January 18, 2007 09:28 AM

Any idea why I can't comment if I have www.houstoncars.org as the url? I have this problem on this site, as well as several others.

Posted by: Leroy Brown at January 18, 2007 09:29 AM

Jennifer,

Thanks for taking the time to publish this article. It was an excellent read for people like me (trouble reading and understanding all the fine print). Ok, maybe not trouble... but lack of motivation to investigate every point, sentence, and statement in a TOS.

This article puts everything into common terms that people can not only understand but also gain an interest in learning more.

I am happy to discover your site and look forward to surfing around a little bit on your previous writing and look forward to reading your upcoming articles.

- Garry

Posted by: Garry Conn at January 18, 2007 12:42 PM

Thanks for the info. I've been experimenting with a few other "adsense types" and was just getting ready to give them the boot for non-performance. This inspired me to take care of it today.

Posted by: Ben Evert at January 18, 2007 04:38 PM

Thank you Jen for taking the time to update us on the policy.

Posted by: BK at January 18, 2007 07:12 PM

Thanks, I didn't know they had made the changes. I appreciate your help.

Posted by: Laptop Backpacks at January 18, 2007 07:15 PM

Hi Jen,

Good day,

Thanks for the info. Btw is that possible can we use other images that not directly associated with the adsense ad units ?

Looking forward to all reply :Þ

Posted by: XFuture at January 18, 2007 07:21 PM

Thanks for the analysis - very helpful.

Posted by: Paul Levinson at January 18, 2007 11:21 PM

Google's dictatorial terms regarding placements of contextualized ads are outrageous. They don't own the Internet.They don't own our websites. They can't tell us "you can do this, you can't do that" with an uncompromising attitude.

Okay, if I use Adsense on page x then I won't use other similar type of ads. But they should not tell us we can't use other similar ads on other pages where there's no Adsense.

Anyway, a lot of sites are earning pittance from Adsense.

Posted by: freedomroad at January 19, 2007 03:23 AM

My understanding on the image issue is that it stems from a Wordpress plugin that allowed users to easily make their adsense content appear to be 'bullet pointed' by small images.

Here's the site and some clarifications from the author and Google:
http://www.supriyadisw.net/2006/12/adsense-beautifier-no-longer-compliant-with-adsense-tos

Posted by: BabyGotMac.com at January 19, 2007 03:45 AM

Thanks for the post, just saw it on Digg, very useful information :).

Posted by: absorbation at January 19, 2007 09:29 AM

Thanks for the summary.

Posted by: vs at January 19, 2007 12:36 PM

stay away from adsense then, they're being too paranoid and dtoo aggressive.

Posted by: Adsense is the Devils at January 20, 2007 01:50 AM

It only enforces my opinion that Adsense is getting 'Defensive'.

Posted by: Ahmed at January 21, 2007 12:57 AM