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January 28, 2007

YouTube to share ad revenue with original video uploaders

When Google bought YouTube, I wrote a long piece on how Google could monetize YouTube through video ads and revenue sharing text or image AdSense ads with those users who are creating and submitting original videos to the popular community. Now, the BBC has confirmed that they are in talks with Google with a revenue sharing model that would see the BBC earn money from advertisements shown in conjunction with their videos.

If you are familiar with YouTube, you know that none of their videos have video ads showing before, during or after the submitted videos (although some enterprising uploaders do embed their own ads or URL/logo watermarks on submitted videos to promote themselves). There are multiple AdSense ad units on the pages at YouTube, and they have also been testing some new ad styles there as well. But they haven't set up any sort of ad reveue sharing mechanism until now.

People who upload their own films to video-sharing website YouTube will soon get a share of the ad revenue.

YouTube founder Chad Hurley confirmed to the BBC that his team was working on a revenue-sharing mechanism that would "reward creativity".

The system would be rolled out in a couple of months, he said, and use a mixture of adverts, including short clips shown ahead of the actual film.

So when can users expect to be able to show ads and earn money from original videos they submit? The initial ad push will be sometime over the next couple of months. However, I suspect that it will first be open to only those video producers that would be unlikely to submit video they do not own the copyright to (which makes a provider like the BBC an ideal choice). However, it could eventually open up to allow Joe YouTuber the ability to earn money off their own submitted videos.

How would the ads be delivered? Well, industry standard tends to be the 15 to 30 second clip showing prior to the video. But a 3 second ad is one of the options that Google is considering, a step which would make the short clip be short enough to not annoy their viewers.

It would also make sense for the program to be run through AdSense, where users could submit their AdSense publisher ID along with their uploaded video. However, it will be interesting to see if revenue sharing will eventually be available to everyone or if there will be an approval process to try and weed out those publishers who would be more likely to upload copyright infringing videos.

This is a good move and a welcome one to those who are creating original video content. There are other video sites that have offered various models of revenue sharing, but none with the massive number of eyeballs that YouTube can offer.

Posted by Jenstar at 08:12 AM | Comments (5)

January 19, 2007

It's official! You can now run AdSense on the same page as other contextual ad programs

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.

Posted by Jenstar at 10:44 AM | Comments (20)

January 18, 2007

What does the removal of "contextual" from competitive ads mean for AdSense publishers

I have had many questions from publisher who have noticed that the new competitive ads policy no longer specifically states that you cannot run other contextually targeted ads on the same page. This change was made as part of the AdSense policies update yesterday.

Prior to yesterday's policies update, the section in question read (emphasis mine):

Competitive Ads and Services 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. This would also include ads throughout the site that mimic Google ads or otherwise appear to be associated with Google on your site. Although you may sell ads directly on your site, it is your responsibility to ensure these ads do not mimic Google ads. If you have elected to receive Google search services, this would include other search services on the same site and non-Google query-targeted ads. We do allow affiliate or limited-text links.

The new policies changed this to read:

Competitive Ads and Services 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.

Removed was the specific reference to contextuall targeted ads. So the immediate assumption is that using other contextually targeted ads - whether IntelliTXT, Yahoo Publisher Network or another ad network - as long as the ads were formatted in a way that makes them appear different from other AdSense ads. However, there is a slight problem with this... the AdSense terms still prevent publishers from using other contextually targeted ads on a page with AdSense on it too.

The AdSense terms state clearly:

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).

So as it stands, the AdSense Terms & Conditions would also need to change in order for publishers to be able to run other contextual ads on the same page as AdSense. This was why I didn't go into very much detail about this change... because the AdSense terms still wouldn't allow publishers to use those competitors on the same page.

If Google does in fact allow AdSense to run on the same page as other contextually targeted ads, this could set up a situation where potentially publishers could run both AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Network on the same page, provided they both had different color palettes. But unfortunately for publishers, YPN would also also need to change their terms in order to do this, since YPN currently does not allow other contextually targeted ads on the same page as their YPN ads. From the YPN terms:

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.

Will either AdSense or YPN change their program terms to allow the other company's ads on the same page as their own ads? Possibly. And it would definitely make a lot of publishers happy and remove some of that anti-competitor feeling that the policy has always given publishers.

I have contacted Google about this situation with whether or not other contextual ads will be allowed with AdSense provided the palettes were different. I will keep you updated on this once I hear a response back. But as it stands, it is still against the AdSense terms all publishers agreed to when we signed up for AdSense.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:00 PM | Comments (7)

January 17, 2007

AdSense Competitive Ads and Services Policy just got a lot tighter for publishers

Publishers have often complained about the rigidness of the AdSense policy that prevents publishers from running AdSense on the same page as another contextual ad program. So running AdSense & Yahoo Publisher Network on the same page during the same page view would be a no-no, but rotated 50/50 would be perfectly within the AdSense (& YPN) policies and terms. But not any more. Their competitive ad policy has gotten much, much tighter when they updated their AdSense policies today.

Their competitve ads & services policy was updated to this today:

Competitive Ads and Services 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.

What does this mean for publishers? If you are running YPN and AdSense on a 50/50 ad rotation using the same or very similar color palettes, you would now be in violation of AdSense policies. Likewise, if you are running AdSense on one part of your site, and YPN on another part, you would now also be in violation of the policies if you are using the same or similar color palettes.

However, this also affects ad units that mimic AdSense, yet are not contextual based, something that was always well within the AdSense terms and policies before now. So if you are selling text ads or running affiliate links in ad units that mimic AdSense, you will be in violation of the terms.

There are a few things publishers can do so they don't violate this new change. First of all, if you are rotating AdSense & YPN, you will need to make some major changes. If you are running border-less ads, put an ad unit border or colored background on either AdSense or YPN to make it clear they are two different ad programs. If AdSense resembles YPN's color scheme, it will not be allowed.

What about those running borderless ad units? I asked Google, and it doesn't sound as though simply changing the title link color is enough. You will need to do something more drastic, such as changing the color of all the text to something different, or adding a border or background.

As for ad units that resemble AdSense yet are not contextually targeted (such as some of the other ad networks use or ad units you may have created in-house), you will also need to ensure these look totally different from the way you are currently running AdSense.

If you are running the color palette rotation, you will need to make sure that none of the palettes in that rotation mimic anything else on the site.

And what about doing A/B testing? Unfortunately, A/B testing as I have long since advocated and used myself is now a thing of the past. Normally, I would run AdSense with YPN (or whichever ad network I was testing) on a 50/50 basis using identical color palettes to ensure I have the best data. Unfortunately, I would now have to make one ad unit look completely different which leaves extra variables unknown when deciding one program over the other, because not only am I dealing with one ad program over another, but also how the ad unit looks comes into play... and as we know, color choice and greatly impact CTRs.

So now, for A/B testing, you would need to rotate two completely different ad unit looks, or you would need to rotate one day using AdSense and another day using YPN etc. And you would need to ensure that the change is made site-wide. You still would not be able to use AdSense on one section and YPN on another using the same color palette on the same day.

I can completely understand why Google is doing this, they are the leader in this space (and the leader by a very significant amount) and most publishers will stick with AdSense and ensure they are in compliance. I don't think this is something that YPN or Microsoft ContentAds (when they launch) would have been able to pull off first. But this decision could impact them significantly, because most publishers will use their highest CTR color scheme on AdSense, and use the "different" one on YPN or other ad network.

I was actually pretty surprised at the change in policy, most significantly the part about it being site-wide, even on pages that do not even have AdSense on them. If they had made it on a page-by-page and pageview-by-pageview basis, there wouldn't be that much of an issue. But this change is much more far reaching because it affects non-contextual ads as well as being across an entire site.

I also suspect this is going to be heard in the blogosphere. It is a major change and one that affects a great many ad networks (and not just the contextual ones!) who have ad units similar to AdSense. And I suspect a lot of publishers will have to spend the next couple of days making changes to ensure things are all in compliance so Google is happy with them.

Update: I saw it got dugg, so I added a Digg It box to the top of the entry.

Update 2: I have also discussed the implications of Google removing specific mention of contextually targeted ads from the competitive ads policy.

Posted by Jenstar at 05:18 PM | Comments (42)

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 05:14 PM | Comments (22)

January 10, 2007

25 Blog Optimization Tips

Not exactly on contextual advertising, but I wanted to highlight an article I wrote for Search Engine Land yesterday, 25 Tips to Optimize Your Blog for Readers & Search Engines. I know many JenSense readers are also bloggers, so it might be useful especially if you are trying to earn money from your blog, whether through contextual advertising or other forms of marketing.

While my original list was quite a bit longer, I am sure I have missed some tips that would make others top 25, so please comment on SEL if you have some blog optimization advice too.

It also has some votes on Digg, so if you find it useful, please Digg it!

Posted by Jenstar at 06:26 PM | Comments (3)

January 03, 2007

Google AdSense site diagnostic bug being fixed

I am one of those people who doesn't often look into my AdSense site diagnostics tab, but there has been a bug in it for the past week or so that was first noticed in the SERoundtable forums.

If someone views your site in the Google cache, they still see ads. But it seems to trigger a robots.txt error in your site diagnostic tab, because it recognizes that the IP used by the cache is blocked by robots.txt. So in your account, it is showing the Google cache URL, since the bot recognizes that those Google cache IP URLs are disallowed by Google's robots.txt file for each of those IPs. I was also surprised at all the cache page views on various sites.

I did talk to Google about the issue, and it is being fixed. But in the meantime, you can login to your AdSense account and see it in your site diagnostics tab.

Posted by Jenstar at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

New policy for images next to AdSense ad units

AdSense has a new revised policy for how publishers utilize images next to their ad units on a blog entry right before Christmas. This is a revised policy from what they had allowed in 2005 when I first ask for clarification on the policy.

We ask that publishers not line up images and ads in a way that suggests a relationship between the images and the ads. If your visitors believe that the images and the ads are directly associated, or that the advertiser is offering the exact item found in the neighboring image, they may click the ad expecting to find something that isn't actually being offered. That's not a good experience for users or advertisers.

There was the old rule that a line separating the ads from the images, either an ad unit border or another kind of line, would be fine to meet the policies. However, this has changed if the images still appear to be somehow related to the ads.

No. If the ads and the images appear to be associated, inserting a small space or a line between the images and ads will not make the implementation compliant.

This doesn't really come as much of a surprise... Yahoo Publisher Network stopped allowing publishers to do this last year, despite the fact it increases CTR for most publishers who utilize it.

And from an advertiser perspective, I can completely understand why they have made this decision. If an image next to an ad is for an iPod, there were definitely surfers who clicked on the ad "associated" with the iPod, and expected to see iPods for sale on that landing page, even if the ad had nothing to do with anything iPods. So that advertiser would be paying for a non-converting click by a visitor who was actually looking for iPods.

So now that you are back from holidays, it is time to make sure your images are all in compliance with the new rules and policies :)

Posted by Jenstar at 05:45 PM | Comments (4)