Google’s Direct Response on AdSense Policy & Competitive Ads

Google’s Direct Response on AdSense Policy & Competitive Ads

As you can tell from my last blog post, I was upset with Google’s changes to their AdSense policy. My reaction to the update was obviously a passionate one — but one that I may now not be so upset with thanks to some direct clarification on the matter.

The primary issue I had with Google was that the new policy terms forbid users to have AdSense ad units on the same pages and sites as units from competing contextual ad services. I reached this understanding after having read comments like…

“…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.” (Source: Jenstar)

Seeing that on an expert’s site, I based my opinion and became very upset. My understanding of how that was written was that AdSense ad units could not be shown on the same site as any YPN or competing ad units, regardless of how they were formatted. I know I wasn’t alone in that understanding too — so I went on to discuss that on other blogs and in popular forums like WebmasterWorld.

That was a critical mistake of mine, albeit a simple one. I took someone else’s word before checking with the source. I wrote a short email to Google in an effort to get a clear response. My message was simply…

It is rumored that AdSense publishers are no longer allowed to display competing ads (from services such as YPN) on the same SITE as AdSense. Is this true?

It would be great to get some clarification on this matter.

With thanks to Ben, part of the Google AdSense Team, I was given a very detailed and thorough response. I’ve been given permission to share this response from Google — and I’d like to do that now because it’s important that we get direct information from them rather than take an interpretation of it off of someone else’s blog or site:

Hi Eric,

I’ve read your email and your blog post, and I understand you’d like some clarification on our competing ads policy. Let me try to clarify first and then offer some additional background on the update.

AdSense publishers may display third party advertisements on sites and pages showing Google ads as long as the formatting or color scheme of these ads is sufficiently different from the layout of the Google ads.

In other words, if you choose to place non-Google ads on the same site or page as Google ads, it should be clear to the user that the ads are served by different advertising networks and that the non-Google ads have no association with Google.

As I’m sure you know, certain text ad networks use formats and implementations that look nothing like the available Google ads format. These ads can be displayed on the same site or even on the same page as Google ads.

If the formats are naturally similar, we’d ask that you use different color schemes for the competing ads.

From your post, I gather that you’re not very happy with this update. I won’t try to change your opinion on this, but I do want to point out that our update isn’t all a shift in one direction – it involves some give and take.

On the one hand, contextual ad networks that were previously prohibited from being placed on the same pages are now allowed, even on the same page if they couldn’t easily be confused for Google ads.

At the same time, we are asking that publishers not place ads (from other networks or house ads) on their sites, if they could easily be confused with the Google ads being served. If users click links that appear to be Google ads and find a site which spawns a series of pop-ups or attempts to install software on a user’s machine without permission, it can reflect poorly on our brand, even if Google did not serve the ads. As such, we’re hoping that this update will make it less likely that users click links thinking they’ve been reviewed and served by Google when that’s not the case.

Thanks again for writing, and feel free to follow up if you have additional questions.


The Google AdSense Team

That, in a nutshell, is entirely different than what I was led to believe. While I’d still like to be able to test my ad units from one program or another in the same spot through a rotation — I’m okay with that. Despite my initial reaction, I’m having a change of heart on this one… Google’s not pushing their weight around as much as they are protecting themselves. I can and will respect that.

Earlier I read a great post on Paul O’Flaherty’s blog that further discussed the matter of competing ads. I feel badly because I think that I’m certainly to blame in providing some erroneous information to Paul. The same holds true for readers of the referenced WebmasterWorld thread.

So finally, let’s clarify here… If you’re going to display AdSense ad units on a page, you can display units from any other competing ad source, provided that there is a clear and distinct design difference between the two. This clearly differs from my initial post and reaction to the matter — so for the confusion — I apologize.

3 thoughts on “Google’s Direct Response on AdSense Policy & Competitive Ads

  1. Hi Eric, good post, thanks for the update and the link.

    I had a little apologizing to do as well.

    Good lesson to be learned for us all here, that no matter how much we trust the “experts” they get it wrong to..

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