It’s a bit dated now, but it’s worth discussing. AdSense has finally put their foot down on one of those gray areas of contextual advertising — images alongside ads. I first came across this being used on Wrecked Exotics, and was immediately impressed.
In short, on pages like this one the design was such that small thumbnails appeared along the left hand side of the ad copy. The small thumbnails appeared at first glance to correspond to the ads next to them, and as a result, the ads were more appealing and likely generated a higher clickthrough rate.
JenSense has a great commentary going on this already, so I won’t bother to state the same things over and over again. To add to her coverage though, I’ve got the following thoughts on this…
First, I think the timing of the change is a bit suspect. Google waited until the height of the holidays to address the matter in their blog on December 16th. Interesting, especially considering Yahoo’s Publisher Network enforced the change a full year before. Where they raking in profits through the pricey holiday season — or was it just a coincidence?
Second, I wonder just how aggressively Google can and will enforce sites that are on the fine line of the issue. There’s only so much real estate to any given web page, and with the larger ad units available, I think it’s naive of Google to expect that things will simply improve and sites will no longer offend the compliance issue.
Finally, I can’t help but think that either more casual users of AdSense or the hardcore MFA pulishers will still have an upper hand. In one case, with the mom-and-pops of the world, publishing sites and ad units that our out of compliance will take place unknowingly. For the MFA publishers, they’re always one step ahead of the game. With hovering elements in CSS and predictably layout behaviors — I can’t help but think that tricking Google could become an immediate issue.