Google Updates AdSense TOS

Google has updated their AdSense TOS with some new changes designed to ensure Google has no competition from rival networks that look like Google ads. JenSense has the full scoop.

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?

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.

It looks like Google is making it harder for publishers to run both AdSense and YPN on the same site. They are forcing you to change the color of the YPN ads so they don’t look like Google ads. If you wish to continue using both, not only must the YPN ads never appear on a page with a Google ad, but the YPN ad’s color scheme must be completely different – I guess you can have blended Google ads and YPN ads that stand out like a sore thumb! Who is going to do that?

I don’t run YPN on any of my sites (because YPN is US only at the moment) but this new policy can mean a lot of work for webmasters who are running both – making site wide change is never a simple task.


49 thoughts on “Google Updates AdSense TOS”

  1. Gary says:

    This is sad for Google to do this.

    What happen to not being an evil company?

  2. Paul J. says:

    I’m sure many adsense publishers including yourself will not be too happy to hear this. Personally, I find that google is becoming more and more demanding in it’s quest to dominate competiting companies.

  3. John Chow says:

    Does anyone really believe the “Do no evil” part of Google’s motto? Actually, it’s “Do no evil, unless you have to.”

  4. Jane says:

    It sounds like Google is trying to limit profitability from anyone other than Google. I guess it is a business.

    Does anyone know what happens when you are in violation or how they find out that you are in violation. Do they go to every single site that has Google Adsense to see if they are in compliance???

    1. MacStansbury says:

      You’ll get an “audit” if you start showing a dramatic increase in ad views, clicks, or earnings. Other than that, they leave you alone. You’ll get a scary form letter before they ban you, though, outlining how you’re in violation.

      1. Jane says:

        Thanks Mac! I appreciate the info. I guess since only “bigwigs” get invited to YPN, I have nothing to worry about 🙂

        1. John Chow says:

          Yahoo invited me to join YPN. Then they found out I was in Canada and withdrew the offer. LOL

          1. HMTKSteve says:

            you know how it is… no one ever trusts those wacky Canadians.. What with their Hockey and Curling…

      2. HMTKSteve says:

        I got one of those “scary” form letters after one of my blog entries ended up on Digg. Lucky for me, the person who sat there leaving tons of fraudulent clicks on my blog also left a comment. It was an easy matter of matching up the IPs involved so I did not lose my AdSense account.

        When I got that form letter I was very scared! I’d been running AdSense for well over a year but I had never focused on it (or made much money from it) and earnings were just starting to pass the $1-$3 per day mark.

        Also, if you get no clicks for a while you will get a personal email from AdSense staff. I got that one after I did a site redesign and forget to put the AdSense code back in!

        1. Leftblank says:

          Pretty neat to read, I’ve had some trouble with click spamming as well, but I was unable to find the IP of the guy (didn’t have any monitoring tools back then) so I only got the scary automatic email after using it for over a year. 🙁

  5. MacStansbury says:

    It’s not entirely aimed at the YPN, as the same folks that are getting invited to that are the same bigwigs that get their own special rules, anyways. What that’s saying is that they don’t want folks like Crisp Ads taking their mouseclicks.

    Regardless, you’re never gonna make a dime with AdSense unless you’re 1. laser-focused in some niche topic 2. a message board 3. a message board with some laser-focused topic AND you get a zillion hits a day.

    Or you chunk a 336×300 ad right after the first paragraph. One of those.

    1. Leftblank says:

      Well, I don’t think a message board directly means a lot of income, when I used AdSense one year ago it didn’t display decent ads for 90% of the topics – those webhosting ads don’t pay anything decent at all.

      IF you read John’s articles about placement I think theres a fair chance of making nice money with the ads, but not easily and not on small websites.

      1. HMTKSteve says:

        All ads in a forum do is increase your impressions and decrease your CTR.

        Remember this, advertising links are competing with your own content. I can’t imagine how Digg can make much money with AdSense as people go on Digg to find News stories and they leave via a news story link not an ad!

  6. Greg says:

    Seeing as you use WordPress, I’d think you’d understand how templates work. Templatize and modularize a site properly, and sitewide changes are much more simple than you make out.

    1. John Chow says:

      True, but not everyone is running a CMS or template system. You’ll be surprised at how many sites are still good old static HTML.

      1. HMTKSteve says:

        I upgraded a site this past summer that was all HTML. The owner was so impressed with CMS that I think he might have had a heart attack!

  7. Google is trying to takeover the internet. Google is EVIL!

  8. Nomar says:

    not bad for me either, only using adsense atm

  9. Stephen says:

    By Your Command Lord Google 😀

  10. Nate W. says:

    Wow. I am surprised to hear that. I hope Google does not continue on its quest to impose monopolistic tactics upon its users.

  11. Raghu says:

    Is the gap between Google Adsense and other so close that they have to resort to something like this ?

    Thought they are way ahead of the other options and simply have to worry about improving the product rather than stop others !

    1. John Chow says:

      The gap is not close at all. Google pretty much rule the contextual ad market. This is to ensure they continue to rule it.

  12. Aris says:

    What about mixing adsense with Amazon’s ad in the same page, John.

    1. HMTKSteve says:

      Amazon ads do not “mimic” AdSense ads.

      1. Leftblank says:

        Not quite, but I don’t think they’d be allowed either if you use the same color codes for both Amazon and AdSense.

        1. HMTKSteve says:

          That’s just BS. I can understand not mimicing the ads, but using the same colors?

          My links are all blended on my blog so they look like they belong. I do not want ads that stand out like a sore thumb!

          1. Ryan says:

            My links are the same color, too, but the Amazon Omakase are a little smaller, and have pics, and in no way look like Google. If this is a violation then it seems everything would be a violation. lol

  13. Ryan says:

    Two things about this concern me.

    1. It’s vague. Google link units are extremely basic lists of keywords.

    2. Because of #1, any text links of the same color could be said to be “mimicking” adsense. Does that mean we need to change ad color for all of our Text-Link-Ads or AdBrite ads.

    I’m a Google fan, but things like this just piss me off. I can understand their recent ruling to disallow placing pictures beside ad units because they were found to “entice users to click” – I’ve yet to see a good reason why similar links from other providers hurts Google’s advertisers (then again, maybe it’s still too early and I’m not thinking straight).

  14. Ryan says:

    From this post the new guidelines are a bit confusing. I imagine they’re specifically talking about people using the ad units that look like Google’s. I mean it’s insane to think Google doesn’t want people to use the same color for links anymore, because that’s what really makes them useful.

  15. As I said on Digg:

    “Join me Luke and together we shall screw all webmasters, muahahaha!” *pushes “update page rank” button*

    Yeah, that probably sums up most people’s feelings about them.

    1. Leftblank says:

      I don’t think you could’ve said it any better 😉

  16. Raghu says:

    Seriously like some of the other’s I am absolutely confused about what Google does not want others to do ?

    1. Ryan says:

      Hopefully they’ll clarify their position soon in the AdSense blog.

      1. Raghu says:

        Currently the note on the adsense blog reads

        “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.”

        This to me is not clear enough !

        1. Ryan says:

          I agree. Did they think that was clear enough? Anytime the TOS is updated there’s going to be some hair pulling from users, but that statement makes might as well have a big smoke screen in front of it. What does it mean, exactly?!

  17. Smooth move by Google. Bad news for YPN and publishers.

    1. Alex Becker says:

      haha. Sad but true.

  18. A says:

    A good sign that google is getting to big, they are trying to rule the Internet by playing dirty. I’m not even sure this is legal in Sweden with regard to our laws in competition laws… They are shutting out all competitors and is using their size and influence to kill its competitors.

  19. David Mackey says:

    I’m glad that is all that is changing. While it will be a bit of a hassle, I was afraid they would take away the right to have opposing ad networks on the site at all.

    1. Alex Becker says:

      that would really suck.

  20. Marc says:

    From my perspective it’s fairly reasonable depending on the interpretation. What will matter the most is how Google will end up applying this in reality. Well worth keeping an ear to the ground to see what develops.

  21. Dave Jackson says:

    Hi John,

    Might be old news, but YPN won’t allow any other contextual ads on the same page anyway… even if you color them, border them, etc. Dave

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