Adsense Guidelines – Contextual Ads – Adsense Backgrounds

Google Adsense

You might well have read on Jensense about the changes in the contextual advertising policy that confirmed my understanding of the policy that I wrote about 2 days ago.

As I stated in the comments in that post, I also contacted Google directly but I asked multiple questions. I had to use the email route not having a direct line to decision makers at Google, but Google have been fairly prompt in replying to my questions.

The short version of the questions I asked were

  1. Use of Adsense Backgrounds
  2. Context with Chitika
  3. Search on Chitika
  4. Placement of a Chitika eMiniMal that contains images next to an Adsense rectangle

Here is the longer version

Questions to Google Adsense Team

I have 2 questions in relation to currently policy changes with the Adsense content network

1. On one of my sites I have been experimenting with the use of Adsense “Backgrounds” to make the adverts more attractive.

Examples of the backgrounds are to be found here

The site I am testing on is

Are such backgrounds still compliant with the Adsense ToS and Policy Statements?

To be honest [snip] not relevant financial stuff [/snip]

2. With the recent policy change, I noted that Google do not want to encourage use of advertising that looks similar to that of Google.

At the same time it seems Google might be slightly more relaxed on advertising that doesn’t look like Adsense.

As an example Chitika adverts.

In the past it was noted that it was probably ok to use Chitika in conjunction with selected keywords.

In the new policy statement there was no mention of contextual advertising, though the current terms of service do mention contextual.

Can this be taken to mean that it is now possible to use contextual advertising with Chitka adverts that do not look like Adsense adverts, such as their eMinimals?

Also in regard to search, the Chitika eMinimal search is a product search. Is it now allowable to enable search on eMinimals on sites that contain Adsense for Search?

Would it be allowable to place an Eminimal, that contains an image, next to an Adsense rectangle?

There are actually 4 questions, but 2 topics – I am sure things like that happen to everyone ;)

Here is the reply I received

Reply from Google Adsense Team

With regards to your first question – we do not prohibit the use of CSS in conjunction with Google ads, as long as the ad code itself is not modified. However, we’d ask that publishers use their judgement and avoid implementations which may be deceptive or confusing to users.

Regarding your second question – AdSense publishers may display ads from other contextual ad networks on the same page as Google ads only if 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 always 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. If the formats are naturally similar, we’d ask that you use different color
schemes for the competing ads.

Please note that as per our program policies, publishers may not place images near their AdSense ads in a way that suggests a relationship. Such an implementation may confuse users who assume that the image is directly related to the advertiser’s offerings. As a result, if you’d like to
display an eMiniMall ad which contains an image, please do not place it near your Google ads.

I am tempted to stick an affiliate link on this page for Adsense Backgrounds, as they seem to be a very good way of complying with the new Guidelines and still making your Google advertising eyecatching. I will stick a banner at the bottom of this post ;)

The key to this is “suggests a relationship

I was also interested in the term “confusing users” – in some ways blending is confusing users and Google might start discouraging that practice.

Things like bullet points might still be a problem, but a decorative frame of some kind as I use on seems to be ok, though I chose very plain – tasteful backgrounds there.

It is very important to note the placement instructions. Don’t go placing adverts from competing advertising systems alongside Google ads if they have pictures, and make them as distinct as possible.
You can probably use them vertically aligned, even if contextual, but avoid using 2 rectangles side-by-side if one is from a competitor.

I have asked a follow-up question regarding search boxes as that wasn’t covered in the first reply

Adsense for Search – Followup Question

Thanks for the very clear explanation. I am glad my interpretation of the rules was correct.

One part that you didn’t cover was search boxes from affiliate networks that look totally different to a Google search box.

If the search box looks totally different, is that allowed.

As an example, in the past it was always recommended to disable the search on the Chitika MiniMals on any site using Adsense for Search.

It seems to me that based upon the new policy, it would no longer be necessary to disable the search on Chitika or maybe Amazon search, as long as they are not similar.

I really look forward to your answer and thank you for your time.


Google Adsense for Search With A Competing Search Box

I am impressed, this reply came back in just a couple of hours, on a Friday evening

This one addresses my question regarding the search boxes.

I’m happy to help – I apologize for not addressing your search question. Yes, as long as your search box does not mimic the AdSense for search box in appearance, then you may place it on the same page.

Google are being extremely clear with their information, maybe a policy change? They know who their biggest competitors are in text based advertising, and seem to be just concentrating on their biggest rivals.

One question that still springs to mind is if you have pictures switched on for Adsense, with a 468×60 banner, and another provider is also serving banners.
468×60 it a little hard not to confuse formats between Google and someone else.


Google and Competing Text Adverts

I am going to add some links to additional direct quotes from Googlr. It seems lots of people have been sending Google emails, and they are being very clear in their answers.

Eric Lander has been directly in contact with Google, and has a very clear email reply discussing how you might be able to use even text based competing adverts, as long as you are ensuring they look totally different.
I only came across Erics site in MyBlogLog, and he has some extremely useful content.

It seems if you stick a nice border around one of them, or make sure that they never display in the same color, you are in the clear. It is a little tough on colour split testing, especially automated, but I think people can live with that.

I am happy about being able to go full contextual on many ad networks, and I am sure Chitika and Amazon are very happy with the news, among others.

adsense backgrounds

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  1. says

    I am sorry Chris but I wouldn’t go near your backgrounds and code until you license them correctly.

    Check us out, look at the code & examples and either use what we gave ya or design your own.

    Then at the bottom of the page

    © Cagintranet Networks

  2. says

    Andy, what do you mean “until you license them correctly”? they are free images that anyone can use freely.

    And what does “© Cagintranet Networks” have to do with any of this?

  3. says

    A short sentence saying something is free to use isn’t a license. If they are really free to use, provide specific license terms such as GPL, MIT etc.

    Package them all up in an archive, and make sure the license is included in the archive.

    The copyright clause at the bottom of the page is contradictory to the Free to use you mentioned, and that was only mentioned on one page if you went looking for it.

  4. says

    I am a little surprised that you are allowed to use borders/backgrounds on your ad units. They say you can’t have an arrow pointing towards your ads because it draws attention, but doesn’t a frame draw attention too?

    I guess an arrow could encourage invalid clicks…

    Anyway, thanks for clearing up the ToS.

  5. says

    Is it necessary to use the back/forward arrows on Google's AdSense ads? I really want to be able to take that out and let the ads fall vertically. Is this possible?

  6. says

    They are there to gain you more clicks – the ads show up as large as you allow within standard advertising sizes.

    The arrows appear when there are a lot more advertisers that Google feel are suitable, and they want to make as much money as possible, whilst still providing relevant ads.

    If arrows appear, Google's algos probably determine that it will make you more money.