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This 129 message thread spans 5 pages: < < 129 ( 1 2 [3] 4 5 > >     
No images lined up with adsense ads
a rare policy clarification from Google
Rodney




msg:3192310
 7:09 pm on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

From the Adsense Blog:

We ask that publishers not line up images and ads in a way that suggests a relationship between the images and the ads

blog [adsense.blogspot.com] post goes on to give visual examples of "prohibited" image placement.

I've been seeing this a lot lately as I've been browsing the web. I wonder if they'll start sending out warnings?

 

noodlebox




msg:3193990
 1:04 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

I never liked the misleading efforts of ad placement like this anyway.

Tapolyai




msg:3194067
 2:43 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

timster writes:
And this issue is not the same as blending. Blending is not about drawing undue attention to ads; to whit, it's about making the ads stand out as little as possible.

You are absolutely correct. [sarcasm@Google]Blending is obfuscating the ads so they do not stand out. Or the ad pretends it is part of the site. Or that it appears as not an advertisement and luring the user into clicking...[/sarcasm@Google]

Sorry, timster. I am flustered with Google. Although technically indeed they are different, but conceptually they are both methodologies to get a visitor to click. One by drawing attention to the advertisement, and the other is by hiding it amongst real content.

rbacal writes:
The unhappy people get mad because their attempts to skirt the edge of adsense policy get foiled. It's the same people who complain, each time one of their fave "avenues" gets blocked.

Generalizations tend to be almost always incorrect. ;) As such, I am very unhappy and mad, yet I made no attempt to "skirt the edge". I don't even think I have images on my sites besides my logos. I guess I am entitled to some things :).

rohitj




msg:3194104
 3:31 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Someone stated that this is an acknowledgement that the smart-pricing doesn't work. In reality, this goes beyond simply penalizing low-converting clicks, and on to a greater issue: sites with zero content/questionable tatics are bringing down the entire network from every standpoint, including the overall reputation/brand that Google has.

The images in that blog show examples where webmasters are clearly trying to be deceptive. I am one-hundred percent sure that adopting such techniques has always been frowned upon, but since most people need everything spelt out (including the obvious) google has now come out and stated "hey, if you keep tricking your site visitors, we'll just ban you and move on." They have small and large publishers who bring reliable leads and they're not going to risk the reputation of the entire network on a few publishers that are willing to sacrifice user-experience for revenue. Disagree? Then try to approach advertisers directly and see if they'll pay even a penny for the type of placement shown in those blogs. If they care at all about ROI/targetted traffic, then they'll say no.

whatson




msg:3194115
 3:49 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ok so if you are breaching this new rule what will happen? Do you show Public Service Ads, white space, does your account get closed, or does your domain get banned from using adsense?

jomaxx




msg:3194133
 4:22 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

It all depends on the specific circumstances. Sometimes they only email you asking that you fix a specific item, and sometimes they ban you without warning or explanation. Feeling lucky?

BigDave




msg:3194203
 5:38 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hobbs is right. If you read their post *carefully* you will find that certain pieces of advice are the same as in may discussions.

They hint that they are going to be stricter in their interpretation, but much of the wording is the same as my understanding.

My understanding has been that they want a border if you have pictures that line up with the ads. Not spaces or lines. What do they say in this post?

Consider using a full border around your ads or changing your ad colors, for example.

This doesn't say that adding a border means that it is approved, but I suspect that it means that if they object, they will ask you to change it, instead of banning you.

Hobbs




msg:3194241
 6:16 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

whatson:
if you are breaching this new rule what will happen?

This is not a new rule.
That sounded like Clinton!

rohitj




msg:3194246
 6:25 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

To those of you arguing about borders, spacing or whatever, I think you're missing the point...The message, at least from what I gather, is to not place ads in a manner that will result in illegit clicks. If a person doesn't know they're clicking on an ad, then that's a problem. Even with a border, one can imaginatively come up with situations where it'd be questionable. As a publisher, the safest mindset should be to try to help maximize the ROI of the people funding Adsense -- the adwords advertisers. Problems start to arise when people lose sight of the advertisers' interests..

BigDave




msg:3194266
 6:38 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Of course people can come up with ways to game the system, even with borders. You can bet that if it is a problem for Google, they will ask the publisher to fix it or kick them out of AdSense.

The point I was making was that the policy doesn't say anything new.

They have a record of telling people not to try and trick people into clicking. They also have a record of telling people to put borders around ads when the pictures might be confusing. Pictures that draw "undue attention" to the ads have always been out whether or not the ads have a border.

There is no evidence that anything has changed. They only attempted to clarify the situation, and muddled it in the process.

sandyk20




msg:3194300
 7:36 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

I will support this move from G as well, its worth for adwords users who are tricked off with unwelcomed traffic which costs!

DoingItWell




msg:3194463
 11:59 am on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've had pictures above a few adblocks on a single website for a while to test it, and got the approval from Google once I had set it up to make sure I wasn't going to get problems. Frankly I fail to see the increase in clicks others mention. Since the scoreboard and banner sized ads began having varying numbers of ads in them the alignment is getting messed up anyway.

sarahtech35




msg:3194488
 12:50 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

AdSenseAdvisor in that same thread:

placing images above AdSense ads is not necessarily prohibited by program policies. However, depending on the method of implementation this could be considered Ďencouraging users to click on adsí

So what is acceptable? They gave examples of what's unacceptable, but not of what's acceptable and I'm still a bit confused.

bts111




msg:3194503
 1:15 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

You see a lot of nonsense in game sites. It's pretty obvious that it's against the TOS. What is wrong with some people?

harrysmit




msg:3194591
 2:52 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google gone crazy, now they are prohibiting images at the same time they have started providing click-to-play video ads which can be worst, i thinkÖ

rogerd




msg:3194599
 3:00 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

>> They gave examples of what's unacceptable, but not of what's acceptable

Saratech35, I don't think it's that complicated. They don't want images near the ads that look like they somehow relate to the invididual ads. They don't care in the least about other images on the page, unless somehow the images are drawing undue attention to the ads. So, per their examples, images that line up with individual ad elements are a definite no-no, along with images that somehow induce the viewer to click. A big flashing arrow, "Support our Sponsors" embedded in an image, etc. won't be looked on favorably.

If the images are a logical part of your page structure and have nothing to do with the ads, you should have no problems. If you have to ask the question, the implication is that you ARE trying to improve CTR by image positioning. I don't think it's easy to be clever enough to position images in a way that makes visitors click more and also convinces a Google quality tech that the page is perfectly normal. Hence, image games are likely to be increasingly risky.

Whatson, you've asked a couple of times what the penalty for not removing images would be. Do you really want to find out? If your Adsense revenue isn't important enough to worry about, you might leave them up as an experiment and let us know if you merely get prodded to remove them or if your account is closed and your accrued revenue lost. ;) (I'm kidding, I don't really recommend doing that.)

I think it's important to realize that Google is made up of individual people, and the fact that one Adsense rep didn't object to a particular ad configuration doesn't mean that policies can't be clarified or changed outright. In my experience in dealing with big companies, practices can be all over the map until an issue escalates to a higher level of management, at which point an edict comes down to clarify what's OK and what isn't.

DoingItWell




msg:3194642
 3:31 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

> So what is acceptable?

I made a thick #cccccc line between the image and the adblock, that swung it with the adsense rep in my case. They are very concerned that it is obvious what is the local website and what is an adsense ad.

netmeg




msg:3194703
 4:16 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

When in doubt, err on the conservative side and just remove the images.

danimal




msg:3194873
 6:35 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>They only attempted to clarify the situation, and muddled it in the process.<<<

how could giving specific examples of what is illegal muddle anything up?

since you find it so confusing, perhaps we can help clarify it for you? what exactly do you not understand?

BigDave




msg:3194884
 6:45 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

I understand it just fine, it is the same policy that they had all along. They just weren't clear about it.

moheybee




msg:3194886
 6:47 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well done Google. I support this as an advertiser and a publisher.

Tapolyai




msg:3195047
 8:42 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

I remain convinced that this position is directly opposite of Google's suggestion of blending.

Forget about the thickness and color of separator between image and ad.

Why is "misleading" user with an image is not appropriate, but "misleading" by blending is, and encouraged?

Juan_G




msg:3195064
 8:48 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

AdSenseAdvisor in that same thread:

placing images above AdSense ads is not necessarily prohibited by program policies. However, depending on the method of implementation this could be considered Ďencouraging users to click on adsí

So what is acceptable? They gave examples of what's unacceptable, but not of what's acceptable and I'm still a bit confused.

Paraphrasing in other words what they have mentioned in several occasions (for example on JenSense [jensense.com] and on emails to publishers), there should be a clearly visible distinction between the ads and nearby page content (images, text, etc.), since the page content is not served by Google and the advertisers.

It's different in the case of the experimental [jensense.com] image+text ad units [problogger.net] that both Google and Yahoo have been testing (in the case of Yahoo, on the CNN [us.cnn.com] US Edition for over a year now), given that for those units they can select and serve suitable images, not confusing for users. It seems clear that this new kind of image+text ad unit (a mix of the old image ads and text ads) reduces ad blindness and increases ad reading, keeping conversions if done properly, that is without confusing users about the specific topic of the ad.

On the required distinction between ads and content, see for example Google's search result pages. The ads are blended with a style similar to search results, but there is a clear differentiation: border and space for the ads on the right, and a different background color for the ads on the top.

Of course, as all of us know, in addition to that distinction, undue attention from texts like "click here" or images of arrows, etc., are excluded in all cases.

Normal site text and images are a different matter. They have said on the official AdSense blog [adsense.blogspot.com]:

Does this mean I can't place ads on pages with images?

You can definitely place Google ads on pages containing images -- just make sure that the ads and images are not arranged in a way that could easily mislead or confuse your visitors. For example, if you run a stock photography site with a catalog of thumbnail images, don't line the ads up with the thumbnails in a way that could be misleading. Consider using a full border around your ads or changing your ad colors, for example.

As AdSenseAdvisor [webmasterworld.com] said on this forum, when in doubt on a specific design, we should ask AdSense Support directly.

[edited by: Juan_G at 9:09 pm (utc) on Dec. 20, 2006]

Thaparian




msg:3195071
 8:53 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Play the game safe, or else loose ur money.

:)

rbacal




msg:3195098
 9:16 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Play the game safe, or else loose ur money.

Should be interesting. At least one of the participants in this thread has done exactly what is described by google as unacceptable, using thumbnails despite being told by a number of people that it's deceptive.

ken_b




msg:3195110
 9:25 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

This thread is nearly 100 posts long so far.

I'd say the "clarification" didn't clarify much.

ericfwebmaster




msg:3195126
 9:38 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

So if we remove the pictures in the second example with the shapes then that would be an ok ad? Thats sneaky enough to get the traffic through. Ok I'll pull my thumbnails and do that.

jomaxx




msg:3195218
 11:13 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Are you joking? Bravo to you if you're joking and I'm not subtle enough to see it, but it really sounds like you're serious and you think that Google is somehow endorsing that layout as long as the pictures are removed.

potentialgeek




msg:3195251
 11:49 pm on Dec 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Does this mean I can't place ads on pages with images?
You can definitely place Google ads on pages containing images -- just make sure that the ads and images are not arranged in a way that could easily mislead or confuse your visitors. For example, if you run a stock photography site with a catalog of thumbnail images, don't line the ads up with the thumbnails in a way that could be misleading.

Ha! I know exactly which stock photo website Google was talking about! I just went to visit it and see if changes had been made. Several weeks ago, I visited the stock photo site, page one of the SERPs (PR7), looking for free stock photos, and I thought it was crossing the line. Its layout was almost visually identical to the layout example Google now says is banned. It had lots of small images about 60 x 60 pixels next to the Google text ads.

After reading Google's official clarification, and all preceding posts in this 100-post thread, I think the issue is: the misuse of small images as if they are individual hyperlink icons (like thumbnails).

Most site navigation uses text or icons or both. If both are used together, typically the icons are small images adjacent to the text, with the icon appearing to the left of the text. When both text and icons are used, and both are links, website visitors naturally assume or tend to think they are interchangeable, i.e., the text link to the right of an icon is intra-site navigation, not an ad, or a link to another (extra) site.

Do you remember when "images next to ads" was the "hot new thing" in Adsense? It seemed ridiculous at the time, but a lot of people bought into it.

I take it to be a clarification mostly about icons simulating navigation links. As in one image for one ad (1:1 ratio). The 1:1 scheme is so silly. Why would any webmaster do that unless it was to create the perception of a direct link between the image and the link, knowing full well it is common for small images next to text to be navigation icons.

If more clarification is needed, Google can simply give visual examples of other ad sizes and its position on them regarding what is misleading. I don't think that one large image with a skyscraper is going to cause the same confusion, because it has a link:image ratio of about 4:1.

Your site should have images and the images should have something to do with the content, and the ads are content-based. Just stay away from one image per link. I don't even think you have to worry about blending if you steer clear of small images in icon styles.

p/g

moTi




msg:3195603
 8:45 am on Dec 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

point is, that you shouldn't "help" advertisers to promote their products with your web design ambitions. they didn't ask you to do that. as an advertiser, i certainly would dissociate from such embarrassing attempts.
if users think, that the graphics are part of the ad, then you have done something wrong.

and if the users think, that it is not an ad at all, you have done even more wrong. users have the legitimate right to know if they are clicking on a content link or an ad.

what's the combined strategy?

1. attract attention, create a visual impact:

bad practice: disguise pictures as part of the ads
good practice: make the ads visible above the fold in the heat zone

2. camouflage, blend the ads:

bad practice: disguise the ad/pic combo as content
good practice: fit the ads nicely into your web design

and there we have the connection between placing images and blending (with shady motives, at least). these two are not too far away in case of decepting the visitor.
what's the consequence of the bad practice? loads of annoyed users, devaluation of clicks, low conversions, annoyed advertisers, smartpricing, loss of reputation for the whole network.

greedy webmasters remember one thing: it's NOT about squeezing every click out of your websites, it's about generating solid conversions for the advertisers through user satisfaction. that's what keeps you alive, not fooling your visitors.

Tapolyai




msg:3195891
 3:01 pm on Dec 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

Why is "misleading" user with an image is not appropriate, but "misleading" by blending is, and encouraged?

timster




msg:3195913
 3:19 pm on Dec 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

Why is "misleading" user with an image is not appropriate, but "misleading" by blending is, and encouraged?

Itís not about the users, and itís not about deception Ė itís about keeping the advertisers happy.

If they sell stuff to people who maybe didn't see they were clicking on an ad, thatís fine. Ads that are not obviously ads are much older than the Adsense or the Internet. And I donít have a lot of doubt that Google has statistics to show that blending (done properly) is good for business, benefiting their publishers, advertisers, and themselves. (And the users are maybe pretty happy with all the cool stuff they bought, but thatís a secondary consideration.)

But if you send advertisers useless traffic, or if you dilute their branding efforts, they wonít like it.

Iíve got some experience in the advertising business, so this may be second nature to me. But I think if you just look at this from an advertiserís perspective, it should all make sense.

Owner edit: Changed a misleading sentence.

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