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Google TOS clearly admonishes webmasters from encouraging ad clicking. So do positive reviews violate the TOS? It is clearly an invitation to click.
Your ideas are not even close to violating TOS.
Many of us have product reviews and Google is OK with it. Just don't say: "Have a look at the ads", "Click the ads" or "The use of this website is free thanks to our sponsors, please support us by visting their websites", etcetera. Advertisers (including myself) feel robbed by that kind of inviations that create false, not converting clicks. Just write a good product review, preferably a positive one. It's called pre-selling and it helps both you and the advertiser. If you think a product s*cks, don't review it at all. Cause then it will cost the advertiser (no conversions) and you (no conversions and thus smartpricing) money.
I can always subtly encourage clicking
- building a web site is a subtle ecouragment to click
- placing an ad unit is a subtle ecouragment to click
- blending is a subtle ecouragment to click
- ad location is a subtle ecouragment to click
I don't know why you are feeling guilty about the higher ctr, just be true to yourself and honest in the review even if it earns you less.
Keep in mind that people have very highly developed BS detectors these days, and your site will have a lot more credibility and do a lot better in the long run if you are bluntly truthful instead of being a cheerleader for everything.
It is clearly an invitation to click.
I think you've missed the point. The admonition against encouraging clicks includes an underlying assumption that you don't control what ads are displayed.
So, while you think your review might be viewed as "encouraging clicks" for Product X, the fact is, it's entirely possible for all ads for Product X to get pulled from that page, and for the page to be filled with ads for Product Y and Product Z. I guess you'll have an invitation to not click on your hands at that point.
If you are dynamically detecting what ads are displayed and adjusting your copy to say lovely things about whatever products appear, that would be the time to start being concerned about a TOS violation.
IANAGL. (I Am Not A Google Lawyer)
For example: If I review X Brand green widgets and the review is positive, I'll sum it up by saying something like "Overall, I believe the X Brand Green Widget is one of the best I have ever used. I give it a big thumbs-up."