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Is this against Google's TOS? Hiding URLs...

     
11:00 pm on Sep 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hi all,
Since my CTR seems to be dropping at an alarming rate, I decided to implement the ads in a way that dont' look like ads.

My site has a black background so when I put the ads on there, I pick a black color scheme and it hides the ad's URL. This is not a modification. All I did was use Google's color scheme picker to do this.

My CTR has risen sharply because they no longer look like ads.

But, is this legal? I checked their TOS and there is no mention of "hiding Urls" like this. As a matter of fact, there's nothing about displaying/not displaying URLs on there, as well.

Any thoughts? It may SEEM illegal, but it is probably legal. Maybe I should write them.

11:37 pm on Sept 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I doubt that it is illegal since the leaderboard format doesn't show urls at all.
12:32 am on Sept 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I am interested in this whole colour topic.

Have people found it better to choose a really different colour scheme to their site (the "stand out" theory) over choosing a very similar colour scheme (the camouflaged "not really ads" theory)

anyone willing to share their experiences on this one?

12:35 am on Sept 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It would be fine in theory, but you might want to keep an eye on the terms, policies and FAQ. They can change without notice, and you have to remain in compliance with them when they do change. I suspect this could be something addressed in the future.

I do know that you cannot hide the "Ads by Google" - it changes between white and black text, depending on the lightness or darkness of the border color.

12:37 am on Sept 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

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If you are not modifying the code, you're fine. I wouldn't write them either.
2:10 pm on Sept 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

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esllou - Re colors:

See my posting in this topic:

[webmasterworld.com...]

D.

3:40 pm on Sept 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

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thanks devlin....I spotted it minutes after my posting.

I changed my colours today to a "blend with site" combination.

my base ctr was 100
my "clashing colours" ctr was c. 160
if, after three or four days, my "blend with site" ctr doesn't match 160, back I go.

[edited by: esllou at 5:03 pm (utc) on Sep. 12, 2003]

4:47 pm on Sept 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

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You should avoid disclosing actual data such as CTRs and EPCs - it's against Google's TOS. We know that Google does monitor this forum, so you will avoid trouble if you don't post actual stats.
5:47 pm on Sept 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Google responded to my inquiry about "hiding" the URLS and they had no problem with it.
10:02 pm on Sept 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

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OK - based on 'skunkers' posting, I'm going to run a 14 day trial, keeping the bog standard Google 'Mother Earth' color scheme, but hiding the URL

And I'm applying it to all my sites this time.

The main success critirion is the CTR. Up or down?

I'll keep y'all posted.

Watch this space :-)

D.

12:15 am on Sept 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hi devlin,
Unfortunately, my CTR is back down again. But, go ahead and try it and let me know what you think!
12:16 am on Sept 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Google does have a problem with the urls in the ads being the same color as the background. However they do not appear to automatically detect this type of situation. So do not mistake the lack of emails from google as a sign that this action is permitted.

I just got an email from them in regards to this.

<snipped email quote>

To sum it up, you cannot hide any text on the ads.

[edited by: Laisha at 5:45 pm (utc) on Sep. 14, 2003]
[edit reason] posted email [/edit]

12:39 am on Sept 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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That's not what they told me. I'll go ahead and ask again.
4:38 pm on Sept 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Google does have a problem with the urls in the ads being the same color as the background.

Before changing anything I have asked Google AdSense support, and I got the answer that clearly says that it is allowed!

So I don't understand why you seem to go get a contradictory answer? Of course I want to comply too, but clearly I was allowed to do it.

I am confused...

4:52 pm on Sept 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I don't know what to tell you guys. Out of the blue, I got the email that I posted above... the email was sent Friday (Sept 12th), so it's not an old email by any means.

The email I got also seemed to be pretty clear that you can't hide any info on the ads, such as the urls. Which makes sense -- why have info on an ad if they allow you to pick what parts you wish to display?

At any rate, I'm complying with their request.

5:05 pm on Sept 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It's as easy to ask why they would refuse a webmaster opting out of showing the url in a vertical banner when they don't give you the option of showing the url in the leaderboard format. When they designed the leadeboard they decided it wasn't important.
7:51 am on Oct 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone else noticed today that hidden URL's are appearing even if you set them to blend with the background? (Seems to be on the skyscraper ads...)
10:22 am on Oct 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hidden URLs are now against the new policies which went into effect on October 16th.

Elements on a page must not obscure any portion of the ads, and the ad colors must be such that the ad text and URL are visible.

I would change any code that has the URL hidden.

You will find a breakdown of the new terms, policies and FAQ here:
[webmasterworld.com...]
(Scroll down to msg # 16 for the breakdown of policies and the FAQ.)

1:06 pm on Oct 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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you can change border color and background color to match your background, but you cant hide text
4:28 pm on Oct 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hidden URLs are now against the new policies which went into effect on October 16th.

I must admit that I hadn't noticed that change in the TOS. I've been hiding URLs for about 3 weeks now (as an experiment) and I had notice NO conclusive change in CTR as a result.

I've made no changes to the color schemes, but I see now that the URLs are being displayed in the same color as the descriptive text.

So clearly, Google have a way of automatically adjusting colors so as to comply with the changed TOS.

-D