Google AdSense updated their program policies today. While most of it was simply clarifying or officially making changes to policies (such as images next to ad units) they also made one major change to publishers who also use ad networks or in-house advertising with ad units that resemble AdSense ad units, or those who do ad rotation with AdSense and another ad network such as the Yahoo Publisher Network. And this could result in some unhappy webmasters who will need to make changes to their sites running AdSense as a result.
First off, AdSense added some basic policy changes, including the use of images next to ad units as well as increasing the number of referral ad units that a publisher can place on a site. If you want to get the lowdown on all the changes and their significance, I did a complete analysis on JenSense.
More significant is the change they made to the Competitive Ads & Services section of the policies. Now, running anything in an ad unit that resembles the AdSense ad unit appearing anywhere on the same site is against the terms. This means those publishers running AdSense in rotation with Yahoo Publisher Network, for example, using the same color palette for both would now be in violation of the policies. And even non-contextually targeted ads that are in an ad unit like AdSense would not be allowed.
The other major change is that this policy applies to the entire site, not just the page and actual page view that the ad is appearing on. This change could affect a significant number of publishers, especially those who do A/B testing (like myself) as well as those who have anything else anywhere on the site that resembles AdSense. I did a much more detailed analysis on this issue here.
Because Google is such a dominating force in contextual advertising, not to mention their sheer market share of publishers, they can pull off this change. However, I definitely expect to hear some griping from publishers as they make changes to their sites to be within compliance.
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