AdSense Updates Rules. Other Targeted Ads Now Allowed!

You may have heard from AdSense-related blogs that Google has updated its AdSense terms of service, and there have been some drastic changes. While the modifications were not that obvious at first, some observers were keen to point out that these changes were in fact major, and that publishers should watch out, lest they suddenly find their accounts suspended. For instance, points out some details here.

There are various points, but let’s focus on those that might be of urgent concern.

First, AdSense has more stringent rules against sites that infringe on copyright.

Website publishers may not display Google ads on web pages with content protected by copyright law unless they have the necessary legal rights to display that content. Please see our DMCA policy for more information.

The wording previously was just a warning against displaying AdSense ads on “web pages with MP3, Video, News Groups, and Image Results.” However, this time the rule is a blanket statement against all copyrighted material that is not authorized for display on a particular site by the copyright owner. The question here is how Google will handle cases of possible copyright infringement. More specifically, will they suspend accounts on the mere advice that a site might be displaying copyrighted material? Or should it be like DMCA complaints when it is only the copyright holder (or a legal representative) that can ask for content to be taken down?

Next, AdSense now has more stringent rules against putting up non-AdSense ads that look like AdSense. So whether it’s a third-party ad network (such as Yahoo, Chitika, etc.) or your own text ads, it is against the AdSense policy if it looks like an AdSense ad unit. Even the adding of “Ads by xxxxxxx” at the bottom of ads may be misconstrued as copying AdSense. Formatting the color scheme, fonts or layout of your other ads like AdSense–whether intentionally or not–are against the rules, so better watch out.

The next point would be something publishers might be happier about, though. AdSense now allows other third-party contextual ads alongside AdSense, on the same page! Previously, publishers were not allowed targeted ads other than AdSense. This meant all other ads had to be static, or with pre-defined keywords. Today, you can already put up ads from competing networks that likewise “sense” a page’s content to determine context. has confirmed this with the AdSense team, and lists alternative networks you can already try out. Of course, you should still follow the other ad networks’ policies about this. For instance, Yahoo! Publisher Network disallows other contextual ads, so this means you cannot put up Google AdSense ads and YPN ads on a single page.