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Does Adsense Hate Bloggers and Publishers?

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The headline may sound a little harsh, but based on their recent Adsense policy updates as noted by Jensense, it’s the conclusion that has to be made.

Previously, Adsense was already anti-competitive because they didn’t allow publishers to run competing contextual ad networks on the same page. Therefore, you couldn’t run Adsense and the Yahoo Publisher Network on the same page at the same time. It should be noted this is a policy that Yahoo also has for the Yahoo Publisher Network, but beyond that no other display ad network or other ad networks that I know of enforce such a policy. This policy forced publishers who wanted to use more than one contextual network on their site to either run the networks on different pages, or use some type of rotating script to make sure that no other contextual network showed at the same time as Google.

Now, they’ve gone a big step further and changed their Competive Ads and Services policy to this:

In order to prevent user confusion, we do not permit Google ads or search boxes to be published on websites that also contain other ads or services formatted to use the same layout and colors as the Google ads or search boxes on that site. Although you may sell ads directly on your site, it is your responsibility to ensure these ads cannot be confused with Google ads.

What this means is that not only can competing contextual networks not be on the same page, they can’t be on the same site altogether if they look anything like Adsense ads. And now it’s not just contextual networks, it’s any ad network at all, or ads that you even sell yourself!

So, Google is really saying this: “You can’t run any ads from anywhere that look like our ads, even if you run them on entirely different sections of your site.”

Can anyone say anti-competitive? Can anyone say arrogant?

How does this help publishers? It doesn’t help them in any way, it only hurts them. It causes publishers to limit the amount of advertising competition that they run on their site which hurts their revenue. It forces them to make all their other advertising use colors or visual looks that might not be optimal. It makes publishers use colors that might not match their site so they don’t incur the mighty wrath of Google.

What’s Google’s excuse for this? As you’ll notice in the policy, it says that it’s to “prevent user confusion”. Okay, so they’re trying to tell us that users are getting confused on which ads are from Google and which ads are from other advertisers? Honestly, what users care? Does anyone think that people are only clicking Adsense ads because they’re from Google? Or they they are clicking YPN ads because they think they are from Google? How many people have you ever talked to that are confused over who the ad provider is on the website they are visiting?

This has nothing to do with preventing user confusion. It has to do with being the market leader and trying to limit competition and lock up advertising inventory. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be a market leader, but Google isn’t doing it by providing more for the publisher, they’re doing it by causing publishers to fear them.

I have removed Adsense ads from this blog as a result of this policy. If Adsense doesn’t like me, why should I like them?

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Pat is the Director of Business Development at Right Media, the business unit owner for RMX Direct, and the author of the Conversion Rater blog.

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