Google has been criticized by the rather harsh policies relating to its AdSense publishers’ ad placements. Multiple high-earning publishers have had their accounts disabled and deleted due to violations of said policies. This is the reason that it is extremely important to familiarize yourself with the policies that AdSense has, which is where this guide aims to help you out. Providing you with a resource to find all the AdSense policies summarized efficiently into a single guide, you don’t need to waste time trying to search through forums and Google support for answers to questions anymore.
The Basics: Clicks and Impressions
1) An impression of an ad is when a visitor arrives at your site and Google AdSense displays an individual ad on your site for the visitor to see. Different types of ads count as a different number of impressions even when placed within the same type of ad placement unit, for example a vertical banner ad with two text advertisement units will count as two individual impressions, where as a vertical banner ad placement with a single image advertisement will count as a single impression. A good short video to clarify this even further can be found below –
2) A click is when a visitor clicks on an advertisement that is placed there via Google AdSense. This is where the money is made, as each click is worth a certain amount of money to the publisher, depending on the targeted keywords and niches. However, because clicks are the money makers to you, they are carefully and strictly monitored by Google. Any type of foul play and you’re out.
3) You are not allowed to manually or automatically enhance the number of impressions or clicks that you receive. This means you cannot click on your own ads, you cannot have all your friends come to your site and click on your ads multiple times or set up a bot that clicks on your ads, as all of these methods of boosting the clicks on your advertisements are considered sabotage by Google. Google will catch up with you and your AdSense account is forever lost, and the policy is only one account per person. That means once you’re out, you’re out for good, so be careful!
This however is not a matter over which you should lose any sleep, Google AdSense employees are experts on click fraud and won’t punish you if you accidentally click on your own advertisement. They can detect that you yourself clicked the advertisement, and will not credit you for it, easy as that. It’s only when it gets repetitive and cannot be treated as accidental behavior that your account is under threat.
You are also forbidden to encourage people clicking on your ads in any way, or placing them so that they are accidentally clicked by your visitors. The AdSense policy is clear on this, all visitors must click on the advertisements out of their own interest to what is being advertised to them. The advertisements must also always be clearly separate and distinguishable from the rest of your content and website.
4) If a visitor on your site is causing suspicious clicks on the advertisements you have placed on your site, take note of their activities and report them to Google via this link. It is crucial that you report your findings so that Google can investigate the original cause of the invalid clicks, and it clears you of any wrongdoing to begin with. You can refer to Google’s webmaster tools should you need any help in monitoring your site and its visitors.
5) In a case you wish to visit the destination page of an advertisement showing on your website, you can use the AdSense publisher toolbar, which allows you to inspect the advertisement without risking the closure of your account by clicking on your own advertisements. More information regarding this tool can be found here. Google cannot block IPs that you provide them as the addresses can be allocated from numerous different sources, leading to the potential blocking of valid clicks when, for example, a proxy is used by a violator.
6) Google does not disclose exactly how it monitors your advertisement clicks and impressions in case of a shared computer, but they assure both publishers and advertisers that there is no risk in a click being resulted from an interested visitor sharing the same IP address as the site owner. A click such as that is counted as a valid and interested click by a potential customer. Impressions are also safe, both by you yourself and people sharing your IP address. Excessive refreshing is not recommended, but Google is able to monitor your use and if the impressions are normal and appear when maintaining or using your own site, you are not at risk of violating any policies.
7) Whether you posted a video that went absolutely viral, or your latest funny Tweet caused a rush hour in traffic coming to your site, you might ponder whether or not you must inform Google why there is suddenly an increased number of visitors to your site. This is not the case, as the monitoring methods that Google applies are highly advanced and can detect this type of surges in traffic and considers them safe as long as the visitors are genuine and not there to commit click fraud.
8) Advertisers pay for each click that results in a new visitor the site they are advertising, and part of that money is taken by Google as a commission, and the rest goers to you, the publisher. However, Google has to protect their advertisers to keep them advertising in the future as well, which means any invalid clicks detected by the Google system are not credited to you. The clicks will show in the statistics for you to see, but will not result in a payment, because Google does not charge the advertiser for invalid clicks.
9) Using your own AdSense for search box to conduct Google searches is not recommended, as the use of Google.com will generate better search results, and keep you safe from accidentally clicking on your own advertisements. You are allowed to watch videos with video ads on your site, since the pressing of play button is not considered a click. However, refrain from clicking the advertisement itself when watching videos with your advertisements on them.
Rules and Policies: AdSense Content Guidelines
— Your content is what gets you approved for AdSense in the first place, so it must be in good standing before making the application, but must also be kept within the AdSense policies after being accepted into the program.
What type of content is prohibited then?
A good rule of thumb is to consider whether or not you’d allow your children or anyone else’s children see or read the material. If the answer is no, then most likely it will already break the rules.
— Basically anything pornographic or adult (Not Safe for Work) content is prohibited from being used as a display case for AdSense ads. A family-safe site is a proud thing for Google to have, and they want anyone showing their ads to respect their wish. If you operate an adult site you should look for advertising opportunities elsewhere. Also, Google categorizes mail order brides in the same way it does adult/sexual dating sites and escort services (so you better not be reviewing those mail order brides from different countries on an AdSense monetized site).
An important factor to consider regarding adult content is that you are also not allowed to link to adult content, which means review and promotional websites for adult purposes are out of the question. Adult content includes graphical content, but is not limited to that. It is good to keep in mind that Google considers erotic/explicit stories or jokes, forums and comment spamming to be adult content, and thus must be kept separate from AdSense advertisements.
— Racism, sexism and any other type of harassing or bullying content is strictly forbidden. As Google puts it, “Google believes strongly in the freedom of expression, but also recognizes the need to protect the quality of the AdSense network for users, advertisers, and publishers.” This means that if you wish to have content related to anything fitting those descriptions, the only way it is allowed is that your site is a historical journal and you are doing research or writing historical journals about such matters. Sexual tips and health is also out of bounds for AdSense publishers, so for those male sexual organ enlargement advertisements you’ll have to go elsewhere.
— If you don’t own your content’s copyright, don’t put it on your site. Under the copyright law you are allowed to cite, quote or use parts of copyright protected work when properly referenced and credit is given to the original author of the material that you are referring to. Naturally, the original author retains every right to ask you to remove the quotations of their work from your site, even if you credit them. Copyright infringement is one of the clearest and easiest to bust cases of policy violation when it comes to Google’s AdSense, so make sure you have a permission to publish any copyrighted material you are considering to publish, and if quoting someone else’s work, for example a case study on a topic you are writing about, make sure to link to the case study and credit its original author or authors in full. A good blog post regarding Google’s compliance of the DMCA complaints can be found here.
— Don’t try to use AdSense ads on your site if you promote alcohol products or tobacco, not to mention drugs or other similar illegalities. Also linking directly to sites which promote said substances is a violation of AdSense policy. Content that is factual and informative is allowed to be about the substances, but it must in no way be attempting to promote, sell or tempt anyone to use or purchase said substances.
— Any form of hacking or cracking of software, games or anything else related to this niche is a direct violation of Google’s content policy. A good thing to remember is that if it’s illegal, don’t put AdSense ads on it. There is an AdSense wide ban on anything illegal to be within the sites showing their advertisements.
— Other types of content that are forbidden include: Pay-to click sites (for example opening emails and clicking on advertising links to earn money), websites that use the Google brand without express permission, violence promoting and violence filled sites, and also anything weapon related. Sorry arms dealers, but you’ll have to fund your weapon review sites in other ways.
User generated content is a challenge to monitor as many of you know, but Google requires you to do so and holds you responsible for every piece of content that appears on the same page as your AdSense ad code. They recommend you to educate your users on these same policies to make sure they understand what is require of them as well as you. Before placing your ad code you should inspect the content on that specific page where the ad code will be based, and it is also recommended for you to weekly monitor the most popular pages of your website. Don’t forget to clean up the comments section, as that is where most of the spammers try to spread their advertising and AdSense policy violating content. Report violation buttons as well as keyword filtering to prevent certain keywords from appearing on your website are also recommended to help you monitor and prevent policy violations on your site.
— Google search does make it rather simple for you to find violating content from your site, and we recommend you to try this method regularly to make sure you comply with AdSense policies and your site features user generated content. Go to Google.com and type in the search bar “site:yoursite.com keyword” and press enter. Now, what this does is it only shows results originating from your site and features that specific keyword in them. Remember to change the “yoursite.com” part to your actual domain address, and the keyword to any policy violating keyword you can think of, such as sex, escort, hacking, tobacco, alcohol, weapons or drugs.
— Google has put together top three methods to use when policing your websites content, and this top three is a must for every webmaster hosting user generated content on their website. First, do not post your ad code on a page featuring content that you do not trust. This means that if you know the writer or they have written for you on multiple previous occasions, you can be rather certain they will abide the AdSense policies. Secondly, include a report a violation link after every piece of content, so that your other users can inform you when a possible policy violation appears on your website. Last but not least, put a Captcha check on your content posting system, and do not allow users to post on the site without Captcha verification.
— Other good measures of policing your content are to allow only trusted users to post content on your website, and not enable the advertising on any page until it has been manually checked by you or another member of your staff. Content filtering is another method of effective policing, but it requires for you to develop a content filtering system for your site. Many existing solutions can be found with a quick Google search, and we recommend you to give them a try. The policing of your user generated content can be a challenge, but you don’t have to do it all alone. If you can afford it, hiring content reviewers or editors to help you go through each piece of submitted content is a great way to reduce your workload.
— These rules apply to other forms of user generated content as well, not just websites and articles. Sites where users can comment on posts and pages need to be monitored for policy violating comments. Good methods to ensure your comment section stays clean is to actively respond to them, and at the same time you can clean the section up from spam. Spam filters such as Akismet are also amongst the popular solutions especially amongst WordPress users.
— Forums, dating sites and file hosting sites are also required to follow these same policies regarding the user generated content. Any offensive, NSFW or other form of policy violating content is forbidden, and must be actively monitored and removed. Report a violation links, Captcha checks upon registration, content filters and enabling ads only after you are certain the user and content can be trusted are effective methods of policing these types of sites.
Rules and Policies: AdSense Webmaster Guidelines
— As a webmaster, you must take full responsibility of your sites features, content and advertisement placements. Google does not allow you to have any “bad” SEO work on your site, which means repetitive use of keywords (keyword stuffing), hidden links and text, duplicate content or any other sketchy attempts of boosting your site’s performance in the SERPs (Search engine results page). Creating sub-domains or multiple pages that essentially feature duplicate content is forbidden, and will results in the termination of your account in the AdSense program.
— Your site must be of value to the visitors, so make sure to keep in mind the reasons why people arrive to your site. If the reasons include bots, pop-ups and redirects, it is recommended to revise those reasons or stay away from the AdSense program entirely. Also, the website must be made for the visitor, not for the search engines, so any type of “doorway” pages that are created with the sole intention of ranking highly for specific keywords are recognized by Google’s monitoring system and your AdSense participation will be at risk.
— AdSense is also not recommended to be used on affiliate sites, for which the sole purpose is to lead people to purchase goods or software via cookie traced links that in return gives the webmaster a commission of a successful purchase. This does not mean you cannot place affiliate links to a site which features AdSense advertising, but the focus of the site must not be on affiliate advertising, but instead the content must be the main reason for visiting the site, not a review of a product that is aimed at selling the product, instead of providing an honest and not a pushy review of said product. Further information on the affiliate guidelines can be found here if you are left with any questions, but the rules regarding affiliate sites are rather simple. If the site does not feature good, original content or it solely focuses on promoting masses of cookie traced links to products, then leave AdSense out of it.
— On a more technical approach, make sure your site is clearly indexed and your files are properly organized to ease the crawling process made by Google’s spiders. Keep your title elements and ALT attributes clear and focused, and do not try to overly enhance the number of times a keyword appears on your site. A more natural feel and keyword density will guarantee you a better standing in the eyes of Google, who appreciate value to the visitor, not keyword stuffing. Optimizing your website for speed and ease of use is also a relevant factor in the eyes of Google, so make sure to use tools such as WebPagetest and YSlow to monitor and optimize the site speed. An excellent resource in relation to webpage speed and load time is the Let’s Make The Web Faster section in the Google Developers tool set.
— Most importantly, keep your content unique and written by humans, and consider if you would find it a useful and helpful read yourself. Google will notice automatically generated content, cloaking, affiliate link promotion on a website without sufficient value, scraped content, duplicate content, hidden links or text, abusing the rich snippets mark up, stuffing irrelevant keywords to the content and creating pages with malicious intentions such as phishing or inflicting viruses on the visitors.
Rules and Policies: AdSense Traffic Source Guidelines
— Google actively monitors the traffic coming to sites taking part in the AdSense program, since the quality of that traffic can vary greatly. Bad quality traffic would only waste the money of paying advertisers, creating worse ROI for the advertisers. That would then affect their willingness to advertise with Google, so for their own sake they have to keep themselves informed about your traffic.
— When promoting your site, make sure not to spam anyone, not via social media, email or any other form of mass communication. Pop-ups that redirect the visitor to unwanted websites are also against Google AdSense policies, and should not be even considered to be used simultaneously with AdSense. Using any software or applications such as toolbars to display Google ads, search boxes or search results is against the policy on sites that display AdSense advertisements. If your site contains AdSense ad code you must make sure that no software interferes with the site navigation by redirecting the visitor, launching pop-ups, modifying browser settings or in any other way. If you use other ad networks, you must make sure they do not use any methods that interfere with site navigation either.
Your advertising generated traffic should be promised only what they will receive, and follow Google’s Landing Page Quality Guidelines to be on the safe side. The visitor must easily identify what they are being promised and absolutely no attempt of misleading is allowed.
Additionally, use of any sites offering paid traffic is against the policies.
Rules and Policies: AdSense Ad Placement & Ad Behavior Guidelines
— Although Google recommends webmasters to try out different ad placements, layouts and campaigns on their site, it is not allowed to place AdSense advertising on such places as pop-ups, emails or software. You must also not implement AdSense advertising in a way that it promotes accidental clicks of said advertisement. The advertisements must be clearly distinguishable from the surroundings. No flashy arrows or animations are allowed to draw unwanted attention, if the user wishes to click on the advertisement, they will do so on their own initiative. The advertisements must also be labelled as such, not anything misleading like “resources” or “helpful links”. Only two labels are ever allowed, and those are “Advertisements” and “Sponsored Links”.
— Integration of mobile ads is allowed with AdMob as part of Google’s mobile application advertising effort. However, that is a separate section of advertising, and any other form of software must not include Google search results, search bars or advertisements. Pop-ups and pop-unders are also strictly forbidden, as they do not adhere to the willingly clicking on the advertisement policy.
— Spamming of any form that includes a Google advertisement is forbidden, whether it is executed via social media, chat apps, forums, email or website commenting. Also websites that are purposefully built to be filled with ads and forcing visitors to click them are both in violation of AdSense policies. You also must not encourage anyone to click on the advertisements in any way, such as using phrases like “Contribute to this website by clicking advertisements” or “Take a look at our sponsors!”
— No image association with any of the advertisements is allowed, meaning you must keep images you place on the website separate and not affecting people’s view or opinion of the advertisements. Also, content should be placed above the fold, and not allowing an advertisement to push all the real content below the fold is a good way to keep the advertisements distinguishable from the content. You may also not format any links, content features or images to look like the advertisements.
— When it comes to advertisement behavior, the publishers are allowed to modify the ad placements and behavior of the adverts as long as it does not inflict any harm upon the advertiser. A more in depth resource for the modification of the AdSense code can be found here.
— The sites on which Google advertisements are shown should be easily accessible, easy to navigate on and not forcing redirects. Pop-ups are also included as distracting site behavior. Google also recommends a distance of at least 150 pixels between a flash based game on your website and an advertisement that is close by. This allows the user to clearly distinguish between the two, and no accidental clicks will incur as a result of the game’s placement.
— The current limitations on advertisement numbers that are provided by AdSense allow the publisher to display a maximum of three AdSense units on one page of content. On top of these three ad placements, publishers are allowed to place three link units and two search boxes per page. Both desktop and mobile websites are under the same policy requirements and limitations. More than one large ad unit may not be placed on a single page, with a large ad unit being defined as anything similar or larger in size as the 300×600 format that AdSense provides publishers with. To optimize your ad placements, it is not recommended to always aim for the maximum number of advertisements, but rather the most efficient way of placing advertisements that interest your visitors. Cluttered look is not the most efficient way to do that.
— No pre-rolls before a visitor can access certain content, such as videos or images is allowed, and the advertisements cannot auto-refresh without the permission of the visitor. In addition to these restrictions, publishers are not allowed to place advertisements on any thank you, exit, log in or error pages. This might result in the visitor thinking that the advertisement is in fact part of the site’s actual content, and end with an involuntary redirect away from the publisher’s website.
— AdSense advertisement is not to be placed on any site focusing on messaging, chat or auto-refreshing comments. Email is not an accepted form of delivering AdSense advertising, not even as part of a newsletter that the recipient has subscribed to. No toolbars, search boxes, desktop applications or their installers can be monetized with AdSense advertising. Additionally, if your sites features more than three pop-ups that were not deliberately initiated by the visitor, you are not permitted to place AdSense advertisements anywhere on the site.
— You are allowed to display AdSense advertising on membership sites that are password protected, but remember to provide Google with a non-password page to review. Two separate AdSense accounts may display advertisements on the same page if the webmasters and owners of the site and both of the AdSense accounts agree to do so. However, the maximum limitations on the number of advertisements still applies and is at the original limits.
— You may also place ads on hosted blogs and websites like Blogger, but you might run into problems if you do not have access to the HTML source code of your chosen platform, as that is where you need to place the ad code. If you are framing, i.e. displaying another site within your site, you are prohibited from displaying AdSense advertising on those pages.
— Acceptable modifications of AdSense code include responsive design to better fit the advertisements on a mobile device’s screen, A/B testing of ad placements and their effect on clicks, ad tag minimisation and setting custom channels dynamically. Google automatically uses the visitors IP address to modify whether or not the advertisement will display in a new window or not when clicked. This is a result of some countries, such as China, that treat opening advertisements in a new window as completely normal. This is a function you are under no circumstances allowed to interfere with or modify. Any attempt to do so will result in removal of your account.
— You must acknowledge that Google and third parties might place cookies on the browsers of your visitors and track their internet usage. The privacy policies that Google adheres to when handling the customer data is stated in the Google’s advertising privacy policies section of their site. Other than that, the data collected is solely at your disposal, granted that Google is also allowed to use it for their advertising purposes.
— Under no circumstance are you allowed to convey data that would allow Google to identify any of your users to Google. They do not want to have any private data sent to them by you, because they have no wish to use it. Keep it to yourself.
— You should also provide the visitor with links to the appropriate third-party vendors and their advertising and cookie settings. You can also link to aboutads.info and explain to your users that they can use said website to opt out of some third-party interest-based advertising programs.
— You are also advised to link to Google’s explanation of their usage of your customers’ information here: How Google uses data when you use our partners’ sites or apps.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
— If your site is covered by COPPA you must notify Google of the site or sections of the site under the coverage, and not target adverts toward children under the age of 13 or follow the past or current activity of children under the age of 13.
— Google does not allow gambling related content or gambling sites to display AdSense advertisements, unless your country is in the select group of countries where this is legal. The countries included on this list are Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.
The regulations are stringent, however, and always individually assessed based on your site. The allowance of AdSense ads on gambling websites is thus never a done deal.
In conclusion, if you keep it legal, you are safe from Google closing your AdSense account. Keep your wits about you when placing AdSense advertisements on new sites after you have already been accepted, since that way Google employees will not check your website in advance to you placing the advertisements. This makes it easier for you to get removed from the AdSense program. Adhering to these policies is easy, but you have to be awake when designing your ad placements and strategies. If you find yourself wondering about anything AdSense policy related, want to find more detailed guidelines or just want to read further into the AdSense policies, Google has an excellent “More Resources” section that lists numerous tips, tricks and guides into everything from optimizing your site to preventing invalid clicks and displaying flash games on your site.