Don’t you just hate it when someone comes along and spoils all the fun?
For a long time now I’ve been recommending that publishers put little images next to their AdSense units to draw users’ eyes. So if you were showing ads for televisions and cameras, then you could put pictures of televisions and cameras right next to the ad unit. Your unit would have all the eye-catching attention of a graphic ad without the off-putting problem of looking like a banner.
It was a great strategy. Lots of smart publishers used it and had great results.
In fact, it worked so well that Google has now banned it. Of course, not until after they had tested it themselves.
The problem, Google says, is that if users associate the image with the ad, they’ll click expecting to find something that might not be there. The advertiser pays to get a click from a user who only leaves disappointed.
You can still put ads on pages with images, but you can’t do it in any way “that could easily mislead or confuse your visitors.”
I still don't see where this is written in the terms of service, but you can read Google's blog entry here.
Like many of Google’s rules, that one clearly leaves plenty of room for interpretation. And the general rule for Google’s rules still stands: don’t give Google a reason to start interpreting whether or not you’re breaking the rules.
If you’ve got images close to your ads, it may be time to move them away. Honestly, I can't see Google closing someone's account over this. It's far more likely that you would receive an email from an AdSense team member asking you to make appropriate changes to your site.
Does that mean you’re going to see a drop in your CTR? If that strategy was ever worth its salt, then you will. So you’re going to have to do some more experimentation to get your CTR levels up again.
You’re going to have to play with placement. You’ll have try targeting different keywords. You’ll have to play again with different unit formats.
In short, you’re going to have to take another look at your Web pages to make sure that you’re still squeezing out every penny you can -- even without the images.
I know some people are going to be thinking that that doesn’t sound like fun at all. But I think this is an opportunity. It doesn’t pay to be complacent with your AdSense units. You should be checking your optimization every now and then to see if a different layout wouldn’t bring in more clicks.
If you’ve been putting images next to ads, now you’ve got no choice but to rethink your pages. And if you haven’t been using images to attract eyes, then this is a good time to take another look at how your ads are laid out.
What are your thoughts?
Post them here!