AdSense Policies Unclear

AdSense is not usually something we pay much attention to, because in general, it’s not really worth it unless your site is receiving huge amounts of traffic.  For those that aren’t familiar with it, suffice it to say that AdSense is the other side of the Google Display Network…it’s the programme for sites that wish to display ads, and website owners get a small percentage of the cost of each click on an ad that is being displayed on their site.

If you are wondering about AdSense though, there are two things to keep in mind.  First is the large volume of traffic necessary to make it worthwhile.  And second is that the AdSense policies may sometimes cause you problems.

AdSense Policies Affect Sites

Back in May of this year, news site TechDirt received a warning from Google AdSense that an article on their site was in violation of the AdSense advertising guidelines and that the ads. They had been running ads on an article page about a lawsuit involving a porn star and a rapper.

The news article included two videos of the adult star demonstrating pole dancing – her intellectual property that the rapper had used without consent in one of his videos.

But here’s the catch: when they received the warning, the article was already 4 years old, which begs the question: why did it take so long for Google to flag it?

Ironically, both of these pole dancing videos that TechDirt published also appear on YouTube, with Google Ads running right next to the videos.

What Content Does Google Find Inappropriate?

If you go and look at the AdSense content policies for adult content, Google is actually very definite about what they deem to be adult content, even if the definition itself is rather subjective.

Their general rule is:

If you’re unsure about whether or not something might be considered adult content, our general rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t want a child to see the content or you would be embarrassed to view the page at work in front of colleagues, then you should not place ad code on it.

Strict Content Policy, Poor Implementation

Google also goes on to specify things like comment spam and content related to sexual health that would also put a site in contravention of their policies.

Some may see Google’s policies here as being a bit too strict or even prudish. They even go so far as to specify “discussions and/or images of sexually transmitted diseases” and “sexual health advice related to pregnancy, childbirth or family planning” as content that’s too racy to go next to Adsense ads.

Personally, I find Google’s disapproval of information about sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy more than a little puritanical.

Others users have experienced warnings from Google related to content on their site which shows women or celebrities in bikinis. Another describes a situation where there was a thread on their site that spoke about a girl who had made a sex tape (with no images or accompanying video) which triggered a warning from Google, three years after anybody had even posted on the thread.

Vague AdSense Warnings

Not only do most people out there find the AdSense policies a bit too strict, but the warnings that Google gives when a site is contravening their policies are extremely vague.

The warnings simply state that the site is violating the AdSense policy. It is then the job of the site owner to figure out on their own what is wrong and how to fix the page so that it adheres to the AdSense policies. That change may be as simple as removing the ad tag from that particular page, however it could also be interpreted as editorial censorship with Google telling them to alter or remove their content.

After having seen the examples mentioned above, among others, it becomes clear that Google needs to revaluate their policy, especially around sexual health content, and that their warnings are vague, unhelpful and in many cases not easily fixed.