Jul
6
2008

Optimize Google AdSense – Blending Content Ads

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In the past years, there has been mixed debate on what is and isn’t overstepping the bounds of Google’s terms of service when displaying content ads. Depending on how well you’ve planned out your web design and theming, you might have done too good of a job placing ads on your website. Some cases (example below) are obviously against Google’s terms. They let it slide for several years up till about a year ago. Doing this now will get you a notification and a ban if its not corrected within 48 hours. Notice in the mock-up below that the graphics were specifically setup to mislead the user for what the AdSense ad content is. Purposly or not, this is well out of Googles terms of service.adsense blending

Since this wont work anymore, there are some other minor (more innocent and clever) ways adjust your site to blend in advertisements. You’ll need a couple things first though.

Tools
If you’re not already using FireFox and FireBug, download it using those links. Firebug is a plug-in for FireFox which for our purpose will allow us to analyze the HTML and CSS is more detail.

Obtaining AdSense CSS Settings

  1. First go to a page with one of your AdSense ads on it.
  2. Assuming you have FireBug installed, you can call it up from the lower right of your browser (or press F12). This will create a split in your browser with a “Inspect” button at the top left of that new split.
  3. Bring your ad into view within the browser portion and click on the text when it creates a box over just the text to lock it in.
  4. You should see something like this in your firebug pane to the right
  5. You’ll see the overall font of the body if you scroll down to the bottom (still in the firebug pane on the right).

These are some of the attributes that AdSense didn’t let you configure when you created your ad. You can adjust your site to use them too for optimal blending.

Understanding CSS Implementation For Ad Blending
If you’re already using CSS with your site then modifying all your pages will be an easy fix. Worse case scenario you’ll need to do a find/replace on your current fonts and replace with “Arial, san-serif”. Note that most ads use Arial, but I have seen Verdana used in a few specific formats.

  1. Line height is 14px and represents the space between your lines of text. This is another semi constant within Google’s ads.
  2. Font size is 13px. If you’re using an ‘em’ based design you might have some calculations to do. Personally I’m not a fan of em’s in CSS designs but that’s another story.
  3. The color “#333333″ is something that is configurable when you setup your ads. You can changes this by manually updating the JavaScript. If the code was recently generated then you might only be able to change the ad color through the AdSense control panel.

Different Sizes For Different Ads
If you’re thinking you don’t have any work to do because I just gave you all the font sizes then you’d be wrong. The point of this tutorial is so that you can go do it yourself for all ad sizes since your results vary depending on what ad setup you’re using. For example, a leaderboard ad is going to have different font sizes than a 468×60 ad. Likewise, I only showed you how to find the font size for the text of the ad. Usually the size of the link in the ad is a pixel or two larger then the ad text.

Multiple Ads
If you’re running a lot of different sized ads through your site you can modify content on a section by section basis. Sometimes thats taking a bit to far as it might cause your site to look a little weird. If you have to choose one, I would choose to match the size and style of the ad that is closest to the content. Usually the body and footer ad, assuming that ad is immediately placed at the end of your content.

CSS Example
A line of CSS code you use might look like this:

line-height: 14px; font-size: 13px; font-family: arial, sans-serif;

Is This Legal Within Google’s Terms?
From what I can tell it is. Google doesn’t tell you anywhere that your site can’t be in a certain font, font size, or color. However while this tactic often increases click thru rates, its does not mislead visitors. Instead, it blends ads into your content well enough so that users actually read them. Just don’t abuse it as shown in the example above and you should remain within googles TOS.

Other Benefits
Blending ad colors, fonts, and font sizes can be helpful in other ways.

  1. Use this method in your own onsite advertisements, other ad networks, or in your affiliate deals.
  2. If you have an independent advertiser on your site already, try suggesting them certain font, colors, and font sizes that your site uses directly to them. This could lead to higher click thrus for them which I’m sure they’d appreciate.
  3. Mention these things on any advertising page you have on your site. If I were an advertiser I’d certainly appreciate (and be more willing to buy an ad) on a site that is obviously trying to make advertising on a your site more profitable for the advertiser.

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