Eight months ago I wrote a post highlighting how Google was effectively telling Adwords advertisers they were now approving of the use of Adsense ads on Adwords landing pages.
Some readers pointed out that the example they highlighted in that Inside Adwords blog post was only using Adsense blocks below the fold, and in some cases only in their footer area. This meant that they were actually in compliance with Google’s advertiser guidelines on the practice of Adwords-t0-Adsense arbitrage.
Since then, Google has further clarified their Adwords guidelines on what’s now ‘acceptable’ and ‘not acceptable’ use of Adsense ads on your landing pages.
The New Rules of the Game
The new guidelines make clear that your “intent” as an advertiser is what really matters when they’re determining if you’re an arbitrager or not (bolding added by moi):
As of today, those guidelines state:
Google AdWords doesn’t allow the promotion of websites that are designed for the sole or primary purpose of showing ads. This practice of promoting sites where the main purpose is to get users to click on ads is called arbitrage.
OK, so as long as I really, super-duper promise that the purpose of my landing page is NOT to have a user click Adsense ads, it’s game on…
To illustrate how Google decides whether a site’s “sole or primary purpose” is to show other ads, they’ve provided some handy examples of ‘what’s acceptable':
Here’s the example they show of an “OK” use of Adsense on an Adwords lander:
Now, here’s the example they give of a page where “the primary purpose of the page is to show ads”:
OK, so it seems the biggest determining factor here is the placement of the GIANT Adsense block, here it’s in the highest-CTR area, the Top-Left. Got it.
Work That Adsense Feed
This is why today my interest was piqued by an Adwords search ad from a site that is typically a ‘publisher’ site, not an advertiser per se.
Perhaps after Panda, the folks at “unnamed-answersite.com” have determined that arbitraging their Premium Adsense Feed (the one that REALLY makes Google’s ads look like your own site content) is a better business model than chasing the SEO Dragon. After all, if Panda left you with no profitable free traffic, but a highly-coveted Premium Ad Feed from Google, you might as well put that feed to good use.
Here’s the ad in question:
Which goes to this jewel of a landing page (click to enlarge the awesomeness):
As you can see, they have managed to artfully insert their Adsense ads not only in the top-left money spot, but shove their own offering to the sidebar where Google feels their Adsense ads could acceptably go. Well played.
Guidelines Are Changing, Time to Get Over It
In the past I‘ve railed against the crap Google has looked the other way on, but lately I’m becoming a lot more pragmatic. As Aaron has pointed out time and time again, Google has different rules for different players, and Adwords is no different. The double standards are what they are, so if you have the ability (via brand recognition or relationships) to push the envelope on the advertiser guidelines you might as well do it.
The above is a great example of how to do arbitrage effectively in today’s guideline environment, and the risk that imitating them if you’re big enough and getting whacked is pretty low judging by the current state of Adwords policy suspensions (or lack thereof for big accounts). Google is currently much more likely to “work with you” to remove things they may have an issue with in the future than they have been in the past, so you might as well shoot for the stars.
Of course, this model isn’t going to sustainably work for smaller, independent players without brands or businesses that suddenly launch out of nowhere on a mission to arbitrage as many Adwords clicks as they can: They’ll see you coming a mile away if you go from ‘zero to hero’ with a brand new site, but established brands who have Adwords account teams and a long-standing Adwords track record can leverage whatever ROI-maximizing opportunities Google drops in their lap.
It’s good to be the King…