When getting started with AdSense you need to accept the AdSense Program Policies. But who is reading policies these days? However, in terms of AdSense, knowing one or the other policy makes a lot of (Ad)sense and can prevent you from losing your earnings. I did dive into the rules and picked out the most unexpected AdSense policies that you would never have expected.

Don’t click

Never, ever click on ads on your own projects. Don’t argue about not being logged in or using another device. Don’t stretch your luck on this one.

Also don’t encourage visitors to click on an ad – e.g. by saying “Please support my website by clicking on the ad”. Sometimes people tell me that they visited my site and clicked on an ad to do me a favor – they know right away from my face that this wasn’t a favor at all.

Anyway, don’t start to panick in case this happened. Normally, this would just decrease your AdSense payment by the price of one click.

Encouraging also means to display an ad in a way that visitors are forced to click on it, to make it look like it is part of the editorial content or make it block other content.

Don’t LINK to prohibited content

You are not allowed to display ads on pages with specific content, like pornography, illegal material or software, selling weapons, drugs, alcohol, or tabacco or content that violated any (local) law – like gambling in some countries. AdSense considers itself “family-safe” so no surprise here.

What you probably didn’t know is that you are not even allowed to link to such pages. I am not sure how strong AdSense is checking this one and don’t know any story where a publisher received a warning because of a link to a gun shop, but based on this AdSense policy it is possible. Did this happen to you? Please leave me a comment.

Btw, I not only read every comment (and try to answer it), but also roughly check every url, if given by the commenter. It happened that I removed the website or even the comment in case the link was “illegal” in terms of AdSense. I am not using AdSense on this website now, but who knows…

Real story:

We received a warning to remove ads from a site that had the word “fuck” within the url, e.g. example.com/fuck. However, this url was a dictionary. Removing ads from an automatically created page and “similar content” is a pain, but in this case there was no reason that the content of the site was obviously bad. However, there is no open channel in case you don’t agree with the warning, so we obeyed.

There are only 37 languages

Who of you knows 37 languages? I don’t, but to someone from Europe who likes to travel 37 languages don’t seem so much compared to plenty of thousand know languages. Hindi for example was only recently added dispite the fact that India is a huge and very fast growing market in the online world.

Most of the AdSense-languages are from Europe. Only Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese are not. True enough, the American market (North and South) is completely covered and most area of Asia too, but Africa is left out.

Good SEO = Good for AdSense

In order to enter AdSense, your site must bring some value to the visitors. A few years ago, every publisher was able to open an AdSense account and get started right away. Now, AdSense reviews at least your initial website before you can get started. One aspect of this review is following the Webmaster quality guidelines. The most important principle to find in them is the one of value for the user.

A good example of not bringing value are short affiliate pages that just include a description of a product and the affiliate link. You are safe if your content is unique and you created something new – not just a new collection, but a collection with meaning, e.g. reviews.

There is another way on how to read the quality guidelines. If you built a website that is doing great with onpage SEO it will probably also comply with the AdSense program policies.

It matters how your visitors find you

Not only your content matters, but also how visitors find your site. In a nutshell, users should not be redirected to your site from somewhere else without knowing it, be paid to visit your website or find the link in an unwanted email.

You can use an ad network like AdWords where you pay for banners that lead visitors to your site. In this case the content of the ad and the content of the page must match each other – e.g. don’t promise free cookies in an ad that leads to a page that doesn’t offer free cookies.

Don’t manipulate the ad code, unless…

You should always display ads in a way that they don’t cover other content of your site or even hide ads completely (= load the code, but there is nothing to see).

To ensure that the ad can “read” your content it is not allowed to include it in an iFrame or even to stuff your content with keywords to attract ads of a specific content.

The worse of the manipulation rules is the one about floating ads. I described the potential of sticky ads in another article, however, AdSense made it very clear now that it is not allowed to build ads that float or slide over the content. With the announced anchor ads I am hopeful that a lot of people can make use of this without breaking the program policies of AdSense in the future.

However, one of the few things you can change about the AdSense code is to remove the comment containing the title. I sometimes name my ads in a way that says more than the code (e.g. a target group or channel) and sometimes don’t want others to be able to see this.

No pop-ups, no emails

Even though talking about the AdSense program policies sounds like I refer to just one document, there are in fact multiple guides and policies combined. One part of them are the ad placement policies. They determine how and where you can place an ad. Some points were already mentioned above, others are a gold mine for a follow up article.

However, what is very important here is that you are not allowed to place ads in pop-ups, pop-unders, emails or software. For the last one there is an exception for AdMob, an AdSense service for mobile apps.

If you like the good performance of pop-ups and pop-unders you should read this test, but find an ad network that supports them. There are also ad networks that monetize emails.

You have to change your privacy policy

Privacy what? Never heared about it? You should definitely have one. And if you do, you also need to make people aware of the cookie (the “DoubleClick cookie”) that is placed by AdSense on their device. You find more about it here.

Use up to 8 ads per page

Many of you probably already heard about that you can only display 3 banners per page. This is a very simplified version of the full truth.

In fact, for content ads (e.g. banners) you can use up to 3 ad units, but only one large ad unit (e.g. billboard, large Skyscraper, …).

There is also a limit on link units (max. 3) and AdSense search (max. 2). Those combined make up to 8 ad units per page. However, you are only allowed to display one link unit and one content ad unit on search result pages.

What happens if you don’t comply with an AdSense policy?

If you don’t comply with the AdSense policies, AdSense might stop serving ads or even cancel your account. However, as far as I experienced, AdSense cancelling accounts without warning is a myth to me. Sites I know always got a fair warning and a chance to fix issues (within 3 days) before some other action was taken.

I never ever saw an account I managed or had access to being cancelled for good.

You can find the AdSense program policies here. From this page you reach about 3-5 other pages you need to understand in order to get the whole picture about the policies. I am going to cover some of them in the future, so you might want to get the newsletter to not miss on the updates.

Surprised or not? Which of the policies I mentioned were new to you? What would you like to learn more about?

The Author


  1. Tina

    Thank you for the article! It has helped me a lot!

    What do you mean by the following?

    “Also don’t encourage visitors to click on an ad – e.g. by saying “Please support my website by clicking on the ad”. Sometimes people tell me that they visited my site and clicked on an ad to do me a favor – they know right away from my face that this wasn’t a favor at all.”

    Is it because those people share the same IP address as you? Also, let’s say if I move to a different country and my family and friends from my previous hometown check out my website and an ad catches their eye and they click on it; will adsense still detect it as an “encouraged device” or idk, sharing the same IP address – I’m not sure if I was able to make my point clear, but I hope you understood what I’m asking.

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Thank you for your interesting question. I think there is no harm done when people you know click on an ad on your site because they are really interested in it. Since I am working with ads a lot, it happens from time to time that I click on an ad by accident while being logged into my AdSense account, so AdSense definitely knows I did it. Still, they are probably able to distinct between occasional and regular violations.

    1. Thomas Maier Article Author

      Thank you for your comment. Indeed, the Matched Content ad type can be used in addition to the normal content ad units. Delivering more AdSense ads through DFP is another thing. It was possible before that when using AdSense as a fallback in DoubleClick, having more than 3 ad units was possible. However, you should also consider that pages with 11 ads either have an technical error that AdSense tolerates or they have special agreements. This should not be interpreted as ok for every publisher.