Putting up images beside AdSense ads has always been a sensitive issue. For one, Google maintains that its AdSense terms of service is clear on using deceptive tactics that can lead users to click your ads. However, people have found ways to mitigate these, and their methods are still considered within the AdSense ToS. In fact, we earlier featured the AdSense beautifier WordPress plugin that lets bloggers easily add images alongside their Google ads, and the creator claims that this is 100% still within the AdSense ToS.
The beautifier plugin is a good way to add images automatically beside your AdSense ads, and attract readers into looking at your ad links. The creator says it’s legal because the plugin ads a dotted line between the images and the ads. However, Google has recently made a firmer stand on putting images beside ads on the Google AdSense blog.
We ask that publishers not line up images and ads in a way that suggests a relationship between the images and the ads. If your visitors believe that the images and the ads are directly associated, or that the advertiser is offering the exact item found in the neighboring image, they may click the ad expecting to find something that isn’t actually being offered. That’s not a good experience for users or advertisers.
Publishers should also be careful to avoid similar implementations that people could find misleading. For instance, if your site contains a directory of Flash games, you should not format the ads to mimic the game descriptions.
There is still a debate on how exactly you would avoid getting suspended from AdSense. Some would say that using images alongside ads is altogether prohibited. Some would say that placing a box around your ads is good enough.
Others, meanwhile, will tell you that what’s prohibited is over-optimizing your images such that they already represent the context of your text ads (e.g., if your site is about fruits, and most of your AdSense ads are about fruits, you put up images of fruits alongside the ads; see image below, which was used by Inside AdSense as an example).
So if we were to take the third opinion, you can still put up images alongside AdSense as long as these are not too closely related to the ads. Google, itself does not explicitly say you cannot insert images, but only says that associated images should not be used.
No. If the ads and the images appear to be associated, inserting a small space or a line between the images and ads will not make the implementation compliant.
So, the advice is that the images should not be misleading or confusing.
You can definitely place Google ads on pages containing images — just make sure that the ads and images are not arranged in a way that could easily mislead or confuse your visitors. For example, if you run a stock photography site with a catalog of thumbnail images, don’t line the ads up with the thumbnails in a way that could be misleading. Consider using a full border around your ads or changing your ad colors, for example.
Still, I would say this is open for interpretation. If you suddenly get suspended from AdSense, I think you had better review whether your image placement and context are still compliant to Google’s policy.