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oh the drama

15 Jan 2014

2014-01-15 23:39:14 -0600

So, maybe, just maybe, at this point the drama is resolved. I say that because I can't know for certain.

I got one of the dreaded emails from Google the other day saying that I had 3 business days to resolve changes to one of my sites or to risk not having ads shown on it (the more dreaded email is anything saying that your adsense account has been completely banned).

They'll provide you an example url but leave it unclear as to whether more pages on the site are affected, or possibly even more of your sites are affected.

In my case, it was a layout problem and it's pretty clear that a lot of my content is potentially affected because many of my pages share similar layouts.

And I kinda painted myself into a corner by how I set up the sites. Basically, at this moment in time, if I want to roll the change out to all affected sites, I have to do each one by hand. Not good.

If you read my recent entries about building a multilingual site and taking the time to make sure it shared one ultimate codebase... well, that was basically in direct response to not wanting to paint myself into the same nightmarish corner as I did with this project.

So to describe my adsense problem, apparently my layout encourages accidental clicks. I can see how. I had to make tradeoffs in design between allowing enough whitespace between the ads and the content without having so much as to shrink the content (the content size is dynamic but the ad size is not). And I apparently went a little overboard in how close it ended up being.

Combine that with the fact that a lot of the users on this site are on touch devices and I guess you've got a recipe for disaster (or a recipe for accidental clicks anyway).

What sucks is that there doesn't appear to be official guidelines about how close ads can be to content. On a random adsense blog post, they recommended 150 pixels, but if I remember correctly, that was what they were advising for flash gaming sites. I think the point with those was that, with flash games, you have an unnaturally large amount of clicks happening within a given area, leading to the potential for far more accidental clicks if you happen to position the ad block too close. I know that, for non Flash sites, I see ads way closer than 150 pixels all of the time.

Frankly, in my case 150 pixels would be really hard to pull off. I would probably instead have to look into serving smaller ad blocks. The thing that worries me about that is that apparently the smaller ad sizes don't have as much "inventory" as the size I'm currently using, so if I use smaller ads, there may not be as many advertisers or maybe even there would be times when there were no ads to show.

So at this point, I've tweaked the ad spacing on the page that adsense specifically mentioned. Which leads to the obvious question: what if other sites are affected? Do I get 3 business days to resolve those as well? Got me.

As to the spacing, I added what I thought would be enough to give a comfortable distance between the ads and content, especially on my ipad.

Here's another confusing bit. Per the initial email, if I make changes to my site, I don't need to contact them. But on the adsense dashboard, you can mark the issue resolved. And when you do that, you have to fill out a mini form that asks what you did.

So what's the deal? Am I supposed to contact them or not?

And will I actually hear back from them or will I forever feel like I am in limbo?

The whole thing is just a little too vague. And is yet another reason why it's good to not have all your eggs in one basket.

On the plus side, unlike getting your account banned where you apparently get one chance for appeal and that's it, it sounds like they'll give you a chance to fix things like the layout issue. Meanwhile, of course, your ads will be disabled. But supposedly only to that site.

What's funny is that I had just recently become comfortable with the idea that, yes, google is going to continue to pay me every month. Now I can say for certain that I'm going to be a little on edge as to whether December's payment is going to show up.

Again, one should never place so many eggs in one basket.

Which makes me realize that I have no idea where that phrase comes from. Was the egg carrier mugged? Did the basket break? I have to know man.