There has been a lot of discussion concerning exactly what is acceptable when it comes to placing ads near adsense ads to improve click through rate (CTR). The Adsense team has discouraged this practice in the past, but I don’t think anyone ever took it too seriously, especially since there is even a wordpress plugin that does exactly this.
The Adsense team has just updated the terms of service with a new policy that forbids image integration in any way, and unlike the vague warnings of the past, the new terms are very clear about this tactic, and pretty much forbid any use of images where it appears that the image is somehow related to the adsense ads. They even went as far as saying that it doesn’t matter if there is a border between the image and the ad, images must not be used in a way that ties them to the ads…Period.
Here’s one of the examples they showed. This is NOT Okay to do anymore:
They also gave a general warning about integrating ads so much that they don’t look like ads anymore.
“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.”
I went through yesterday and made changes to several of my ads that were integrated a bit too well. I suggest that you all do the same. Better safe than sorry.
See the full post from the adsense blog.