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Is it against the Google AdSense terms of use to direct users to click on the ads? I mean I'm not gonna put a big flashing arrow or anything but what about "check out our sponsors" or something subtle like that?

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Depends entirely on your content. From the Terms:

Encouraging users to click your Google ads is strictly prohibited - whether directly or indirectly, on your own site, on third-party sites or via email.

In order to ensure a good experience for users and advertisers, publishers participating in the AdSense programme may not:

... Encourage users to click the Google ads using phrases such as "click the ads", "support us", "visit these links" or other similar language.

http://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?hl=en-GB&answer=48182

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  • Can you clarify? You said it depends, but the passage you quoted made it sound like a definite no. – I wrestled a bear once. Apr 20 '13 at 14:11
  • Sorry, I slightly mis-interpreted your question. No you can't direct users to click in any way. You would be able to say something simple like "Our sponsors" I believe. – Hates_ Apr 20 '13 at 15:59

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