Google, a company that has made a fortune from online advertising, is championing the cause of creating better ads for the web. The internet giant wants to see fewer “annoying” ads on the web, and it’s taking some extreme measures to make that happen.
In line with its continued commitment to making the web a better place for consumers by protecting them from misleading, inappropriate, or harmful ads, Google released its annual ‘Better Ads Report’ for 2016. In 2016, Google took down 1.7 billion ads that violated its advertising policies, more than double the amount of bad ads it took down in 2015.
“A free and open web is a vital resource for people and businesses around the world. And ads play a key role in ensuring you have access to accurate, quality information online. But bad ads can ruin the online experience for everyone. They promote illegal products and unrealistic offers. They can trick people into sharing personal information and infect devices with harmful software. Ultimately, bad ads pose a threat to users, Google’s partners, and the sustainability of the open web itself,” said Scott Spencer, Director of Product Management, Sustainable Ads.
This article will discuss Google’s plans for ridding the web of annoying ads, as well as what you need to know about the recently devised Better Ads Standards. We’ll go over what is considered a “good” ad according to Google, and how to make absolutely sure the ads on your web pages are in compliance with the new set of standards.
Google vs. Annoying Ads
We all know an annoying ad when we see one. There’s ads with auto-playing videos or music, ads that force you to wait a few seconds before getting to the content you want, ads that take over an entire screen, and the list goes on. No one can blame you if those ads get on your nerves. You may even be prompted to install an ad blocker so you never see them again.
Ad blockers hurt publishers who rely on ad revenue to fund their work. Google believes if ads were more useful and engaging, fewer people would resort to installing ad blockers. That’s why it has recently joined an industry group dedicated to improving online ads, called the Coalition for Better Ads. The group devised a set of Better Ads Standards that Google will soon be integrating into its Chrome browser.
Google Will Start Blocking Ads in Chrome
In early 2018, Google will stop showing ads within Chrome that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards. This even includes ads that are owned or served by Google. The company’s reasons for doing this are threefold. First, Google wants to limit the use of third-party ad-blockers. Second, it wants to present users with more engaging ads. Third, Google wants to encourage publishers to use less annoying and intrusive ads.
Blocking ads in Chrome has the potential to hurt revenue for publishers, which sounds contradictory since that’s a problem Google wants to solve. However, that can be easily avoided if publishers comply with the Better Ads Standards. That raises a couple of questions. How do you know if your ads are in compliance? What if you think they’re OK, but Google considers them annoying? Well, let’s take a look at what exactly is laid out in the Better Ads Standards.
Better Ads Standards
Here is the Coalition for Better Ads’ official description of the Better Ads Standards:
“The Coalition’s research identifies the ad experiences that rank lowest across a range of user experience factors, and that is most highly correlated with an increased propensity for consumers to adopt ad blockers. These results define initial Better Ads Standards that identify the ad experiences that fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability.”
Specifically, four types of desktop web ads and eight types of mobile web ads failed to meet the Better Ads Standards. Here is a summary of these types of ad experiences.
- Pop-up ads
- Auto-playing video ads with sound
- Prestitial ads (appear before content is loaded) with countdown
- Large sticky ads (ads that stick to the edge of a page)
- Pop-up ads
- Prestitial ads
- Ad density higher than 30%
- Flashing animated ads
- Auto-playing video ads with sound
- Prestitial ads with countdown
- Full-screen scroll over ads
- Large sticky ads
If you are auditing ads on your web pages, those are the types you should be looking to remove. What if you’re still not exactly sure if your ads are in compliance with the new standards? Don’t worry, Google has you covered.
Ad Experience Report
Google has created a new tool called the Ad Experience Report in order to give publishers a clear look at how the Better Ads Standards apply to their own web pages. The tool provides screenshots and videos of annoying ad experiences on your site so you can easily find and fix the issues. See how it works in the example below:
So you’ve removed the intrusive ads from your site, now what? Google has some recommendations for you. Instead of just telling publishers to remove bad ads, the company has also put together some best practices which provide guidance on what types of ads to use instead.
Recommended Mobile Ads
Instead of using pop-up ads, Google recommends using a simple full-screen inline ad because they take up the same amount of screen space without covering content. Instead of using prestital ads with a countdown, Google recommends using dismissible postitial ads. Those allow users to see the content on the page before the ad shows up.
While those are acceptable alternatives, Google says they should still be used sparingly. Don’t put them on every page. Put them where they make the most sense, and then opt for small ads that stick to the top or bottom of the screen on the rest of your pages. According to Google, those provide the best experiences for consumers.
Recommended Desktop Ads
Instead of using pop-ups or prestitials with countdowns, try using “takeover” ads that border the main content of the entire screen. An easily dismissible prestitial without a countdown is also acceptable. Instead of using large sticky ads on the bottom, opt for a sticky ad on a side rail instead
If you’re a publisher who earns money from online advertising, it’s best to start putting the wheels in motion now to create a better ad experience. Not only will Google appreciate it, it’s likely your visitors will as well. Google will absolutely start blocking ads in Chrome starting in early 2018, a browser which accounts for over 50% of desktop and mobile market share.
You now have all the information, tools, and resources to ensure your site is in compliance with the Better Ads Standards.
Kenneth Sytian is an owner of a Philippines web design company. Kenneth has been designing websites and developing web apps for more than a decade. He is the owner and the driving force behind the company.