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AdSense ‘Force’ Expandable Ad Units on Some Publishers and Exclude Others

Posted By Darren Rowse 5th of March 2009 Adsense 54

Update: I’ve updated this post below with an update from AdSense. Please read it.

AdSense have today announced a new type of ad – Expandable Ad Units.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen these ads being tested on one of my sites (although bizarrely I am not able to use the ads as I’m not located in a country that they are available for – see below) and they are basically an ad that looks like a normal image ad but which expands when a reader interacts with it (by clicking it).

AdSense say that these ads are served on both a CPC (cost per click) or CPM (cost per impression) basis (advertisers choice). If they are CPC you only get paid if people click the ad and visit the advertiser (I have a bit of a problem with this – see below).Expandable_Ad.PNG

Ads will only be available to publishers meeting all of three criteria:

  • If they’re located in North America or Europe, with a website in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish
  • If they’ve added the AdSense code directly into their site’s source code
  • If they’ve enabled image ads

OK – interesting. On one hand I think this is cool, while AdSense don’t say it I suspect these ads could pay more than normal ads. They’re rich media and in general advertisers wanting to use these sorts of technologies are willing to pay a premium and are generally top tier advertisers with recognizable brands and good budgets.

On the other hand a couple of concerns come to mind:

1. Why do AdSense keep offering new things to publishers in certain parts of the world?

Come on AdSense – we’re a global economy. While I’m an Aussie my sites are read by less than 4% Australians. The vast majority of my readers are in North America and the rest are largely European. I’ve ranted on this more times than I can remember. I can understand not wanting to run ads on sites where READERS are not in your target markets, but as a publisher whose blog is read by your target market, hosted by your target market and attracts other direct sponsors from your target market I would have thought you’d love to have these ads on my sites. All this does is drive me to put more and more emphasis on cutting you out of the equation and finding my own sponsors directly – something I’m having more and more success with (thanks to Lenovo this month for their sponsorship of DPS).

2. The ads are more interruptive – but don’t always generate revenue.

Some publishers will be annoyed that these ads are more interruptive than normal image ads. While AdSense say that they’ve got strict guidelines in place around what kinds of ads can be shown – when clicked they will cover parts of the publishers website. More than that, a click on the ad might not generate any revenue if the advertiser is using CPC ads. This means that an advertiser gets the benefit of someone noticing their ad and interacting with it (good for their branding) while the publisher has part of the rest of their site covered over…. and gets nothing for that.

3. Opting out of these ads is not easy.

So what if you don’t want expandable ads on your site?

AdSense makes clear in their announcement that there are ways to stop these ads appearing on your site. They give two methods – neither of which are satisfactory in my mind:

  • You can block advertisers using the Competitive Ad Filter – this means going in an blocking advertisers domains from having their ads appear on your blog. This is only effective if you notice the ads and also means you’re blocking any other ads from that advertiser from appearing on your site.
  • You can use the Ad Review Center – this allows you to log into the back end of your AdSense account and view all ads being targeted to your site. OK, this could work, but last time I checked my Ad Review Center (and I rarely do it because of the number of ads and the slowness of using it) to see what ads were being targeted to DPS I saw literally thousands of ads. AdSense say you can narrow it down by just viewing ‘Rich Media’ ads which is helpful – but I just checked my account and still saw hundreds of such ads on my own account. I don’t know how many were there exactly because I had to close down my browser – something about viewing 100 rich media ads on a page didn’t agree with Firefox on my computer).

OK – so my headline is a little exaggerated, you can opt out of them, but at the very least it is a chore and for some sites that get a lot of ads targeted at them it could be impossible to keep them off their site.

Note: there is a 3rd way of opting out of these ads – disable image ads. Of course this means you only will ever get text ads on your site which means less potential income.

Last Thoughts

IF I was a publisher living in one of the ‘lucky lands’ where these ads are relevant for I’d let them show on my blog. While I have some reservations I think they’re a good idea and don’t think my readers would mind them – however I wouldn’t be happy at virtually being forced to show them or for them bringing value to advertisers brands without compensation.

What do you think of them?

If you have a comment – I’d love to see it below but I’m sure the team at AdSense would love to hear it to – they have comments open on the post on their blog and there’s some good feedback for them already appearing there.

Update: I’ve asked AdSense for comment on this post and they have quickly responded with:

“Google AdSense is really excited to launch our new format of expandable ads, and we’re currently clarifying our statement regarding the eligibility for serving expandable ads based on publisher’s location.”

I’m expecting further comment in the coming hours.

Update 2: OK – AdSense have come back to me with a full response. Looks like they made a mistake in their announcement post. I’ve included their full respond below.


Thanks for your feedback on AdSense’s new format of Expandable Ads. We’re really excited to launch this new format, as it brings variety and choice in our ad products for users, advertisers, and publishers.

We made a mistake in our blog post regarding publisher eligibility for expandable ads, leading readers to believe that only US and European-based publishers could serve them. We’re glad to inform the ProBlogger readership that all publishers can accept expandable ads regardless of location. However only select US advertisers are testing expandable ads at this time. We hope to be able to extend this offering to advertisers located outside the US in the future. This has been updated on our Inside AdSense blog post.

Publishers generate earnings from a CPC-priced expandable ad when a user visits the advertiser’s landing page, rather than when a user clicks to
expand the ad. Advertisers have different goals, and we encourage them to achieve them on the Content Network with options to bid via a CPC or CPM
model for all rich media formats. Publishers benefit from our auction technology that optimises their yield from our wide range of ads. CPC expandable ads still compete with other ads to automatically maximise your return from AdSense.

We’re also constantly working to improve publisher controls, and between the Competitive Filter and the Ad Review Center, publishers have two comprehensive ways of blocking expandable ads. Google has designed this ad format to enhance the user experience with ads. Users are given complete
control over ad expansion – expandable ads are initiated with a click rather than a mouseover, and users can easily close the ad at any time.
Expandable ads do not interfere with the page’s layout, and if publishers have opted into accepting all ad formats, it takes no extra effort to
accept them. It’s an exciting ad product that will bring mutual benefit to publishers, users, and advertisers.


So – the expandable ads will appear on sites owned by publishers from all locations (after the initial test). The CPC issue is still an issue to me but the auction system that Google have in place to decide which ad to show should help to keep ads profitable. If an ad is not converting on a site then it tends not to be shown. I still have some concern with the ways to opt out for those publishers who don’t want them but I guess we have to live with that.

Thanks to the team at AdSense for responding!

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. I’m thinking they are similar to pop ups? Which I despise! I’m not sure. I would have to run into them a few times.

    I agree with the location issue. Doesn’t make any sense. Their loss.

  2. so now websites will be ads parking without no compensation for that… free branding ..that’s a big no …can you imagine a full car video ads and you have no compensation.. I think i will drop adsense after the last check……

  3. While Google is trying its very best to ring in the cash registers, I am not for ads that totally take away attention from the content. And yes, Adsense revenues have been continuously sliding down. And I’m not sure if this new type of ads are going to help.
    I have observed a 60% drop in per click rates. (But then even my currency has fallen 30% against the dollar, so the losses are slightly minimized)

  4. I agree with your comments Darren. The geographic location of your site shouldn’t matter. I also like your comment on the Google blog about being paid if people expand the ad on your page but don’t click through. They’ve still received the message and the advertiser has gained something from that action.
    I don’t think these ads will be an issue for my site for a while yet…

  5. Advertising, love em, hate em. The more intrusive the advertising, the more annoying your website becomes and that reflects back on to you.

    That said, I am still looking for an excuse to put one of these giant earmark adds in the top right corner. They are cool.

  6. Yeah if they are like pop ups, that will stink. I hate pop ups as it only distracts you from the info your reading.

  7. I’m not sure I’d classify them as popups – when people click an ad (or some other element of a site) they’re expecting to see some kind of action.

  8. I think google should at least consider CPM for expansion … otherwise it will be to easy and free for all … Imagine an adverstiser saying more info at … the publisher will lose big time….

  9. Do the ads expand automatically or do I have to click them or mouse over for them to expand?
    I hate ads that expand automatically and cover some part of the text just like I hate those sites where you go and a video or sound starts playing automatically.
    It’s ok to be able to play with the ads ( if that’s your thing ) but it’s not ok to be required to click a “close” spot if you want to read th text bellow the ad.

  10. If you are accepting graphical expanding ads, its time to drop Google in favor of an ad network that pays on CPM. Google rules in search at cpa, not in any other arena (as far as revenue to publishers). Before you let them switch you, take a hard look at shifting away for more revenue, where you also get more control than Google will ever give.

  11. I’m not so sure about these kinds of ads. They seem interruptive and just like you said, the person can view the ad without the publisher even getting paid for it.

    I’ve taken adsense ads completely off my site, with the exception of my rss feeds, since I have enough other ads to display and make money from, but if I hadn’t, I would definitely want an easy way to opt out.

    Adsense may have started using these ads become of complaints from advertisers ads being shown on spam sites where they get lots of clicks but no ROI.

  12. I’m not so sure about these kinds of ads. They seem interruptive and just like you said, the person can view the ad without the publisher even getting paid for it.

    I’ve taken adsense ads completely off my site, with the exception of my rss feeds, since I have enough other ads to display and make money from, but if I hadn’t, I would definitely want an easy way to opt out.

    Adsense may have started using these ads because of complaints from advertisers ads being shown on spam sites where they get lots of clicks but no ROI.

  13. I don’t do image ads, and I’m kind of “insignificant” – not really a high profile site or anything – but I personally don’t like the idea of ads that expand over content – I don’t like seeing expandable stuff over content when I visit other sites. I would imagine readers would get super-dee-duper annoyed by that…. but at least it requires a click to make the ad expand.

    The limited location thing doesn’t seem quite fair – or prudent, really. And the CPC vs. CPM is just… well… ?!! What advertiser would choose CPM?!

  14. What advertiser will pay for CPM if they can choose between the two?

  15. One of the reasons I was considering AdSense on my site was because they *don’t* use these expanding, annoying types of ads. If they’re going to go down the path of taking over a user’s browser space just to make a buck, count me out.

  16. I have two opinions about this kind of ads. I believe that beginners who don’t know what adsense and paid to click ads are like these ads (not all the times) but the advanced users don’t like them 95% of the times (at least I don’t care about these ads anytime).

    My best suggestion is to just leave out these ads and just go with your same old ads.
    Mohammad Afaq
    Free Website Traffic

  17. Glad I didn’t enable image ads like I had been thinking of doing. You’d think they’d give a check box option to opt-out of displaying these ads.

  18. I hate when Adsense discriminates based on where you live. In my case its even worse, most of the ad services are not available to use on a blog thats written in spanish, and even if it is, its not like im gonna get to use them half the time because im in south america, even though at least a third of my visits come from spain….
    Still, in this case Im happy I dont get those expandable ads forced on me….

  19. Is only supported countries that meet those criteria can join this ads type? It is unfair to other publishers :-)

  20. I wonder if the ad servers will be smart enough to only serve these ads to people with broadband connections. Most web sites are too slow to load for me already — I don’t need to see “rich media” ads on top of it.

    As for serving them on my sites, I can’t see a problem if they aren’t too obtrusive. CPC ads have always had the problem of giving free brand recognition so I don’t see that being a serious drawback. It would still be nice to see more CPM though. What would be really nice to see is a blended approach — a base CPM with CPC on top.

  21. Mary,

    As someone who used Google Adwords Placement/Site Targeting in the past, I have to tell you that I prefer CPM. My old CPC ads were never shown, unlike my CPM ads.

    Done right, you pay much less per click than using Adwords for Search.

    Mind you, I’m talking as an advertiser in this case.

    As a site user, I think that image ads slow down websites very badly. More than once, these image ads have prevented a web-page from downloading correctly, forcing me to hit the refresh button. Quite often, I just hit the back button and never visit the site again.

    BTW, the same goes for webmasters using Google Analytics, which is why I use alternatives like Statcounter to track my website performance (even if they are less powerful). But I recently read that it is possible to speed up Google Analytics, although it takes some technical know-how.

  22. Darren,

    I agree that this kind of stinks. Don’t image ads usually pay out less per click anyway, though?

  23. very sad I wanted this in India tooo!!!

  24. Darren, I’m not really understand. Adsense Team stated that this ads only available for U.S. advertiser, so how about us, Adsense publisher? All Adsense publisher can have this ads on our blogs too no matter we’re from any country?


  25. It’s interesting why
    “If they’re located in North America or Europe, with a website in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish”


    if the traffic from xxxx & xxxx …

    after all, It’s no already global just like the old ads format… Just waiting to optimize…

  26. I have seen these type of ads on and inside my yahoo mail box. Its a little bit annoying for me.

    But if can increase my earning, I want it available globaly.

  27. Not too good not too bad, may try it if available for me.

  28. CPC is not good for publishers but CPM scheme seems interesting, Through this ad format advertisers will be more benefited….!!!

  29. That’s real discrimination from Adsense. Or, is it recession calling? Advertisers sticking to tested demographies?

  30. Adsense is very slow nowadays, same goes to CPC. Users seem to avoid clicking ads as they know it will give money to site publisher.

  31. I don’t like CPC! “advertiser gets the benefit of someone noticing their ad and the publisher gets nothing” -_- This is really bad but rules are rules. I have just remembered that Google Adsense is your number 1 income stream Darren. I believe Google will adjust the service for you and for every publisher in the world (I hope so…).

  32. Seems like we have to calm down a bit. I believe you are happy right now with what Arlene from Google Adsense Team said.

    “Thanks for the comments so far. I just wanted to let you know that some of the information around how to display expandable ads was incorrect, and so we’ve just updated the post for accuracy. Expandable ads are available to a limited number of U.S. advertisers, who can then select the sites they’d like to target – so your location as a publisher won’t limit your eligibility. I apologize for the miscommunication — please feel free to continue leaving your feedback about this launch.”-Arlene

  33. Hi Darren, would it be relatively simple to set up a postal address is the US and become a US publisher – Just a thought.

  34. Ok I wouldn’t care if it is click expanded. It is user expected that something happens. If it is mouse over expanded. Those can get annoying real quick. As far as CPM or CPC. Really it wouldn’t matter to me at all. These can be good for a filler when needed when advertising real estate is not used. Such as when and advertising contract expires it automatically fills in until it is sold again. Guess we will have to see.

  35. CPC is not good for publishers but CPM scheme seems interesting,
    If i can become a US publisher, hehe I think i can make more!

  36. Very interesting, they seem quite intrusive however if they only expand when users click them I guess they will be fine. However doesn’t this mean users now have to do two things before we get paid.

    A good idea, not sure if it will work though.

  37. Adsense came as a great revenue generating machine for websites owners but it turned the web into a spamsite, where anything goes for a mighty buck.

  38. its really nice update by Adsense and really nice post @Darren.

  39. I can’t say that I’m a fan of these new ads. They sound like pop-ups to me, except without the added revenue since they only make you money when your reader clicks on them twice.

  40. will this be a failure like the feed ads or the video ads ? i guess it will be .

  41. I’m not quite sure what to think about. On one hand, the ads seem more unique and more likely to draw a click, but on the other hand they seem like they would detract from the user’s site and design.

    Guess that means A B testing! Great….

  42. Thanks, Calvin, for clearing that up for me and giving the publisher’s view on CPM vs CPC! I appreciate it!

  43. I dont like Expandable Ads, they kind of pop over and usually are clicked by mistake, which is not good for the advertiser.

  44. I have seen these ads, or at least something similar. Making the ads expandable does make them seem like “pop-ups” which I think someone else commented on. They are incredibly annoying and I think if a site was using them regularly I would stop going there… so I think an “opt-out” option should be available to these sites.

  45. After reading this post and a lot of the comments…I do agree with what you said Darren, but I wonder if I should even put this type of ad in my blog because I don’t feel like covering my content is a great strategy when readers are wanting to read my posts. It seems more like it can become a distraction more than a benefit to gain revenue. I do use Google Ads, but this new installment by them has me asking questions. I’m probably not going to use it though because there is no compensation for me if readers just expand the ad. If there’s no gain in that, then I don’t see a point in allowing it to cover my content when expanded. That’s just my opinion, but I’m sure those that blog will use it.

  46. I couple site I frequent, use run ads in a similar format & they are quite annoying. Just mousing over them makes them expand, covering content. These adsense ads sound like they are the same.

    All I can say is they better pay well.

  47. Michele says: 03/06/2009 at 11:50 am

    We are still working on getting our website up and running, so I wish I had your problems, but I do agree that where you are located can’t matter, that’s a ridiculous notion. That’s what it’s all about, the internet, world wide exposure. What’s up with this?

  48. I don’t like the idea of an expandable ad which could come up in front of my content and not pay me anything for that! I also don’t like the sound of the op-out process. I know Google must have the technology to make opt-out easier. It sounds like they are caring for the advertiser better than they are for the publisher.

    I already had to drop Chitika ads because there was no way to exclude diet ads from my blog when I write about food. I’d like to see ad servers offering opt-out not just for specific sites but also for specific keywords. I don’t know if I’m fussy, but I don’t want things like diet supplements and ways to lose weight up on my site about sustainability. Those who eat very basic food cooked from scratch are more likely to be put off my blog than they are to click on an ad about a diet.

  49. I believe the Click through Rate to the advertisers page would be much less than the regular ads because of click to expand feature. If cost per click value doesn’t compensate for this,publishers won’t get much out of this ad.

  50. What a nice site, been surfing on it for the whole night and day and i neva got bored for a single minute. Keep up your good work and all of the best in everything you do! :-)

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