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

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.

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Comments

  1. ITrush says:

    Another option from the big ‘G’, nice.. so we can test which one really works on our site.

  2. This is bull. So now advertisers get better branding and us the publishers get nothing for that. Not fair at all!

  3. Media Ads says:

    Good information.

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  4. Anna says:

    I understand the point on the CPC ads not paying well. But I also agree that, if it seems to work out in the long run, then there it is. Personally I just have a hard time ever complaining about Google – not that they don’t make mistakes here and there but where would I be without them? I think at least 75% of my passive/recurring income comes from Google Adsense and overall their program really does make it possible for people to get started easily and also win in the long run. Not that every new change or feature or rule is perfect. Its good to see other bloggers’ viewpoints of these things however, because it helps me get a better take on things.