How you'll know if your site fails the Better Ads Standards and what to do next

  • 4 min to read

On February 15th, 2018, Google's web browser, Chrome, will start blocking all ads on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards.

According to our data for all BLOX CMS hosted sites, Chrome accounts for over 30 percent of monthly traffic—topping the list of the ten most popular browsers. While Chrome is the first browser to enact these policies, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer are expected to rollout similar standards in the coming months. Suddenly a 30 percent potential loss has now grown to an 84 percent risk.

The Better Ads Standards (BAS) are based on research from the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA). Founded in 2016 in response to the popularity of ad blockers, the CBA is made up of publishers, advertisers, ad agencies and trade associations. The goal of the CBA is to develop standards for online advertising while combating the increasing frustration readers encounter when browsing a site. Based on their research, the CBA compiled both desktop and mobile web ad standards for sites.

How will you know if your site failed?

Google will require sites to adhere to the new standards in order to maintain advertising revenue from users browsing on Chrome. Occasionally, Google will review pages on your site and report any violations they encounter.

One of five results will be reported in your Google Search Console:

  1. Not reviewed: Your site hasn’t yet been looked at
  2. Passing: No violations
  3. Warning: Some violations detected
  4. Failing: Many violations detected; if not fixed after 30 days, all ads will be filtered
  5. Review pending: If requested, a new review is in queue  

Several BLOX CMS sites have already received these notices—via an Ad Experience Report—requesting they update their site within 30 days or ads will be removed. Ad Experience Reports also include video evidence of any problems encountered during the review.

If you receive a notice and fail to fix the problematic areas, Google will shut down all of your ads. Curious what that might look like? Visit Google's Testing Chrome Ad Filtering page for simple instructions.

Note: Any piece of content on a site that is paid for is subject to the BAS. This may include sponsored or native articles, sponsored weather widgets, or even sponsored newsletter signups. Even ads from BLOX Ad Manager will be detected and removed from your site.

What ads are considered violations?

In general, we strongly recommend taking alternative action if you site is currently doing any of the following:

Ad density graphic
  • Pop-up ads are interstitial ads that appear after a page loads and block the main content of the page. Newsletter pop-up blocks are not considered a violation. However, if your newsletter block contains a sponsor it would be considered noncompliant. (Desktop and Mobile)

    Ads appearing in interactive content (videos or games) and exit pop-ups, due to lack of engagement, do not currently fall into the purview of the BAS but it is anticipated these two experiences will also be in violation in the future.

  • Auto-play videos with sound are any automatically loaded video that play sound without user interaction. (Desktop and Mobile)
  • Prestitial ads with countdown are ads that appear before the page has loaded and require a user wait a number of seconds before the ad can be dismissed. (Desktop and Mobile)

    Forbes is known for their prestitial countdown but is not in violation because their readers have the option to skip to the content.
  • Large "sticky" ads are static ads that absorb more than 30 percent of the screen's real estate and follow the reader as they scroll down a page. (Desktop and Mobile)

  • Prestitial ads appear before the page loads preventing a user access to the desired content. Sizes vary from full-screen to partial-screen. (Mobile)

  • Flashing animated ads are ads that give off a strobe effect where the backgrounds and colors are rapidly changing. (Mobile)

  • Full-screen scrollover ads appear on top of content and force a user to scroll to the top of the page to dismiss. These "flying carpet" ads obscure the content and are found to confuse readers. (Mobile)

  • Ad density higher than 30 percent is a mobile only standard that requires a bit more explanation. For single-column viewports (mobile), ads cannot consist of more than 30 percent of the total vertical height for the "main content."

    Main content in this case refers to the particular story or article a reader is currently viewing. The article begins at the top of the page and ends once the story has completed.

    In the example shown, the total vertical height from the start to end of the main content is 1395px. Ads within the main content cannot exceed 30 percent (or 418.5px) of this page. Since there are two 300x250 ads, this page would be in violation of the BAS.  

    Note: Leaderboard ad positions placed at the top of pages count towards the main content.

What should you do next?

In addition to following the standards outlined above and on the Coalitions for Better Ads site, here are a few items worth noting:

  • The Automatic Ads placements setting available in BLOX CMS ensures ads for a given article are not stacked. The first in-story ad will appear after the first 3 paragraphs and then another ad every X number of paragraphs (where X is a number that can be set by the media organization).

    For shorter articles, this setting will not inject an ad unless the article meets the paragraph requirements explained above. For more detailed instructions, visit our documentation.

  • 300x600 ads on mobile account for the entire viewport. Due to it's invasiveness, it is strongly recommended that this specific size ad is not used on mobile.

Adhering to the Better Ads Standards is possible in BLOX CMS. It does require involvement from your site's Ad Ops team or Advertising Director. Coordinate a self-assessment with your team to better understand the significance Chrome's upcoming update will have on your site.

For more assistance, contact us today.

Phil Pracht is the BLOX revenue product manager at TownNews.

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