Interrupting Your Prospects Just Got A Little Bit Harder
On February 15, digital marketing (and specifically digital advertising) got a little more challenging when Google Chrome started automatically blocking pop-up ads that are considered irritating and intrusive.
Why would they do that? Google, along with Facebook and Microsoft, is a member of the Coalition for Better Ads, which has created the Better Ads Standards and aims to improve the internet experience for users.
Research indicates that users are not annoyed by all ad experiences but rather by those that have certain attributes. For example, ad experiences that interrupt, distract or prevent user control were found to be annoying, while ads that seamlessly coexist with content were strongly preferred. See the list of ad experiences identified by Google’s Ad Experience Report.
Why Is Google Doing This?
The Ad Experience Report lists ad experiences on your site that are identified as violating the Better Ads Standards, a set of ad experiences that the Coalition for Better Ads has determined to be highly annoying to users.
By fixing these ad experiences, you’ll increase your visitors’ enjoyment of your site, their ability to find information on your site, the time they spend on your site, the number of pages they view and the likelihood they’ll return. Every time you improve the visitor experience on your site, you check a lot of boxes that help you rank, convert, drive leads and gain new customers.
What Types Of Digital Ads Are Getting Blocked?
The Better Ads Standards focuses on 11 types of ads that users find annoying, such as flashing ads, ads that play sound and full-screen ads with timers that won’t let users close the ad until the timer has counted down. Below is a list of the types of ads to be concerned about (four are included in the desktop experience category and seven are included in the mobile experience category). Here is how Google defines each type of ad:
Pop-up ads: Pop-up ads are a type of interstitial ads that do exactly what they say — pop up and block the main content of the page. They appear after content on the page begins to load. Pop-up ads come in many varieties — they can take up part of the screen or the entire screen.
Auto-play video ads with sound: Auto-playing video ads with sound automatically play with sound, without any user interaction. The Better Ads Standard does not include video ads that appear before (“pre-roll”) or during (“mid-roll”) video content that is relevant to the content of the page itself, nor ads that require clicks to activate sound.
Prestitial countdown ads: Prestitial “countdown” ads appear before the content of the page has loaded, forcing the user to wait a number of seconds before they can dismiss the ad, or the ad closes on its own. In desktop environments, prestitial ads that can be dismissed immediately are not included in the Better Ads Standard.
Large sticky ads: Large sticky ads stick to the bottom of a page, regardless of a user’s efforts to scroll. As the user browses the page, this static, immobile sticky ad takes up more than 30% of the screen’s real estate.
Pop-up and prestitial ads: Pop-up ads appear on top of the main page after it has loaded and block the viewing of content. Prestitial ads appear before the content of the page has loaded, can vary in size from full screen to part of the screen and prevent users from getting to the main content. Neither pop-ups nor prestitial ads are locked to be flush with any side of the screen.
Ad density higher than 30%: When ads on a mobile page take up more than 30% of the vertical height of the main content portion of the page, the result is a disruptive ad experience, regardless of whether these ads are text, video or static images. This includes “sticky” ads and inline ads.
Flashing animated ads: Flashing animated ads animate and “flash” with rapidly changing background and colors. The Better Ads Standard does not include animations that do not “flash.”
Auto-playing video ads with sound: [These ads] automatically play sound, without any user interaction.
Postitial ads with countdowns: Postitial ads with countdown timers appear after the user follows a link. These ads force the user to wait a number of seconds before they can dismiss the ad, or wait for the ad to close or redirect them to another page. Postitial ads with countdowns that can be dismissed immediately are not included in the Better Ads Standard.
Full-screen rollover ads: Full-screen rollover ads force a user to scroll through an ad at a different rate than the underlying content. Such ads take up more than 30% of the page and float on top of the page’s main content, obstructing it from view.
Large sticky ads: Large sticky ads stick to a side of a mobile page, regardless of a user’s efforts to scroll. As the user browses the page, this static, immobile sticky ad takes up more than 30% of the screen’s real estate.
Is This Going To Affect Any Of Your Ads?
An “ad” is promotional content displayed on a website as the result of a commercial transaction with a third party. Based on this, pop-ups that include a form field to subscribe to the blog or download an offer should be fine, as they do not include a transaction with a third party.
To know for sure, Google Search Console will crawl a few pages of a website (both desktop and mobile versions). The website will be listed as passing, warning or failing under both desktop and mobile in the Ad Experience Report. Since ads may be considered more irritating on mobile than they are on desktop, it’s possible a website might be listed as passing on desktop but failing on mobile.
Once you know you have ad issues, you have 30 days to fix those issues before having to worry about blocking. If the issues with the pop-ups have not been fixed in 30 days, Chrome will start blocking the pop-ups on that website. Once Chrome starts blocking the pop-ups on the website, Chrome will provide the user with its own pop-up message, allowing the user to choose whether or not they would like to see ads on that website.
If you do get blocked and then fix the offending ads, you can submit the website for another review. It is possible that Google may find more issues during the second review, because they will crawl pages that haven’t been reviewed yet. Also note that Google will crawl the entire domain, not just one specific subdomain.
You can request a website review twice without delay. If your site is still listed as failing, you will need to wait 30 days for a third review. You can read more about the review process here. The timing of the review process is important to note, because pop-ups could be blocked while you are waiting for the site to be reviewed.
Generally, our guidance to clients is to not do anything that negatively impacts a visitor’s experience on your site. The ad types identified by Google are considered interruptive by most of the people surveyed. In short, the ads in question are not borderline, meaning they’re not simple pop-up forms designed to convert visitors into leads. They are offensive and overly intrusive ad concepts.
Most people practicing good design, solid UI/UX practices and pragmatic user experience mapping shouldn’t have any issues with the new Google ad-blocking regulation. However, I would recommend you get your site reviewed just to be sure. We’ve already looked at most of our client sites, and we know they won’t have an issue. You should know for sure.
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