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If you own a smartphone, chances are you know the frustration of accidentally tapping on an ad you had no interest in when you were trying to scroll down a page. These accidental taps aren’t just annoying to users, either. Advertisers hate these mobile clicks because they wind up paying for clicks from users who had no intention of converting.

Now, Google is stepping in to improve their mobile ad performance and user experience by altering how their ads operate on mobile devices.

Of course, Google has been trying to fight back against accidental mobile clicks for a considerable time now, but its recent announcement extends their initiative to its native ad formats. Before, their efforts were limited to just search and display ads. The search giant says they are stepping up their efforts because accidental clicks and taps are bad for everyone. Beyond simply being an inconvenience for advertisers and users, Google says accidental taps also drive down the value of ads.

“When we look at the effect for advertisers in mobile apps, we observe double the value per click,” Google said in a blog post. “We work hard to ensure that the clicks advertisers are charged for are more meaningful, and we hope sharing insight on these protections helps raise awareness and guide the wider advertising ecosystem.”

The changes being rolled out to native ads prevents accidental clicks in a few ways. First, Google ignores any clicks that are unusually fast, comparing itself to a professional baseball player having 680 milliseconds to tell whether they should swing at a pitch.

“That’s fast, even for a professional who’s paying close attention to hitting the ball,” Google said. “We think it’s virtually impossible for someone to read, understand, and take action on an ad in that amount of time.”

Additionally, Google says it will ignore when a user likely accidentally taps on an ad by excluding clicks on the edge of an ad. According to the search engine, clicks on the middle of an ad are associated with “dramatically higher” conservation rates and show much higher intentionality than those on the edge of ads.

googladextensions

In the past, Google AdWords used a complex and confusing algorithm for deciding when to display ad extensions. Recently, the company changed this by introducing a new policy which adjusts the impact of ad formats in the ad rank formula and allows AdWords to provide an estimate of how visible an ad would be on search engine results pages (SERPs).

As of now, an ad’s visibility will depend on ad position and ad formats, meaning ads with higher positions in the SERPs will display more ad extensions than ads in lower positions. This is a shift away from past systems which allowed lower ranked ads to show more ad formats than those above them.

The term ‘ad formats’ refers specifically to visual extensions that appear on ads in search results that display extra information about a business, including phone numbers, addresses, consumer ratings, and more.

In a way, this change ads even more incentive for businesses to make sure they get the top rankings in search results pages, as they will be rewarded by having it be more likely their ad extensions are shown along with their ad. Those who are able to score the top spots will certainly be happy with the change, though, as it means they are less likely to be outshined by a lower ad on the page.

AdWords In Store Visits

When Google recently removed all text ads from the right rail of search engine results pages (SERPs), it caused quite a stir among both advertisers and webmasters who rely on organic traffic for their business. The change in design and the number of ads on SERPs pushes even more organic results below the fold and makes the competition even fiercer for both top ad spots and top organic listings.

Google has been overall fairly tight-lipped about the changes, only confirming that it has occurred and implying the change was largely aimed at bringing the desktop search experience more in line with the mobile search experience.

While it’s not an official statement, Google employee Matt Lawson recently went into depth on why Google decided to cut text ads from the right side of search results and how it could affect your pages and advertising account.

It largely confirms what was already suspected: Right side ads performed poorly and they wanted to bring mobile and desktop search closer together. However, Lawson provides data to show exactly how they expect the change to affect advertisers and steps you can take right not to mitigate any changes in your CPCs and ad performance.

Read what Lawson had to say about the change in his column for Search Engine Land.

Google Logo

Google has officially confirmed the end of ads in the right hand column of its search pages, except for two notable exceptions.

As of February 19th, Google is phasing out ads on the right side of its desktop search results. Instead, all ads will appear at the top or bottom of the results, though Google may include an additional ad above results for “high commercial queries.”

The change will effect users worldwide, in all languages. Google is also saying the change is motivated by a push to bring desktop results closer to the mobile experience, however rumors suggest the low click-through rate (CTR) of right side ads may also be a factor.

There are also two specific exceptions to the change. No ads will appear on the right side of desktop search results except in two cases:

  • Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes will still show either above or to the right of search results
  • Ads can still appear in the Knowledge Panel

Overall, most users probably won’t notice the difference in search results. However, businesses competing for the already limited organic space on the front page of search results may find the change makes the competition even fiercer.

The decreasing front page real estate means an even higher focus on SEO for businesses seeking high ranking organic listings.

The rollout for the change should be complete today.

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Adobe Flash is all but dead and Google is putting the final nails in the coffin by dropping support for Flash-based ads in favor of ads coded in HTML5. This isn’t happening immediately, but Google announced its intention to move to HTML5 by January 2017 in order to give advertisers time to transition.

As part of this transition away from these ads, Google will no longer allow Flash formatted ads to be uploaded to the Google Display Network starting June 30th of this year. Up until then, you can still upload any Flash-based display ads you’ve been working on and they will continue to run until January.

Google notes that you should update your display ads before either of these dates for best performance, and that video ads built in Flash will not be impacted by the change.

The death of Flash is likely to be dragged out for quite some time, but this is a big loss for Adobe’s format. Adobe’s player only accounts for 5% of mobile and web video seen last year, but it has still been a major part of major online ad networks. If these ad networks no longer accept Flash, then Flash loses its one last thing keeping it relevant.

Source: Robert Scoble / Flickr

Source: Robert Scoble / Flickr

Google has released its annual “bad ads” report, though they’ve changed the name a bit. Every year Google uses its bad ads report to highlight the efforts they are taking to rid AdWords of scammers, malware, and fraudulent ads. This year, they covered pretty much the same areas but chose to focus on the positive, calling its annual report the “Better Ads Report.”

This year’s report says the search giant disabled over 780 million ads last year for policy violations, up from 524 million ads disabled in 2014, and 350 million ads disabled in 2013.

Google describes “bad ads” as advertisements carrying malware, blocking the visibility of content, promoting fake or illegal goods, or leading to phishing scams. The company used a team of over 1,000 people around to world to constantly fight back against these ads. The majority of the time they are able to block the ads before they are ever seen by regular users.

Google also went in to detail, showing the most common bad ads they encountered in 2015:

  • Counterfeiters: Over 10,000 sites and 18000 accounts were suspended for attempting to sell counterfeit goods (imitation designer watchers for example).
  • Pharmaceuticals: Over 12.5 million ads were blocked for violating Google’s healthcare and medicines policy, such as advertising pharmaceuticals that have not been approved for use or ads that made misleading claims about the effectiveness of prescription drugs.
  • Weight loss scams: Over 30,000 sites were suspended for making weight loss promises that were dishonest and typically impossible to achieve.
  • Phishing: Over 7,000 sites were blocked for attempting to steal user information, aka phishing.
  • Unwanted software: More than 10,000 sites were disabled for forcing unwanted software and unapproved downloads via Google ads.
  • Trick-to-click: Over 17 million ads were rejected for attempting to mislead users to click an ad that would redirect them to unrelated pages.
  • Bad apps:  Google also blocked over 25,000 mobile aps from displaying Google ads due to breaking policies. Approximately 1.4 million apps were rejected from ever being able to display Google ads in the future.

Looking forward, Google says it is going to start cracking down on ads that may lead to accidental clicks. It also says it has developed technology capable of determining when mobile ad clicks are accidental, and will be able to prevent users from being taken to ad sites they didn’t intent to visit.

Google also plans to bolster efforts to cut down on weight loss ads in 2016 by adding additional restrictions on what advertisers can say is effective for weight loss.

View the full report here.

google-display-network

This week, Google announced it would make a big change to ensure advertisers are only charged for display ads that are viewed.

During a keynote discussion at SMX East in New York, Brad Bender, vice president of product management of the Google Display Network said: “I’m pleased to announce that GDN is moving to 100% viewable. We’re going to migrate all of the CPMs in the system to viewable CPMs. All advertisers will be able to see viewable metrics so they can make better decisions.”

Bender told the audience the change will be rolled out to GDN users in the upcoming weeks. The change is likely to be received warmly by advertisers as there has been some concern over statistics (provided by Google) claiming 56 percent of online display ads never have the chance to be seen.

These ads are often not seen due to being low on the page or on a non-activated tab.

According to Marketing Land, Bender said Google has been working on the viewability issue and did not charge advertisers last year for over 70 billion impressions that went unseen.

For more on the change, read Google’s announcement on the Inside Adwords blog.

 non-clickable-areas-google-display-ads-800x513

Tell me if this has ever happened to you. As you’re browsing a website, your thumb accidentally hits an ad as you try to scroll past it, launching a new page. You close it out, and try to scroll down again only to accidentally tap the ad on the page yet again, leaving you in a loop of trying to close the page and move past it but repeatedly wind up tapping an ill-placed ad that you have no interest in.

Not only is this scenario a bad experience for the user, but it is also a nightmare for advertisers who are wasting money on valueless clicks.

This has been a growing issue for the online advertising industry as mobile browsing increases, but sites have struggled to optimize their sites (and their advertising) for mobile viewers and errant taps. Now, Google is finally making changes to hopefully solve the so-called “fat finger” ad clicks problem.

  1. First, taps close to the edge of an image ad won’t be considered clicks. Google says it has identified the border area particularly prone to accidental clicks during scrolling.
  2. Second, for in-app install ads interstitial ads like the one on the right above users won’t be able to click on the app icon because the close button is overlayed on that image. Users will need to click the call-to-action button.
  3. Finally, ads will only become clickable after they’ve been onscreen for “a short period of time”. How long that period actually is isn’t clear, but Google says the delay is to give users “enough time to examine the content of an ad”.

While most of these changes are relatively common sense (why on earth was the app icon ever considered a click?), but they are still welcomed by the advertising community who have been complaining about “fat fingers” since display ads came to mobile.

Online ads on Google’s AdWords network are a great way to reach a larger audience interested in your services, but breaking the rules can have harsh consequences. Google removed over 524 million “bad ads” from its ad network last year, and 214,000 of those advertisers are entirely banned from the service due to their bad behavior according to a recent announcement from Google.

“While this represents a tiny fraction of the total ads on our platform — the vast majority of advertisers follow our policies and act responsibly — we continue to remain vigilant to protect users against bad advertising practices,” Vikaram Gupta, director of ads engineering at Google, wrote Tuesday in the post.

The latest data shows several improvements from past years, such as a distinct drop in banned advertises for promoting counterfeit goods, but Google says it is a “constantly evolving fight” and the war against bad ads is far from over.

The announcement highlighted several of the “bad ads” trends that dominated 2014, including more than 43 million ads trying to trick users into clicking, over 4.3 million ads containing copyright infringement issues, and over 9.6 million ads containing healthcare-related violations.

The following infographic breaks down Google’s efforts to weed out bad advertising last year:

Google_BadAds_Infographic_Feb02-Final

According to an announcement from Google late last week, you can now opt out of five new ad format options when creating AdSense ads.

Their announcement said:

“These enhancements are designed to improve the performance of your ads, but we know that sometimes you may prefer not to include them. Based on your requests for more control over the ways ads are served on your site, we’re happy to let you know that you can opt out of the following advanced ad format features[…]”

  • Similar Sized Display Ads – This feature shows smaller ads that are performing highly in larger ad units
  • Enhanced Text Ads – Displays text ads with performance enhancing features such as product ads or clickable arrow icons.
  • Expandable Ads – Displaying rich media ads that can expand beyond the original ad size after a user-initiated action.
  • Enhanced Display Ads – Shows display ads with performance-enhancing features such as mouseover highlights.
  • Animated Display Ads – This feature allows you to display non-static ads that were created using Flash or animated Gif formats.

AdSense obviously isn’t rolling back these new features, but simply trying to give publishers more control over their ads. More control is never a bad thing, right?