About midway through 2017, Google made an announcement that, come 2018, it's extremely popular web browser, Chrome, would instill stricter ad blocking standards. The announcement raised speculation, as publishers and advertisers were left to wonder exactly what types of ads would be getting blocked on Chrome, and how Google would handle violators.
In December 2017, Google gave "an update on Better Ads," officially confirming that, "Starting on February 15, in line with the Coalition's guidelines, Chrome will remove all ads from sites that have a 'failing' status in the Ad Experience Report for more than 30 days."
Now that these standards are officially in place, however, it's vitally important that all publishers and advertisers are aware of exactly what is being blocked, given the fact that Chrome currently holds more than half of the global web browser market share.
What is the Coalition for Better Ads®?
The Coalition for Better Ads is an alliance of companies and associations that have come together in an effort to give internet users the best possible experience with advertising. The Coalition put the Better Ad Standards in place as a way to clarify how content producers can best interact with viewers and serve them advertising in a way that is not annoying or intrusive.
The Coalition for Better Ads developed the Better Ad Standards based on "comprehensive research involving more than 25,000 consumers," while also citing, "Extensive consumer input and empirical data," as factors in shaping the new standards.
In a broad sense, the Better Ads Standards were put into place to create a more user-friendly online experience, ridding of the most annoying, least preferred ads on both desktop and mobile. But what is it that we, as internet users, prefer the least?
What exactly is Google Chrome blocking?
In total, Google Chrome is blocking 12 different types of ads across desktop and mobile - four types of desktop ads, and eight types of mobile ads.
This one should not come as a surprise to many. Pop up ads have long existed to the disdain of internet users, and when considering ads as "disruptive," nothing is quite as disruptive as an ad that literally just pops-up in front of the content that a web user is trying to enjoy. On the Coalition's website, they state that pop-ups, "are among the most commonly cited annoyances for visitors to a website."
We've all had it happen... You're scrolling through a tremendous article, when suddenly, noise erupts from somewhere unknown. Before you realize that there's an auto-play video ad on the page, you're jolted from concentration and left eagerly searching for the "mute" or "close [X]" buttons.
Video ads that require a click to activate sound did not fall beneath the Better Ads Standard, and are therefore still allowed.
Prestitial countdown ads are the ads that appear before a page's content loads, forcing the reader to wait a few seconds before allowing them to click and continue.
The Coalition states that these ads "can disrupt users in a way that dissuades them from waiting for the countdown to finish and continuing onto their content."
They also note, that for desktop, prestitial ads without a countdown do not fall below the Better Ad Standards' threshold for acceptability, and are thus okay for publishers to use.
Large sticky ads attach themselves to the bottom of a page of content, staying there as the user scrolls down the page. To qualify as "large," a sticky ad needs to take up more than 30% of a desktop screen's real estate.
Regardless of device, consuming content on a full-screen is always much more preferred by viewers.
For pop-up ads, there's not much difference between desktop and mobile. According to internet users, they're annoying no matter where they appear.
For both desktop and mobile, pop-ups with and without countdowns fall beneath the threshold for viewer acceptability.
Prestitial mobile ads, like on desktop, appear before the content of a web page loads. The difference on mobile, however, is that all prestitial ads are restricted, not just the ones with a countdown.
On mobile, prestitial ads tend to take up a bit more real estate, which, even without a countdown, can make them more disruptive than on desktop.
"Ad density is determined by summing the heights of all ads within the main content portion of a mobile page, then dividing by total height of the main content portion of the page."
In short, within a piece of content, a publisher may not have more than 30% of the space in which that content sits being filled by advertising.
When considering the "content portion" of the page, that only means the real estate where the content sits, excluding headers, footers, and anything that sits outside of the content itself. The 30% also applies to the entire content portion of the page, the page in total, not just what is viewable on a user's screen.
Sticky ads do count towards ad density, with the height being counted once towards the page's ad density percentage. Video ads "that appear before or during video content that is relevant to the content of the page itself are not included in the measurement."
The Better Ad Standards restrict the use of "ads that animate and 'flash' with rapidly changing background, text or colors," because they can be, "highly aggravating for consumers, and serve to create a severe distraction for them as they attempt to read the content on a given page."
Not all animated ads are being blocked on Chrome, either - only the ones that rapidly flash.
As they are on desktop, auto-play video ads on mobile are also now restricted ads.
Users won't have to worry about trying to find the "mute" button on Chrome for mobile anytime soon, either.
Postitial countdown ads are advertisements that appear after a user has followed a link in a piece of content.
Once they follow a link, the ad appears, with a countdown, making the user wait before they can be redirected to the page they were trying to access.
Much like prestitial ads with a countdown, users may be inclined to leave the page once they see a postitial countdown appear, as it makes them wait to enter the following page.
Scrollover ads are unlike inline ads, as they do not move with the content on a page, but instead sit on top of the content.
Scrollover ads, in a certain sense, can almost be looked at as something similar to a pop-up, since they lay on top of content, obstructing it from view.
The Coalition for Better Ads refers to these ads as "disorienting" for mobile users, as they may distract users from the content they're trying to read.
And that, once again, brings us to large sticky ads, which Chrome is also blocking on mobile.
On mobile web browsers, large sticky ads can appear on more than just the bottom of the page, but serve the same, static disruption that sticky ads do on desktop browsers.
* All images and quotations used above are from https://www.betterads.org/standards/. Visit the site to see the full breakdown of the Better Ads Standards.
What happens to violators?
Sites that violate Google Chrome's ad blocker and use at least one of these ad types will first be notified by Google that they are violating the Better Ad Standards, and given 30 days to remedy the issue.
If the site owner repeatedly violates the new standards, and ignores Google's notifications for those 30 days, only then will Chrome start blocking all of the adds on that site.
So, while Google is putting in great efforts to make online advertising better for everyone, the metaphorical gavel is not being dropped on violators as quickly as many had originally anticipated. Still, the risk of a publisher losing all of their online advertising is likely not something they want to play around with.
There is no question that these changes are, at the least, the beginning of a much better user experience with advertising on the internet.