With the Feb. 15 deadline looming for Google’s Chrome browser to stop showing ads that are in violation of the guidelines created by the Coalition for Better Ads, publishers are scrambling to figure out how their campaigns will be affected and what their options are for complying with the new standards.
The bad news is that while physically complying with the new ad guidelines isn’t a problem, some of the flagged ads (pop-ups, pre-stitials, count downs) are among the best performers for B2B publishers. The good news is that Google is offering a 30-day grace period to come into compliance, and the mass of experimentation being done by both publishers and advertisers will lead to some hard answers on what to do and what not do.
In the meantime, there are a few relatively easy steps that publishers can take now to get a sense of how Chrome’s enforcement of the new guidelines will affect them and what they can do about it. At a recent Connectiv Digital Council meeting, Strategic Insight director of technology and DMC co-chair Justin Hoffman outlined what he and his team are doing to prepare (Connectiv members can hear a replay of that meeting here; the Chrome discussion starts around the 31-minute mark).
1. Check Your Site with Google’s New Ad Experience Report
In recent months, Google Webmaster released a new tool called the Ad Experience Report which can provide users of the Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics a rating of their sites indicating how at risk they are of being in violation of the ad standards (accessing the report does require a login). “You can run this report, get a list of ads that may be in violation and within 30-day period remove those ads before they start to affect traffic or get flagged in any additional way,” said Hoffman. “We’re going through our ad campaigns and course-correcting. What’s most relevant for us is pop-up ads since we have welcome ads. We don’t want people who come in via Chrome getting flagged.”
2. Set Thresholds to Test Ad Units
As mentioned, some if the best performing ads such as pop-ups and pre-stitials are in violation of the new ad standards. However, with so much uncertainty around the impact of the enforcement of the new standards, publishers may want to test the frequency of those ads to see what sort of response they get from Chrome, rather than eliminating those ads entirely. For example, try setting a pop-up ad to appear once a day or once a week.
“Take a look at your inventory—if you have ad units that are being sold throughout the year, it might be worth sitting down with your team and talking about whether this is going to hurt the user experience,” said Hoffman. “Thresholds can help you determine if you need to remove something all-together.
3. Keep an Eye on House-Ads
While the current consensus is that Chrome will only penalize ads from third parties, publisher sites are filled with pop-ups for newsletter sign-ups, event registration and other calls-to-action. “Based on what I’ve read, those types of ads shouldn’t be affected, Google is really looking for third-part scripts, which is how they identify what’s good or bad,” said Hoffman. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if some users see it and close immediately. You may need to look at your business in total and reach out to some other departments internally.
4. Be Selective About Internet Servers
Hoffman advised publishers to take inventory of which Internet browsers account for the majority of your traffic. If Explorer or Firefox account for the majority of your audience, it doesn’t make sense to completely revamp your ad inventory (although it’s likely other browers will embrace similar standards in the near future). Depending on which ad server you use (such as Doubleclick), you can also display ads on certain serves and not others.
5. Pay Attention to the Standards
At this point it’s going to be hard to get answers to very specific questions, but the Coalition offers very descriptive images and details for many types of ads (example: on mobile ads, they’re looking for 50 percent column density).
6. Leave Yourself Extra Time:
“On the development side, we’re changing our road maps and leaving a little extra time for the team in case there’s anything we need to change in an emergency on Feb. 15,” said Hoffman. “We’re a month away and everyone is still guessing. We expect a lot more on this topic and this will be a great follow-up for Connectiv’s Digital Media Council in a month or two.”