Coalition for Better Ads Standards: How Can Publishers Comply?

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Advertising

 

For many years, the online advertising industry had few standards or guidelines for publishers to follow, making it a modern digital Wild West. Adverts assaulted visitors at every turn. These included multiple blocks of AdSense ads, ads disguised as content, affiliate links without disclosure, etc. Advertisers did not fare much better. The Wild West of online media meant some were paying as much as 70% of their Pay-Per-Click advertising budget on fraudulent clicks from competitors or friends of publishers, who received a commission every time someone clicked an ad.

A solution to combat click fraud on behalf of advertisers is an ongoing problem. But In 2017, the Coalition for Better Ads introduced the Better Ads Standards. The coalition is a team of business associates who together, developed the Better Ads Standards to introduce acceptable online advertising standards worldwide.

The Better Ads Standards Explained

More than 150,000 consumers participated in the Coalition for Better Ads analysis to create the Better Ads Standards. The Standards aim to identify the ad experiences that do not meet consumer approval and are likely to drive users to install an ad blocker. Comprehensive data from Internet users across Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America, and Africa formed the basis of the study.

What is a Better Ad?

The Better Ads Standards currently recognise various intrusive advertisement formats for desktop computers and others for mobile devices. Consumers dislike these ad formats, and publishers are encouraged to avoid them.

Unwanted desktop ad formats are:

  1. Pop-up ads

Pop-up ads are often full-screen ads that cover a page. As the page loads, the ad “pops up”, hiding all or some of the page’s content. You can click some pop-up ads away after the page loads, but others come with a countdown, forcing the user to wait a specified time before dismissing the ad. Users cite pop-ups as one of the most annoying ad types.

popup ad
Pop-up ads are extremely annoying for users
  1. Auto-playing videos with sound

This type of ad is particularly annoying, as auto-playing video ads with sound often catch you off guard and force you to close the tab or app to stop the noise.

  1. Prestitial ads with a countdown

Prestitial means related to the vital space between two things. Prestitial “Countdown” ads appear as the page’s content is loading, compelling you to wait several seconds before it closes by itself, or you can dismiss the ad.

These ads disrupt users and discourage them from waiting for the countdown to end to view the desired content.

On a desktop computer, prestitial ads you can click away are not included in the Better Ads Standard for desktops.

  1. Large sticky ads

Large sticky ads remain at the bottom of a webpage and stay there while the user scrolls. A large sticky ad typically takes up at least 30% of the screen’s space, making it difficult for a user to read or interact with a webpage normally.

Acceptable desktop ad formats include:

  • A static large image ad above the content
  • A long narrow ad on the right-hand side of the page
  • Static inline advertisements

Unwanted mobile ad formats are:

  1. Pop-up ads

Mobile users and desktop users find pop-up ads irritating, especially when they block the entire page. They appear above the content as the page loads and are even more annoying on a small screen, as you may mistake the ad for the content.

  1. Prestitial ads

Mobile prestitial ads appear on a mobile screen before the content loads, stopping the user from reading the content. These ads vary in size from covering the entire screen to part of the screen and often include a countdown timer.

  1. Mobile pages with over 30% ad density

Ads that cover more than 30% of the height of a page are frowned upon under the Better Ads Standards. The Standards measure ad density against the page’s main content area and not the screen’s size. The main content part of the page excludes headers, footers, and navigation or “related articles” links.

The density calculation does not include ads placed below the main content section of a page.

All ads count toward the ad density total, including “sticky” and inline ads.

  1. Flashing animations

Animated ads with flashing images, backgrounds, or text are highly irritating and are a severe distraction when you try to read content on a page.

Animations that do not flash are not included in the Better Ads Standard.

flashing ad
Flashing ads irritate mobile users
  1. Poststitial ads that use a countdown

Postitial ads with timers that appear after a user clicks on a link force you to wait until the countdown completes before you can dismiss the ad.

These ads frustrate users as they are distracting when you try to navigate from one page to another.

Postitial ads with that you can close immediately are not included in the Better Ads Standard.

  1. Fullscreen scroll over ads

Full-Screen scroll over adverts force visitors to scroll through an ad that shows over a page’s content. These ads cover more than 30% of a page and hover on top of the content, hiding it from view. The result is confusing. We should not mix up these adverts with similar ads that scroll inline with the content and move out of sight as you scroll.

  1. Large sticky ads

Large Sticky Ads stick to a mobile page, regardless of how much you scroll. As the user browses a site, a static, stationary sticky ad takes up more than 30% of the visible screen.

The ad’s position obscures a page’s main content — leading to a negative user experience.

  1. Auto-playing videos with sound

Auto-playing video ads that automatically play with sound, without any user interaction, are especially disruptive on a mobile device. If in a public place, such noise can be a nuisance to others and embarrassing for the user.

Video ads you must click to view or listen to are not included in the Better Ads Standard.

Recommended mobile ad formats include:

  • A sticky ad after the content.
  • A small sticky ad banner before the content
  • Small static inline ads

Video Advertising

In 2020, the Coalition for Better Ads included three video ad formats that fail the acceptable ad guidelines.

Unwanted video ad formats are:

  1. Long Unskippable Pre-Roll Ads

A pre-roll ad is a promotional video message that plays before a video. Users can’t skip these long ads, which often causes them to select another video to watch.

  1. Mid-Roll Ads

Mid-roll ads appear in the middle of video content. These are disruptive as they break the flow of the selected content, spoiling the user experience.

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long ads
Ads that play mid-video are disruptive and irritating
  1. Large Display Ads

Large display ads may appear above the video for the entire running length or only during a part of the recording. Large ads cover a sizable part of the screen, preventing watchers from viewing the video.

How to Stick to The Better Ads Standards

To see if your site complies with the Better Ads Standards, you can use the Google Ad Experience Report, which you access via your Google Search Console.

The Ad Experience Report tests a site for desktop and mobile and highlights any negative user experiences your ads cause. Once identified, you will need to fix any issues and re-submit your website for a further check.

Publishers can apply for the Coalition’s Better Ads Experience certification, which helps advertisers find websites that meet the Better Ads Standards conditions. When signing up for the program, you must agree not to use the annoying ad formats described by the Better Ads Standards.

Better Ads and Google

Google Chrome is a web browser with more than 65% of the browser market share worldwide. From October 2022, Chrome will block any ad that doesn’t follow the Better Ads Standards requirements. The publisher will receive a warning; if the publisher fails to fix the issue, Chrome will not display ads on the site. Other browsers, including Microsoft Edge and Naver Whale are also planning to block ads that do not come up to scratch.

Ad Blockers

Ad blockers are one of the most significant challenges for publishers who profit from displaying ads. According to the Coalitions’ analysis, the more intrusive ads that confront a user, the more likely they are to seek an ad blocker.

On average, 41% of US Internet users used an ad blocker in 2020. Yet, ad blocker usage numbers in Europe and the US have slowly decreased since 2017 with the introduction of the Better Ads Standards.

Better Ads Standards Benefits

While some publishers will disagree, there are several benefits for those who follow the Better Ads Standards:

  • Non-intrusive ads provide a more satisfactory user experience, an essential aspect of SEO.
  • Publishers will experience better user engagement by removing ad formats.
  • Fewer users will use ad blockers.
  • Big-budget advertisers are careful to protect their brand and are likelier to buy ad space on a site offering users a satisfactory experience.

Intrusive ad formats can hurt a website’s ranking and prevent users from bookmarking a site or returning. Thus, it is a no-brainer to stick to the Better Ad Standards and don’t overdo the number of ads.

Summary

The Better Ads Standards aims to improve online advertising practices. This is not only helpful for users, but publishers will also benefit in the long term.

You, as a publisher, should submit your website to the Ad Experience Report and remove any ad formats that violate the best practice guidelines. If you fail to take these steps, the major browsers including, Google Chrome and Bing, will block all ads you display on your site.

 

Author

  • Mac McCarthy

    Mac McCarthy has been involved in the digital marketing field for over 20 years, having worked with the Jeeves, Alta Vista and Yahoo search engines in the early 90s through to the modern current day Google and Bing platforms.

    A keen follower of search engine algorithm updates and trends, he works and advises on digital strategies for a variety on SME’s and more recently the World Wildlife Fund, the single largest animal welfare charity in the world.

    Qualifications include Google Advanced Analytics, Google Ads, Google Search and the Google Partnership Program.

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