Google have announced a policy U-turn that many publishers with mobile traffic are going to appreciate. Until this week, the policy was that ad units that are more than 100 pixels high should not be displayed above the fold on mobile devices, due to the increased risk of accidental clicks. That policy has now been changed and AdSense and Ad Exchange MPU units can appear above the fold again.
This will be a great relief to many publishers, as the 100 pixel high options are seen as a bit of a damp-squib by many. Demand for them is simply not as high as for the long-established 300×250 units and the rates publishers receive reflect that fact.
The policy now reads:
Is it a violation if my ads display above the fold?
Displaying ads above the fold is not a violation as long as there is enough content above the fold for the users to read. We don’t allow page layouts that push all content below the fold so that the only visible content is ads. Implementations like this make it hard for users to distinguish between content and Google ads.
Not quite a free-for-all then, Google are still keen that the units are not used in a deceptive way that encourages accidental clicks. This was reiterated in the statement from John Brown at Google who said:
With the removal of this restriction, you still must be vigilant to ensure that their mobile site layouts do not cause ads to push the page content below the fold in such a way that may lead to accidental clicks. To ensure a good user experience, we still recommend the site content should be clear and accessible above the fold
How might this impact performance?
The 300×250 MPU unit is well established favourite that always has strong demand. At OKO we see ECPMs close to double on 300×250 compared with what they are on 300×100 creatives. Broader benchmarks show gains around 20% for the larger size.
What happens if Google do detect accidental clicks?
We’ve seen increased levels of testing for accidental clicks from Google recently. A number of publishers around the web have seen CTRs dropping for a period whilst Google requires users to make a second click before visiting a website. This was particularly triggered when the click was close to the edge of the unit. This behaviour could be something that is introduced to offset risks of accidental clicks or could be used simply to verify the levels of accidental clicks occurring in any ad unit. The timing though does suggest a possible link to this policy change.
What we do know for certain though is that detected accidental clicks are refunded back to the advertiser and removed from the publisher account. Some corrections happen near instantly, others appear later in the billing cycle.
Should publishers switch to 300×250 ATF or play safe to avoid accidental clicks?
As with most answers to ad optimisation questions, the answer is “that depends”. If you can place the unit ATF without it obscuring all content on mobile then it is worth testing. Monitoring click-through-rates for any large jump when you switch formats will indicate whether you may have introduced an accidental click issue. If you can’t increase the size of the unit without obscuring content then we’d advise steering clear.
If you are an OKO publisher we’ll be in contact shortly if we can identify a policy-safe opportunity to increase revenue as a result of this change. Alternatively, just ask your Publisher Development Manager to do the analysis for you now.
Mat has been supporting content creators on the web since 1996. As Co-founder of OKO Digital, Mat became the first person in the UK qualified to AdSense partner status and repeated this first with Google Certified Publishing Partner programme.