It is inevitable that at some point, publishers of ad-funded websites will come across an ad on their website that does not meet their quality expectations. Low-quality ads have been around ever since the online advertising industry kicked off in 1994, and they’re problematic because they expose users to ad content that is either irrelevant, inappropriate or simply doesn’t meet the threshold of what the publisher deems appropriate for their site.
What are low-quality ads?
Any ad that is detrimental to the user experience can be considered as a low-quality ad.
Some examples are obvious; unexpected pop-ups and forced redirects are fairly universally seen as undesirable. Others are more of a subjective matter. What a children’s learning website might deem as poor quality will differ from what a political news site would consider as low-quality.
Low-quality ads usually fall into the following categories:
Displeasing ads: Ads that could be considered as either irrelevant, inappropriate or in poor taste by the publisher or user. For example, ads that are contradictory to the site content, competitor ads or earwax removal ads.
Dishonest ads: Ads that entice engagement under false pretences and do not meet user expectations. For example, clickbait ads or forced redirects.
High-quality ads should generate meaningful connections between users and businesses. Attributes of a high-quality ad include relevance, brand-safety and a contribution towards an overall positive ad experience. These types of ads perform best for both advertisers and publishers.
Why are low-quality ads a problem?
Inappropriate ads can be off-putting for users and even result in them abandoning your website for good. As well as a loss in revenue, high page abandonment rates can impact your page ranking and result in less web traffic in the long-run.
Low-quality ads are not only problematic for internet users but for the entire ad tech industry, as they lead to an increase in the number of internet users who use ad blockers. This threatens the sustainability of the internet’s ad-sponsored ‘free’ content model, as publishers need ad revenue to subsidize their content creation in order to make it freely accessible to users. As more users turn to ad blockers to improve their online experience, more publishers turn to paywalls and subscription models.
How to find low-quality ads on site
Eliminating low-quality ads is good for user experience, which is ultimately good for everyone. It can be hard though. In a real-time-bidding system there are an almost endless stream of ads appearing on our sites and we don’t get to pre-approve them. Thankfully there are simple strategies that can be employed to make a big difference.
Consistent monitoring of the ads that have been delivered on-site
Ensure that you conduct regular reviews of the ads that appear on your site and block any that ads that do not match your site’s content or brand values. On AdSense, you can review ads that have appeared on your website by navigating to Blocking Controls > Ad Review Centre. You must first enable the Ad Review Centre on AdSense in order to review ads.
On Google Ad Manager, you can review ads that have been delivered on-site by navigating to Delivery > Creatives > Ad Review Centre. These tools give you more control and enable you to block and report any low-quality ads.
When reviewing creatives that you have not previously reviewed, ads can be prioritised on potentially sensitive content or because the ads are predicted to have a high number of impressions in the future.
Ask users to report any bad ads seen on site
Try to actively encourage users to report any bad ad experiences. If possible, ask them to include a screenshot of the ad, as well as the date, time and page it occurred on.
Try to find the ad yourself
The last option is to try to find the low-quality ad yourself by browsing your own website, but this may be like looking for a needle in a haystack. The particular low-quality ad may not be targeted to a user like you, therefore, you may never come across the ad.
How to improve ad quality
Initiatives such as the Better Ads Standards and Acceptable Ads help the advertising and publishing industries understand what types of ad formats users do and don’t find acceptable. Google became a member of the Coalition for Better Ads and began filtering out ad experiences that don’t meet user expectations according to the Better Ads Standards in Chrome in July 2019.
Since then, publishers have been recommended to adhere to the standards and remove any ad experiences that are not compliant. Publishers can check for non-compliant ad experiences using the Ad Experience Report in Google Search Console.
The implementation of the Better Ads Standards has helped with low-quality ad formats, but publishers still need to be vigilant about dishonest and displeasing ads. Here are some ways that publishers can improve their overall ad quality:
Have blocking rules in place
Blocking rules in Google Ad Manager allow publishers to block ads from specific advertiser URLs, general categories and sensitive categories. This enables you to directly control which ads you don’t want to appear on your website, preventing these advertisers from even bidding on your inventory. Blocking rule settings can be found in Google Ad Manager by navigating to Protections and creating new protections.
In AdSense, the Blocking Controls tab enables you to specify individual or kinds of ads that you do not want to appear on your website.
Keep in mind that the more categories you block, the less competition there will be in your auctions which can ultimately impact your revenue.
Implement an ad quality control mechanism
Only work with reputable ad networks and ad exchanges
Although no ad network or exchange is completely free of low-quality ads, reputable demand partners will have precautions in place to keep low-quality ad serving to a minimum.
Always try to maintain and improve the value of your inventory
The higher the quality of your ad inventory, the higher your CPM rates. High CPMs can deter low-quality advertisers from bidding on your inventory. Unfortunately, low-quality ads are not always associated with low bids, so this method is not foolproof.
Are you experiencing low-quality ads appearing on your website? OKO work with premium demand partners with quality control systems in place to mitigate the risk of low-quality ads appearing on site to protect the user experience. Find out more.
Dolly joined the OKO team in early 2019 and certified to Google Certified Publishing Partner status. Dolly manages publisher communication and learning at OKO.