Categories: Tips

Sticky ads with AdSense and AdX

Sticky ads, those that don’t scroll off the page as the user scrolls down, have always been popular with publishers.  They’re an efficient use of space and your ad-unit allowance and are good at catching the user’s eye.  With CPM ads on Google networks now only paying on viewable impressions, the benefits have only increased.

Unfortunately, though, most AdSense publishers who use sticky ads are breaking policy and risking warnings, withheld earnings or worse.

What exactly is a sticky ad?

Sticky Ad is the name given to an ad placement that stays in place as the page scrolls.  Some are fixed completely.  Others (often placed at the end of sidebar content) scroll until they are in view then stay in a fixed position as the user scrolls further down the page.

Many wordpress themes and plugins now include these as an option, meaning that more publishers are trying out this type of placement.

I most often see sticky ads placed in sidebars. However placement at the bottom of the page on mobile can give the appearance of a mobile adhesion unit (page level ad) using a standard AdSense for Content ad.

Are sticky ads allowed in AdSense?

No. AdSense policy is crystal clear on this point and publishers cannot claim that they don’t know about the rule. The policy on sticky ads even goes as far as to warn that AdSense will take action when they spot sticky ads using AdSense.  (There is a way to have sticky Google ads without breaking policy. Be sure to read on) .

What AdSense policy says about sticky ads

Why are sticky ads not allowed

Official policy doesn’t explain the reasoning, just that they are banned.  The reasoning is likely to be due to an increased chance of them causing accidental or unintentional clicks.  Because AdSense pays per click they need to be sure that Advertisers only pay for intentional clicks.  Placements that cause confusion or might pick up clicks by users trying to close or move them don’t give value to advertisers.

How to run sticky ads within policy

Sticky ads are not a complete “no-no” to Google though.  If you are approved to run ads through AdX  (The DoubleClick Ad Exchange) then you can indeed have sticky ads. There are restrictions, but popular implementations such as sticky skyscrapers are allowed and can work brilliantly.  AdX has a reputation as being only for the very largest publishers, but working with a company like OKO, puts AdX in reach for those with much more moderate traffic numbers.  AdX pays CPM not CPC; per impression rather than per click. It also allows publishers to declare whether they use methods such as sticky ads or automatically refreshing ad units. This means that advertisers can choose whether to advertise in such units of not, removing the issue.

The main requirements is that Sticky ads are declared, so that advertisers can choose whether or not they wish to target such units.  This is a simple declaration rule in AdX.  Other options are largely common sense: Sticky ad units are for desktop display, not mobile (Mobile anchor ads are better suited for mobile), they musn’t overlap content, can be a maximum of 300px wide and behave nicely when then scroll.

Options like this, together with greater control and more advertising demand, mean that AdX can often bring considerable gains for publishers.  If you would like to talk to one of one of our experts and see if your site could be eligible for AdX why not talk to us today?

Mat Bennett :

View Comments (3)

    • Lots of sites do use them, yes. On any site they could be in use for a number of reasons

      1. The ads are Ad Exchange rather than AdSense (impossible to tell by looking at the source code
      2. The ads are from a non-google provider
      3. They are adsense ads being used in breech of policy, but it hasn't yet been flagged by the adsense team
  • I wonder if that AdSense policy apply to bottom sticky ads on mobile just like page level ads, but in this case you are adding the ads yourself with regular ads?

    After all the rule says "left or right side" not bottom ;)