While it doesn’t seem to be publicly detailed yet, some publishers have received an email from Google AdSense regarding a change in the way the text ads are formatted, and yes, it is a legitimate email (I received one from an account rep, and I have received many copies of this letter from people who received this as well, and it seems to have been sent to those with account reps).
What is the change? AdSense has just changed where a visitor can click on an ad and actually end up truly clicking the ad to visit that advertiser’s site.
This screenshot of an ad unit details the way you used to be able to click on an AdSense ad, and the new areas where a visitor can click on the ad. As you can see, they have dropped the clickable area down by well over half, and with many ad units, it is just a fraction of the original clickable area.
This is already live on publisher’s ad units, although it appears to be rolling out as not all ad units are behaving this way yet, so some ad units on your site could be using the new clickable areas while others are not (including the same ad unit sizes on the same site). There is the possibility that Google is also using the rollout to do some A/B testing between the new clickable areas and the old ones, so perhaps the change isn’t as certain as the email leads publishers to believe.
It is also worth noting that several smaller ad formats do not have a URL displayed when you use them. Those without a URL appear to have the ad text clickable as well, although this could be a part of the rollout. If this change is permanent, it could make sense for publishers to switch to the smaller ad units if they see a huge drop in CTR and earnings.
The two ad unit sizes without URLs are:
- Banner (468×60)
- Half Banner (234×60)
The official reason is to reduce the number of accidental clicks, and I suspect it is to help combat the prevalence of “Made for AdSense” sites. But Google is acknowledging that publishers will likely see a decrease in the CTR rate, which means that users will also end up seeing a loss of income. However, Google speculates that as this is making a change good for advertisers, since they are reducing the chance of accidental clicks, that they will also see a trend of more advertisers opting into the content network or increasing their ad spend.
I suspect many publishers will not be happy with this change, especially coming right at the beginning of the hard-core holiday shopping season. While I agree that reducing the ad click area was a good idea, I think they reduced it by far too much. If they wanted to reduce the clickable areas, I do believe they should have kept the ad text area (even if just the specific text area that has text on it) as a clickable area instead of only having the title and URL clickable. In other words, make all the text clickable (Title, Description, URL) and the white space non-clickable, as I am also fairly certain there were clicks made on white space areas that should not have been counted as a legitimate click.
What should you do if you see a drop in income or as a preventative measure to avoid the income drop? First and foremost, change your titles to hyperlink blue, as visitors are used to seeing links in blue. And if your site design doesn’t include other on-page links in blue, you might consider a slight style change.
Other things to try include perhaps try mixing some image-only ad units (which remain fully clickable) or try some of the non-URL ad units. And yes, I believe publishers will see a drop in income due to this change, meaning some publishers will have less Christmas spending money than expected.
I am seeing some slight initial CTR drops, but I will continue to monitor it as the rollout becomes more complete (not all of my ad units have the new clickable areas) and post followups, including what happens with the non-URL ad units.
What do you think of the changes? Are you happy with them or not-so-happy?