Google AdSense AMA Keynote: Ad Blockers, Accelerated Mobile Pages and EU Cookies
Good morning from Las Vegas! Brett Tabke, Pubcon’s founder and this morning’s moderator, says this is only the second time that AdSense has been chosen as a Pubcon keynote topic. This is an Ask Me Anything-style format, and these questions came up from different forums and places, including WebmasterWorld forum. The topics in this quick Q&A range from how Google is trying to solve the problem with ad blockers to the just announced Accelerated Mobile Pages project and EU cookie issues.
Richard Zippel, Product Manager, Google
Richard is a new Googler (about four years) and he’s a product manager for publisher quality. No one knew what that role was at the time he took the job.
The best way to think about publisher quality is to think of the people involved in the ad ecosystem — 3 distinct parties — users, advertisers, publishers. We need to make sure the interests of each of those 3 parties are equally balanced. If any of the three are out of balance, it will tip like a tripod. If users get frustrated, then they’ll go other places and then there will be fewer places for Google and publishers to monetize.
Google wants to encourage publishers to do the right thing and make it easy for them to do the right thing, for the betterment of users’ experience. The way Google does this is through policy. Here’s an example of a time that a policy wasn’t quite right the first time. The number of ads on a page is a policy — the AdSense policy is no more than three ads on a page. Seems like a reasonable policy. And then people started reading long articles, and a reader can read down a page for five minutes and it makes sense that there could be ads further down the page. To get around this, publishers started chopping up articles into galleries and multi-page articles, and that contributed to a bad user experience. This was a well-intentioned policy, but it didn’t work. He looks for ways to develop future-proof policies.
John Brown, Head of Publisher Policy Communications, Google
John’s also a Noogler (new Googler) and works with publishers and internal stakeholders to create materials to use to stay compliant and take advantage of best practices. Less than a year ago he was in leadership roles at digital advertising. In 15 years in the industry, he came to know how policy can help grow businesses.
He sees the importance of balance between users, advertisers and publishers. He’s dedicated to enabling a healthy market for all three groups. When he was in a role similar to ours, he wasn’t excited about policy issues but rather was into doing deals and optimizing — so he understands the pain points of this audience. Google tries to develop policies that are transparent and simple, and knows that they can do better. Google wants feedback, welcomes questions and dialogue. They are actively open to making changes.
Question & Answer on Google Publisher Policy
Ad blockers — what can publishers do to address this hindrance? What is Google doing?
Richard: Ad blockers are a systemic problem. Ad blockers are a symptom that at least some of us have taken our eye off the ball — keeping users happy. Google is very concerned about it. There are lots of things that contribute to the desire of people to have ad blockers. One of these prominent reasons is that lots of ads on a page make pages load slower, especially on mobile. Accelerated Mobile Pages is a way to organize a website so it loads faster than before — and that’s a solution Google announced today.
John: There are lots of resources looking at the various things we can do.
The EU cookie law — when do webmasters need to put this on their site? American publishers are concerned about it.
Richard: It’s very simple. Generally you need it. The problem is the way the law is written, on websites used by users in Europe, there needs to be the disclaimer/announcement about cookies. Google has looked at the law carefully; they’re not challenging it. Everyone has to abide by it.
There’s a complication with law and the Internet. Countries have boundaries and the Internet crosses all of those. Every entity tries to establish laws to protect its own citizens. How it all balances out is a problem. It’s a bigger problem than the cookie issues. The Right to Be Forgotten is another example. This is a hard one. Our position is that if your site is viewed by people in Europe, this is what the law is. That’s our assessment of the state of the law.
If you don’t put up the EU notice, that doesn’t put you in violation of AdSense policy.
Will Google Shopping/product feeds be put into the AdSense feed?
Richard: I can’t talk about any future plans, and I’m not aware of any plans for this.
Any newer policies as a result of mobile?
Richard: We’re looking to better understand the rationales for the policies we have. Getting our own internal people as well as publishers to understand what they are is critical to preserving the ecosystem. Three ads per page is the simple example. There’s a general feeling that things have tipped away from the user.
In the Verge, I recently read an article that the introduction of ad blockers into iOS9 was a knife to the heart of the Google revenue stream.
Richard: I can’t speculate on Apple’s or Facebook’s business strategies.
Any new announcements to make?
Richard: Say we do. Don’t steal our thunder.
What can a publisher do to increase their revenue?
Richard: If I knew the answer to that then I wouldn’t be sitting here, I’d be off creating the world’s greatest website. Google has lots of products. Not everyone’s content is appropriate for all products. We have products for videos, AdX, choosing the right mix of those products is a good idea. If you’re not in mobile, then you should be. Figure out the best way to do that with the changes to iOS, to Android, and to wearables. The final thing, which is probably the first thing, is make your users happy.
Amazon claims that on its website, a 100-millisecond load time improvement is worth $100 million a day.
Richard: The faster your website is, the happier the users will be. The accelerated mobile page project is one example of what we’re doing in that area. If you had one ad on the page I bet you wouldn’t have an issue with load time. So what’s the balance of the ads, the video, use the technology in the best way for the user.
Referral spam, this time last year was a minor annoyance. Now we’re seeing ghost referral spam, never hitting your server, hacked your code to falsely inject your server with false referrer data.
Brett: This is an analytics problem, a ton of referral spam happening these days.
This takes us to the end of our time. My takeaway while liveblogging? Whatever problem you face as a publisher running ads, Google thinks that problem will be solved when publishers make user experience their primary concern.