Google Chrome Better Ads Violation FAQ: What Will Pass, What Will Fail

In this article we will take a look at some of the frequent asked questions that our users have with respect to Google's new Better Ads Standard, and how it will affect at blocking in Google's Chrome Canary and beyond.

This article is reprinted from Ubercpm.com with permission.

As we have written many times, the Better Ads Standard is filled with holes and inconsistencies, some of which are big enough to drive a truck through.

The standard contains some things that directly contradict each other, while others just don't make much sense in context. We have contacted the Better Ads Standard organization multiple times regarding these issues, we have not received any responses.

After much research, and some trial and error, we've come up with an FAQ that details some of our questions, and what the answers are currently.

Some of these come from Google's own forums, while others come from tests we have done with the new browser, and others have come from testing done by other organizations.

So without further ado, here is the FAQ:

What is the Better Ads Standard?

The 'Better Ads Standard' was created by the Coalition for Better Ads, ostensibly in order to ensure that web users aren't annoyed by bad experiences. There are two different rules: one for desktop and the other for mobile.

The desktop rules are not quite as strict; the mobile rules are extremely strict. Google has chosen to implement the Better Ads Standard in it's Chrome Canary 64, which will be released in January 2018.

Why does the Better Ads Standard Matter to Me?

Google has unilaterally decided that the 'Better Ads Standard' will be implemented in its new browser, and that ALL ADS on sites that violate the standard will be blocked by Chrome.

That means that if your site fails the tests that they have put in place, you will no longer be able to show any ads to people who use Chrome.

And although you can request a review of your site after they say it failed, you have no appeals process in the case that you don't agree with Google's interpretation of the rules.

For this reason, it's vital that site owners pay attention to the rules now, and come up with a way to address them.

If you have already received an email from Google saying that you have a violation, check out our "What to do if you get a violating ad experience email from Google" article here.

What are the provisions of the Better Ads Standard?

The 'Better Ads Standard' blocks many different types of ads on mobile, and a bit fewer on desktop.

Notably, there are almost no restrictions on ads within video, as those would affect Google's own properties. Here is an explanation of all of the provisions:

The Desktop 'Better Ads Standard'

The following are violations of the 'Better Ads Standard' on a desktop browser:

  • Pop up ads - Basically any popup ads are prohibited...so all of those ones you see on major websites are not allowed. Note, however, that there is an exemption for certain types of popups (see prestitial below).
  • Auto playing video ads with sound - Any ad that plays with sound. The notable exception is pre-roll ads, which are used by Youtube.
  • Pre-stitial ads with countdown - All prestitial ads that make you wait before you click through. Note, that according to the rule (like you may see on Forbes.com), you can have prestitial ads that can be dismissed immediately.
  • Large sticky ads - Ads of height of 250 or more with full width, 400 or more with half width.

The Mobile 'Better Ads Standard'

The following are violations of the 'Better Ads Standard' on mobile. There are a lot more restrictions than on desktop.

  • Pop up ads - Again, all popup ads are prohibited...but to satisfy the big news sites, popup ads asking you to subscribe are okay.
  • Prestitial ads - Prestitial ads, like popups, aren't allowed. But again, things like subscriptions are not prohibited. This is a huge blow to smaller publishers, as prestitials on mobile are some of the highest CPM ads available -- especially on mobile, where high CPM ads are few.
  • Ad density over 30% - This is where many sites get killed. Ad density can't be over 30%, meaning you can't have ads taking up more than 30% of vertical space on your page. Interestingly, the home pages of sites like Youtube seem to do this -- but Google has created a special provision to allow pre-roll video ads...which are not prohibited by the Better Ads Standard.
  • Flashing ads - These went out a while ago, so most likely, you won't have to worry about it.
  • Auto playing video ads with sound - This is the same as on desktop. It's a reasonable prohibition.
  • Postitial ads with countdown - Ads that make you wait after clicking on a link to go to another page.
  • Full-screen scroll overs - Big ads that take up the full screen that you have to scroll past.
  • Large sticky ads - This is a significant one, because it says sticky ads can't take up more than 30% of the screen's real estate. Many current sticky ads do not pass this requirement.

How often does Google review websites for violations of the Better Ads Standard?

Google does not release that information. According to our tests, it appears that sites go through a manual review -- and that's why it's taking a very long time for sites to get reviewed to begin with.

It looks like someone actually scrolls through the pages on you site to determine whether you comply. When you get a violation notice, you get a video of that interaction. It's clear that the video is done manually.

All Google says about the frequency of reviews is "sites are periodically re-reviewed" but they don't tell you how often.

From our tests, it depends on how popular your site is, so most publishers will get reviewed less than once a quarter on average.

Does Google have guidance as to how to be sure that you're not in violation?

No.

In the Google product forums, you will see some answers regarding the standards from people at Google. However, it seems as though even Google doesn't know for sure what complies, as you can see from this exchange.

Google says that they will not comment on "hypothetical examples," and your only way to determine whether something meets their criteria is to see if you get a violation.

Generally, you will have to err on the side of caution when you try to comply with the standards.

Are AMP pages subject to Better Ads Violations?

Sort of.

It doesn't appear that Google has the capacity to test them right now, although it looks like they're planning on it.

All of the amp-ad tags do comply, although you'll still be in trouble if you go over the 30% ad density rule.

How is the 30% density rule calculated on mobile devices?

This is interesting, as it's one area in which Google has provided additional guidance. According to Google, the 30% density is measured only for the main content portion of the site -- sort of.

Take a look at the image below for reference:

google better ads standard violation 30% density ad mobile

The "Bettter Ads Standard" says that only ads in the "main content" of the page are included in their calculation. However, this is apparently not how Google is interpreting the standard.

According to Google, in the image above, AD1, AD2, AD3, and AD4 would be included in the calculation.

AD6 would definitely not be in the calculation, and AD5 may or may not be, depending on how the reviewer decides to look at the site.

So, clearly they're not just looking at main content.

They appear to be looking at everything from the top of the site to the end of the main content, although exactly what the end of the main content is is open to interpretation.

The ad density in this situation would be the vertical height in pixels of AD1 + AD2 + AD3 + AD4 + (maybe AD5) / PAGE LENGTH. It's unclear how Google would deal with the fact that AD2 and AD3 overlap.

Are popups asking you to sign up for a newsletter violations of the Better Ads Standards?

No, unless Google determines them to be. That is, they're not technically, but if Google thinks you have "heavy branding from an advertiser" then it will be considered an ad. See this.

Are exit popups violations of the Better Ads Standards?

Not right now -- see the document linked in the next question for further clarification.

Are in-image ads violations of the Better Ads Standards?

In-image ads are currently okay, as long as they're less than 30% of the image size. Here is the document regarding this.

Are tablets classified as desktop or mobile?

They're classified as mobile. Google says they don't review tablets, but if you're failing on mobile, you'll see enforcement on tablets.

What's the difference between a prestitial ad and Google's AdSense vignette ads?

Nothing really, except that Google accepts its own ads but not any other prestitials. Google claims that vignettes are poststitials, and are therefore acceptable. There's a lot of ambiguity regarding what's prestitial and what's poststitial.

How are video ads reviewed for violations?

It appears that pre-roll and mid-roll ads are allowed in video, as long as the "video relates to your content".

That's quite a decision that Google gets to make on its own. Currently, images as pre-roll are being called popups, which may or may not be an error.