On February 15, 2018, Google Chrome introduced a browser filter that can automatically block ads on desktop and mobile devices. You could hear the collective ad industry let out a big “uh oh.” Well, compared to the current ad-blocking technologies on the market, it’s not as detrimental as you may think. This Chrome filter will not block all ads on a website—it will only block ads it deems “annoying” or “disruptive” to the user experience. So unless you’re annoying or disruptive with your digital, you’ll be OK. By enforcing higher ad standards, and weeding out the truly intrusive stuff, Google hopes to deter people from adopting ad blockers and to create a greater sense of accountability for publishers and websites to create positive ad experiences. That sounds like a good plan.
As one of the most popular web browsers in not only the US, but the world, Chrome’s step toward a more user-friendly web experience is a step in the right direction. Boasting browser usage rates of 51.56 percent in the US and 57.41 percent globally, Google Chrome is uniquely poised to bring impactful change to how people consume online advertisements.
The down and dirty.
Here’s what you need to know. This update, which was announced in June 2017, came as a result of a partnership between Google and the Coalition for Better Ads. The Coalition is made up of leading international trade associations, advertisement organizations, and big-name companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google. Consider Google and the Coalition for Better Ads to be sort of a digital power couple. Their name would probably be GoCo.
Anyway, the Coalition for Better Ads conducted a consumer research study in hopes of identifying the least preferred ad experiences on desktop and mobile. Leveraging the insights they learned from the study, they developed a set of standards for online advertising that will help improve the user experience. With this update, sites will now be penalized when they show full-page intrusive ads, flashing ads, or auto-play video ads with sound. We’ve all come across those in our day. And maybe we’ve even accidentally clicked on them. Annoying indeed.
In general, ads that disrupt, clutter, and distract from the original content ranked lowest in the study and were classified as the least preferred ad experiences. Unsurprisingly, pop-up ads topped the list as the most annoying ad experience across both devices. Desktop and mobile ad types were tested separately, and they each have their own set of standards. The Better Ads Standards outlined four desktop ad experiences and eight mobile ad experiences that will be blocked by Chrome browsers.
Pop-up ads, auto-playing video ads with sound, prestitial ads with a countdown, and large sticky ads were found to be the lowest scoring ad types for desktop devices.
For mobile, the least-preferred ad types include the same listed for desktop, along with postitial ads with a countdown, full-screen scroll-over ads, ads with density higher than 30 percent, and flashing animated ads. These mobile ad standards are building upon an earlier Chrome update that occurred in early 2017. The Chrome Canary update released last year blocked ads and penalized websites that served ads that were deemed too “intrusive” for mobile.
So hey, how does it work?
Once the update is downloaded to your browser, Chrome will automatically start monitoring and blocking low-scoring ads. Easy as that. The Chrome filter works by evaluating a domain and issuing the site with a grade of Pass, Fail, or Warning.
When you visit a URL on a Chrome browser, the browser will cross-reference the domain with other sites that it has flagged as problematic—the problem children of the internet, if you will. Using the “failed” website as a reference, Chrome will check how well the site complies with the Better Ads Standards. If the site has any ad type violations, Google will notify the webmaster and give it 30 days to correct this infraction. If after the 30 days, the site does not address the issue, Google will start removing ads from the site. Google will not only remove the penalized intrusive ad, but it will disable all ads on the page if the site owners do not comply. Digital smackdown.
As a Chrome user, the browser will notify you when ads have been disabled on a particular site, and it will give you the choice whether to allow them to load or remain hidden. For desktop users, you’ll see this notification in the address bar where pop-up notifications typically appear. On mobile, a small info bar toward the bottom of the screen will appear.
Time to panic?
Not really. Seeing as the industry is already trending toward more user-friendly ads, most websites won’t need to make any huge changes to their ad practices. Google estimates that only a small percentage of websites will be heavily affected by this update. This filter is being rolled out gradually to Chrome users, so publishers and websites have some time to get their sites up to par. Google even offers websites the opportunity to test their sites for any potential problems by using the Ad Experiences Report available through Google’s Webmaster Tools. This tool gives publishers the chance to get ahead of the filtering process and fix any problematic ads before they are blocked. So there’s really no excuse.
Overall, the industry has been very accepting of the update. In the most recent post released by Google, it shared that “as of February 12, 42% of sites which were failing the Better Ads Standards have resolved their issues and are now passing.” Yay failing sites!
This crackdown on “annoying” ads is not meant to hurt publishers; instead, it’s meant to improve the browsing experience. No one wants to feel bombarded by flashy and annoying ads. By curating ads that match brand content and don’t distract from the overall site message, websites will be able to attract better leads and increase consumer confidence in their sites.
Essentially, this is Google’s response to the ad-blocking technology that has seen a rise in popularity within the last few years. Ad blockers are a danger to many online publications wanting to offer free and relevant content to users. By creating a friendlier and less intrusive online experience, consumers and brands alike will benefit from this new and improved online environment.