A Guide to Better Ads
The Interactive Advertising Bureau was founded in 1996 to creates standards and guidelines for the advertising industry. If you’ve ever done any digital advertising, the size, file size, and capabilities of digital ads have all been defined by this group.
Defining ad sizes has never been easy. Early in the days of the web, ad publishers would seek to fit ads in every space possible. The IAB has worked for years to try and create standards that would be followed by all organizations and publishers. However, it’s much like a room full of pre-school children where some follow the rules and others, well, they’re not sure that there are any rules.
Over my career, I’ve worked with organizations and publishers of all shapes and sizes, some who follow these guidelines closely, utilizing smaller file sizes which drive a better user experience. However, that’s not true for all. Small local and regional publishers tend to utilize whatever ad size they can fit in a given space. And, even ad sizes where if ads are placed on both sides of the page – they aren’t symmetrical!
If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you may have run into an ad that created a bad experience: an interstitial ad that won’t allow you to see the page until after 5 or 10 seconds; Mid-roll video ads that take over the whole screen; Or even video ads that will play in the corner of a news site with the audio on and playing over a news video you’re trying to watch (I’m looking at you ABC and Fox News!).
With this being a constant battle, just prior to the pandemic, Google, IAB, and other organizations like the 4 A’s and select publishers have partnered to create the Coalition for Better Ads. These new standards are slowly being adopted across the web, and as of October 2022, Google is utilizing these new guidelines – specifically for destinations – from the Coalition for Better Ads. Google Ads will need to meet these new standards, or they won’t be approved.
Fortunately, Forum clients won’t have to worry as we work tirelessly to ensure we provide the best user experience for our clients’ prospects to drive leads and revenue. However, that may not be true for everyone. Moving forward, these are the new rules for destinations from Google Ads.
The following destinations will not be allowed:
- Destinations or content on those destinations that are unnecessarily difficult or frustrating to navigate
- User experience will matter. This includes webpages that utilize pop-ups or interstitial ads that interfere with the user experience or that don’t load quickly.
- Links that initiate a direct download from the ad
- These types of ads are already iffy – however these now include PDF landing pages. PDF landing pages are frequently used by pharma advertisers and will no longer be allowed UNLESS your approved as a pharmaceutical certified ad or ad account.
- Abusive experiences
- That is pages that are re-directed without the user acting in any way. So, if your pages redirect incorrectly or if they resemble a warning or error message to trick you into action, these are now going to be banned.
- Destination that is designed to show ads
- Driving clicks to pages that offer more ads than content or excessive advertising will be banned.
- Replicated content from another source
- Things like mirroring, framing, scraping content from other sources, or templated / pre-generated websites that use duplicate content are going to be a thing of the past.
- Doorways and Gateways
- Tricking a user to click and send them elsewhere is also no longer allowed. So-called bridge pages and other intermediate pages that are only used to link to other sites. I believe this is in reference to things like LinkTree and other similar platforms used heavily by influencers and musicians.
- Incomprehensible Content
- Blank pages or pages that contain content that is simply gibberish will be prevented. These tend to be pages that are high risk to users.’
- URL Accuracy
- This has been done in the past to drive keywords in URLs or necessarily when a landing page tool would be used that was not connected to the primary URL. We have had this situation for a client where the display URL and the landing page URL have needed to be different to accurately reflect the effort. That will no longer be allowed.
- Domain or Domain Extension Accuracy
- Again, the final and display URLs will need to match.
- Subdomains will not be required in the URL if it is used by one company. For instance if we used forumspeaks.com as our display URL but had something like blog.forumspeaks.com as the final URL, that would be ok.
- Domain redirects
- This can occur when one company purchases another. So, you will not be able to have a final URL that redirects to another URL.
- Tracking templates
- Tracking templates and the final URL will need to be correct. The example here is if the final URL directs the user to a category page, but the tracking template in Google Ads directs the user to a product page.
- Destination Not Working
- We have also seen this issue in the past with clients who have a website that we may not have created OR they have chosen an unreliable host. If the site returns an HTTP error frequently or doesn’t work on all browsers, that could lead to a disapproval.
- Destination Not Accessible
- Pages where the user either doesn’t have permission to access the page or its not available in their region. Limiting access to a site based on location shows that you didn’t necessarily target the ad appropriately and leads to poor user experience.
- Not Crawlable
- In SEO, we sometimes make pages not crawlable if we want them hidden from the global site. This is frequently done with landing pages that are only used for PPC or advertising. While I’m not sure how this will be handled, it seems that this is done proportionately but at what ratio, that is yet to be shared.
- Unacceptable URL
- The following will not be acceptable: URLs that don’t follow standard syntax, or that use and IP address as the URL or that use unacceptable characters.
- Unverified Phone Number
- Phone numbers need to be verified for call-only ads, call extensions, and location extensions.
- Inaccurate Phone Numbers
- Phone numbers should accurate, active, relevant, and call the advertising company. Google sometimes tests these numbers and they’re inaccurate, then this could lead to disapproval.
- Fax numbers, premium numbers, and vanity
- Fax numbers are obvious but premium and vanity may not be. Premium numbers are 1-900 or others that require additional fees. Vanity numbers are not tracking numbers, but numbers that utilize letters instead of numbers.
- Non-local numbers
- You will not be able to use a number that targets a specific country or state and not use a number local to that area. This is primarily regarding international numbers.
- Virtual numbers or personal numbers
- This is not for US-based ads but services in the EU and other countries.
- No active voicemail
- That is now required.
These new advertising requirements became standard in Google Ads this past October. We as advertisers for our clients hope that they benefit end users and will help start limiting the use of ad blockers. We believe our clients have great products and services, and advertising is just one of the many ways we tell those stories.
If you’re curious about the Coalition of Better Ads, make sure to visit their site – https://www.betterads.org/Back