What’s Google’s Plan for AdSense and DFP publishers?

Google AdSense or DFP used to be the default choice for publishers looking to monetize their unsold inventory. Now times they are a changin, and Google is feeling the pressure. But Google is not one to sit back on its laurels and watch its market share dwindle. The guys at Mountain View are investing in making their monetization solutions attractive, competitive, and even sweeter for publishers once again.

It’s officially summer, and the temperature outside demands ice-cream. May the Gods of fitness forgive us. We are victims of our own desires, I find myself in front of the refrigerator in the corner store, trying to pick a brand, a flavor, and of course: the quantity.

The flavor of ad revenue

In many ways, your Ad Tech stack looks like my favorite summertime ice cream cone. Back in them olden days, Google was the chocolate flavor for publishers. It was always in stock in every shop as it seemed to be what everyone was getting. It was the default. The base upon which every ice cream stack was built.

But market trends change. Now you can find vegan ice-cream, boutique ice-cream brands, and any size, flavor, and topping imaginable. Like wasabi ice-cream and ice-cream made for dogs. Not to mention, the more health conscious crowd that have switched to Fro Yo all together.

Obviously, alternatives are a good thing. Their existence also means there’s a healthy market demand for them. But for Google, the summer heat is on and they need to adjust the Ad Tech temperature to keep their position as the big ice-cream fridge of digital advertising and content monetization.

What has Google done for YOU lately?

Many of the challenges Google has to deal with, in a competitive landscape for advertisers and publishers, are no less a concern for Google’s competitors. Viewability, Ad Blockers, bad user experience, and Facebook’s ever growing power in the market are just a few of the problems we all face alongside Google.

While it may not seem obvious, the company is making efforts to retain and attract AdSense and DFP publishers…Not just advertisers and agencies, believe it or not. And they try to do all that, while still (obviously) making a profit. Sometimes, That’s more of a headache than your average brain freeze.

In the past year, Google has been doing a lot to tackle these issues. It’s hard to keep track of all the things Google has been doing to improve UX and monetization this past year. That’s why we created this post.

So what are they doing exactly at Mountain View for us publishers?

Revenue from Google, without the ads?

Users hate ads. There are many reasons but the main one is that users want something else than what advertisers and publishers are offering them with ads.

There is an inherent dissonance between users who want to simply be educated or entertained (for free! Of course for free!) and advertisers and publishers’ need to get them to do something else than what they came for.

What that does is create friction and an unpleasant ad experience, which pushes web visits into the waiting arms of ad blockers. And that is scaring the hairs off the head of industry execs, as they see ad viewability percentages melt away (yes, another ice cream reference).

Google can’t possibly ignore this trend. So the smart people working in Google’s futuristic development centers are looking for ways to work around the ad blockers while pleasing the ad blocking crowd, advertisers and even us publishers. Google understands that revenue from ads is down and it’s time to get creative with how Google lets us monetize content. Not just display ads.

Contributor — Bid for no ads

People who use ad blockers usually do it to improve their browsing experience and minimize disruption. They’re not doing it to hurt your revenues. Actually, the majority of them truly value the hard work of publishers, developers, and journalists and will pay for quality content.But how can they contribute to the publisher’s business without tolerating the intrusion of advertisements? Enter Google Contributor.

What Contributor does is allow users to pay a certain amount of money for an ad-free experience. The sum of money changes, as users basically bid alongside advertisers for a blank ad instead of theirs. When it is displayed, instead of an advertisement, a user I would see a “thank you” message from the publisher.

The cherry on top of this for publishers? You will still get paid for the “ad views” but this time by the user and not the advertiser.

Contributor is currently available only in some countries, and time will tell if it’ll catch on. In a sense, it’s a bit like low-fat ice-cream. While the promise of revenue without displaying ads is tempting, the calories are still there. And while this feature can help address a percentage of the ad-hating crowd, it’s still not a solution to the sour taste of ad-blockers.

Consumer Surveys — Not quite an ad

Another alternative Google is evaluating is consumer surveys that demand users answer them before they get access to content. This solution is far from ideal. Yes, it presents an alternative for ad-blocking users. But it’s also no less of a disruption than a pop-up.

What will your content consumers be able to tolerate on their way to the cool deliciousness of your content? How many surveys would it take to drive a user away from your site for ever?
Like Contributor, this service is available in a handful of countries and locales. The surveys collect demographic information or evaluate users’ sentiment toward a brand. The information collected is not shared with publishers but instead sold by Google to market research firms and businesses.

Are you willing to sell your users data and information like that? At this point, the success of this alternative depends largely on its rate of adoption by advertisers and businesses. Currently, this rate is painfully slow.

Improving the ad experience

This is what separates the boys from the men. What do we mean? Just like everybody else in AdTech, Google realizes that display advertising is broken. But, Google is not throwing out the display baby with the bath water. Instead, they’re going to fix it for the benefit of us all. Display advertising is far from being dead — Dr. Google is on the case.

Data & Trust

Google envisions a data-driven digital user experience that will allow smart tracking and targeting across devices, while delivering a superb user experience and value. True programmatic end-to-end customization. According to Google’s partnerships manager Felipe Calderon, this vision should be a reality within five years. But we’re not quite there yet.

As a publisher, you probably know how hard it is to get precise user targeting data. In addition, spambots and ad fraud are still a problem and a cause for drop in inventory value.

Advertisers know this too, and have difficulty trusting publisher audience data and their ability to display ads to the right consumers.

To improve user tracking and data collection while maintaining its user first approach, Google recently introduced an opt-in expanded ad tracking feature. Packed full of features for ad-conscious users, this service can be a game changer for AdSense publishers and Adwords advertisers alike. The new settings tempt users to make their activities across all Google service targetable in ads.

Basically, instead of relying only on cookies to scoop up that delicious data, Google is attempting to consolidate user data to enable cross-device tracking and better targeting. This is yummy for pretty much everyone.

The question is — does Google plan to make this an opt-out feature, or will it keep the targetable audience to tech-savvy users only?

Pick your toppings

My favorite type of ice-cream is one where I get to pick the ingredients, toppings and the cone type. I might be more of a control freak than most, but publishers like to have at least some power of decision and the ability to customize and optimize.

To answer this need, Google introduced AdSense Labs with features like inline ads and experimentation with the number of ads displayed. We had a peek under the hood. It’s good but AdNgin can still do it better 🙂

For DFP publishers, Google introduced First Look, an alternative to header bidding that is also aimed at giving a sense of control to publishers who fear RTB will gradually melt their revenues.

Back to AdSense, Google announced the launch of a new ad type named page-level ads. Page level ads are designed for mobile devices and come in two formats: anchor/overlay and vignette.

These ad types offer:

  • Optimized ads that show when they’re likely to perform well and provide a good user experience.
  • One-time set-up that only requires you to place the Page-level ad code once on each page you’d like the ads shown.
  • Ability to adjust the settings in your account and to enable new ad formats without having to change the code on your site.
  • Additional ads on your site that don’t count towards your AdSense per page ad limit.


Here is the what the interface will look like:

Courtesy of Search Engine Rountable

And the control panel:

Courtesy of Search Engine Rountable

Google goes native (too)

Not to be left behind and never to shy away from imitation, Google has launched their own native ads network titled Google Matched Content. If you’re familiar with content discovery networks like Outbrain or Taboola then you don’t require any further explanation.

If you’re not then the cliff notes are that Google Matched Content scans your content and then displays a widget featuring other content pieces that are related to your own content. The publisher then gets paid for every click on the content widget.

Mobile Mobile Mobile

The tiny cookie-less devices we all love so much are a challenge to advertisers, publishers, and of course — Google. Between the challenge in user engagement, bad UX, difficulty in cross-device tracking and accidental clicks aplenty? There was again need for some creative thinking.

Google can feel Facebook breathing down its neck in the mobile monetization arena. With Facebook Instant Articles landing before Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, it was up to the big G to play catch-up. They don’t like playing catch-up and it scares them not to be ahead on the product front. So mobile is a very big focus in Google’s latest developments in AdSense and DFP features.

AMPed up

Google’s latest AMP roadmap includes a section about ads in AMPs that expands the advertising and ad placement options of Google ads in the Accelerated Mobile Pages. Google is introducing new formats (like the sticky ad and the curious “flying carpet”) and the future looks bright for a fast, mobile-optimized experience for users.

For publishers this makes AMPs more attractive for monetization of mobile traffic. Deeper integrations in Q3/Q4 of 2016 should see more publishers experimenting with AMPs.

Currently, only about 4 percent or less of site traffic account for AMPs, even with nearly all content being formatted. Will this flavor catch on? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Diversifying the chocolate sundae — Good times ahead

Google wants their milkshake to keep bringing all the publishers to their yard, but since Google is not in it for short term gain they also understand that they can’t compromise user experience. If anything, they want publishers ro improve user experience and keep web visitors happy.

If you’re like most, then these changes, will not remedy your monetization headaches but they are a step in the right direction. It seems that after many years of publishers feeling like the big G was not paying them any attention that finally things are beginning to change.

It’s far from being perfect and you may not see a massive change to your bottom line RPMs but Google is shifting (some of) its massive weight and focus to please their AdSense publishers.

I’m Head of Marketing Operations at AdNgin. Before coming to AdNgin, I was a marketing professional focused on SAAS business models. When I’m not working, which is rare, I sail and hang out with my son, Jonathan, and wife, Meital.

Originally published at www.adngin.com on July 6, 2016.

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