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Surprise, surprise. Google has updated its rules for how brands can market their products and services—once again. But if loud, intrusive advertisements continue to plague your web browsing experience as a user, there is a silver lining to this story that’s good for both scrollers and advertisers alike.

This time, new changes focus on destination requirements policy for advertisers, publishers, app developers, and advertising technology providers. But really, the changes apply to any brand using any of the “bad” ad types to market their products and services

Now, you need to be a lot more careful about how you create the destination experience for your brand’s ads. Because if they don’t meet the “Better Ads Standards” created by the Coalition For Better Ads, your digital marketing strategy and results will suffer.

When to Expect Google Start Enforcing the Update   

Google actually pushed the page destination update live in October 2022. In a typically frustrating fashion, Google’s update came with a one-month warning before enforcement began. With so much going on in the world, many simply missed the memo. 

This is the email Google sent to advertisers in mid-September:

“In October 2022, the Destination requirements policy will be updated to include a new policy requiring ad experiences on destinations to conform to the Coalition for Better Ads’ Better Ads Standards. Destinations containing ad experiences that do not conform to the Better Ads Standards will be informed via the Ad Experience Report, and any ads that lead to such destinations will be disapproved.”

But if you were totally unaware of this important policy update for how you can create landing pages and market your brand, don’t panic! We’re here to help explain what this policy change means and how you can ensure your ads are in compliance.

What is the “Better Ads Standard”?

The Better Ads Standard is a set of guidelines laid out by the Coalition For Better Ads.  

Their new guidelines seek to reduce or eliminate ad types that interrupt or interfere with the user’s ability to consume content. Ostensibly, to improve the online ad experience for users who want to browse the Web with fewer interruptions. Let’s be honest, some ad types are much more interruptive—and far more frustrating—than others. 

Advertisers, publishers, app developers, and advertising technology providers are strongly encouraged to follow these steps in order “to improve the online ad experience”. 

  • Advertisers can use the Better Ads Standards to inform campaign development and execution
  • Publishers and app developers can use the Better Ads Standards to develop improved experiences for their audiences
  • Ad technology platforms can use the Better Ads Standards in the development process for new ad experiences
  • Providers of measurement technologies can use the Better Ads Standards to develop new ways to assess market place prevalence of the ad experiences preferred by consumers

Is it possible for all of us to consume more content? The Coalition For Better Ads are confident these improvements will ratchet it up a notch—impossible as that may sound.

Specific Ad Types On Google’s Bad List

More specifically, on the Coalition for Better Ads bad list. The group has identified the types of ad experiences that fall below a “threshold of consumer acceptability.” Google will no longer tolerate their use and penalize you for using them. These ad types include:

Pop-up Ads (that prevent the user from seeing the page content)

Pop-up Ads block the main content of the page and appear after content on the page begins to load. They are one of the most common complaints in terms of interruptions to a user’s experience. 

Autoplaying Video With Sound

Autoplaying Video Ads with sound catch the user off guard. As a result, the typical response is to close the window or tab to make it stop quickly. We’ve all been there. The sound is a public nuisance and usually embarrassing. And embarrassing nuisances are not conducive to more web browsing. 

Prestitial and Postitial Ads with countdowns

Prestitial “Countdown” Ads appear before the content of the page—such as a Youtube video—has loaded. The user has to wait before they can dismiss the ad. “Sponsored introductions” display a countdown before a link appears that lets you continue to the content.

Postitial “Countdown” Ads appear after you click a link and before you migrate to the link’s content. These ads force you to wait a number of seconds before they can dismiss the ad—or for the ad to close or redirect you to your desired page.

Large Sticky Ads that stay on a page as the visitor scrolls

Large Sticky Ads stick to the bottom of a page and obstruct the page content.  As the ad sticks, the user is unable to opt-out or avoid the ad by scrolling. 

Ad density greater than 30%

Ads that take up more than 30% of the vertical height of a page. Ad density applies to Large Sticky Ads, Pop-up Ads, and more. To determine ad density, you should follow these steps

Flashing Animated Ads

Ads that animate and “flash” with rapidly changing backgrounds, text, or colors are notable annoyances for users. These ads are annoying enough that many users instantly leave a page when they appear. 

Make sure you stop using these ad types that interrupt people’s user experience. If they are pushing people away from content then the ad is going to get rejected by Google. Once an ad is disapproved, it can be very difficult (and costly) to get it re-approved. 

In fact, advertisers and Google partner sites are often caught by surprise when their ads are rejected. Even worse, when their accounts get suspended for not complying with semi-vague advertising rules that are constantly evolving. 

To summarize, Google will reject ads for websites that lead to destinations or content that are purposefully difficult or frustrating to navigate. Including but not limited to: 

  • Websites with pop-ups that block users from viewing the page content;
  • Websites that block the browser’s back button; 
  • Sites with slow pageload speed on the most common browsers and devices;
  • Sites that make you download an app to view the landing page.

[Want to hire digital marketing specialists to vet your ad strategy? You can do that here.]

Wait, What’s a Landing Page?

A landing page is a standalone web page created for marketing or advertising campaigns. 

A person “lands” on a landing page after clicking on a link that directs them to the page. Though landing pages are standalone pages, you can choose to use them within the structure of your website domain or separately with only a specific link to access the page.  

The Value of Landing Pages

Landing pages are valuable because they help convert more traffic and increase conversions by focusing on a singular goal with crystal-clear CTA (call to action). 

For instance, let’s say want to grow your brand’s email list. You could build a landing page that offers a gated piece of content—such as a guide or template that solves a problem or answers questions for your audience—in exchange for email addresses. 

Just make sure that the landing page is Google-friendly. By adhering to the new destination requirements of the Better Ads Standard, you can make sure that’s happening. 

Complying With the Better Ads Standard

If you’re not sure whether your ads are compliant, there are a few things you can do.

  • First, take a look at the list of types of non-compliant ads above and see if any of them apply to your business. If they do, you’ll need to make some changes. 
  • Second, keep in mind that Google’s entire philosophy—and other recent changes like the “helpful content update”—are entirely focused on the user. The friendlier the browsing experience, the more people tend to tolerate ads, and the more advertising dollars they can capture. So when in doubt, always focus on the user’s experience first. 
  • Third, Google offers a tool that lets you test your ads and see if they meet the standards. The tool is located within your GoogleAds dashboard. However, it is not 100% accurate and Google is notoriously vague with requirements and restrictions. Why? Advertisers tend to bend or break the rules when they know exactly what they are. 
  • Finally, if you’re still not sure whether your site is compliant, reach out to us. We match you with digital marketing specialists who make that your ads are airtight and Google-friendly.  

What Does This Mean For My Brand?

Your website and landing pages should not feature ads that don’t meet the Better Ads Standard. Chances are, you’re already familiar with the ad types mentioned, are equally annoyed by them as everyone else, and have made a conscious effort to avoid using them. 

However, it’s possible that old landing pages or specific pages on your site may still feature these ad types without your knowledge. If that’s the case, you’ll need to make some changes to them so that they comply with Google’s new destination policy. 

Fortunately, making these changes should be relatively simple if you make a conscious effort to put the user first. We also suggest conducting an audit of all your current ads and digital real estate. These marketing audit specialists can help. 

This helps you identify which pages need to be updated and what changes need to be made—if any are required. After all, staying on Google’s good side is always a good idea.