For a few days now publishers can make use of two new ad formats in AdSense: Anchor ads and Vignette ads. The idea behind it isn’t new if you work with multiple ad networks like me, but if you used only AdSense before, this can feel like a game changer. Why do I sound so reserved? Find out in my in-depth evaluation below.
Update April 27, 2016: As of today, Page-level Ads are available in every AdSense account. My review is now backed up by months of beta testing and still valid. If you want to integrate the page-level ad tag with just a click into your WordPress site then use my free and highly rated Advanced Ads plugin.
2 years and an almost-launch
I read the first announcement of an upcoming Anchor ad feature in the AdSense blog in November 2013 – almost 2 years ago. At that time other networks already used anchor or “sticky ads” on mobile devices, so it was time that AdSense made it available too.
In November 2014 I thought that the ads were already rolled out and wrote this very first review. It took me months and many conversations with the AdSense support team to find out that this wasn’t a public feature. It just happened that they enabled it for my site after a one-on-one optimization call without telling me more about it.
Just a few weeks ago they disabled the anchor ads on my account again, but also told me in confidence that I won’t have to wait long for the official release. I am glad that they kept this promise at the end.
The new Page-level ads can be used by publishers now. However, there was no official release yet – neither on the AdSense Google+ community page nor in the AdSense blog. Does this mean that they don’t trust it yet and are scared that many publishers starting to use it at the same time might break something?
What are the new Page-level ads?
The Page-level ads introduced now allow you to optimize ad income on high-end mobile devices.
They are additional formats that don’t count towards the “3 ads per page limit” like normal ad units. In theory, they should help you to monetize your mobile traffic without changing your current ad setup.
AdSense didn’t just publish the anchor ads, but introduced a whole new section in the menu which separates the new Page-level ads from the widely used content ad units.
You can access the page-level ads through the My ads menu item in the top navigation and below the “Content” section in the left menu.
Does the “BETA” notice tell us that this is experimental and might be removed later or can we build a long lasting ad optimization based on these ads already? I don’t have the answer on this yet.
You can see 2 ad types on the page:
- Anchor/overlay ads
- Vignette ads
You can keep them disabled, enable just one or be brave and activate both. Changing the setting here won’t have any effect on your site yet. You still need to include the ad code there. More on this below.
Let’s take a look at both ad types.
When I first read about this ad type I thought that AdSense combines anchor ads – ads that stick to the bottom of the page – with overlay ads which normally take up the whole screen.
However, it looks like they only mean anchor ads which technically also are an overlay, just not for the whole page but at the bottom of it.
I have been testing this ad type with my own implementation already some years ago and found that it increased the mobile ad income by over 400%. I stopped when AdSense made it clear that this wasn’t allowed and was then happy when I was able to beta-test this new format.
The ad community is not very consistant with terms so it is easy to be confused sometimes. However, I have never seen the term “Vignette ads” yet.
Maybe it is an invention from AdSense to distinguish their implementation from others, but what they just released is also widely known as “Interstitial Ads”.
The vignette ad is displayed when a user clicks on a link and before the next page is displayed.
I know from previous tests of pop-under formats that this vignette ad might look like a reason to leave your page at first, but users will get used to it. Since this test I am more open to such formats.
There are also a couple of things with which AdSense makes sure that it won’t disturb the user experience too much:
- it is not suddenly popping up, but only when a new page is loaded
- it won’t appear after every link
- it can easily be closed
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Results from my first test
I tested the anchor ads for a few days on one of my sites and was a bit disappointed. Here are some general observations.
- click price is equal to my normal ad units
- click rate is about 1/7 of my other ad units
- active view is lower than my normal ad units
My observations might of course be a different from yours. Please leave a comment with remarks about the performance on your site so that other readers get a better impression of the potential.
The questions I now have are:
- Why are the click rates so incredibly low?
- Why is the Active View rate lower if this format can’t be scrolled away?
I will leave them open for now. Maybe this depends too much on my own sites and can’t be generalized.
I haven’t tested the Vignette ads yet because I couldn’t make sure to react in time on user complains – in case there might be any.
Where is the performance report?
If you already enabled the page-level ads and are now looking for the performance report then here is a quick tip:
Go to Performance reports in the main navigation and choose Ad behavior as the report type. Anchor ads / overlay and Vignette ads should be listed in the result table.
Click on any of them in order to filter for more information like performance by bid type, channel or country.
Issues with Page-level ads
After a few days of testing I can say that the integration is easy and income is generated. However, when I first wanted to see the ads in action I thought that they don’t work.
Only after I scrolled down to almost the very end of the post the ad actually showed up. If I remember correctly, the beta that I used displayed the ad right away.
Maybe this is different on other sites, but it made me curious about this statement from the description of the ad:
Shown by AdSense at optimal times to help increase revenue and provide a good user experience
From this I would say that the ad might not be displayed with every page impression and right away. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any detailed information about this. Please leave a comment below if you have an idea about the conditions that AdSense checks before displaying an ad.
Not working on all mobile devices
Something you only learn if you dig deep into the manual for the page-level ads is that they don’t work on some browsers. Here are some examples:
- not running in Firefox or Opera Mini on Android devices
- only running on iOS 5 and higher and in Safari and Chrome
- Anchor ads not supported on any Windows Phone, Vignette ads only on mobile Internet Explorer and Windows 8
Here are other issues:
- does only work in portrait mode (if you hold your device vertically)
- does only work on devices between 320 and 420 pixels wide
- does not work if you are zoomed into the page
These issues show that the technical implementation of these ads is far from optimal and probably the reason why AdSense needed so long for the rollout.
How to make use of Page-level ads?
If you haven’t enabled Page-level ads yet then it is worth taking a look at the dedicated AdSense page. I think it already provides everything you need to know about the activation and implementation of the ad code.
In case you are using WordPress then this is even easier. In the next version of my Advanced Ads plugin (v. 1.6.9) there will be an option to enable Page-level ads without additional coding.
Before that you can use the Header Code placement in Advanced Ads for it:
- Log in to your AdSense account
- Go to My Ads > Content > Page-level ads and activate the page-level ad types you want to use on your site
- Scroll down to the Add the code for Page-level ads to your pages section and click on the blue Get code button
- Copy the code from the text area
- Log in to your WordPress site
- Go to Advanced Ads > Ads
- Create a new ad
- Insert “Page-level ads code” as a title
- Choose the “Plain text and code” ad type
- Insert the code you got from AdSense into the ad parameters textfield
- Publish the ad
- Go to Advanced Ads > Placements
- Select Header Code placement, a name you like and the ad you just created
- Save the placement
The AdSense code should now be visible in the source code of your page.
AdSense also provides a test to check if the implementation works. Check out the AdSense Help to learn more about it.
Quo Vadis AdSense?
With Page-level ads AdSense did an important step to monetize mobile content. I am not yet convinced that this will be enough to cover the losses that some sites have from users moving from desktop to mobile devices, but it is better than nothing.
I expect the vignette ad to perform well, but only in terms of click rates. Until there is more competition and a dedicated format for advertisers to book anchor and vignette ads, I don’t expect click prices to increase.
This still might take some time because it is still hard for advertisers to convert mobile traffic into sales or other actions like on desktop devices. Therefore, they are still not eager to pay the prices that they pay for desktop traffic.
For publishers who are already able to monetize mobile traffic, the increase from these new formats might not be that large.
With iOS 9 having a pre-installed ad-blocker there is already a new challenge ahead and I hope that the solution is not going to take another 2 years.
Did you test the new Page-level ads already? Do you agree or disagree on my findings? Let me know in the comments.