Monday, August 29, 2016

AdSense Per Page Ad Limits

Recent changes to the AdSense ad placement and ad limits policy have the web (and publishers) all abuzz with excitement. Some people appear to be excited for the wrong reasons though. Since the changes, I've come to realize that many publishers don't really understand what AdSense calls "the spirit of AdSense" and seem to read what they want to read into the policies ... and a lot of them are wrong. In a few web articles I've read statements like "AdSense has abolished the 3 ads per page limit", while in fact most experienced publishers have realized that what AdSense has actually done is tightened up the policy, to the point where many pages won't even qualify for 3 ads on a page. And yes, you read that right - some pages will not even have enough text to show 2 ads. A couple of days after publishers discovered the policy changes, I began seeing pages with 8, 10, 16 ads on a page, with more AdSense ads in hovering boxes and popups.  That makes it quite obvious that publishers don't understand the policy. They appear to be reading with $$ signs in their eyes, instead of with understanding in their brains.

The policy now relies on the amount of content on each page that shows AdSense ads. Just because a page exists doesn't mean it's suitable for a big pile of ads ... or any ads for that matter. What the policy actually says is that you now require enough textual content on every page where you place AdSense ads, so a page with just an image means a page with no textual content ... and perhaps that page won't show any AdSense ads on it. Certain types of pages also will not be able to show ads - such as pages that don't follow webmaster quality guidelines (meaning you must actually READ and UNDERSTAND those guidelines), or pages with mostly copied content.

What The Policy Says

Valuable inventory

Advertising and other paid promotional material added to your pages should not exceed your content. Furthermore, the content you provide should add value and be the focal point for users visiting your page. For this reason, we may limit or disable ad serving on pages with little to no value and/or excessive advertising until changes are made.
Examples of unacceptable pages include but are not limited to:
  • Mirroring, framing, scraping or rewriting of content from other sources without adding value;
  • Pages with more advertising than publisher-provided content;
  • Automatically generated content without manual review or curation;
  • Hosted ad pages or pages without content;
  • Pages that don’t follow our Webmaster Quality Guidelines.

Breaking Down the Policy

"Advertising and other paid promotional material" means not just AdSense ads any more - any other advertising (whether you've sold it yourself, or whether it's from other ad providers) AND affiliate links count towards that value. So if you have a page with one or two paragraphs of text and a lot of ads or affiliate links on the page, your page probably won't qualify for 3 AdSense ads, never mind more of them. It may not qualify for even one ad. The more total ads and promotional materials you have on your site "from all sources" is going to count towards how much value your page has for Adsense. Although that isn't the only thing that counts (actual content counts first and foremost), and it was given some consideration by AdSense in the past, now they are telling you that if your site looks like "ad spam" (too much advertising, no or useless content) ... it's not going to work for AdSense.

"Content you provide should add value and be the focal point" means that if you have more copied content, other people's photos/images or videos than original content you've written yourself, you may not be able to use 3 ads on the page. After all, if your content was taken from other websites, then what are you trying to earn money from? Someone else's work? No, because that doesn't work for AdSense. It never has really, but now, they are determined to ensure that only work you created will be worthy of getting paid for.

Remember that it isn't just the amount of text or number of words you have, it is also whether or not the content on the page is considered "valuable inventory".

Just as an example of pages that often don't have sufficient content, and often don't provide their own work as the focal point of a page would be "viral" type sites. These are less likely to qualify for ads now (or at least multiple ads on a page), particularly those types with an image, and one line of text. On these types of sites, the images are usually not created by the site owner and since the image is "more content" than one line of text ... well, you don't really qualify to earn money on content you didn't create. If you find your pages suddenly showing only one ad, you better check the policy and consider whether or not your pages fulfill that policy now.

Content Value and Amounts

So who gets to decide how much content is enough for 3 ads, or how much content is needed to display any ads, and how much content you really need to display 3 ads along with other advertising? Well ... the answer is simple, but also hard. AdSense hasn't listed content levels, so that means it's a guessing game if you don't understand what the "spirit of AdSense" is. For those who already understand that actual work (ie: writing content, creating your own images, etc.) is what we get paid for, understanding the content requirement won't be that difficult. Lots of useful information on a page, and not a lot of ads - 3 adsense, or 2 if you have other advertising on the page and you should be fine. It doesn't mean slap 5 or 6 Adsense ads on your page. If you write very long articles (more than 1500* words of your own) and have no other advertising on your pages, you might qualify to place one more on your page, but not a bunch. That isn't what the policy means, at all.

Those who don't really understand content levels are going to run into problems with ads displaying on their pages, and those who think they can just copy articles from other places, or paste other people's images (like to plethora of wallpaper sites with scraped images), or just load up their sites with third-party videos are going to find themselves with less ads than they have now. Maybe even no ads from AdSense.

How to Handle the New Policy

For many publishers, doing a quick review of their sites is likely to be enough. Publishers who write their own articles and have a full page of content (hundreds of words) are probably still okay with showing 3 ads on a page, unless they have a bunch of other advertising/affiliate links on their pages as well. Make sure you don't have too many ads on the pages. Review each page for how much content you have versus how many ads you have (that doesn't mean put up more ads, it means take down some if you have too many).

Publishers should also be sure to review the Webmaster Quality Guidelines to ensure all their pages follow them, because following them counts toward the ad limit now (actually it always has, but a lot of folks have forgotten that)!  While following the Webmaster Guidelines has always been part of the policies for AdSense, applying the quality guidelines explicitly to the ad limit policy makes it doubly important that you DO understand and follow them. And if you are uncertain what the quality guidelines mean, or how to apply them, then you can ask for help in the Webmaster Forum - which I expect is soon going to become a busier forum than it already is. The other thing you need to remember when considering the new policy is that ALL other specific and individual policies still apply (how ads are placed, what content is allowed, etc.).

Overall, the policy is engaging publishers to ensure their sites continue to meet the content policy guidelines as well as the ad limit policies, because if the content just "doesn't cut it" in terms of quality and quantity, they won't be seeing the ads on their pages any longer. While they will continue to police publisher sites and pages, they are placing the responsibility to ensure quality content squarely in the laps of the publisher/site owner. If you take ownership of what you create, you should want it to be the focus of the page, and shouldn't want the page overrun with advertising.

Be proactive, be productive, and be positive ... and you shouldn't have any problems.

So, after finally realizing what the ad limit policy requires ... anybody still believe they abolished the ads limit per page policy?  ... let's hope not, because those publishers could find themselves without ads.
* just as an example of how long a 1500 word article would be, this article has just over 1300 words, NOT including quoted content, titles or headers (don't include those in word counts).

posted by J. Gracey Stinson

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