Are AdSense truly interested in cutting down mistaken clicks on ads? If so – why do some of the biggest sites on the web (including one of their own) still have most of their ad units clickable while the average publisher does not?
I just had an email from WebbyThoughts who alerted me to a an inconsistency with AdSense’s recent policy to make less of their ad units ‘clickable’.
You might remember on 14th of this month when AdSense reconfigured their ads so that only titles and URLs were clickable on their ad units. This was to cut down on mistaken clicks and to improve the performance of ads for advertisers. It led to many AdSense publishers reporting lower CTR.
WebbyThoughts today published that they’d notice the AdSense ads on their Gmail account were still clickable over the full unit (with the exception of small spaces between individual ads). I’ve highlighted the clickable areas on the ads in my Gmail account (left).
AdSense did only introduce these changes into some ad units (smaller ones still have the background as clickable) but this ad unit is actually quite large (the screen shot above is only part of it – the full unit displays 8 ads) and I would have thought that for consistencies’ sake that they’d move to a similar displaying of ads on their own property as they’ve enforced upon other publishers.
But Wait – there’s more…
When I saw the above examples I began to consider different reasons for why Google would allow this on their own ads but not other publishers.
One of the reasons that I considered is that perhaps they consider themselves to be a premium publisher. AdSense has a category of publishers that they label ‘premium’ that get different privileges and features to the rest of us. Perhaps they consider their own division – Gmail – to be ‘premium’?
I tested this by going to a blog that I know has premium publisher status – Engadget.
What did I see there on their Google ad units? Let me show you (clickable zones highlighted):
Yes – you guessed it – Engadget also have their ads almost completely clickable.
Lets try another one. This time About.com:
How about the AdSense ads on Myspace?
And one more for good measure – another known premium publisher for AdSense is CNN. Here’s how their AdSense ads look:
I can’t be certain that it’s just a premium publisher thing – but it does illustrate that Google isn’t completely consistent with the the clickable zones on their ad units. While I can understand the need to provide value to their advertisers and to give extra features to premium publishers it does leave me with two questions:
1. are Google not worried about readers of these sites mistakenly clicking ads?
2. how do the advertisers whose ads appear on these sites feel about the increased chance of a mistaken click?
Surely if Google want to give their advertisers optimal performance and the most bang for their buck they’d make these changes not only on sites with small numbers of impressions but also on the sites that show the most ads (I can only imaging the millions of impressions a site like CNN has)?