Violating 'ad experiences' in Google Chrome - what happens when you break the rules?

Google's Chrome browser supports the Better Ads Standards. But what does this mean, and what happens if you are a webmaster and your website violates these standards?

The Better Ads Standards have been developed by the Coalition for Better Ads to "identify the ad experiences that fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability and are most likely to drive consumers to install ad blockers".

This is a little modest: it doesn't just identify them, but by identifying them helps to discourage them. The Standards cover ad experiences on desktop, mobile and video, with 'experiences' meaning more than just specific ad formats:

An ad experience can be a direct result of the creatives trafficked on your pages (for example, auto-playing video ads with sound) or with how ads are implemented on your site (for example, high ad density on mobile devices).

These Standards were adopted by Google Chrome in 2018, and the browser will take action against websites that violate them.

How Google gets in touch

If you are a webmaster and have verified your site ownership with Google Search Console, then Google will email you about any violations. Or rather, you will receive an automated email from Google Web Tools Team (wtt-noreply@google.com). The text of the email is something like the following:

Chrome will stop showing ads on [yoursite.com] on [date one month from now]. Violating ad experiences detected on [desktop or mobile].

To owner of [yoursite.com],

Google systems have detected ad experiences on your site that may be highly annoying, misleading, or harmful to users. To protect your site’s visitors, on [date] Google Chrome will stop showing all ads on [desktop or mobile] unless the issues are fixed.

Act now to fix the problem:

1: Identify the violating ad experiences

Visit the Ad Experience Report to identify the violating ad experiences detected.

2: Remove the violating ad experiences

Coordinate with your ad operations and web development teams to develop a strategy for addressing these issues.

3: Request a review

Once your site is free of violating ad experiences, request a review. Include any details or documentation that can help us understand the changes made.

The email includes a link to the aforementioned 'Ad Experience Report' in Google Web Tools.

Google Web What?

But what's Google Web Tools? you may reasonably ask. Don't you mean Google Webmaster Tools, the old (pre-May 2015) name for Google Search Console? Well, yes and no. Google Web Tools can be accessed via Google Search Console - there's a link in the 'Legacy tools and reports' section:

Web Tools link

But it's a separate interface to Google Search Console. And there's not much there apart from the Ad Experience Report plus a bunch of links to other Google tools and resources like the Structured Data Testing Tool. However the good thing about Google Web Tools being connected to Google Search Console is that any site you verify in GSC is also then verified for you in Google Web Tools.

The Ad Experience Report itself is quite straightforward, listing any issue/s along with a description and some links to specific examples that Google found. The only issue I've personally encountered so far (and not on this site I might add!) is the following for 'Pop-Up Ad':

Pop-up violation

And here's the text for the benefit of anyone who can't see that image:

Issue: Pop-up Ad

Description: Pop-up ads are a type of interstitial ads that do exactly what they say — pop up and block the main content of the page. They pop up after the page content has loaded and are among the most commonly cited annoyances for visitors to a website. Pop-up ads come in many varieties — they can take up part of the screen, or the entire screen.

Conclusion

So Google emails you about violations and flags them up in Google Web Tools, but can only do either of these things if you have verified your site in Google Search Console. There are a few take-aways from this:

  1. If you have not verified your site in Google Search Console, Google will not be able to tell you about any violations
  2. In which case, presumably the first you will know about violations is when Chrome stops showing all ads on your website - you will not be able to take advantage of the one-month grace period to fix any issues and get your site reviewed
  3. If you haven't already, verify your site with Google Search Console!

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