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Changes for What Constitutes a Click on Adsense Ads
Only URL and title will lead to click

 5:15 am on Nov 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google are about to implement a new change to the way clicks are counted. The background of a text ad will no longer take users to the advertiser's site. Only clicking on the Link or Title in an ad will take a user through.

I expect that this will reduce income for some publishers as accidential clicks will be far less likely.

Apparently it has been running on Google's search sites for a while. I understand that publishers are being warned that income may change as a result.

I should add that, at the the time of posting, only the title can be clicked on Google.com

[edited by: darkmage at 5:19 am (utc) on Nov. 13, 2007]



 2:00 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

How do you know that Google does not charge the advertiser from uncounted clicks?

While you're at it, why not allege that Google charges advertisers for clicks that don't even occur? That would make as much sense as alleging that Google charges advertisers for clicks that it doesn't count.


 2:13 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why not allege that Google charges advertisers for clicks that don't even occur?

Amazing concept - it takes the original idea one step further. Honestly, I would not have thought of this.

I was wondering whether Google might be charging advertisers for clicks that actually do occur (i.e. for traffic that arrives at the destination site), yet taking just a 100% share for such clicks while not counting them for publishers. This would be completely within the Adsense TOS, and publishers would have problems to prove this anyway.

But I don't think we should elaborate further on this as it is all just pure speculation, on both sides of the fence.


 2:45 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

The bottom line is that accidental clicks are bad for advertisers, and anything Google can do to prevent such clicks is likely to benefit legitimate publishers in the long run.

If your business model relies on user confusion, you need to rethink, regroup, and rebuild.


 2:48 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

OK, Google are rotating through the new and old systems and it started shortly after my post. I refresh a few pages and sometimes the space is clickable, sometimes not. I have seen this on many sites. It is not linked to new or old code.

My CTR has fallen, as I expected. It is consistently down using solid data across all channels, but some more than others (easily explained due to ad positioning).

I am not surpirsed. The CTR is 95% of the old system, but I expect it to fall further when all ads are displayed the new way. eCPM is down the same amount (only a loss of 5% at the moment).

I think on one level it is a fair change - assuming all clicks in the white space are accidential. However, I am not entirely convinced that all clicks in this area are accidential - it's just a matter of trying to guess if it's at a high enough rate to warrant the change.

[edited by: darkmage at 3:09 pm (utc) on Nov. 15, 2007]


 2:59 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

The bottom line is that accidental clicks are bad for advertisers, and anything Google can do to prevent such clicks is likely to benefit legitimate publishers in the long run.

I don't want to make money off visitors' mistakes. I think if your page layout is sharp and has clean lines, it's unlikely to get background text clicking.

Google could actually reverse this new policy with a change of color on the mouseover, like many sites, when you "hover" over the link space. Then it would be clear it's a link.

Would it ruin Google if it used an independent click-tracking counter, or at least allowed us to use independent click-tracking software? The kind of speculation here is precisely because of its lack of transparency.

I will just copy the URL from the ads and paste into the browser so I don't make the advertiser pay.

I do this, too, but with highlight text and Right-Click... Google Search. I think it's partly because of being so careful not to click Google Ads on my sites!

Google may soon disable text copy for the URL in its Search Network ads.



 3:10 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google could actually reverse this new policy with a change of color on the mouseover, like many sites, when you "hover" over the link space. Then it would be clear it's a link.

I asked about it and they said CSS styling including fonts option is only for premium users. I'm just 4.5 million search away to get that option .. LOL


 5:55 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

1) How do you know that Google has been "taking more and more"?

I'm actually surprised that that there are still disbelievers out there. As of the past year or so I never thought there was much question but that they are doing so.


 7:04 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Just wonder what would Google do if some publisher had lets say 1000 clicks a day and after this change - only 100.
Such a drop would mostly mean site users were veeery confused (i.e. ads placed too close to navigation, near the right scroll bar, etc. which is against AdSense TOS). Maybe such sites and/or publishers would be banned...


 7:13 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have a page with 2 160 towers. One is updated to show this change and the other is not. What's even more interesting is that there is an identical ad in both. Perhaps I am a guinea pig.

My personal take on this issue - wait and hold my breath. This sounds like a logical move on AdSense's part... and a good compliment to smart pricing.

AdWords is not limitless. It is finite. There is a budget for every company advertising with AdWords. When the budget is met, they stop advertising. If MFA sites see a drop in ctr then the advertisers budget will stretch further, or will better reward relevant clicks. Either way, quality publishers win... or at least we don't loose too much.

I have seen that as the day progresses my eCPM drops by 30% or more. It has been suggested that this may be due at least in part to advertisers daily budget. As higher bid ads reach their daily limit those notorious penny ads get a chance to be shown. If this is true then anything that can prolong the display of higher bid ads will also prolong high earnings. But, like everything else with AdSense, it's all speculation.

Like I said, holding my breath and hoping for the best... or at least not the worst.


 7:46 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Something just occurred to me with regards to "accidental" clicks...

Many publishers make the border frame of their AdSense ads the same color as their background, thus, making them invisible. With this, I think it would be VERY possible to have lots of accidental clicks -- especially if the ad was within text content (which is one of the best places) -- because the user would have no idea where the ad really begins.

On my sites, I need to have clear borders on my AdSense because lots of my visitors are kids. (It's an unspoken rule that the ads have to be very clearly identified at such. Well, more like it's just the proper thing to do.)


 8:00 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

G is not only a business it is a public company. Public companies have a responsibility to shareholders to increase the value of their stock. This translates to a mission of making more money every quarter.

Now assuming that the profit share is still 50/50... >chuckles< and that 1 bilion clicks go missing due to the elimination of accidental clicks... All things remaining equal, G is now reporting many milions of $$$ less next quarter and their stock takes a nose dive. I just don't see that happenning.

Therefore, one must assume that all things will NOT remain equal and that another piece of the puzzle will also change to compensate for this shortcoming. Be it that advertisers will be paying more per click, due to the possibility that smartpricing may be removed on many sites, or that G will take a bigger chunk of the pie... something else has to change. Your guess is as good as mine.

On the other hand, G announced to their publishers that we may be taking a pay cut but did not announce the same to their stockholders, which would seem to support the conspiracy theory that G is taking a bigger chunk. hmmmmmmm (lol)


 9:03 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have read here several times the speculation that Google will profit from the unreported and uncredited clicks that are generated in the spaces previously in-link. I don't follow this logic since clicking in the blank spaces has zero effect on the browser. The mouse simply missed the link and the browser does not leave the publishers site. Google cannot get credit because no action was taken.
If Google wanted to cheat someone they would do everything they could to encourage clicks. The only way this move makes sense is if you consider the service it provides to AdWords clients.
It is possible that the growth of AdSense publishers has outpaced the growth in AdWords advertisers. Simple supply-and-demand dictates that such an imbalance results in a reduction of advertising prices, a tightening of belts, and an examination of procedures.


 10:19 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I see other people leaving Google if their ad revenues reduce. Personally, I don't worry about Google ads as I don't see revenue coming out of them as much as other well targeted ads or ads I sell. The typically just put them in rotation for ads that are not currently sold.


 3:50 am on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

While Google's argument that this may lead to "better income in the longer term" probably holds some water, it seems blatantly unfair to the publisher -- especially those who took heed of Google's call to "blend blend blend"!

To my mind, publishers who cede to Google a 728*90 leaderboard (for example) should be paid for clicks on that 728*90 strip of screen real estate -- nothing more, nothing less. Yet to Google's mind, it seems fair to pay only for clicks on less than a third of that adspace... and less again if the block is holding just two ads.

Perhaps they could provide us with 125*15 pixel ad-blocks that we can position as we want to -- or is that too close to a paid-link ;-)

As I type this I can see a blue banner for "Las Vegas Pub Con" at the top of the WebmasterWorld screen. How about if WebmasterWorld were only paid if the user clicked on the red "click here" at the lower right corner?

Would that be fair?


 5:35 am on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Oh WW, always at the heart of any Google misinformation campaign. "Accidental clicks"? How about motivation vs. accessibility. I don't blend ads for one simple reason, it's disrespectful to my users, period. Yet, over the last two days my CTR has fallen by 50%. Does this mean my tech savvy web readers are generating 500+ accidental clicks per day, of course not. It's just accessibility and motivation have been pulled further apart, and here on earth we call that physics.

I use to have my "contact us" link separated from the rest of my navigational buttons, as I thought it would be more visible and accessible as stand alone. One day I moved that link over with the rest of the navigational buttons, and guess what happened? I suppose the WW patrons here would call the 50% increase in user generated emails, accidental.

Thanks for keeping me entertained! LOL


 5:57 am on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yet, over the last two days my CTR has fallen by 50%.

Whoa! Have you seen any increase in eCPM? One would hope that in your type of situation those clicking through are super-motivated to convert to sales/signups, which would (supposedly) allow smart pricing to up your share of the advertising dollars.

accessibility and motivation have been pulled further apart, and here on earth we call that physics.

You may be right there.

Thinking from a personal perspective and also thinking about the heat-map studies, motivation declines quickly from one link (even an ad) to another interesting thing on a page.

Same for accessibility.

I personally liked that one did not have to slide the pointer all the way to the Adsense link to get through when on a buying mode and having a coffee-induced rush to do so online.


 6:22 am on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

zjacob, there has been absolutely no increase in eCPM at all, as expected. By all logic, the only way to increase my CTR at this point [and in turn my eCPM], would be to actually blend my ads for once, and encourage actual "accidental clicks". I'm not going to do it of course, but OH the irony.

I think I'll try out AdBrite, or some other publisher networks, now I have an excuse. If that flounders, I'll probably play around with some direct ad banners, complete with built in ecommerce features [something new that I recently built and tried out, and it works!]


 8:44 am on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

The change seems to be in effect.

AdSense just blogged it: [adsense.blogspot.com ]

And I can no longer find any AdSense ads with a clickable background.


 9:12 am on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Our clickrate went down by somewhat around 15%. I think it would be ok to reduce the clickable area to the headline, the url AND the text.

The new adsense layout makes it more difficult for users to click a link and I think it might hold away some of them from clicking the ads.

Don't like it.


 9:29 am on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I spent a few minutes examining a variety of sites, and as of right now IE has switched over but Firefox is still displaying the click-anywhere format.

So far I haven't noticed any detectable difference in CTR, but my ad headlines and domain names have always been blue-on-white. If anyone is using non-standard colors of any kind, I would recommend going back to something standard and obvious, so that people have an immediate intuitive sense of where they're supposed to click.


 12:31 pm on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

but Firefox is still displaying the click-anywhere format

Have both types of ads in Firefox. Those generated after "manage ads from account" are not "background clickable". Those generated months ago still "background clickable".


 12:32 pm on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

After much split testing, I determined that--on one site, for all the ads; on another site, for some ads, not for others--it was optimal to blend the ad url with the ad text, for example: ad text and ad url, black; ad title, blue.

With this new policy, there are now just two places within the ad space that are clickable: ad title, ad url. Ad text (also ad background) is no longer clickable.

With the change, and with blended text and url, one of the two clickable places, the ad url, is now visually indistinguishable from the newly unclickable ad text.

When deciding to click on an ad, the user now needs visual guidance where in the ad space to move his/her mouse to click. Before, he/she could just click anywhere (title, text, url, background).

See where blending the ad url with the ad text, i.e., making them the same color, removes the visual clue for the user to click on the ad url?

So, before, the user needed no visual clue where within the ad to click--just click anywhere.

Now, with blended url & text, the user has just one visual clue where to click--the ad title.

It's quite possible that given the choice between two ads (and everything else being equal):

--an ad with just one visual clue to click (e.g., the ad title)
--an ad with two visual clues to click (e.g., both ad title and ad url)

CTR will be higher in the second case, the ad with the two visual clues.

Seem plausible?

I think I'm going to redo my split testing to determine if unblending ad url and ad text (for example: ad title blue, ad text black, ad url blue) raises CTR.

Make sense?


 4:56 pm on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

50% drop in CTR and eCPM for today. I dont think my links are deceiving in anyway although they do blend into content.

Yahoo anyone?


 5:07 pm on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think it is simply too hard for users to navigate over those tiny links and to click them.

Larger headlines could help.


 7:19 pm on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Of course, the "Ads by Google" is still clickable. I doubt we get any money when a user clicks on that.


 7:39 pm on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

50% drop in CTR and eCPM for today. I dont think my links are deceiving in anyway although they do blend into content.

It's the start of a major US holiday week. A drop in eCPM, traffic and revenue shouldn't be all that unexpected unless your site is about:

Last Minute Travel


 9:16 pm on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

This change has forced me to change one of my sites. The look and feel previously was one of shades of brown, with all text and links the same very dark brown. This color scheme made up for the fact that links and text on the page were same color by including a color-change on the links on hover.

The ads on this site are blended, and so have the same color scheme, ie., links and text same color. I reasoned that ads being more easily clickable, because the entire space of the ad was clickable, made up for the fact that the links were the same color, just as the hover-over color makes up for it on the rest of the page.

However, because of this change of text area not being clickable on the ads, I have now changed the links on the entire page (with the ads to match) to a different color, a dark blue (blue enough to "look like a link" but dark enough not to really be "neon" on a muted-colors page). This is perhaps something I should have done a while back anyway (but I really liked the old totally brown look-and-feel).

It's been less than 24 hours, but the CTR for this site does seem to be increasing...

BTW, I have accidentally clicked on my own ads a few times in the past. EVERY TIME I did so, it was because I clicked on white-space on my blended ads, not realizing it was ad whitespace and not normal empty page whitespace. So, I don't know if this change will make us lose money, but it definitely should allow us publishers to relax about too easily accidentally clicking on our own ads.


 1:51 pm on Nov 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Our CTR for our main ad spot is down about 60% (we are making 40% of what we were before the change).

Quite a big hit! We had a standard embedded 336x280 box in our content, blended.

I understand what G is trying to do, but maybe they should now give us more control over the font sizes in the ads. The 336x280 box has such small font ads they are hard to click now!

I may switch over to the 250x250 ads for now since they show a larger font/title... see if that helps.

So goes the way of the world... we have to just adapt and run with it... ;-)


 2:10 pm on Nov 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure what to make of it yet.

Friday and saturday revenue was very bad compared to the average of the past couple of months but I'm not sure if the ad format changes are the reason. Friday's CTR was the lowest of the month but yesterday's CTR was higher than average.


 4:09 pm on Nov 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have noticed no noticeable change in CTR since the change. I really hope that it encourages advertisers to put more faith in the content network.


 4:23 pm on Nov 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I haven't seen any obvious effect, either, probably because I don't blend my ads into content and anyone who'd click on one of my ads by accident would have to be really, really clueless.

I do think the change will be a good thing, although it isn't that big a deal. (There's a thread on the AdWords forum where several advertisers have said they don't expect to see much of an effect from the change.)

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