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Surviving Textual Madness

     
9:14 pm on Mar 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

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A question was recently asked in the March Earnings and Observations thread that goes like this...

How is it possible to go from my best day of the year to my worst?


Well, my reply could easily become a full-blown rant but I'll do my best to just keep this constructive, if possible.

The answer to the above question, IMHO, is "experimentation."

Today, I saw something that surprised me but is in line with other things I've seen where G's text ad formats are concerned, that being, no panel ads (at least in Firefox). Today, after watching no movement of consequence in my Adsense reports, I went looking for the reason. Traffic? Just fine. While researching my next "usual suspect," "irrelevant ads," I discovered that some of my rectangular ad blocks are now showing 5 ads with very small titles stacking into the space. What was once contained an overpowering ad Title, now almost disappears on the page in a block of tiny, faint text. Where there were panels, now there is a washed out block of uninteresting text with no hyperlinks visible.

What's even more bizarre is that on one page where I have two units, one is showing round arrows and the other is not. Both are responsive units (different ad codes) and take up approximately the same space. One contains 4 ads and another contains 5.

This recent behavior of cramming ads into a space first became apparent to me a few weeks ago I think when I notices a leaderboard ad with 6 side-by-side ads in it. The visual effect was similar, washed out, tiny, and no real call to action for the scanning viewer.

I guess where the rant could come in is related the fact that I've spent some serious time fine-tuning my ad presentation for those large ad titles only to now have those spaces turned into visual mush with another radical ad format change.

Anyway, to answer the question above, the unpredictability of what can show up in an ad space these days is off the charts and it's changing from day to day. This perfectly explains why people can have a killer day one day and then go a whole day the next with practically nothing to show for it.

I'll pass along the following suggestions which are a band-aid at best if you're seeing this.

1. Turn on display ads or at least "Text and Display ads" temporarily. This can help to a minor degree if you normally rely totally on text ads.
2. Try to intensify the colors in your ad titles so that these pesky little things will stand out better. It will also adjust your big bold titles but may give you a better chance with the small ones.

or

Do nothing and wait for the madness to subside. The choice is yours but I seriously think this new development is what's causing some big swings. Factor in irrelevant ads and the picture makes a bit more sense.

I've chosen to do some color changes and image ad experiments in some places during these periods but am leaving others alone. Will let you know if I find one approach more viable than another as the results come in.

[rant]GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR![/rant]
12:21 pm on Mar 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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For people who typically run text only, I would be very cautious about opting into text and display. I test this very frequently and it's never helped for me. Won't say it won't improve your results, but across 2 sites I manage it's made results significantly worse every time I've tested it. Which about a week every month the last 5 or 6 months. Much much worse for me opted into text and display. Don't run your test too long.
1:54 pm on Mar 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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For people who typically run text only, I would be very cautious about opting into text and display. I test this very frequently and it's never helped for me. Won't say it won't improve your results, but across 2 sites I manage it's made results significantly worse every time I've tested it. Which about a week every month the last 5 or 6 months. Much much worse for me opted into text and display. Don't run your test too long.


I agree with this generally and wholeheartedly. My main site has historically produced in this order.

#1 Text Only
#2 Text and Display
#3 Display Only

I use #2 and #3 sparingly as a result but have found them to serve several purposes in various scenarios.

1. When the auction is week and irrelevant ads are showing up in droves.
2. When G decides to run a day long textual ad "format" that is clearly not working.
3. When a particular ad is dominating the pages of my site.

Yes, I know I only see ads that are being targeted to me and others likely see something different but, when I start to see dominating ads or wildly inappropriate ads, it's a sign to me that the auction is weak and I often TEMPORARILY will switch certain units to some form of display option just to get more variety on the site. Where the display ads may not ever do much, they tend to take some pressure off the text ad slots that remain and things generally loosen up a bit. I find this strategy also helps in times when G is testing new text ad formats if those formats are failing miserably.

This all requires paying attention to what's going on on your site obviously. For me, periods of unusually low clicks trigger me to look for the above three circumstances these days and, guess what? More often than not, at least one is present when the click counter goes into hibernation. The other situation not mentioned is delayed reporting so it's wise not to jump to conclusions on this without actually checking your site.

The main point of my post is that G is mucking with text ads again (not that they ever stopped) in a very significant way and if your earnings drop like a stone one day and soar the next. This might be the reason. I merely suggest that by mixing up your ad display types, you can combat this to a certain degree when things are really bad.

Another approach to handling this is to, again, temporarily, swap out the ad unit for a different sized unit. Sometimes these tests only affect certain sized units.

Added:And, after a day of panel ads being reduced to mush space, they're back again so the display ads are turned off again so I'm back to text only for the time being and yesterday's adjustment did effectively mitigate what started out as a very bad day. I know this wasn't delayed reporting because the mitigation came from display ads.
2:51 pm on Mar 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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How much do you feel you can actually influence which ads are being shown? Personally I don't think Google takes hardly any notice of what we specify, they just seem to go ahead and display whatever they want.

3. When a particular ad is dominating the pages of my site.


This seems to be my biggest problem, whenever I check my sites out in the UK I see the same ads page after page after page and similar from the US when checking using a proxy however I run cache and cookie-free browsers therefore I haven't a clue what's there when I operate like Joe Public...memo to self, try it!

How is it possible to go from my best day of the year to my worst?


This I have to put down to data loss since the metrics were so way out-of-line with recent averages since the following day the earnings doubled and went back to average.
3:42 pm on Mar 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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How much do you feel you can actually influence which ads are being shown?


Not so much "which ads" but "how many ads." If I take a unit that showing 5 stacked text ads and convert it to display only. I've gone from 5 ads to 1 ad in that space. Theoretically, that can intensify competition for any other slot(s) on the page, hence. Given that you can have up to three ad slots on a page, it they're all textual and they're not tiny slots, G has the ability to easily show over 15 ads in a single page view and I think that is being conservative. One 728 x 90 banner ad slot can show up to six (count 'em, 6) ads in one fell swoop. With a top and bottom banner ad, that's a potential for 12 ads on a single page. Ad another unit (particularly a vertical responsive unit) and who knows how many ads could be on a single page (all so small that they're practically unreadable)?

The thought process here is that even if a display unit doesn't produce clicks, it can possibly earn some CPM revenue, and, it can help filter out some ads in your text ad spaces simply because there's less available space. I started looking at this when panel ads showed up and I'm still not completely sure what the answer is.

Smaller ad sizes have less of a problem in this regard but, then again, they're small to start with so round and round we go. I'm not a tail-chaser by nature but sometimes I just can't help myself, just to see what's what.
8:16 pm on Mar 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I am seeing very strange text ad behavior on two of my large rectange ads (responsive), where for some reason the bottom of 4 stacked text ads is being pushed to the side of the rectangle space, creating it own small vertical ad space squeezed between page text and a side menu. Barely legible and bizarre!
9:09 pm on Mar 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm beginning to see this as a land-grab. Used to be you allocated some space on your page where Google could show an ad and (with a little forethought and some traffic) you could make some money for G and yourself. It was a pretty decent symbiotic relationship. Now, it's more like giving G a dedicated, dynamic content space on your page. If you use responsive ads, the problem could be even worse than you think because where once, a 160x600 would show up centered in the 250px wide column you put it in, with a responsive ad, it will consume the entire width of the column and who knows how many more ads that allows them to show. Responsive ads are reaching out to take more space on the page (if not contained properly). Expanding ads can take over the whole screen and in whatever space you contain your units, G will cram as much as possible into it.

Meanwhile, they're making it almost impossible to predict what your page is gonna look like from page view to page view. Designing a decent looking page with Adsense text ads on it is becoming an impossibility. Who in their right mind randomly changes font sizes from page view to page view for example.
10:49 pm on Mar 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Wondering if anyone has actually been paying attention to what is showing up on your sites these last three days. Text ad formats have been all over the place and now, for the first time, I'm seeing the LARGE square text arrows mentioned by some probably more than a month ago and I can now concur where their lack of aesthetics is concerned.

The result (for me) has been three very mediocre days in a row and, I'd normally chalk that up to the end-of-the-month slip but can't ignore what's rolling out on my pages either.

Anyway, it's been a long time since I've seen what an "un-enhanced" text ad looks like so I turned off the option 2 hours ago and am waiting for the change to take hold so I can at least see what a non-embellished text ad looks like these days. Had things working pretty good this month but this latest round of changes is not having a good effect.

Not that this is a call to action but I'm wonder what would happen if the entire publisher community just turned these whacky things off. My guess, G would just remove the option and continue on it's merry way.
 

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