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What do we know for sure about blank ads problem?

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4:57 am on Jan 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Let's try to summarize a bit.

- problem is related to big websites;
- not every big website is infected;
- coverage not necessarily should be low to see no ads (my coverage is 90+);
- I saw ads were shown on page like this : No ads - Ads - No No No No Ads - Ads (same) - No No ads - Half Ads (different)
It says to me, that this is not about crawler, because even if these were 3rd party ads, then why page was not filled by them all the time.
Also G. didn't say, that re-crawl required and meantime you will receive 3rd party ads only. It said re-crawl required to receive ads. Any ads.
Also almost a month passed since new policy was implemented. Obviously things should be better every day, since more pages supposedly should be re-crawled, but nothing good
happens.
So, I don't see any evidence, that this is about crawler. Pure assumptions.

Please add your observations and conclusions.
3:23 pm on Jan 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Another evidence this is not about crawler (at least not all of the time).
I'm looking at the page where 2 ad slots are filled by AdX advertiser (as clearly stated in Ad Review center). Means page is crawled and good enough for AdWords/AdX.
But 2 other slots are empty.
7:25 pm on Jan 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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- problem is related to big websites;


Nope, I've been seeing this for more than a month even on small, evergreen, flat html5 websites of 250-500 pages as well.

Observation:

Even when a new page has been crawled and ads shown I've seen that page return to no ads.

I have some evergreen pages that seemingly have not had ads for 2-3 months meanwhile all the pages surrounding those pages have been serving ads normally, for example:

product/item1.html ok ads
product/item2.html ok ads
product/item3.html no ads
product/item4.html ok ads
product/item5.html ok ads
product/item6.html ok ads
product/item7.html noads
product/item8.html ok ads
product/item9.html ok ads
product/item10.html ok ads

Needless to say it is random, not as above:-)
7:49 pm on Jan 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@RedBar
static pages ?
2:23 am on Jan 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I have some sites with 1000 static html pages which are unchanged since 2006, and ad coverage is around 80%, before dec. 18th it was 95%+

I mean google had 10 years to crawl them all lol

I think the problem must be something else, not the uncrawled pages.
11:10 am on Jan 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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static pages ?


Yep, flat html5 responsive high quality informational corporate brochure sites between 10-24 years old.
12:51 pm on Jan 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I don't understand why Google has not seen fit to make another communication on this issue. There are a LOT of us out here hurting with whatever this problem is - and some of us are following all the <censored> rules and are still getting screwed. Our sites do not violate the better ads standards, etc. - our rankings are still good - our google income is halved. WHY?

Previously I had NOT seen any blank spaced on our site...until last night (may have been a hiccup)

any advice gratefully accepted...
3:16 pm on Jan 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If a new ad policy is in effect, pulling out lots of lower quality ads (slow, annoying, misleading, suggestive, etc.), it may simply be that there's now a shortage of ads relative to the number of ad requests (publisher traffic). In that case, the quality of your site is largely irrevelant -- although a high-quality site is likely to attract more targeted demand from advertisers.

I've never had a need to set up backup ads because coverage was near 100%, but I'll have to set some up now.
8:04 pm on Jan 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Unshiny
Make screenshot(s) and contact G.
You'll get some general replies, like "new policy blah blah blah" ... Insist your case is not about that, proving by screenshots.
You'll get your answer then.
2:26 am on Jan 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, @sdksjdksjd. I wrote G. Via the "send feedback" feature in adsense and also posted to the adsense support forum. Was there a different way to contact them that you suggest?

Anyone else on this thread, our site is around 1100 pages, around a million page views per month. We were seeing pretty good coverage rates.
12:06 pm on Jan 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Unshiny
"email support", though I'm not sure if it is available for everyone
3:17 pm on Feb 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Quick follow up - I wrote the adsense reps, heard back from G. and they admitted the problem was on their end. I was told to expect things to be "back to normal" within 24 hours. The 24 hours is over at 2pm EST today. There has been no change yet, I am way down still in revenue.

They also "clawed back" a bigger percentage of last month than ever before - I wonder if that is correct.

Anyway, will let you know if the change happens around the 24 hour mark. If you haven't contacted G. you may wish to do so, even if (like me) you haven't had a dedicated rep before. I think they are accepting and acting on input from ALL webmasters (based on the way the form to them is currently worded.)

fingers crossed, y'all. :)
12:56 am on Feb 3, 2018 (gmt 0)

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No change here. Rep wrote me again and said it was because of lower mobile impressions. A 60% drop? Over less than 1,000 impressions? When we still have more than 40k a day?

Sorry for the rant. Is it just me now?
3:08 pm on Feb 3, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Is it just me now?


Nah! I'm still getting blanks plus my average EPC the last few days has literally, halved, it was overnight, not a gradual decline.

Whatever they have fubard for me is continuing, meanwhile PVs and clicks are at my normal averages plus many of the ads I am seeing are totally and utterly unrelated to my widgets.
4:01 pm on Feb 3, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, RedBar. I was beginning to think that I was just stupid/crazy/SOL (well, I may be SOL, but that's beside the point...)

The "adsense rep" I've been talking to - who for all I know is a 12 year old - is probably from the UK so I can't hate him.

Trying to keep my sense of humor. lol.

Thanks again - just letting me know that I'm not alone helps. Hope we all get un - fubared.
4:43 pm on Feb 3, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Do you know what? Even though I have been with AdSense from the very beginning and even though I was in the UPS Club some 10 years ago, that was USD 10K per month or more in earnings, I have never, ever had a rep and never, ever had a call from Google about anything.

Not that I was expecting one, the Xmas presents used to be "nice", I'm still using some of them!
6:41 pm on Feb 3, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Unshiny, I looked back through all your posts this what I can conclude:
"Brand-safety" is not impacting you, the traffic patterns and site structure you describe should preclude you from any impact due to that change.
You stated in your first posts that your coverage was steady at 95%, has that changed? (you repeated that on Jan29) If not why do you assume that ads are not showing?

Please clarify the following:
Over less than 1,000 impressions? When we still have more than 40k a day?


Are you saying that less than 1000 impressions a day are from mobile devices?

Why?
What does Google analytics tell you, how much of your traffic is mobile and how much is desktop?
Are you in a niche that is typically only desktop users?
Do you have a responsive website?

You are posting in the "What do we know for sure about blank ads problem?" thread. But you coverage is at 95%. Are you not seeing ads but your account is reporting that the coverage is 95%. If so how do you conclude that this is what all your users see.

Seasonality plays a big roll in January/February, how does your traffic, rpm, coverage, device type mix compare to other years?

The "adsense rep" I've been talking to - who for all I know is a 12 year old - ...

I agree that the impression one gets at time from the AdSense reps are that they are not the brightest bunch, but I think we need to give them the benefit of the doubt. One can't reasonably expect to be talking to the lead engineer of AdSense, and often the questions one submits tend to be of the nature "My revenue dropped 60% what can you do to fix it?". With no more than the limited information provided in the question it would be difficult for even the most clever engineer to answer.
2:20 pm on Feb 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Hi @NickMNS, Thanks for your response.

Just let me know if I should be posting somewhere else /on a different thread. You are right that my issues are not the same as other people's. Although I have seen a few blank spaces, the main thing I have in common here is that my issues started around the same time as the blank ads issues started for other people - our earnings plummeted Jan 22 and have not recovered at all, they continue to get *worse.*

You are also right in your implication that I can't expect anyone to just wave a magic wand or that google's lead engineer is going to chat with a small publisher.

When I mentioned the 1,000 page views above, I was speaking comparatively. The Google guy said well your traffic is down. It is down *slightly*. I pulled just one day - and there was 1,000 fewer impressions on that day in January 2018, vs. January 2017.

January 2017 that brought revenue for that day of $65.07 (estimated)

January 2018 the revenue for that day is $32.09 estimated.

To be precise - the difference in page views for that day year over year. is 1,150 fewer. That's total., not just mobile, for the whole site. Even after that drop, we still get about 44,500 page views a day. I cannot understand how 1,150 fewer impressions translates to $32.98.

That $32.98 is not just one day - with stable impressions, etc. we've been losing that *every* day. Click through rate is about the same, everything looks about the same. Except revenue. I'm flummoxed.

I know things change, traffic quality changes, one click is not the same as another. I also know that things always fall in January. I am trying to understand how 1,150 (which is representative, the trend is not hugely different.

Our traffic, rpm, coverage, device type mix has been stable for years.

We have moved out of desperation some of our placements to media.net, but our impressions in Google are still around 30K daily.

Our Jan/Feb traffic is about the same as last years and prior years.

I just plain have no idea what to think here. Yes, we have always had more views on Desktop than mobile. No, the site is not responsive.

The only other change made recently was the ads.txt addition (made about the same time) I have validated that file as best I could/getting no errors there.

43.6% desktop Jan 2018. 51.7% desktop so far in Feb. Desktop for the whole year of 2017= 51.9%

Thanks again. Sorry to be a pain.
4:33 pm on Feb 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Unshiny, how is your EPC? Has it dropped? Our normal pattern is a drop in EPC immediately after Christmas and then a slow recovery beginning in February. Two years ago the recovery never came. I had no idea what was happening. The site was non-responsive design and for other reasons, I started switching it to responsive design. The EPC and CTR both went up, increasing the RPM by 25%.

My site is set up so that I can change one page at a time to test things. I don't know if you can do that or if switching to responsive would help in your case, but it might be worth considering. Google is really pushing fast, mobile-friendly sites, not to mention HTTPs. I think we were being punished for not doing what they wanted and were rewarded for giving in and towing the line.
5:01 pm on Feb 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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For those who have blank ads, did you play with the ad balance ?
5:48 pm on Feb 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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No, the site is not responsive.

Do you have a mobile site?
If no, then forget about everything else and get to work. Google is shifting to the Mobile first index, meaning that the content of your site will indexed based on the mobile version of your website. Showing mobile users a desktop site is not a good experience and if Google is judging your content on that basis it is no helping.

Furthermore, my guess is that many advertisers are not keen on showing desktop ads to mobile users, so you may have very little demand for your mobile impressions. Low demand == low price.

Also, if you do have a mobile site, it is the content of the mobile site that will be used in the search and ranking index. If you have removed content, and features you are loosing the value of those in your rankings. All this will lead to fewer users over time.

Now regarding your jan 2017 vs 2018 figures.
2017 RPM = $1.47
2018 RPM = $0.74
So a change in traffic resulted in drop in revenue of about $1.68 for that 1 day and the relative loss in traffic or PVs is only 2.6%. I don't know how much traffic variation have from day to day, but that may not even be significant. Clearly the issue is a drop in RPM.

So the next question is has this been a gradual drop over time. To check this go to performance reports pick the date range from Feb 1, 2017 to Jan 31, 2018. Compare that to Feb 1, 2016 to Jan 31, 2017. Select monthly figures and select Page RPM or Impression RPM. This should show you a graph over the time period and you should be able to see a trend if there is one. Don't get too fixated on the specific monthly figures because there is seasonality, focus on the difference between the two lines. Do they diverge? When does it start?

But again, in my opinion "Mobile First" is your issue. You can confirm this by repeating the same report as above but for Desktop and Mobile and seeing if you see significant difference between the two.

Here is some more discussion on the mobile first topic
[webmasterworld.com...]
[webmasterworld.com...]
[webmasterworld.com...]

@elman
Yes i have been using the ad-balancer throughout
6:47 pm on Feb 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I was in the UPS Club some 10 years ago, that was USD 10K per month or more in earnings, I have never, ever had a rep and never, ever had a call from Google about anything.


I was in the same club also for a long time! What happened? And I never received a single call from an AdSense rep during that time.
9:34 pm on Feb 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Thanks again Nick.

The line diverges and only begins to drop around December 2017, interestingly enough....which is what another poster here said too, on the January thread.

But of course mobile may well be the answer, who knows. Our site is a reference site - probably used more often by people on desktops/at home.

I will read those threads and thanks again for trying to help me. I may just be SOL.

Best,
Un
9:35 pm on Feb 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@AZLinda... do you have a mobile site, if you don't mind me asking? Just curious....
9:36 pm on Feb 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@ember, thanks a bunch. You may be right, that may be it. They're just stomping us cause we haven't done what they want. Obviously they have every right to do so. <sigh>
11:49 pm on Feb 4, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@AZLinda... do you have a mobile site, if you don't mind me asking? Just curious....


Both of my sites are responsive.
1:57 pm on Feb 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Unshiny
Exactly same story here.
They acknowledged the problem on their side. Fixed blank ads.
But RPM is still so low, that it looks like selling cheap traffic in bulk to no-name network, instead of targeted SE traffic to the ad market leader.
Same a bit of loss in traffic compared to 2017. Same question - how a bit of loss in traffic can lead to huge loss in RPM, when website is huge, means averages didn't change drastically.
It's like people are coming, but not clicking ads as they did just couple of months ago.
Poor targeting?

sidenote:
My website went mobile far ago, speed is very good, engagement is for sure much better comparing with competitors, a lot of top positions ... So, everything one can think about is not bad at least.
3:33 pm on Feb 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Unshiny
What type of content do you have?
User generated? Computer generated?
Is it narrow niche or no niche?
How old is your website?

Could you please check any of your inner pages with mobile speed tester : [testmysite.withgoogle.com...] (doesn't matter, that you don't have mobile version, just check any inner page)
After test is done scroll to "Industry comparison" please. See the bottom of the block. Does industry mentioned there reflect your site industry properly?

P.S. It looks like with new brand policy, they lost some data, related to targeting and started to collect data from scratch.
But in this case things should be better every next day, since more data get restored.
I'm really out of ideas what's going on, but something is definitely abnormal.
Today RPM is much lower, compared to a week ago, with the absolutely same traffic. So, obviously problem is not in possible traffic loss. And even not in blank ads, since a week ago problem on their side was not solved and today it supposedly is solved.
5:09 pm on Feb 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Hi sdksjdksjd!

It's very narrow niche, reference material, created entirely by us. Site went up 2002 and has been more or less in the same format since about 2011. All I can think of to do is to keep asking them (G) about it. Things are essentially getting WORSE for us every day since this happened. I will test my site and get back to you here. (Would you prefer DM's? I haven't been around this board long enough to really get the etiquette/preferences, etc....)

I am out of ideas too. Everything is the same, pretty much, except slight drop in traffic. But my earnings are tanked (and some of the reporting is in error, e.g. best performing channel, etc. is blank on Google.)
5:29 pm on Feb 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@sdksj... I couldn't get into the test at all at first - now it is telling me "taking longer than expected." I will try again if it doesn't go through and will report back when I have more info.

Other google tools tells me the site, while not optimized for mobile, is adequately fast. (I had never seen the one you are talking about.) Are you continuing to email your rep? I shall....
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