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Strange Behaviour with Adsense Resulting in Reduced Earnings

Anyone else?

     
8:53 am on May 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I am getting strange results with adsense since April 26, 2018.

I have three responsive ad units on a responsive page. One ad above the fold and two below the fold.

"Ad requests" have dropped drastically (more than 70%) for the two ad units below the fold. The first ad unit is unaffected.

Since ad impressions are dependent on "Ad requests", they have also dropped by more than 70%.

To analyse the issue, I opened the page in Google Chrome browser and in Dev Tools clicked on the Network tab and then typed "ads?" in "Filter" input field.

After refreshing page, I found that GET ad requests for these units is now only made when the ad placement is visible on screen after scrolling down to the bottom of the page (on any platform, desktop or mobile).

This has led to lower ad impressions and lower CPM earnings for these ad units. All in all I am expecting around $40-50 lost revenue per month because of this behavior.

This happens on all browsers: Chrome, Firefox etc.

Checked numerous other websites, GET ad requests is only made when ad placements comes in view when there is more than one ad on a page. Ad request for first ad is always made even if you haven't scrolled into its placement (may because usually the first ad is always in the top viewport of the page).

Old Clarification on ad request behavior: [productforums.google.com...]

The above url mentions that if you have three ad units, three ad requests will be made as soon as page loads even if the ad placement is not scrolled into.

Prior to this issue, all three ad units had a "individual ad unit impressions to page views ratio" of 0.90 to 0.95.
After this issue, first above the fold ad have same ratio of 0.90 to 0.95.
However, both below the fold ads now have a "individual ad unit impressions to page views ratio" of 0.30 to 0.35.

In simple words, before this issue, the three ad unit impressions were 90%, 90%, 90% (as compared with page views).
Now after the issue, the three ad unit impressions are 90%, 30%, 30% (as compared with page views).

Now my questions are:

- Is this a new behavior?
- Or it was always like this and Google forced it on my website after finding some discrepancies?

Anyone else facing similar issues? Please, test it out on your own website.
5:03 pm on May 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Top ad units have always had more pageviews than the lower placed units. People bounce.
5:33 pm on May 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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All this time I had 90% impressions for all three ad units, regardless of their placement position (top or bottom).

After this sudden drop in ad requsts since April 26, impressions for bottom ads is just 30% of total page views.

Why a drop now and why not before? My account and website is many years old and I haven't observed this sort of behaviour before.
6:25 pm on May 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I checked mobile stats on five different sites. BTF adsense units are getting ~90% of ad requests of the ATF unit.

It has been this way for years. Something is definitely not right.
7:33 pm on May 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Could it be that this behaviour is initially being tested with some publishers only?

Can you please do the test I have mentioned in my first message and check if all ad requsts are made as soon as page is loaded or the ad requsts are made one by one when you keep scrolling to the bottom of the page.

To test the issue, open the page in Google Chrome browser and in Dev Tools click on the Network tab and then type "ads?" in "Filter" input field. Refresh the page.
9:46 pm on May 1, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Did you disable third party networks recently?
2:58 am on May 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Third party networks?

If you mean that I have selectively disbaled some advertisers, then no.
1:42 pm on May 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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No one here can test this behaviour with his/her own website? It will probably take 2 minutes, not more. It will help me out greatly.

If anyone is willing, just follow the steps below:

- Open any page with ads in Google Chrome browser
- Go to Dev Tools
- Click on Network tab.
- Type "ads?" in "Filter" input field
- Refresh the page

After following steps above check if all ad requests are made as soon as page is loaded or the ad requests are made one by one when you keep scrolling to the bottom of the page.
2:19 pm on May 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@dartttt All at once for me
2:40 pm on May 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Are you using Auto ads?
2:42 pm on May 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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No, but responsive ads.

Where did my previous response go? Mods deleted it?

I have visited many different sites, and I am getting the same behaviour where ads requests are made one by one (not all at once). It seems I am not allowed to post URLs in comments.

My total ad impressions have been cut by half because of drop in ad requests and I even haven't made a single change to my website. It was all of a sudden.

If indeed this is some sort of phased test by Google, I fear CPM earnings could drop in future.
3:40 pm on May 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Contact AdSense Support.

Where did my previous response go? Mods deleted it?

Yes deleted, no lniks to your own site (no site reviews unless you participate in the paid forum)

What do your AVV stats look like?
5:21 pm on May 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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That was not my site.

AVV% has increased greatly. However, absolute viewable impressions are nearly same with a very small deviation.

Since total impressions are now lower but absolute viewable impressions values are same, AVV has increased. I think there is nothing wrong with this behaviour.

As AVV absolute figures are nearly same, CPC income haven't been affected. However, CPM income has dropped because impressions are now low.

Edit: Mods, could you please remove my above post containing screenshot? I forgot that sharing report data is against adsense policy.
6:21 pm on May 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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CPC income haven't been affected.

I hope not, it would be very difficult for a user to click on an ad if they can't see it.

However, CPM income has dropped because impressions are now low.

Yes, but it seems logical and just. Why should you be paid for impressions that users never see?

From my experience an increase in AVV should translate to a net increase in RPM, resulting from both higher CPC and CPM bids overtime and yes it comes at the cost fewer impressions. But in the long run you should be better off. That was my experience and I laid out my site to ensure that ad would only be shown when in view.
6:41 pm on May 2, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I agree with your points.

But what I am not able to understand is, why all of a sudden Adsense is making ad requests for bottom ads only when they are in view because it was not happening before. Why other users are not getting similar behaviour. Why other users have nearly same impressions for above the fold and below the fold ad units. Why other users have all ad requests loaded at once?

Your all ad units have nearly same ad requests and impressions? Do they all get requested at once?

Could you please edit out screenshot part in my above comment because sharing report data is considered an adsense violation.
3:15 am on May 3, 2018 (gmt 0)

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After a lot of digging, I have found an explanation that could justify this behaviour.

Its seems google has started implementing lazy loading on ads.

Lazy loading means an ad is only loaded if a user scrolls to few pixels above an ad's placement. If the ad location is not within the viewport of your device's browser, no ad will be requested and thus no ad impressions and no CPM earnings.

I haven't found an adsense specific announcement but here is an DFP announcement by Google:

[support.google.com...]

It says that they have started implementing lazy loading since April 25, 2018. My problems started on April 26.

The above article clearly mentions that ad impressions and your revenue could be affected.

However, I don't understand the following part:

"As of April 25th, 2018, we've enabled lazy loading for publishers using the legacy Ad Exchange tag (publishers using the Google Publisher Tag will not be affected)."

What is "legacy Ad Exchange tag" and what is "Google Publisher Tag"? How to determine which type of tag my adsense account have? My account is many years old.
1:39 pm on May 3, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Based on what you report and what others report it would appear that this is not fully rolled out and is being tested by AdSense. But then again, maybe it has rolled out. They rolled out the "brand safety" update in December last year and there was no official announcement made for that. They only confirmed it once you contacted AdSense Support. Again, I would recommend contacting AdSense Support.

In general this is likely a positive change. Obviously, if you had a large volume of unseen impressions this will result in a loss of revenue. For the market in general this will reduce the number of available impressions (i.e.: supply). Lower supply for the same demand should push prices up in market as a whole, benefiting those with the most visible impressions. What the real impact will be remains to be seen.
2:35 pm on May 3, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Based on my observations so far, I am now almost sure that Google is testing this behaviour on Adsense accounts.

The benefits mentioned in above article sounds good but the long term impact is yet to be seen. I believe revenue loss for me will be much more than I mentioned in the first post (an estimate based on last 7 days).

There are couple of problems with above behaviour:

- If a user scrolls too fast, lazy loading BTF ads won't be requested, reducing AVV and potential CPC income. This has been acknowledge by Google in a help article.

- According to Adsense policy, publishers cannot include any code/design in their website that brings undue attention to ads and make them flashy and eye grabbing. However, this lazy loading is doing the exactly same thing. When a BTF ad is actually requested, sometimes a subtle fade in animation is played that catches user's attention. If it is an animated ad, it grabs way too much attention. I have seen it with an animated Netflix ad that was lazy loaded on my website and it piqued my interest so much that I was about to click on my own ad (I didn't click it though :P). It may sound like minor thing but I am sure publishers won't mind this behaviour.
11:37 am on May 11, 2018 (gmt 0)

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This had to be done because many ads are being run on a CPM rather than a CPC basis. I'm surprised it wasn't implemented sooner. That's what's strange.
2:40 pm on May 11, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@anefarious1
...many ads are being run on a CPM rather than a CPC basis

That is not exactly true. AdWords does not offer CPM bids, they only offer AV-CPM and this has been the cases since I believe 2014. All the CPM impressions one receives is from 3rd party networks. I doubt seriously that AdSense implemented this to please 3rd parties.

The reason is one it is better for the user as pages will load faster and less data will be used, resulting in less ad-blocking. Two, it will increase click through rates. Users can't click ads they don't see. So by eliminating unseen impression, while keeping the number of clicks the same the CTR will go up. Advertisers will like this in the short term, but in the long run they will see that this is smoke and mirrors.
5:21 am on May 12, 2018 (gmt 0)

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My revenue is down because of this and there seems to be no signs of recovery as this is a permanent change.

Once an animated ad at the bottom that was lazy loaded took 7 seconds to load :(

The intentions may be right but the implementation is not yet fully optimised.
11:39 pm on May 12, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I frequently just use the Adsense phone app to monitor things.
I usually just look at "Impression RPM" and "Page Views".
If both are up or strong, then I know I'm in the money.

Within the time frame that darttt mentions, I had noticed that on many days both Impression RPM and Page Views were up but "Estimated Earnings" were down, which didn't make any sense to me.

As I scrolled through the other stats, I noticed that "Impressions" were down.
It didn't make any sense to me how Page Views could be up and Impressions down.
Per darttt's explanation, now I understand what is going on.

I've done the test with Chrome's Developers Tools. My ads load one at a time as you scroll down.

This seems to be affecting my income on the order of 8%.
4:28 pm on May 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I have custom channels set up for my ad slots (at the fold, mid page, footer).
I have compared the Impressions and Page Views for these slots, the first 15 days of April vs. May.
In April the these totals are all pretty much identical for each ad slot.
In May, the slots higher up on the page have the larger number of Impressions and Page Views.
The difference in the numbers between the page top and page bottom ads is about 20%.
So clearly there is no question, at least on my site lazy loading ads is being implemented now where before (last month this time) it was not.