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R.I.P. Responsive Link Units

     
1:58 am on Jul 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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They've been my biggest earner for years, but it seems Google is looking to put the last few nails in the coffin of AdSense responsive link units. I'm disappointed in a big way, but honestly I kind of understand -- I had comments from users who felt they were misleading (they looked like buttons that would take you to more content, rather than a page of ads), and my guess is that's why Google is making it less worth our while to keep this ad unit.

It was nice while it lasted! Trying out different ad formats and locations now -- wish me luck!
7:30 am on July 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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they looked like buttons that would take you to more content, rather than a page of ads

This, and , often the texts of the links were ultra appealing, too good to be true, going to a page of ads, loosely related in best case scenario, and totally off-topic otherwise ...
1:26 pm on July 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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This, and , often the texts of the links were ultra appealing, too good to be true, going to a page of ads, loosely related in best case scenario, and totally off-topic otherwise ...


What you write above is true. It's really strange, because they were a really great earner for me for such a long time. My guess is that they used to be more useful when they offered more ads, but now they seem primarily to be a way to redirect traffic back to the originating website. Which doesn't really earn you any money. I can see Google's conflict here.
3:09 pm on July 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'd like to add that, from time to time (experiments), Adsense is serving Link Units inside text/display ad slots.
2:40 am on July 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'd like to add that, from time to time (experiments), Adsense is serving Link Units inside text/display ad slots.


Dmitri, do you know if link ads will still be an option for publishers once AdSense fully rolls out the changes announced earlier this year? (The ones about phasing out text-only ads?)
6:48 am on July 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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From what I understood, in a near future, Adsense will just display whatever they want in the ad slots no matter the options choose during the creation of the code. So it can be display ads, text ads, link units, and all kind of variants and experimentations.

edit: so to answer your question more precisely I "believe" (guess) that, in a near future, existing link units will start showing "other things", depending of their sizes, I guess that Adsense will start showing display, text ads or some link units too, certainly based on the "AI" belief :)
2:23 am on July 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I emailed the folks at Google AdSense and heard back today; it seems that if you're an existing publisher who's been using them, you'll continue to be able to. But anyone who recently became an AdSense publisher from April 2019 on won't see link ads as an option among their ad choices in their control panels anymore.
8:02 am on July 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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okay, thank you for the information @atladsenser
9:00 am on July 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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All moving to a corporate minimum? After all, one-size-fits-all makes more sense from a distro point of view.
12:09 am on July 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@atladsenser where did you initially see that link units were going away? ... or did I misinterpret and the RIP in the subject was related to performance decline.

Link unit performance has been all over the place this year. Clearly they are testing different implementations.

I heard that going into this year, link units were too misleading for users so Google changed their design.

Sometime in May it looks like they reverted some of these changes and performance improved.

I'm seeing poor performance in July again but I haven't done enough testing to see what is to blame.
3:08 pm on July 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@atladsenser where did you initially see that link units were going away? ... or did I misinterpret and the RIP in the subject was related to performance decline.

Link unit performance has been all over the place this year. Clearly they are testing different implementations.

I heard that going into this year, link units were too misleading for users so Google changed their design.

Sometime in May it looks like they reverted some of these changes and performance improved.

I'm seeing poor performance in July again but I haven't done enough testing to see what is to blame.


Great question, @Nightmute.

- Sorry if that was a little misleading. I was probably being (a little) hyperbolic, but what I meant was that link units don't come close to the performance this year that they had for the first 6 months of last year. When I look back at my reports for all of 2018, I notice that something changed with them in the second half of the year -- performance took a significant (but not catastrophic) turn downward, even though I had strong traffic numbers.

- I've really noticed it this year, as I've tested a couple of different ad placements -- which may also be partly to blame for the poor performance of my ad units. I tested a new ad in a really prominent place for my site, which I'm sure affected them to a certain degree. However, when I remove that and test out having my link units placed where they used to be when they performed really well, they're not bouncing back to their old performance.

- I'd love to know more about what you've learned around Google determining that link units were too misleading for users. (Not that I don't see where they're coming from.) What have you heard?
3:15 pm on July 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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One last thing I'd add: the biggest change in link unit performance, it seems to me, comes from the fact that Google once provided a choice of 3-4 ads the user could click on after they made the initial click from your site. Now, the page you land on after you make the initial click from a link unit ad shows only a single ad, plus a link back to a page on your own site.

My guess, from my correspondence this week with a rep from Google + their announcement back in April that they're moving away from text-only ads, is that they'd like to gradually phase out link unit ads. (Let me emphasize, this is purely my opinion, I have no inside info!). Just looking at the way mine have performed + the announcements from the company + the fact that new AdSense publishers no longer even have link ads as an option in their control panels, I have a difficult time imagining that Google sees link ads as an important part of the AdSense product in the not-too-distant future.

I'd love to be wrong, however. :)
6:06 pm on July 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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This would decimate my revenue. Responsive link units make me around 30-40% of my revenue in a bad month and 60-80% in a good month.

I really hope it's to stay, but the signs aren't looking too good.
6:19 pm on July 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@nmbrsk, are you experiencing a drop in your link unit ads revenue as well?
7:08 pm on July 12, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I can't say where, but you can infer this from all the changes that have been made over the past year. They are all in favor of the user and contribute to decreases in CTR for link units.

-Less landing page ads
-Traffic re-circulation from the landing page
-Occasional Google SERP results on the landing page
-UI updates for the link unit (magnifying glass, etc)
-Different types of keywords in the link unit (contextual & user based)

Additionally, link units are not bucketed as text units and are separate from all the changes that have been occurring lately with Adsense.

Google is taking customization away from users with the current changes. Link units already provide close to no customization.

I wouldn't worry about them going away, at least not yet.
11:00 am on July 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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If link units are no longer available, it doesn't meant that Adsense will not serve link unit-like ads. The idea is that, in a near future, you insert and ad slot, and Adsense will serve whatever it believes is good.