On February 15, Google officially began rolling out its new, built-in ad filter for the Chrome web browser, aimed at removing the most intrusive ads that fail to meet the Better Ads Standards. This announcement has been coming for some time, and there have already been steps taken on mobile pages since last year. But the news has still sent shock waves through the digital marketing community.
Though it’s been referred to as “the Chrome ad blocker,” it’s actually an ad filter. Google’s ad filtering, unsurprisingly, is not intended to stop companies from monetizing their websites. Rather, it’s to weed out practices that harm the user experience of visitors. However, this move still impacts much of the marketing community and has implications for content marketing that are worth understanding.
In this article, I will cover some of the most important elements and how you can ensure your content marketing program won’t be impacted. The most important place to start, though, is with the major takeaway:
The Chrome ad filter is ultimately good for content marketing.
Content marketing, at its core, provides utility and value; a primary KPI is to engage audiences. This is in direct contrast to the ads that Chrome is now targeting, which are intrusive and interrupt the content journey. In fact, unlike many of the changes that Google rolls out, there is no ambiguity about what desktop and mobile ads Chrome will now filter out:
Most of the ad types the Chrome filter is targeting are either distracting from content experiences, such as those with a high-page density (covering more than 30 percent of the page), prestitial ads (ones that appear before you even get to read content), or flashing animated ads. All of these ad experiences are negative for users and their absence can only improve the internet as a whole.
That said, among content marketers, the most talked about one on the list is, undoubtedly, the first: pop-up ads. This is worth addressing separately.
Pop-up ads are not going away anytime soon.
At NewsCred, it might surprise you to know that we’re big advocates for the humble pop-up. We believe that one of the most effective vehicles for driving content marketing ROI is an email newsletter, and the pop-up is a major tool for building a subscriber database. In fact, in our own tests, we’ve found a strategically used pop-up can drive up to 10x more subscribers than typical right rail modules.
So what is to become of the pop-up with Chrome’s new ad filter? Of all the units identified by the Coalition for Better Ads, the pop-up is the only one that has interpretive text, and for good reason. Behavior-based pop-ups, such as the one we use at NewsCred, are not being targeted currently. For example, a pop-up to subscribe to a newsletter, that appears when a reader has been actively engaging with content for a period of time, will not be impacted. Rather, Google is targeting pop-ups that appear before you read content and don’t let you easily close them, and pop-ups that refuse to let you leave if you’re unengaged or inactive.
By building your pop-ups around serving readers information based on their behavior, you’ll be able to continue building your subscriber database or driving to high-value content unobstructed. Once again, quality content benefits from this move. This does mean you’ll want to stay aligned with your digital team so that you can ensure they are building conversion opportunities that won’t interfere with your content marketing. But this move will benefit their conversion rates, too.
The Chrome ad filter won’t result in immediate penalties.
One of the other points worth noting about this new measure is how it takes effect on websites. Rather than act like a traditional ad blocker that simply blocks ads, there will instead be a multi-step process. First, sites will go through Google’s evaluation process, and marketers can view the results on Google’s Ad Experience Report API. Once evaluated, a site will receive either a Pass, Warning, or Fail based on the Better Ads Standards. This evaluation will give detailed reports on exactly where and how they may have failed the evaluation. If you do fail, you’ll be given 30 days to resolve issues. Only then will you see penalties if you don’t comply.
This rollout is giving companies ample time and detail to understand where they can improve. The good news is that it’s working already. According to Google, as of February 12, 42 percent of sites that were failing the Better Ads Standards have resolved their issues and are now passing. So there’s good reason to believe that Google wants to improve the overall web experience through education and instruction.
The Chrome ad filter is not the doom and gloom that some marketers have predicted. It’s instead good for the content experience and still allows website monetization to exist unfettered. What it really impacts is the types of annoying ads and interruptive digital marketing practices that content marketing is finally starting to replace.
If you are using pop-ups and interstitials on your content hub, such as newsletter subscription modals, aim to follow practices that align with the content journey, such as engagement behavior-based triggering and reducing screen takeover sizes where possible. It’s worth having a conversation with your digital team if these modals are implemented without your input, as your content could be at the mercy of old marketing practices.
Put simply, though, stick with the ethos of what true content marketing is. Provide only calls to action, modals, and options that add value to your visitors, and you won’t run on the wrong side of Google anytime soon.
Liam Moroney is NewsCred’s Director of Analytics.