- Google’s AdSense has launched a beta test designed to help publishers generate more income while serving fewer ads, in part by displaying ads that website visitors will want to engage with through a higher level of targeting, as reported by Marketing Land.
- The program, which Google has named “User First," involves a small number of AdSense and AdMob publishers, according to a blog post about the program. Google has invited publishers to participate who already provide a good user experience as defined by offering fast load times for webpages and users being happy with the ad layout on their websites.
- As part of the test, publishers can only run AdSense ads on their websites. This restriction gives Google control over the ad load on those websites in order to fully understand the impact on user experience and publisher revenue. Participating publishers will get early access to new features and ad formats for meeting Google’s qualifications as well as access to a scorecard on AdSense that displays how they compare with the qualifying criteria.
The User First beta is noteworthy because it appears to be an attempt from a major digital platform dependent on advertising sales for profits to put consumers' desires ahead of publishers, advertisers and vendors who frequently want to include more ads and sponsored content on their sites. With the growth in ad blocking technology and in ad-free content options, some marketers have started to recognize that the answer to making money from digital content may not be more ads but better quality experiences. The shift toward quality was evident last year with the formation of the Coalition for Better Ads by Google, Procter & Gamble and others. In another sign that less may be more when it comes to digital ads, Chase earlier this year cut back the number of websites serving its ads programmatically from 400,000 to 5,000 and said it saw little change in cost or visibility.
One potential challenge for the User First program is the restriction that participating publishers can run only AdSense ads. With publishers already distressed by the lack of control they have over when and how their digital content is consumed, convincing them to hand over even more control to Google could be hard sell. On the other hand, if readers embrace User First sites, this could drive up the revenue earned by ads.
Google is involved in a sensitive balancing act as it takes steps to improve the end user experience while also looking to help publishers dependent on digital ad revenue remain profitable. Earlier this year the tech giant announced it will include an ad block feature within its popular Chrome browser sometime in 2018, a move that is surely unpopular with some publishers. In May Google rolled out changes to its publisher content violation policy that reduced the punitive aspect for offending websites that run afoul of the policies by removing ads from specific webpages instead of across entire websites when the offensive content is limited on the site.