Google AdSense

Auto Ads: Everything You Need to Know About This AdSense Feature

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15 years after its launch, Google AdSense still remains the primary source of monetization for a majority of web publishers, with over 11.1 million websites using the ad network. AdSense is easy to get started with, and gives publishers access to the Google Display Network (GDN)—one of the largest pool of ad demand in the world that offers close to 100% fill rate.

However, since AdSense is a self-service ad network, beyond providing guidelines and best practices, AdSense does not actually help publishers create ad layouts. And it’s understood that AdSense will only perform as well as the ad layout created by the publisher.

Many new publishers find it challenging to create ad layouts. Others simply don’t have the technical inclination for the task. So, to make it even easier for publishers to run display ads, Google launched Auto Ads for AdSense last year. In this post, we’ll look at what Auto ads are, how they work, their advantages and disadvantages, and how to set it up.

What are Auto Ads?

Website with Auto ads disabled vs. enabled. (Image courtesy Google AdSense Blog)

Auto ads is an AdSense feature that uses machine learning to automatically create ad placements on a website. This means publishers only have to add one JavaScript snippet on their websites, and AdSense will manage everything else including analyzing webpages, finding potential ad placements, displaying the ads, and ensuring a good user experience.

AdSense also detects the presence of other ad units before creating auto ad placements, so you don’t need to delete your existing ad layout in order to run Auto ads. AdSense also offers auto ads for AMP-enabled webpages. For publishers who don’t want to get their hands dirty with manually setting up and managing ad layouts, Auto ads presents a good solution.

Ad Formats Supported by Auto Ads

Auto ads supports the following ad formats:

  • Text and display ads: Text & display ads are a simple way to get banner ads on your page. These ads can appear anywhere on your pages.
  • In-article ads: In-article ads are designed with your readers in mind, helping you put native ads in between the paragraphs of your pages.
  • In-feed ads (mobile only): In-feed ads flow naturally with content. They’re placed inside an editorial feed (a list of articles or news) or a listings feed (a list of products, services).
  • Matched content ads (mobile only): Matched content is a type of mobile native ad that combines ads with content recommendations from your site.
  • Anchor ads: Anchor ads stick to the edge of the user’s screen and are easily dismissible. These ads mainly serve on mobile but can appear on desktop too.
  • Vignette ads (mobile only): Vignette ads are mobile full-screen ads that appear between page loads on your site and can be skipped by users at any time.

As you can see, auto ads offer four types of in-page ads and two types of overlay ads. This ensures decent ad coverage and makes Auto ads an effective monetization solution.

Also, some of the formats, such as text/display ads and in-page ads, compete for the same placements. This means that turning on all formats will increase bid competition and therefore your overall ad revenue.

Pros and Cons of Auto Ads

AdSense Auto ads is a great feature but as with everything else, it has its hits and misses. Here are a few advantages of using Auto ads.

  • Easy to use: With auto ads, all you need to do is insert the ad code, enable auto ads, and select the formats that you want to run. Since AdSense will automatically handle ad placement and serving, publishers are free to focus on what they do best—creating high quality content.
  • AMP monetization: Running ads on AMP-enabled webpages requires special setup and considerations. But since auto ads supports AMP, you can just leave the monetization on autopilot and let AdSense manage and optimize the ad placement and serving.
  • More ads per page: AdSense places restrictions on how many ad units you can place on a webpage, currently, that limit is 3 ad units / page. Auto ads are not restricted by this limit though, and publishers can benefit from having a higher number of ads served per webpage.

Now for things that are not so great about Auto ads.

  • No control: Ease of use comes at the expense of granular control. With auto ads enabled, publishers have no control over where or how many ads will be served. While we could assume that Google won’t compromise user experience for revenue, the fact is, Auto ads is a black box.
  • Aggressive ad serving: The fact that auto ads has 6 ad formats and allows them to compete against each other is a double-edged sword. While publishers may witness an increase in ad revenue, it’s hard to imagine that user experience wouldn’t be negatively affected.

How to Setup Auto Ads

To set up Auto ads, follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to your AdSense account.
  2. Click Ads.
  3. On the “Auto ads” page, click Get started.
  4. On the “Choose global settings” page, use the controls to select the ad formats that you’d like to show.
  5. Leave Automatically get new formats selected if you want AdSense to automatically add new ad formats to your global settings as they become available.
  6. Click Save.
  7. On the “Place code on your page” page, click Copy code.
  8. Paste the ad code between the <head> and </head> tags of each page where you want to show Auto ads.

Once you’ve enabled Auto ads on your website, you can use Advanced URL settings to implement different ad settings on different parts of your website. Let’s say you want to only run only in-feed ads on archive pages—you can do this by creating a URL group.

Auto ads allows publishers to create separate URL groups for domains, subdomains, sections, and individual webpages. There is a upper limit of 500 URL groups though.

Auto Ads vs. AdPushup

We work with AdSense publishers and help increase their ad revenue by optimizing ad layouts using machine learning and A/B testing. At first glance, Auto ads seems to do the same thing, but there are a few crucial difference between our solution and Auto ads.

  • More publisher control: Our layout optimization platform does not operate as a black box. Publishers can create as many ad variants as they want and test them against each other, there is also an option to set a control variation for benchmarking performance over the baseline. In contrast, Auto ads only allows one option: ‘enable’.
  • Ad mediation: Part of our revenue optimization platform, ad mediation enables publishers to predict and compare bids between closed ad networks and exchanges (for instance, AdSense and AdX). This means that impressions are always sold to the network or exchange that is likely to make the highest bid for it. Auto ads, on the other hand, serves impressions from the GDN.
  • Holistic revenue optimization: While Auto ads is just a feature of AdSense that enables automatic ad placement, AdPushup is a revenue optimization platform that helps publishers increase revenue using premium ad partner demand, ad layout optimization, header bidding, innovative ad formats, and adblock monetization, and AMP converter.

Conclusion

Auto ads is a great feature for new and beginner AdSense publishers who are just getting started with display ads and don’t want to spend too much time setting up their ad layout.

However, publishers who require more control over their ad inventory, want to work with multiple ad networks and exchanges, and need advanced ad tech features such as header bidding and adblock monetization, should probably look at other ad serving solutions.

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