Google AdSense has new controls of interest to skeptics

I’ve written before about the problems skeptics have with contextual ads on their sites. Most skeptics would love to get paid for producing blog content, but many object to sometimes becoming a medium for advertising the very thing we decry. I expressed the opinion that we all need to chill out a little bit on this issue.

Google AdSense logo

Skeptics who have avoided putting advertising on their sites because of this problem might want to take a second look at Google AdSense this month. They have rolled out a new beta interface that contains new controls over ad placement that might help solve these problems for you. More after the jump.

Google has been testing enhancements to AdSense for over a year now, and last week they released the beta interface to all publishers. There are a number of new features including new analytics, new blocking tools and a new UI.

The new features are opt-in, you are offered the opportunity to switch to them when you use the site. You can also switch back to the old interface if you encounter a problem.

Control Features

The features of particular interest to skeptics are now grouped under the tab marked “Allow & block ads” at the top of the screen.

The ability to block ads by URL is still there. Up until now this has been the main method for skeptics to control ad placement. There are a couple of problems with this method. One is that historically Google has limited you to 200 URLs in your block list. I see no evidence that they have removed this limit in the new beta. The other limitation of URL blocking is it is not always clear from an ad what URL you should put in the block list. Some ads will display one URL but take you to a different URL when clicked. It is the destination URL that you need to block. Google offers help on finding the URL to block, but the instructions are somewhat tedious.

Another feature that was there before (but is now easier to find) allows you to block ads by category. This could be a good way to get around the 200 URL limit for some sites. There are currently eleven categories that you can block. The ones that seem particularly promising for skeptic sites are:

  • Drugs and supplements: Includes pharmaceuticals, vitamins, supplements, and related retailers; does not include resources providing information about drugs.
  • Get rich quick: Schemes promising fast earning.
  • Religion: Includes religious ads and ads advocating for or against religious views; does not include astrology or non-denominational spirituality.
  • Weight loss: Includes weight loss, dieting, and related products and programs; doesn’t include healthy eating or general fitness ads.

Similarly, there is a new interface to the feature that allows you to block ads based on the ad network that placed the ad. These are agencies outside of Google that act on behalf of the advertisers to place ads for them. It is not entirely clear how useful this will be to skeptics, it depends on whether we find particular networks are prone to run ads that skeptics would find offensive.

New Control: Ad Review Center

A really promising feature is the ad review center, which allows you to review ads that are on your site, or even before they appear on your site. (Not to be confused with the similarly named feature in the old interface, which was merely a shortcut to the category and ad network blocking features). If you want (and have the time) you can individually approve every ad that appears on your site.

As I write this, the ad review center is not available to all publishers, and hasn’t been enabled in my account. So I was not able to review its behavior. If you have access to the ad review center in your account, I encourage you to comment below on your experiences using it.

Here’s a video from Google that explains the new features including the ad review center that I was not able to try out:

Please Discuss & Share

If you are using AdSense on your site, please share your experience with the new controls. Other skeptics will be interested in your experiences, so they can take best advantage of this. Specifically, I think folks would like to know:

  • Does the Advertiser URL blocking feature work for you? Which URLs have you blocked? Have they removed the limit of 200 URLs?
  • Does the new Sensitive Categories feature work for you? Which categories were most effective?
  • Does the blocking by Ad Network help? Are there particular ad networks that are the worst offenders for pseudoscience or paranormal advertising?

One thought on “Google AdSense has new controls of interest to skeptics

  1. cherryteresa

    Thank you for this, Tim. I was hesitant to run ads on my website because I didn’t want scams advertised. I just signed up for AdSense and I’ve blocked certain categories. It probably won’t prevent *all* undesired content, but I think it’ll cut down on a lot, so I feel a lot better about having the ads.

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