08 August 2016

Going Mobile : Responsive Ads

I have to interrupt the series on Korchnoi's TMER (Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record; last seen in Korchnoi's Events 1977-1996) to deal with an administrative problem concerning ads on my pages. While on vacation I received the following message:-

Subject: Google AdSense: Action required to comply with AdSense program policies.
From: adsense-noreply@google.com
Date: 21-Jul-16 12:50

This is a warning message to alert you that there is action required to bring your AdSense account into compliance with our AdSense program policies. We’ve provided additional details below, along with the actions to be taken on your part. [...]

Our program policies do not permit any alteration to AdSense code which artificially inflates ad performance or harms advertiser conversions. Your publisher account offers a number of options when generating the ad code, which we hope will allow you to create an ad layout that fits in with your site. It is also not allowed to place ads on mobile optimized sites so that they cover any part of the site content or implementing parts of a webpage to cover any portion of the ads. Please be aware that if you have a responsive website design that ads may shift into non compliant positions as the format of the screen changes.

In order to remain fully compliant please ensure that your site and ad layout remain compliant across all devices.

The offending page was Tales of Two Fischers. The code for the two ads on the page was identical to my other pages for that site and I hadn't made any content changes to the page in years, nor any 'alteration to AdSense code' (I wouldn't dare!).

I decided the warning had to be related to a small change I made last year which I documented in Going Mobile : CFAA Site (June 2015). That change was also ordained by Google.

That 'Going Mobile' post reminded me to do a Mobile-Friendly Test (on 'Two Fischers'); the result is shown on the left.

Although the test also gave me the message 'Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.', the Adsense ad isn't displayed. It should be between the blue navigation links and the red titles. The test results also flagged another problem:-

How Googlebot sees this page: This page uses one resource which is blocked by ROBOTS.TXT. The results and screenshot may be incorrect.

ROBOTS.TXT is the file that tells web spiders what pages shouldn't be included in search results. I don't care what the spiders do with my pages and have never used the file. As far as I knew, I don't have one, but it turned out I do. The Google page Blocked JavaScript, CSS, and Image Files (developers.google.com) pointed to m-w.com/robots.txt. I decided that it must be a file that my ISP builds and that it was probably not the cause of the Adsense warning. What now?

I started reading forum posts from Search results - AdSense Help (support.google.com) for the phrase starting 'Our program policies do not permit any alteration'. While there were many possible reasons for the Adsense warning, including several that might apply to my pages, I decided that the most likely reason was the fixed size banner ads I was using. I changed these to what Google calls 'responsive ads': About responsive ad units (support.google.com):-

Responsive web design allows you to dynamically control the presentation of your website according to the properties of the screen/device that it’s being viewed on. A responsive ad unit allows you to control the size of the ads on your page, in line with how you control the layout of the rest of your page across devices.

I had already tackled the subject last year in Going Mobile : Responsive Design (May 2015), and was able to make the new changes quickly. Will this be enough to eliminate the Google Adsense warning? Time will tell.

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