Publishers say goodbye to Adsense link ads

Feb 16, 2021 | Articles

Andrea Burgueño

Andrea Burgueño

Contributor

Google Adsense link ads are about to become a thing of the past. They will be removed on March 10, 2021. Why? What does it mean for publishers? Let’s find out. Meanwhile, keep in mind that the change has already started, so don’t be surprised to see that publishers say goodbye to Adsense’s link ads and start working on alternatives.

What are Adsense link ads?

Surely most of you already know what we are talking about, but if that’s not your case, here is a brief explanation. Adsense link ads are these text links that you usually find next to some articles or posts. The topic is closely related to the content of the page they are displayed on and they can be either a fix or a responsive element.

Why are they no longer an option for publishers?

In 2019, Google announced changes to “modernize” its advertising products and notified Adsense’s publishers via email:

“We’re moving towards richer ad formats, phasing out text-only and display-only ad units to further improve user experience, and to fully reflect the pool of ads we have in the market.”

However, the real reason behind the dead of text-only ads is not modernity, but effectiveness. Since the text blends into the background, the performance of this type of format is actually poor and users either overlook them or perceive them as annoying.

Other changes that have been taking place during the past 2 years

Along with the removal of all text ad units, Google announced other modifications in May, 2019. Some of them have already taken place:

  • Ad sizes
    All ad units should be responsive by default, although users needing further customization, will still be able to create custom sized ad units.
  • Ad types
    Google is moving towards richer ad formats. As a result, the “Text ads only” disappeared and “Display ads only” ad units were already renamed to “Display ads” a long time ago.
  • Text ad styles
    Ad units have Google-optimized text ad styling. For customization and improved user experience, publishers can use native ads.
  • Simplifying “If no ads available”
    Google also removed the “If no ads available” option, collapsing the ad space or showing a blank space instead.
  • Experiments
    Following the announcement in 2019, the organization removed obsolete ad unit setting experiments.
  • Synchronous code
    Publishers needing synchronous ad code, have to manually update their ad code.

Although all these changes were announced almost two years ago, the deprecation of text ad units works as an effective closure of a long period of changes. Some of them already took place within the weeks following the announcement. Others took longer to be complete. In any case, publishers should have enough time to gradually adapt to all these modifications and develop different strategies.

What do publishers need to do now?

Publishers have to remove fixed-size link ad units on their site and replace them with other formats, such as:

  • Display: These ads are responsive by default, but can be customized to show fixed ad sizes.
  • In-feed: Native ads that flow naturally inside a feed.
  • In-article: Native ads that fit seamlessly in between the paragraphs of the page.
  • Matched content: Recommendations that promote other content to visitors.

Alternatives to AdSense

However, it might be time for publishers to explore other advertising options. From building their own adservers to working with individual affiliate networks and other external technologies, publishers have a plethora of opportunities that should not be overlooked.

Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Amazon Associates: probably one of the best options for those publishers able to work with product ads.
  • AdRecover only targets visitors who are using ad blockers.
  • Sovrn //Commerce and Skimlinks still offer link-based ads.
  • BuySellAds has a marketplace approach, closer to direct ad sales.
  • Directopub offers flexibility, quality deals and automation in order to scale.

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