Google today released its annual report on the state of its advertising business, as it relates to the company’s ability to block bad ads — those that carry malware, are deceptive or just disruptive to the user experience, such as ads that cover up the content you’re trying to see.
Google said it blocked over 780 million ads for policy violations last year, which is an increase from the 524 million-plus it blocked the year prior. In addition, the company said it suspended over 10,000 sites and 18,000 accounts belonging to counterfeiters; it blocked over 12.5 million pharmaceutical ads – up from 9.6 million in 2014 – including those making misleading claims or that weren’t approved for use; and it suspended more than 30,000 sites associated with misleading weight loss scams, including those that promised results without diet or exercise.
These types of bad ads are a constant threat. For example, in 2014, Google banned 7,000 counterfeiters. That number had been decreasing for some time (down from 82,000 in 2012 to 14,000 in 2013), but seemed to bump up again this past year.
In addition, the company’s focus on blocking phishing sites increased over the course of 2015, as well. Google blocked nearly 7,000 phishing sites it says, while elsewhere in the organization the company rolled out other approaches to handling the phishing problem. For example, this past spring Google launched a Password Alert Chrome extension designed to warn users if they were about to reuse their Google password on a site that wasn’t a legitimate Google sign-in page.
Other ad troublemakers included malware sites and those offering unwanted software. Google says that its new protections reduced these downloads by more than 99 percent in 2015, and allowed it to disable more than 10,000 sites. The year before, Google removed 250,000 sites, for comparison’s sake.
Related, Google also rejected more than 17 million ads designed to mislead people by looking like system warning messages from your computer. This number declined year-over-year, as Google had to block 43 million “trick-to-click” ads in 2014. However, many of those engaged in this unethical practice have moved to mobile, it seems.
Mobile is an important area of focus now that so many users are surfing from their phones. Companies have been addressing the problem of bad mobile ads in a number of ways in recent months. Apple, for example, supports ad blocking in its iOS mobile operating system (through the use of approved third-party apps). Google, meanwhile, has been working on ways to speed up the mobile web by optimizing the elements on the page – including ads.
In terms of blocking bad mobile ads, Google says it got better at identifying “accidental clicks,” – meaning instead of redirecting you to an advertisement that appeared in the middle of a slideshow you were clicking through, it would keep you on the site.
The company also stopped showing ads on more than 25,000 mobile apps because developers violated ad policies. Over two-thirds of these violations were those where the developer was trying to encourage accidental clicks – like putting ads too close to the app’s buttons. In 2015, Google rejected more than 1.4 million applications from sites and apps that don’t follow its policies.
It’s worth pointing out, too, that Google’s 2014 report didn’t even delve into the company’s ad-blocking efforts on mobile. But the company had been making big changes to shift its business to mobile in 2015, with things like app install ads in search, the ability to surface in-app content as search results, the ability to demo mobile apps in your browser, its AMP project for speeding up the mobile web, and more.
Next year, Google’s focus will be further restrictions on weight loss ads, plus new protections against malware and bots, noted Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP, Ads & Commerce in Google’s summary report.