Google Adsense november 2017 updates: ad balance and earning percentage

Adsense Ad Balance Is Back, “Earning Percentage” Is Gone

November 2017 has seen changes to Google Adsense, including the re-introduction of Ad Balance, which I used to improve user experience of ads on this website. This was officially announced on the 9th of November. I discovered this because I was digging around elsewhere on Adsense, and noticed that the “earning percentage” column in the section for blocking ads is no longer available:

Adsense earning percentage missing
Missing earning percentage column in Adsense

What was the earning percentage column?

The screen you see above is located in Allow & Block Ads -> Content -> your domain, and then clicking “General categories”.

Block ads on adsense from general and sensitive categories
You can block from general and sensitive categories

Earning percentage used to show me how much of my earnings a specific category accounted for. So for example, I know that the “Computers & consumer electronics” category accounted for around 5% of my total Adsense earnings thanks to the now-missing earning percentage column.

The column made it easy to decide which categories to block just from an ROI perspective. Any categories making below, say, 1% might not be worth it. By blocking ads from certain low-earning categories, you’re freeing up bidding space for the higher-earning category ads to compete. Alternatively, you’re freeing up impressions for your fallback ad, which in my case is a CTA to visit my shop:

Google Adsense fallback placeholder
My Google Adsense fallback ad

(By the way, I just noticed that when I try to upload an image with a filename that begins with “adsense”, WordPress seems to automatically block the image from appearing. I know it’s against Adsense TOS to share earnings and talk too  much about that, so perhaps WordPress implemented a function to play it safe. In any case, it’s annoying.)

Wordpress blocks Adsense filenames for images
Filenames for images beginning with “Adsense”, no-no

So to get back to Google’s decision to remove earnings percentage from the block ads section, the conclusion is that it’s a bummer for Adsense users. Where once you could weigh the importance of including the category on your site (content relevance), with relative impact of earnings, now you have to guess which categories make what.

How to block ads on Adsense without visibility into earning percentage

My interim solution is to unblock all ads in the general categories. Blocking ads in Adsense’s sensitive categories is more important, and when readers report shitty ads I’ll block those too.

But I have a theory. I think that it is no coincidence that the Ad Balance and Blocked Ads features were updated nearly simultaneously. If there are very low-performing ads whose earning percentages you could previously see, you can still essentially block them by sliding the Ad Balance so that lower-performing ads are cut out. In this way, Ad Balance and Blocking Adsense Categories correlate.

I’m still pissed that they removed an extremely useful column. But it’s Google. They make their money through advertising, and they likely hurt themselves by giving us publishers so many free tools to cut out the long tail of advertisers.  But if they give users a tool, they shouldn’t be taking it away out of the blue. It’s bullcrap.

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