Adsense is now more than 10 year old product powering most of Google’s 22 billion dollar revenue , however i have been noticing a subtle shift in user behavior over the last 3-4 years. I have see than users are becoming smarter and tending to develop ‘ad blindness’ . This is a phenomenon which makes the user ignore the ad slot and just focus on the content.
The effect of this is that we are seeing continuous drop on adsense CTR ratio for the ads. This number was at one point as high as 1% in 2009-2010 for several of blogs which i was managing with traffic from India , US and other countries. With the same design we are seeing a drop in engagement rates and is now somewhere near 0.5%. This means that user is learning to ignore the ads. At Sportskeeda i see the effect even more pronounced as the majority of audience is younger than 19 years and these guys know how to get past the ads to reach the content which is of their interest.
New breed of content driven ad networks
Along the same time we see the emergence of a new breed of ad networks which show up as ‘Around the web’ , ‘Recommended stories’ from different companies like Taboola . Outbrain and Gravity. These are often designed to appear at the end of the content and have a visual way of showing content in the form of widgets which have large pictures which attract the attention of the users.
These ads masquerade as content which is made interesting by selecting great pictures and great quality headlines. User does not see them as ads but sees them as content which has been recommended by the brand , this does now show ‘ad-blindness’ towards these ads. We have seen engagement rates of 1- 1.2% with such ads while google adsense struggles to get past event 0.5 % in terms of the overall engagement rates. By way of such higher engagement rates now such networks are contributing more money to us than Google adsense . This has slowly happened over the last 3 to 6 months and i can clearly see that Google adsense as a product is loosing out . Given this i am predicting that Google would soon role out a product like this or could even buy out the companies.
We have tested out various widgets and are particularly happy with their peformance and my guess is that it is only a matter of time that Google makes an buyout offer to some of them !