Have you ever been browsing the internet, minding your own business, when suddenly you see something that catches your eye? A “sticky ad”! In other words: An ad that stays in a fixed position on your screen while you scroll through the actual content. This ad can hardly be overlooked and is, therefore, a proven method to show the information you would like to be read.
If you are monetizing your website with AdSense, you might have thought “that’s cool, I’ll do the same on my site”, only to find out that Google AdSense forbade such implementation. But then how did those other sites do it?
In the past, Google had different policies for Google AdSense and Google Ad Exchange. The AdX policy was more relaxed and allowed the bigger dogs to take advantage of special ad placements.
The good news is that Google has recently unified its policies for AdSense and AdX. As a consequence, AdSense lifted its complete ban for sticky ads.
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Guidelines and restrictions of sticky ads from Google AdSense
The lifted restrictions for sticky ads are good news and something we had been waiting for. But be sure to proceed with caution. There are limitations as to what you can do with sticky ads. We will go into the specifics in just a moment, but at the end of the day, common sense is still the best rule of thumb to follow.
If you, as a visitor to your site, would not like to see a particular ad behavior, chances are the implementation you have in mind is infringing an AdSense policy and will get you in trouble. Remember that user experience remains Google’s primary concern. The fact that they now allow sticky ads only means they are adapting to current web design trends that did not exist a few years ago. It doesn’t indicate that they are giving you a wild card to spam and annoy your readers.
If you are thinking about a sticky ad unit with AdSense, you should always check the official guidelines yourself. There is still some room for interpretation. Also, AdSense may update the policies over time.
Now that being said, you should keep the following in mind:
- vertical sticky ads are not allowed to permanently overlap your site’s content.
- Sticky ads cannot come close to navigation elements on your website. Remember that the browser’s scroll bar is also considered as a navigation element.
- Sticky ads must behave well while scrolling. No jumps or flickering allowed.
- You can fix ads either horizontally or vertically, but should not mix these behaviors.
- Sticky ads are more suitable for desktop devices (use anchor ad units for mobile).
Especially the rule about enough distance between sticky ads and other elements might need adjustments on your site and theme.
Safely implementing Google AdSense Sticky ads
Now that AdSense’s policies are more flexible in terms of how an ad behaves while the user scrolls down, people are starting to get more creative and try to push the limits of what is reasonable.
We recommend that you treat your AdSense account as something valuable. Don’t try to be smart about it, as a wrong placement or implementation can quickly get you banned from the program.
With the Sticky Ads add-on, you can quickly implement sticky ads on your WordPress site in one of six possible placements
- Header bar: a horizontal bar that will remain fixed along the top edge of the screen.
- Footer bar: a horizontal bar that will remain fixed along the bottom edge of the screen.
- Left sidebar: a sticky placement that will stay fixed on the left side of your content.
- Right sidebar: a sticky placement that will remain fixed on the right side of your content.
- Left bar: a sticky placement that will stay fixed on the left side of your screen.
- Right bar: a sticky placement that will remain fixed on the right side of your screen.
You can identify them by looking for the following icons when creating a new placement in Advanced Ads > Placements.
Recommended dimensions for fixed AdSense ads
Fixed header and fixed footer are safe to use on most desktop devices. However, it is up to you to ensure that any vertical fixed ad fits on the screen.
Sticky ads should have a maximum width of 300 px. We recommend the following dimensions:
We suggest using the Device or Browser Width visitor condition for these placements to disable them on devices that are too small.
Imagine that your site’s main content is 960px wide, and you are accessing the site from a 1366px wide display. That will mean that you will have approximately 200px of free space on each side between your site’s content and the edge of the screen. So you could safely display a vertical 160px wide skyscraper there, but not a 250px square unit.
Horizontally fixed ads like our Footer Bar or Header Bar placements work well on smaller devices. Use the Device or Browser Width visitor condition to show them on smaller screens only.
Sticky ads in your sidebar
There is a seventh placement that is safe to use for fixed ads: sticky sidebar widgets. You can place an ad unit in a widget at the end of the sidebar so that it will remain visible when the user keeps scrolling after the sidebar ends.
Responsive AdSense units
AdSense ad units with a fully responsive size might not show up in sticky positions because AdSense cannot determine the correct size.
That’s why you should only use their fixed-sized Display Ads or responsive Display Ads with custom sizes.
What can sticky ads mean for my website
Studies have proven that sticky ads can outperform in-content ads and other traditionally accepted placements when implemented well. The amazing results of a split test on one of our websites confirm that. The CTR of the sticky version was eight times higher than the ad in the content. As the click prices were almost the same, the overall RPM raised by 800%.
This finding is not surprising. The viewability of sticky ads is much higher than the one on traditional placements. It is seen by the user for an extended period, increasing the chances of them taking a glimpse at it and eventually clicking on it.
Moving one of your existing ad units to a fixed position is likely to increase the CTR and revenue of that ad unit. An entirely new sticky ad unit can increase the revenue already generated by your existing units. The requirement for this is that you still have enough space for it and that content and advertising are in a balanced relationship.