While some will argue that Google’s approach to security and ad-filtering may be “heavy-handed” at times, it is easy to see the efforts the internet giant is taking to improve the user experience. According to a story in Ad Age, Google sent a warning email to thousands of internet publishers (including big names like Forbes, The New York Daily News, and the L.A. Times, and too many others to list here) letting them know that their “highly annoying, misleading, or harmful ads” are in violation of the Better Ads Standard.
Haven’t heard of the Better Ads Standard? Well, neither did some of these publishers before they received the warning letter from Google. The Better Ads Standard is an effort being pushed by the Coalition for Better Ads, which Google, Facebook, and others have formed to help shape the way ads are served on the web.
Google’s own plan is to start blocking certain ads from appearing on sites in their Chrome browser, which holds a dominant 59.57% share of the desktop browser market, according to research conducted by Net Market Share. Google protested the claim that they are going to outright block ads from appearing, saying the types of ads that may be blocked or “filtered” may include ones that consumers find most annoying, including (on desktop):
- Ads that pop-up, or cover text portions on the screen
- Video advertisements that auto-play with sound
- “Nesting-doll” ads that display multiple ads
- Large “sticky” ads
- Prestitial ads with countdown
For mobile users, the type of ads that may be blocked include:
- Pop-up advertisements
- Prestitial ads
- Ad density on screen of higher than 30%
- Flashing, animated ads
- Auto-playing video advertisements with sound
- Postitial ads with countdown
- Full-screen rollover ads
- Large “sticky” ads
Through extensive user-experience testing and research, the coalition was able to identify the experiences above that ranked the lowest among users, and created the lists above. In addition, they identified the user experiences that were most preferred by consumers and created guidelines for advertisers to follow.
An Increased Focus On Security
While annoying ads can make for an unpleasant browsing experience, it is clear that Google is also placing an increased focus on security in their Chrome browser. A pop-up ad is an irritation, but an unsafe or unsecured website can be a major security concern for a consumer, leading to phishing scams or harmful ransomware being installed on the user’s device.
That’s why Chrome has now adopted new labeling standards to warn browsers that sites with HTTP connections (rather than the secure HTTPS connection) that require passwords or credit card entry points are “non-secure”. The company also says that this is only the first step, and it will eventually label all HTTP sites (even those that do not have login portals or payment systems attached) as non-secure.
Currently, HTTP sites simply have a neutral indication in Chrome, but users will now see the non-secure warning on certain sites with increasing frequency in the future. For website administrators, this is a clear signal that they should upgrade to HTTPS as soon as possible, or they may risk losing the faith and confidence of their visitors.
How does this affect law firms, you may ask? If you are managing your own website or if you have an IT team or marketing company handling that for you, you should immediately check to see if you are following Google’s safe browsing guidelines. The guidelines can be found on Google’s developer blog and elsewhere on the web. By taking the necessary precautions to secure your website and follow best-practices now, you can prevent security issues for your firm and provide a safe experience for your clients and web visitors.