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Ad Density: Quality Vs. Quantity and Ads Standards

Many publishers rely on ads to generate revenue, particularly if they don’t have other revenue streams such as subscription content. Consequently, many try to boost their income by aggressively increasing the number of ads they display on their web pages. Some have exploited the system to such an extent that they show more ads than the actual content. Unfortunately, high ad density hurts user experience and overall revenue generation.

In this article, we’re going to explain:

  • What ad density is and why it’s essential.
  • How ad experience and density are regulated.
  • Best practices and ad types to avoid.
  • How poor ad density and low-quality ads can affect your revenue.

In short, we’re going to take a look at ad standards and why you should always aim for quality over quantity.

What Is Ad Density and Why Is it Important?

Ad density refers to the sum of the heights of your ads and how much of your mobile page they cover. If the ads take up more than 30% of the page, you’re already over the acceptable top limit. Remember that the ads are only measured against your content, not the viewport, headers, footers, and navigation. Sticky and inline ads also count towards the ad density.

If your ad density is too high, you may be penalized by search engines, have your ads blocked, and lose a significant chunk of your revenue.

Ad Experience and Quality Regulatory Bodies

High ad density adversely affects the user and ad experience and may cost you, your visitors, revenue, and reputation. Worst of all, you may be forcing your visitors to turn to ad blockers. According to the statistics, 64% of people use blockers because advertisements are annoying, intrusive, and ruin the browsing experience.

Standards hold publishers and advertisers to specific criteria, improving the user and ad experience. There are currently two authorities:

  • Coalition for Better Ads
  • Acceptable Ads Committee (AAC)

Both agencies were founded to regulate the advertising industry due to the increasing number of intrusive ad practices. Despite having similar goals, there are a few significant differences between the two authorities.

The most notable is that the Coalition is a non-profit founded by advertising industry members, including Google, IAB, Facebook, Index Exchange, and many others. After significant research, the group established the Better Ads Standards (BAS) to serve as an outline for publishers. It’s currently enforced automatically through the Chrome browser.

Acceptable Ads is a for-profit organization created by the ad-blocking community. The AAC has far stricter standards. If a large publisher wants to become an approved partner, they need to pay a fee. However, smaller publishers may apply for free. If the committee approves your website, AdBlock and AdBlock Plus won’t affect your ad delivery.

The goal of both organizations is to provide users with a better, higher-quality ad experience. By reducing the number of publishers that offer a poor user experience, they improve the overall quality standards of the ad ecosystem, boosting revenue while reducing the need for ad blocking software.

Ad Density, Layout Practices, and Types to Avoid

According to the Coalition for Better Ads, you can improve ad experience and keep your layouts in line with best practices by avoiding specific types of ads. These include:

Source: Better Ads Coalition

On Desktop:

  • Pop-up Ads.
  • Auto-playing Video Ads with Sound.
  • Prestitial Ads with Countdowns.
  • Large Sticky Ads.

Source: Better Ads Coalition

On Mobile:

  • Pop-up Ads.
  • Prestitial Ads.
  • Ad Density over 30%.
  • Flashing Animated Ads.
  • Auto-playing Video Ads with Sound.
  • Postitial Ads with Countdown.
  • Full-screen Scroll-over Ads.
  • Large Sticky Ads.

By avoiding these ads, you can provide your visitors with a better experience, improving your revenue generation. It also lowers the risk of penalization or alienating your users. Most importantly, don’t overpopulate a visitor’s screen with ads. Keeping your ad density below the recommended percentage is vital to a quality ad experience.

How Poor Ad Density and Quality Affects Publishers

Should you be concerned about failing to meet these ad standards? You might think it’s worth ignoring these requirements in favor of a higher ad density and generating more revenue, but you might be shooting yourself in the financial foot.

Google uses the slightly less restrictive 30% ad density rule, but the search engine enforces the standards quite ruthlessly. With the push for improved user experience and the latest algorithm changes, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, it’s critical to understand how failing Google’s tests will affect you and your site, SEO, and ad revenue.

If Google crawls your site and finds that you fail their ad standard, your website will be sanctioned. The search engine will start by sending you a warning and report, but it won’t immediately block your ads. Instead, you’ll have a 30-day grace period to fix the ad density and layouts and bring your site up to standard.

You may think you can use risky layouts to maximize your revenue, only fixing your ads once you’ve received a warning. Unfortunately, this sneaky tactic is doomed to failure. As of June 2020, Google added a punishment for repeat offenders.

If you fail a fourth time within the last 365-day period, you won’t receive a warning. Instead, Google will immediately sanction your website and filter your ads. You’ll have no control over which ones get filtered to reduce your ad density, and you need to wait a month before you can request a review. That means you risk losing substantial revenue if you repeatedly fail to meet the ad standards.

You can appeal Google’s judgment if you think that the search engine has misidentified the ad experience on your website. However, it’s a lengthy process, and there’s no guarantee that the filters will be removed.

How to Avoid Violating Ad Density Standards

The best way to avoid having your ads blocked or filtered is to keep your layouts compliant with the strictest standards. Always prioritize user experience and follow the recommended best practices.

If you’re unsure about your layout, ad density, and quality standards, it’s a good idea to look for help from an experienced monetization partner. For example, at Rev.Amp, we adhere to strict ad standards, ensuring that your layouts are optimized and that you don’t violate ad density or quality requirements.

It’s better to have fewer, high-quality ads than to risk besieging your visitors with advertisements and being blocked entirely.


Ad density may seem to be just one part of the disruptive ad experience issue, but it plays a significant role. It’s clear that large, screen-gobbling ads annoy users and drive them away, costing publishers valuable revenue.

The best way to prevent your site from being penalized is to obey best practices, prioritize user experience, and drop your ad density. While it may seem counterintuitive, it’s the best way to continue generating revenue consistently and in a reliable, trustworthy manner.

Not sure how to improve your ad density and layouts? Rev.Amp can help bring your advertising back to standard, keeping your ad revenue safe and secure.

Richard is the Adtech Product Lead at Softonic. As Adtech Product Lead, Richard is responsible for improving overall revenue and ad performance for all our properties, including rev•amp, Softonic’s new publisher monetization platform. Within rev•amp Richard oversees development for the rev•amp monetization stack, both innovations and the improvement of existing technologies.
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