Google AdSense Now Allows Publishers to Filter Unwanted Ad Categories: More Troubles than Benefits?

… hold off on rejoicing, though!

After this weekend’s maintenance downtime, Google’s AdSense contextual advertising platform completed the roll-out of a new feature to publishers – the ad category filtering. It’s been a long time wait for AdSense publishers, who were in much need to have a better control over the ads that populate their sites.

Firstly, Google introduced the Ad Review Center a while back, allowing publishers to have a say with regard to the site-targeted ads their sites attracted. Ads are placed on hold for 24 hours for the publisher to block them or allow them to run; if no action is taken in 24 hours, ads will start serving.

Now, Google introduced the ad category filtering capability, where publishers can block up to 5 ad categories in their AdSense account. If you haven’t checked your account yet, below is a screenshot of how the new feature works.


All good and fine, more power to the publishers who were the very overlooked folks of an online advertising world that primarily caters for the needs of advertisers.

However, a closer look at how the ad category filtering functionality was implemented uncovers major, if not fatal, flaws:

account wide ad filtering, making it impossible to filter out certain categories for one site you’re monetizing with AdSense, and a different set of categories for another site. With the current options, you can only eliminate categories across all sites you may have in your portfolio. For example, under no circumstance would I want weight loss ads on this very site, but I surely want them on my health & beauty blog. With AdSense, you cannot do this – it’s all or nothing, across your whole account. Ironically enough, AdSense policies prohibit publishers from owning more than one AdSense accounts, on the grounds that you can monetize through one account as many sites as you want – this policy is constantly contradicted by the how AdSense features are enabled at account level, and not at site level (URL filtering works the same way).

inciting to mistargeting, since data offered with regard to category filtering discloses % of earnings and % of ad impressions. Guess what that ratio translates to? eCPMs! For example, if I wished to indulge in a little eCPM and revenue manipulation, I would read the table above as “Jesus pays”. See how ads in the “Religion” category appear to have generated 16.5% of recent earnings, while eating up only 5.6% of recent ad impressions? This means their eCPM is higher than ads in all other categories – how many publishers will now try to calculate revenue / ad impressions ratios and attempt to mistarget their AdSense ads to whatever category appears to pay best?

failure to target ads, as this new feature candidly shows how completely inappropriate, mistargeted ads served on your unsuspecting site(s). I was really thrown off to find out that 1% of my recent ad impressions were assigned by Google AdSense to sexually suggestive or sexual health ads. I assure you, none of the sites in my portfolio warrant the presence of such ads – they’re supposedly contextually relevant ads and not one of my sites has pages with content that could have legitimately trigger these sex ads. Why were they served, then, and how come Google choose to let me know? Furthermore, one more issue is flagged here: supposedly sex(y) ads are only allowed to run on search, and not on content. These ads, while approved in the AdWords campaigns of the advertisers, should have not been allowed to run on the AdSense content network where only family safe ads are supposed to run.

That’s it, in a nutshell, Google AdSense’s new ad category filtering. Enjoy trying to figure out if and what should you filter from your account!