Google today announced Chrome is further cracking down on “abusive experiences” — buttons designed to intentionally mislead and trick users into taking action on the web. In December, with the release of Chrome 71, the browser’s ad blocker will cut off revenue for sites that still have these abusive experiences.
Google last year joined the Coalition for Better Ads, a group that offers specific standards for how the industry should improve ads for consumers. In February, Chrome started blocking ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that display non-compliant ads, as defined by the coalition. When a Chrome user navigates to a page, the browser’s ad filter checks if that page belongs to a site that fails the Better Ads Standards. If so, network requests on the page are checked against a list of known ad-related URL patterns and any matches are blocked, preventing ads from displaying on the page.
Google’s strategy is simple: Use Chrome to cut off ad revenue from websites that serve non-compliant ads. That said, 1 in every 40 pageviews can have a non-compliant ad — the goal is not to punish sites that are genuinely trying to serve compliant ads. The coalition understands all sorts of ads can make it onto a site, despite rules dictated to ad networks, header bidding solutions, and other partners.
Cutting off ad revenue from sites with abusive experiences
Now Google wants to use the same strategy for abusive experiences.
Earlier this year, with the release of Chrome 64 and then later Chrome 68, Google cracked down on abusive experiences such as pop-ups that sent users to unintended destinations, unwanted redirects, and unwanted tabs or windows.
Above: Abusive experience: A play button on a video sends the user to an unwanted download when clicked.
But Google has found that those protections didn’t quite get the job done — more than half of abusive experiences are still not blocked by Chrome “and nearly all involve harmful or misleading ads.” These ads trick users into clicking on them by pretending to be system warnings or contain “close” buttons that do not actually close the ad. In some cases, they can even steal personal information.
Above: Abusive experience: A close button opens unwanted pop-up windows.
Google didn’t say how many sites this crackdown will affect — the company only said it sees a “small number of sites with persistent abusive experiences.” And that number will likely go down between now and Chrome 71’s release in December.
If you’re a site owner or administrator, use Google Search Console’s Abusive Experiences Report to check if your site contains abusive experiences that need to be corrected or removed. If any are found, you will have 30 days to fix them before Chrome starts blocking ads on your site.