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As the recession lingers on, Google has been forced to admit that it's not immune to the economy. That's a tough thing to do when your core business is still doing pretty well relatively speaking.
So what's Google to do? For starters, it's cutting back on projects that aren't producing. But what about its core business of online advertising? In what might possibly be seen as a way of combating the effects of recession, Google has introduced expandable ads on the AdSense content network.
The ads are rich media ads that, as the name suggests, expand beyond the normal ad unit size when the user clicks on them.
These types of ads are, of course, not new but they new to the AdSense content network.
Google says that AdSense content network publishers who have enabled image ads and have AdSense code on their websites are automatically eligible to show expandable ads with no additional action required.
Google believes that expandable ads "can engage your site visitors with more ad variety and opportunities to interact with ad content on your site while still offering complete control over ad expansion and content initiation". And for those who think this is hyperbole, it has a number of guidelines governing expandable ad characteristics and is currently restricting their use to "a select number of top agencies and advertisers certified under our third-party ad serving program".
It's unclear whether or not expandable ads will produce a greater eCPM for AdSense publishers. Publishers have no guarantee that expandable ads will offer them greater eCPMs and further, clicks to expand the ads don't count as clicks when it comes to getting paid.
But that doesn't mean that Google won't benefit from them indirectly. As Darren Rowse of ProBlogger points out:
...a click on the ad might not generate any revenue if the advertiser is using CPC ads. This means that an advertiser gets the benefit of someone noticing their ad and interacting with it (good for their branding) while the publisher has part of the rest of their site covered over…. and gets nothing for that.
Obviously Google shares revenue with publishers so when it earns money, its publishers earn money. But even if these ads don't produce a direct financial benefit to Google and AdSense publishers, they could help Google strengthen relationships with the agencies and advertisers who like that Google is giving them a way to get more bang for their buck. That could be very valuable to Google indirectly.
This leads me to believe that the launch of expandable ads, and the inability to opt-out of them without opting out of image ads altogether, is just one of the ways that Google is trying to fight the economic situation that it finds itself in.