Facebook enforcing policy change to crack down on high ad-to-content ratio web pages

Sortable Ad Monetization

Facebook is cracking down on publishers with low quality web page experiences, and this will have a big impact on publishers running content recommendation widgets.

Sites like Facebook, YouTube, and others have been called to account for promoting fake news and questionable content. Advertisers are starting to pay attention to where their ads are being displayed and what content they are next to.

One of Facebook's main goals is to protect users. They have already moved against clickbait articles, which is creating an ad with barely any information, or a cryptic image that entices a user to click.

Examples are:

  • Mismatched content
  • Leading ad copy, such as click on me
  • False play buttons
  • Mystery images
  • False claims/fake news

The next step Facebook is taking to clean up their news feed is to build an AI to prune low quality web sites or ad farms. These are sites with poor user experience or are specifically designed to make money from displaying as many ads as possible with the least amount of content.

This AI has scanned hundreds of thousands of web pages that have been linked from Facebook, in order to learn what web pages have similar characteristics to these low quality web pages.

Facebook is looking for things like:

  • Sites with a high ad-to-content ratio
  • Poor site layout, including overlapping text
  • Malicious or deceptive ads on the landing page
  • Interstitial or interruptive ads

The ad-to-content ratio seems to be a big concern for Facebook, and it should be for publishers as well. Publishers who are pushing thin content and a large amount of ads are only hurting themselves in the long run. Having more ads on page may increase ad revenue in the short term, but it may also affect the user's session depth, and the decreased click-through-rate on those ad units may lead to decreased revenue over time.

Some of the biggest contributors to a high ad-to-content ratio are content recommendation widgets. Facebook considers each image in those widgets to be a unique ad, which means that if publishers are running a 3x2 unit, then Facebook sees that as 6 ad units. This can quickly push up the ad-to-content ratio, which in turn can result in poor Facebook ad performance on the buy side, making traffic acquisition harder and more expensive.

Facebook is now holding publishers accountable for the ads displayed on their site. If a content widget or an ad unit on a particular site is displaying content that would not be approved on the News Feed, Facebook may go a step further and ban all content from that site from appearing in News Feed.

Facebook, and Sortable, both frown on certain negative content that brands don't want to be associated with. Some of those content topics include but are not limited to:

  • Disturbing content
  • Sexual content
  • Calling out sensitive user issues like health issues
  • Fake news

Facebook says that the rollout of these changes has already started, and will continue over the next few months. Publishers with low quality web page experiences will begin to see a decrease in traffic, both from paid and organic sources, while other high quality experience publishers may see an increase in traffic from Facebook.