A strange warning from Google AdSense about ads “above the fold”
I received an automated message from Google AdSense telling me that one of my web pages was in violation of their terms and that I needed to address the issue. I’ve been using AdSense on a half dozen sites since 2009 and have never received a message like this before, and the site in question was one that I haven’t really changed in a few years. The message included a link to a particular post on one of my WordPress sites as an example of what was wrong.
The weird thing was, the post in question was a password-protected post (which is why I’ve pixelated the url in these images), and it was hidden from my site. So, when the post loads the post content is hidden; before entering the password it just showed up as my regular website interface containing a headline with a password entry field and submit button.
It took a little digging to find out what the warning from AdSense was actually about. The email (below) wasn’t very specific, but when I logged into my AdSense account I had a notification waiting for me there about the same thing, and this time it included the specific problem: the problem that AdSense had with this page is that there were “Large ads above the fold on mobile.”
For one thing, “above the fold” is a term from the print world, and it’s one which I’ve been educating people for years has no place in the discussion of digital media. Using “above the fold” when discussing websites implies that people consume print media the same way they consume digital media, and this is absolutely not the case. If you’re considering what appears above the fold on a digital piece you’re already thinking about digital wrong. Throw in the fact that there are so many different devices and so many different screen sizes, it becomes impossible to even consider what counts as “above the fold” for all users. But I digress!
I took a look at the post in question on mobile and saw that, before entering the password, a 300×250 ad that’s normally at the bottom of my posts was appearing near the bottom of the screen. I’ve placed this ad in my site’s template so that it appears after the content on each page, and all the other posts and pages of my site have enough content to push it way down off the initial screen. In this case, with the password-protected content hidden, the ad was visible right when the page loaded.
I didn’t actually need this old password-protected page any more, so I simply deleted it from my site, and marked the issue as resolved in my AdSense account.
It’s a little alarming that AdSense cares about “the fold,” and even more so, that they sent me this automated message about a post that was hidden from the visitors to my site — I was using a WordPress plugin called WP Hide Post to hide the post from my site’s home page, category views, etc. No one could reach the page without me sending them a direct link. Hopefully this is the last time I get a warning like this.
Here are images of the email I received, and the error in my AdSense account (after I marked it resolved).