We all know it’s coming. For the longest time we’ve all been focused on keywords, word count and a ‘natural writing style’. But not any more.
Your website’s cumulative layout shift (CLS) is soon to be measured and scored as a PageRank (PR) factor. Unfortunately Google’s Adsense Auto Ads are causing a cumulative layout shift problem for those publishers (like us) that choose to use Adsense Auto Ads. This has caused us some concern and sleepless nights. We have, however, just found a simple solution to this problem which we would like to share. Annoyingly it was staring us in the face the whole time and is a feature of Google Adsense itself.
Looks like the time has finally come for us to be a bit more grown up! For the first 10 years of www.free-for-kids.com we were solely focussed on producing content for kids and teenagers but we think we’ve been ‘missing a trick’ by not extending our subject matter into the curious world of adults and parents. As always we have a lot to say about – well – everything really and this new avenue will let us explore products, knowledge, experiences and services that we think will bring many benefits to our older visitors.
Just before we get to the point here is a brief overview of the proposed cumulative layout shift (CLS) scoring system:
– CLS value under 0.1: you are a publishing genius/legend and your website is worthy of only the very best visitors
– CLS value between 0.1 and 0.25: big problem. The future of your website is extremely doubtful. Start planning an alternative income, career or hobby.
– CLS value greater than 0.25: your content is invisible to the known universe.
We were alerted a month or two ago by our Google Search Console that all of our pages (yes, every single page) had a CLS value greater than 0.25; as cumulative layout shift (CLS) is due to begin affecting PageRank in early 2021 we quickly set about trying to fix it.
We could see immediately that the main causes of layout shifts as each page opened were the Adsense Auto Ads. Our content is fairly basic text and images but the short delay in adverts appearing meant that some of our content was being placed on the screen and then immediately nudged aside by an advert appearing at the top of the web page. This nudging was causing the content to shift et voila! there’s your problem right there; Adsense Auto Ads causing cumulative layout shift in our Neve theme.
We are not technical people so all of the on-line advice that we found about creating placeholders, declaring heights of this and widths of that were lost on us. We use WordPress (Neve theme) so that we don’t have to get too involved with CSS, HTML and all that jazz.
Whilst turning Google Auto Ads on and off (a lot!) to experiment with the problem we noticed something previously unnoticed that we’re glad we finally noticed. YOU CAN PREVENT AUTO ADS FROM APPEARING AT THE TOP OF YOUR SCREEN! That’s it. That was our solution. As soon as we implemented this change our CLS scores dropped considerably; many well below the magical 0.1 figure.
Why had we not spotted this before?!? It’s in the ‘Ad Settings Preview’ on your Google Adsense Auto Ads settings page. On the page preview it shows where banners may be placed as ‘auto ad examples’ but – if you think that position will cause a problem on your website with cumulative layout shift – you can click the ‘bin’ icon so that no ads are served in that position.
For what it’s worth we used several tools to investigate the problem of Adsense auto ads causing cumulative layout shift. A Chrome plugin called ‘Web Vitals’ is extremely handy at giving you instant values for your webpage’s CLS along with values for largest contentful paint (LCP) and first input delay (FID). We also like WEBPAGETEST for its clever balance of simplicity and comprehensiveness. We really struggled with Chrome Developer Tools; it is an amazing free tool but a bit baffling for us Luddites. One function that we did master to help us identify the problem of Adsense auto ads causing cumulative layout shift was the ‘throttling’ option on the Network tab. It allows you to slow down your web page load times to super-slo-mo so you can see (visually) what is causing the CLS issues.
We also discovered that our website logo was causing a problem so we’ve removed it temporarily; it makes our site look a bit bare but because Google is currently reevaluating our website it’s probably best out of the way until we can figure out how to load it without causing cumulative shift. It’s probably something to do with specifying image dimensions … let the Googling commence …
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