Sometime in mid-2016 AdSense changed its maximum number of ad units policy.
The old policy limited the number of AdSense ads to 3 ad units and 3 link units and 2 search boxes per page.
The new policy is “Advertising and other paid promotional material added to your pages should not exceed your content” [source].
While I think it’s kind of vague it’s definitely better than a universal maximum number of ad units that was in place for years.
But, what happens if your number of ads exceeds your content in AdSense’s digital eyes?
I found out this week in my pursuit to make more money with AdSense.
I admit I pushed the limit, but I was doing some testing of placements and for a day or two had quite a few units on the page UNTIL I noticed that some ad units were no longer displaying. In fact, my second most valuable AdSense unit wasn’t displaying.
So the short answer to what happens if you place too many AdSense ads on a page is some ad units stop serving. This isn’t surprising because AdSense says exactly this in it’s new policy that states “For this reason, we may limit or disable ad serving on pages with little to no value and/or excessive advertising until changes are made” [source].
I checked about 5 pages on my site and then double checked those pages in Chrome incognito and sure enough, with some new ads I had put on the page, AdSense stopped serving other ad units. I had reached the point where paid promotional material exceeded my content.
How many AdSense ad units did I have on my page when it was considered to exceed content?
Here’s the progression of events leading to some ad units no longer being served, which meant that I had crossed the line with the number of AdSense
Original number of AdSense ads per page on desktop and tablet (this was okay):
- 5 ad units,
- 2 link units,
- 1 matched content unit and
- 1 search box.
Then, this week I started more testing and added the following to desktop and tablet display:
- 2 ad units
- 2 link units
Resulting in the following totals, which was deemed too many ad units for desktop and tablet (AdSense stopped serving other pre-existing ad units as a result):
- 7 ad units
- 4 link units
- 1 matched content unit
- 1 search box
A few things to note:
1. Is 5 ad units the maximum? Maybe. I think so.
It’s interesting that 5 ad units was fine but 7 was too many. It suggests that the new AdSense ad unit cap is really what the Ad Exchange cap of 5 units has been for a long time. I have a hunch after this testing that 5 ad units is probably the maximum for most sites.
2. Two Link Units only? I think so.
I’ve also noticed for several weeks that at least on my site, I’m not able to display more than 2 link units. I actually like link units now and was hoping under the new policy that I could pepper 3 to 5 link units in strategic places per page. However, this hasn’t worked. Either nothing displays or AdSense inserts a regular ad unit in the link unit’s place. I’m not terribly upset by this, but it’s been my experience and I think it’s too bad because those little link unit ads, when put into good places, can earn well.
3. If there’s a problem, fix it fast
As soon as I noticed the problem, I removed the new ads because I recognized it was too many. This is smart because AdSense makes it clear they will stop serving some or all ads “until changes are made.”
4. I treat mobile differently
I have fewer units on mobile and did not apply any of the testing of additional ad units to mobile. I only have 4 AdSense units on mobile in total and won’t increase that. In fact, very shortly I’ll be testing AMP with AMP ads and see how that works. My hunch is more mobile traffic, but lower RPM. I’m willing to accept a lower RPM for more traffic.
5. My content is long which warrants quite a few ads
My content on this particular niche site on which I did testing is long… usually 1,000 plus words with 12 plus images. That’s why I have a lot of ads to begin with. If my content was 700 words with 1 image on average, there’s no way I would serve that many ads. Again, you must balance your content with ads.
6. Is every site treated differently? Maybe. Probably. I actually don’t know.
One site’s maximum number of ad units may differ from another site. I don’t know whether AdSense applies different caps to different sites, but it seems to suggest that it does with its policy. That said, just because I’m okay with 5 ad units, 2 link units, 1 matched content unit and 1 search box doesn’t mean you will be.
7. I use ads other than AdSense too
I don’t use just AdSense ads. I also have Media.net, Criteo and Monumetric ad units on my site.
8. Does AdSense take other ad networks’ ads into account when calculating its maximum?
I don’t know. The policy isn’t clear on that. The policy refers to “Advertising and other paid promotional material” which seems to suggest AdSense does take into account all ads on a page. At the end of the day I don’t know. All I know is I’m capped at 5 AdSense ad units and 2 link units. I never tested the maximum Matched Content or search box caps.