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Two-Click Nightmares Transcript – Stories from Publishers’ Bedrooms – 06/18/2020

Brian Blondy, June 23, 2020

  Ben:         Okay, so let’s kick off, because I think we’ve got pretty much everybody that were expected to to kind of join. And those that are late to kind of join midstream. So firstly, thank you very much everybody for joining. And welcome to our second virtual event. To introduce myself and us, I’m Ben from Total Media. We’re a Google certified partner on both publisher and advertiser technologies. And we help our clients navigate and connect the digital ecosystem and programmatic technologies. So really, the aim of these events is to build a community of publishers and professionals interested in digital media and to give them a place for insightful content and a forum for questions and a place really. So today as we, as the title really suggests, we’ll be diving into Two Click which officially by Google is referred to as confirmed clicks. We’re very pleased to be joined by two guests, who are veterans of both the industry and of Two Click. And we’re also joined by Ryan, who’s one of our customers safety team who will help provide further insights into Two Click. So before I introduce my guests properly, I think it’s a good time to kind of really describe what Two Click is, but really more importantly, what it isn’t. There’s a ton of understanding in the art and misunderstanding in the industry to what it is. So I’ll pass it on to Ryan to go into depth.   Ryan:                Hi. Good afternoon. As Ben mentioned, today we’re talking about Two Click, also known as confirm click. It’s nothing new in our ecosystem. It’s been around for at least dating back nine years. For those of you who are lucky enough to have never experienced Two Click, it is how the ad unit becomes effected on the page, asking the user with a confirm screen if they’re sure they would like to visit. An example. Can you see it? In here. There it is. It’s important to be aware that Two Click is not a policy violation. It is one of Google’s initiatives that is meant to protect our ecosystem. It is there to protect the user, the advertisers and the publishers. Two Click is also… It’s important to remember that it’s only applicable to AdWords, Google ads, which means that publishers utilizing AdSense or AdX will be affected. Now I pass you back to Ben.   Ben:                   Thanks, Ryan. In addition to that valuable insight, really, in terms of how much Two Quick affects publishers really depends on how much a publisher’s revenue is reliant on AdWords. So now that we’ve kind of given a high level of what Two Click is, and everybody can kind of imagine it and understand it. It’s really my pleasure to introduce our two guests properly. We have Angie Singh, who’s a revenue operations consultant for publishers. And we have Abishai Sharpton who is the CEO of Brainy, a publisher of a portfolio of sites across various different verticals. So as our last event, our format is going to be a one to one interview with each of our guests peppered with questions that you’ve asked when registering for the thing. If we haven’t covered any of the questions by the end, please feel free to reach out to our team. I’m sure they’ll be happy to answer you. So with that done, I’d like to bring up Angie. As mentioned, Angie is a revenue operations consultant, who experienced two Click while working on a large portal site for publishers, that’d be for parents. So thank you again for joining Angie, and let’s jump into your FinTech story. So really, how did you and your team first discover Two Click?   Angie:               Right? So Hi, thanks for having me. And with how did I discover Two Click, it was totally by accident. We, as part of my role at the publisher, as a revenue operation, managing revenue operations, one of my daily tasks, or at least three times a week, was checking revenue that was coming in from various partners. And my, like most publishers, Google is a significant chunk of revenue. So Google was often one of the first things I would check. And it was just really that checking, that standard checking I did that alerted me that something wasn’t right, because I had noticed at least a 50 cent dip in revenue against our mobile infantry. Was just one ad unit, but it was very significant. So even at this point, I didn’t really know what was happening. So that’s with the usual channels, raised alarm bells with Google, internally letting Google know what had happened, that we’re suffering from a decline.   Ben:                  So how did Google kind of react to that, that alone, when you kind of sent them the issue ticket?   Angie:             Initially, there was no straightforward answer, in all honesty. They didn’t know themselves. We were lucky we had an account manager. However, it wasn’t a straight way, “This is what the problem was.” They said they would look into it, but they encouraged me to speak to our dev teams internally, to make sure that no changes had been done that would have inadvertently effected the revenue from our mobile devices.   Ben:                 And were they fairly confident that they didn’t have any changes or anything that they could put their finger on what that issue might be?   Angie:               No, not immediately anyway.   Ben:                   So talking to the officers, obviously Google. You sent a ticket to Google and they weren’t sure what it is. So how long did it actually take you to understand exactly what the issue was?   Angie:              From start to finish, I would say three to four weeks. And that I’ve got to add, it took three, it may have been longer, three to four weeks with extreme pressure from many senior stakeholders from within the company.   Ben:                 So it was three, three to four weeks of that huge 50% drop in your mobile environment. And tell us a bit about… Give us some context. How important to you, as a publisher at the time, was mobile traffic?   Angie:               It was about 65. Between 65% to 75% of our traffic were… Google contributed about 80% or… So yeah, it was pretty significant.   Ben:                   So we’re talking about a significant chunk, probably the biggest part of your, of your revenue stream was at stake. And so clearly, it was a huge issue for you guys as a publisher. So it took you kind of two to three weeks to understand that it was on was Two Click. And once it was confirmed, once you had that understanding, how long did it take for you to identify what was actually causing the issue?     Angie:              So we… Again, there wasn’t much information coming from Google. It was really a case of… They talked about Two Click at that point. My first reaction was, “What does that even mean?” There was a lot of information at once. A few days later, figured out what Two Click meant. Luckily, well, I’ve got to add, luckily for us, it was just one ad unit. We weren’t talking multiple ad units across multiple domains. So I was focused on the one ad unit. Once I understood, which took a couple of days to understand what exactly they were talking about it, we suggested our own changes. And it was literally a case of once I realized these were… We were being penalized or flagged for accidental clicks. We then had to make the suggestion of what we need to do, which was essentially add some padding around the ad unit. So it would avoid any accidental clicks in the future.   Ben:                  So based on how important it was to you as an organization, how long did it take for you guys to roll out that change onto the site?   Angie:               Because it was so significant, we literally had to put a stop on everything. And most publishers will know dev teams usually have streams of work that take them to the end of the year. So for us to get this done, which took about 48 hours, maybe three days at the most… I’m thinking back to when it happened in 2018. Maybe it didn’t take long because it was so significant. So we got it within two or three days. But, yeah.   Ben:                   And that sounds like you guys worked pretty much full time to stop the issue. In terms of… So you rolled out that change within 48 hours. How long did it take for the issue of Two Click to alleviate from the site?   Angie:              Because we were putting such extreme pressure on Google at that time, I think… The thing is, they couldn’t guarantee that any changes we made would actually make any difference. So it was just a case of test it and see. So we tried it and I, again from memory, I think I started seeing revenue go back up to normal levels within three weeks. So it wasn’t instant. It took time for the algorithm to reassess our changes.   Ben:                  No, absolutely. So you’re talking about a full kind of impact in terms of how it impacted your revenue and your operations. We’re talking about almost two, two and a half months.   Angie:              Yeah, it was definitely two, two and a half months that we had lost that revenue.   Ben:                 And how did that kind of that… So that’s obviously a major crisis event for a publisher in terms of that kind of scope. How did you kind of change as a business in terms of how the teams operate and work back after that?   Angie:               Well, we had a very close relationship with our engineering, development and product team. But now that we had Two Click… The experience of Two Click, it was at the forefront of conversation. So any redesigns, any changes that were done to the site, we were always aware… The development teams became aware that any changes that had to be made, even if they were directly or indirectly affecting ads, we should be made aware as an operations team, so that we could keep an eye on revenue. Because inadvertently, they may have changed something that would have put us back to square one.   Ben:                  And was it just revenue that kind of… How did you indicate Two Click? Are there any kind of other metrics that you can kind of give to the publishers. Publishers are maybe listening in terms of helping monitoring.   Angie:               I think revenue’s the best KPI to identify something is wrong, right? So as soon as your revenue, then you start looking at fill rates, you look at your ECPM’s. And yes, they were all on a downward trajectory. So we, but revenue’s the first biggest indicator, that something is not right. And then yes, absolutely. You then deeper dive into your relevant platforms to look at other KPIs such as fill rate and ECPM’s.   Ben:                  No, totally makes sense. And so finally, what tips do you have for publishers who are currently impacted by Two Click on their sites?   Angie:              Put pressure on Google. I understand not everyone has account managers and they have different relationships. It is really… We only really got things done, in my opinion, because of the pressure we kept applying. And in terms of other tips, yeah, just keep checking your revenue if you are impacted by Two Click. Now there’s of course, including this webinar, there are some other resources. Looking at your website design, making sure your ads conform with the Coalition of Better Ads, and just making sure you’re ticking all the boxes when it comes to policy. So you’re minimizing the risk essentially. But who knows, it’s an algorithm in the background that nobody… You cannot speak to anyone, you cannot deal with anyone, but just use the best practices that are available now.   Ben:                  Absolutely. I think it’s kind of good kind of point to ask Ryan if he’s got any questions or comments?   Ryan:                Thank you. I actually hundred percent agree with Angie on that. And I think it’s very important to, as we said in the beginning, it’s not a policy violation. But what Two Click does is, it makes us start to pay attention. And we have to start to see how policy lives and breathes and how… It’s another player that we really do not just have to put up with but we also have to be able to be understanding of, and interact with and have it be a part of both of our all of our teams, and it’s that other brother in the room for sure.   Angie:              Yeah, absolutely. So just to… The biggest advice as to, I give to my publishers, just make sure you’re conforming to Google’s policies because you will be best set up for success in the best place possible way.   Ben:                   That’s great. Thanks, Angie. So now that we’ve heard about a publisher with a full cycle experience about Two Click. From trying to start and finish, I’d like to bring up our next guest of this show. And focus the discussion more on how they worked on resolving it and ongoing prevention. So to reintroduce, ASB is the CEO, a publisher of a portfolio of sites in a number of different verticals, from travel through, to education and sports. And for full disclosure, he’s a client and partner of ours, and we experienced Two Click together. So welcome.   ASB:                   Hi. Guys. Thank you.   Ben:                   So thank you for joining us. And why don’t you just talk to us first about how you and the team really focused on working to resolve the issue of Two Click?   ASB:                  So I think it’s important to kind of say how we even discovered it. And we discovered it by you guys sending us kind of a routine report… The hours have dropped. And through the investigation you guys conducted, you basically sent us a screenshot saying, “Hey, you are affected by Two Click.” We didn’t even know that it still existed. We thought it was a thing of the past. And through your research and your investigation, we found out about it. So ever since we kind of, you know, started to do our own research about it. We understood it’s all about user experience. And we started doubling down on user experience investment on our site.   Ben:                  That’s great. Is there anything? Obviously, user experience was key to you beforehand, but in terms of what the user experience team, was that kind of their first understanding or their first kind of foray into looking into policy related matters?   ASB:                   I think the way we started, we always wanted to give the user a great experience when it came to storytelling. And we always wanted to give our user a great experience when it came to navigation. But there is the subjective way we see things as a user, I was like, how we think the user would act. And there’s how the user actually acts. So we basically try to give multiple people to use our sites basically doing user testing and to see if people had trouble navigating. And wherever we could, we went the extra mile. I don’t think our user experience was anything less than great before we experienced Two Click. But if there’s one thing we did is we went to the extreme to make it superb and like flawless to the point where a user can go through a full story on our site, would never miss clicking. It will be very hard for them to ever miss clicking on any button. Everything is like very spacious. Very crisp. We’re very proud of our final results. And we keep improving. From time to time we do look back. We see metrics and we do small tweaks changes to keep that kind of, you know, experience. We don’t want to keep our eye off the ball.   Ben:                   No, absolutely. That’s one of the issues with confirmed cases. Obviously, it’s an algorithmic blunt tool for quite a new one starting, subjective user experience and site design. So, we heard from Angie that it took her really kind of almost two and a half months to get through, to be back to normal, let’s say. How long did it take you guys?   ASB:                 So here’s the thing. We basically continued business as usual. I think you kind of know we did a review. After we did some changes, we shared them with you. And we’re not obsessing over it. I think that our feedback from the user experience overall is good. CTR is up, it’s picked up. We don’t know, though, if they picked up because of the changes we did, or Two Click disappeared, or they didn’t. We kind of are living in a kind of, I would say, this kind of situation where we don’t know if we have Two Click affecting us. And in fact, on some level, we don’t really mind as long as we don’t know. Like we’re assuming, if we know, it means that something’s wrong with the design.   Ben:                  Right.   ASB:                   And if we don’t know that means something went well and the design works. It hasn’t come up as a subject for a long time, I think ever since beginning of Q4 last year. So we’re pretty happy that it’s not a topic that we talk about. But I can tell you that last year it was intensive run to fix the site to be better than ever. Sometimes it’s much harder to optimize something that’s really good already than to optimize something where you already know where the issues are. We really have to nitpick and find the issues. Where in the past, most people would say they weren’t. So   Ben:                   Absolutely. So essentially, you’re really kind of using user experience, and great user experiences, as your guiding light and kind of trying to just stop thinking about Two Click until it becomes that top level issue for you. But in terms of other policies, and in general, how do you kind of keep your teams and yourself kind of up to date with all of what’s going on in both, with Google and the ecosystem in general, and those best practices for user experience?   ASB:                   We always like to read just the official resources. I think Google is doing an excellent work communicating about new things and new developments and their support pages have become more robust as time has gone by. Whoever has been a veteran in the industry knows that there used to be a lot of guessing games. And today, things are pretty straightforward. Nobody’s going to give you an ABCD manual, but you get the understanding of why something exists and how you might approach in order to fix it.   Ben:                   Of course, and obviously, it’s really hard for any kind of company or body that works with publishers at scale. And we find similar issues to give that general guidance when everybody’s sites are different and nuanced. Everybody’s uses are different, and nuanced. Do you feel that the correction, and all the principles you have in terms of user experience and what you did to come back, Two Click helped improve your user sessions and your user metrics?   ASB:                   I think that we saw average time spent go up right after the redesign, which was reassuring. Sometimes, you know, if you do a redesign, and things don’t go backwards, that’s usually another good sign that… Yeah, sometimes you try to do things better, and then you find out you over tweaked. So I’m happy to say that we did not find out that we over tweak and every change we did was a change that we’re happy with and we didn’t roll back anything. So it shows the success of the project.   Ben:                 And if you could give kind of guidelines. Obviously you guys are working, as we know, working on those incremental tweaks to user experience. But if you could give any quote or benchmark recommendations to the publishers listening, of how often to work on those changes. I think that could be quite useful for them.   ASB:                  I think the main guideline is visit your own site, try to read the article. And if you’re having any trouble at any point, stop everything, talk to your UXCI team and get to open the drawing board and start working. That would be my bit like, the kind of you know, it’s the strategy we try to take. If you’re not enjoying the navigation of your own site, then that should be the biggest kind of red light that needs to be addressed.   Ben:                   To really be be your own user and be your own critic.   ASB:                  Yeah, I sometimes start to talk to teams and ask them when’s the last time they visited their own site to just browse randomly. Not to check the latest article published, just browse randomly. And you’d be surprised. Doesn’t happen that often on the content team. So browse randomly.   Ben:                   Sounds good. Do you have any kind of tips of to see in terms of frozen. It just came in from one of our listeners, “How to check if you have Two Click.”   ASB:                  If your CTR dropped suddenly and you haven’t changed anything, and your audience are the same, that’s usually a big warning sign that something like that might have happened. That’s how the last time you guys catched it for us. So I guess that is usually the best way to kind of figure out that there was a change. We like data. And if data changes drastically without anything changing in the ecosystem of your site, then the data’s suggesting that something happened and that something might be Two Click.   Ben:                   That makes sense. Ryan, do you have anything to add in terms of checking for Two Click?   Ryan:               I think that what we’re hearing from both is very interesting because when you can go between one unit, where “Where’s your problem?” And you can kind of go into the Google policies and start to learn and hunt to do that exploration that leads you to finding accidental clicks and informs the user behavior, is one way. What Abishai has had to deal with is having to just get through everything. And building that stewardship of watching over all your properties. And seeing everything is. It’s really how this thing kind of gets out of policy wise. It’s not a policy violation. It’s a user behavior. And when you spend that time on the content on the website, and then with the marriage of the information that we get from Google, we can build that path forward.

  Ben: That’s that’s really good. So if we go back to Abishai, just to kind of finish up and ask you the same question that we asked Angie at the end… What kind of quick wins would you have for publishers that may be suffering from Two Click now?

  ASB:   Reassess your site as if you are a user who never visited your site and you might surprise yourself.  

Ben: Great stuff. That’s really good. Thank you. Thank you very much for your time and for joining us. And kind of go to Ryan and see if you’ve got kind of any additional questions or inputs.  

Ryan:   Absolutely. I think that going off from what everyone has shared today. It’s a knowledge of what your content looks like. How your website feels. Is it a good experience? Is it a positive time? It’s not just the elements on the page. It’s how the experience is. And that knowledge is married with the policies. As we learn from them, we can understand about where things should be or how things should promote good usership. And that’s the business we want to be in. We want to be able to make sure that everyone is playing nicely and being upfront. And part of the Two Click is, it’s a learning game. We get to learn from it something new, and we learn something from ourselves.  

Ben: Right. So we’ve got another question from one of our guests. So when Two Click is applied, is it applied to specific pages, specific users or to an entire domain?  

Ryan: Two Click comes in different shapes and forms. It doesn’t attack one ad unit. Doesn’t attack any specific users, or doesn’t necessarily have to be the whole domain. We’ve seen it come and go in different ways. It requires a… It’s a probe that gets you deep into everything that you’ve got going on.  

Ben: That make sense. Angie, do you have anything to answer in terms of your input into those questions?  

Angie: Yeah, just really echoing what Abishai and Ryan is saying, I think you’ve just got to keep your finger on the pulse. You’ve got to make sure you’re on top of your stats, your data, and just picking out anything untoward because that’s literally how I picked it up. I saw something strange with our ctrs, with our revenue. And that prompted the investigation because it just was too significant for it not to be something. Something had happened with… And it was just really the data informing us. So yeah, just keep your finger on the pulse at all times.  

Ben:   Absolutely. So obviously now you work with numbers of difference of publishers. And in your own, kind of as a consultant, do you think, do you find that it is something front of mind for publishers?  

Angie:  It is for the publishers I work with because I’ve experienced Two Click and I also have worked very closely. I mean, I’ve made myself very familiar with the better ad standards and what is required. And yeah, I agree with Abishai, I think if you are using your site as a user, you can vary. And if it’s not pleasant for you, because quite often we detach ourselves as being a user, we are looking at website, our own content from a different lens almost. But coming at it from a user should highlight if it’s pleasant or not, and what your potential users are experiencing. But yeah, just that really, what Abishai said, I totally agree.  

Ben:  So being around user do you also… I mean, obviously, you’ve worked from publishers of different scales. Do you see that as being an impediment to it working quicker, and potentially rolling out better UX and UI, and is it easier as a bigger publisher to get that feedback from your users in terms of, when something that you might have rolled out in terms of the UX isn’t working?

  Angie: Again, if you’re following the guidelines provided, because if you look at the guidelines provided in the Better Ads Standard, it’s all common sense stuff. You know, we know from being in the industry for many years, pop ups were annoying. You know, just those ads that cover content over in a window, all of that. And I think if you follow those guidelines, you will be set up in the best possible way. In terms of… And I think anyone working with revenue and operations should be working very closely with their product teams, dev teams, and just making sure all of this is front of mind when doing any kind of work on your sites.  

Ben:   Absolutely. And I know that we we touched on it when we talked earlier in terms of you sinking the teams. But how well do you think… Obviously because UX is a discipline in itself for big publishers and development, and all the teams that don’t necessarily… They understand the guiding principles of good UX and UI, but they don’t necessarily understand the impact that it has on the ad ecosystem and on policies from not just Google but from other domain partners.  

Angie: Yeah, I agree. I’m not sure… I’m quite inclined to say, unless you’ve experienced it, you’re probably… Ads are probably going to be at the back of someone’s head. They are just boxes around that need to fit in, somehow, in with the bit. And content is the key thing here. Those boxes that have to display ads are quite usually an afterthought. So yeah, I don’t know if a lot of publishers do… I suppose the big ones do. But I’m not sure if every publisher always has ads at the forefront of their minds and what a good ad experience should look like.  

Ben: Absolutely. That’s something we try and work with our publishers when we onboard them in terms of, “Okay, how we think of designing the ads well so it’ll fit in with that good flow of the sites.” So yeah, I think that’s really good. Ryan, how about you? Any tips?   Ryan: I just wanted to re echo again, like what both people are saying is really what you want. You want that combination. And you want people to be looking at it, your projects from all different hats. So the people you have in UX come over to the REVS. Everyone to kind of share in it to kind of understand what we’re all working towards. Because it’s very easy for each group to get stuck into their one side of what they’re dealing with and what they’re managing, and with their goals and It’s a unified project. So to keep everyone on the same page, it’s definitely not just policy safe. It’s revenue safe.   Ben:                   Yeah, absolutely. It’s what we try and do internally as well as to make sure that everybody has  an understanding of policy, user experience, best practice, that they’re able to kind of guide everybody in the organization internally, and also, our publishers, when we work with them as well. Is there any other questions, bro?   Ryan:   No, maybe.   Ben:   So I think we’re pretty much kind of coming to the end in terms of what we’ve got in terms of questions and useful content. So I think it’s been a really good, useful, and insightful hit into what confirmed clicks and Two Clicks is and it should hopefully give some publishers the tools and some insight how to discover it on their site, and to work through post discovery in terms of getting through the issue, and a lot of it is. Part of it is to reiterate what everybody said, is it’s a process. So firstly, once you’ve discovered that it’s there, is to deep dive and see how much the impact is. See what might be impacting it, roll out those changes incrementally, and then wait, because it takes time for the algorithm to pick it up again, and for everybody to come and see that it’s okay. Absolutely as, as I’m sure that Google will be helpful to say, “Do not click on your own ads, because that’s not the way to see whether you’ve got Two Click.” And really, it’s something that’s going to be there in the ecosystem for a long time as part of those initiatives. The algorithm may change it. Hopefully will get smarter and more nuanced as we discussed, but the actual initiative will be there probably for a long time coming. So thank you once again to ASB and to Angie answering for joining us, I think your experience has been really helpful for the guests joining. Thank you for Ryan and the team that kind of helped put this together. And thank you to everybody for joining us. If you’ve got ideas or suggestions of what you want to hear on our next event, that would be really great.  
Ryan:We’re going to be sending up the entire video in the coming days.   Ben:   Of course, Yeah. As Brian said, we’ll be packaging up the video and we’ll be posting that and sending out to everybody that joined for those that kind of missed bits here and there. So thank you very much for your time, everybody.  
Angie:Thank you.
ASB:   Thank you.          
Bye   [END]