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2018 Year in Review: Bloggers, Webmasters and AdSense Publishers

In 2018 Blogger got a spring cleaning, Google Search Console for webmasters got an overhaul and AdSense ads got "smarter".  Scroll to the end to see the full list of all 2018 updates.

New Google Search Console 

If you have a blog or website, Google Search Console helps you monitor your site's traffic in Google Search and fix any issues as they arise.

At the beginning of 2018, the beta version of the totally redesigned Search Console was made available to all users. It doesn't just have a new design; it also includes more data and new reports. Over the course of the year, features from classic Search Console were added, and the new Search Console graduated from "Beta" status in September.  If you're moving from classic to the new version, check out the migration guide that compares the tools and reports in the two versions.

Google has a strong commitment to helping webmasters. Every month there are open live office hours in several languages. Upcoming Office Hours are currently posted and discussed on Google+, and it's not clear where that discussion will be after Google+ shuts down. I recommend following Google Webmasters on Twitter, and keeping an eye on their Calendar.

Blogger "Spring Cleaning" and new features


In May Blogger announced Spring Cleaning, "simplifying the platform to enhance the blogging experience" and "to make room for some exciting updates coming soon to Blogger."

Features that were removed included:
  • Removed the option to use an OpenID identity to comment. Comments can be open to all, including anonymous commenters, or limited to people signed into a Google account or specific readers. 
  • Country-specific blogspot domains (like blogspot.it for Italian visitors) now all redirect back to blogspot.com.  There are still different services in different countries, but those are no longer reflected in the URL.
  • Third party gadgets were removed from the gadget list. It's still possible to add gadget code to a HTML/Javascript gadget.
  • The Polls gadget was deprecated.
  • The "Next Blog" option was removed. This let you click a button to see a similar (or not so similar) Blogger blog. Newer templates hadn't supported this option since 2017.
There were also a few new features:

Behind the scenes, Blogger also finished a multi-year migration of all blogs to Cloud Spanner which is more scalable and manageable in the long term.

None of those really seem like the kind of "exciting update" Blogger was referring in their Spring Cleaning post. Of course in Google terms, "soon" often means months, not weeks or days. So I'm hoping we'll see some nice updates in 2019.

In the short term Blogger will have to make changes related to the demise of consumer Google+ in April. Blogger is one of the few Google services that still includes Google+ integration: using a Google+ Profile as author, Google+-based commenting, + mentions in posts, and automatic sharing to Google+.

Blogger's "Spring Cleaning" was also meant to include the conversion of Google+ follower gadgets to regular HTML gadgets with the follower badge code. I haven't seen that happen on my blog, and those gadgets may just stop working

Blogger Tutorials for 2018

AdSense gets "Smarter", Stricter, and a Shiny New Logo


In 2018 AdSense tried to make ad placement easier for publishers by introducing Auto Ads. All you need to do is place a single snippet of ad code on your website or blog, and AdSense will use machine learning-based algorithms to insert ads into your site's content.

It's designed to "show ads only when they are likely to perform well and provide a good user experience." The down side, of course, is that you don't have control over where exactly the ads will appear.


There was also a significant change to the process of placing ads on new sites. It used to be that once AdSense for Content account was approved, you could place your ads on any site. It was up to you to make sure the site is policy compliant and that you only place ads on your own sites.

Now, before you can show your ads on a new site, you have to add the site to your AdSense account.  It's verified that you own the domain or are able to modify its content, and the content is reviewed for compliance with the AdSense Program Policies.

For larger Publishers worried about ad blockers, there is also a new tool : Google offers “Funding Choices” that can detect when a visitor is using an ad blocker and offers them the option to purchase an ad removal pass for your website. It’s also possible to offer this option to all your site’s visitors. Funding Choices currently still in beta.

Finally, Google rebranded and reorganized most of its services for advertisers and publishers. AdWords is now simply Google Ads, Doubleclick for Advertisers was combined with Google Analytics 360 Suite as the Google Marketing Platform, and Doubleclick for Publishers and Doubleclick Ad Exchange are now Google Ad Manager. AdSense remains AdSense, but did get a new blobby logo that matches the new designs.
     
Old AdSense Logo   New AdSense Logo

For 2019, AdSense has suggested there will be new ad formats and easier management. We'll see how that develops in the coming months.

To start the new year on the right foot, I recommend reviewing the resources available for you to understand AdSense policies., and making sure your sites comply.

AdSense Tutorials for 2018

GDPR goes into effect



Even if you don't pay close attention to data privacy law, it's likely that you noticed when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on May 25th. Most people received a flood of privacy policy update emails from various online sites and services in the last weeks of May and into early June.

The new regulations give European users more control over the collection, storage and use of their personal data. Some US sites weren't ready for this, and EU users were no longer able to use some news sites, Instapaper, or their “smart” lightbulbs.  And Facebook and Google were hit with $8.8 Billion in lawsuits as soon as the law went into effect.

If you have your own website or blog, it's likely that these regulations pertain to you to, especially if you collect data in any way (for example when visitors post comments) or if you display ads. Google has provided detailed information and a few tools for AdSense publisher and Blogger blog owners.

AdSense, for example, lets you show only non-personalized ads for visitors from the European Economic Area.

But ultimately it's up to you as the webmaster, site owner and ad publisher to ensure your site complies with all international data privacy and data collection policies.

If you have questions or concerns about your own privacy or how Google uses your data, check out Google’s Privacy Troubleshooter.

Blogger and Google Webmaster 2018 Update Timeline

AdSense and Google Advertising 2018 Update Timeline

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