Google’s Blog*Spot Loses Ads, Gains Navbar

Google this week removed the ads from the top of all free hosted Blog*Spot blogs, previously delivered as part of Google’s AdWords contextual ad program, and replaced them with a Blogger navigation bar that includes a search box.

While the space no longer serves ads directly, it puts visitors one step away from keyword-targeted ads that appear next to search results, which are generally accepted to be higher performing than their contextual brethren.

The move adds to signs that Google is having difficulty with its contextual advertising program. The company is currently running a promotion to AdWords advertisers offering to credit their account if they run a contextual campaign in the next month. Google also recently sent out a booklet to its AdSense publishers with hints on how to get better results from the program.

These are far from the first efforts aimed at increasing advertiser acceptance of contextual advertising. In April, the company debuted its “Smart Pricing” system ads, which may lower an advertiser’s costs based on factors like the type of ad inventory or part of a site where an ad is served.

Citing SEC “quiet period” restrictions surrounding this week’s IPO, a Google spokesperson would not comment on the driving factors behind the move from an advertising perspective, on how many ads were served on Blog*Spot sites, or on how it is expected to affect ad revenues. According to Nielsen//NetRatings, Blogger sites had 4.4 million unique visitors in July.

The new navbar has a Google SiteSearch box to search the blog you’re viewing, as well as shortcuts to add blog entries to your own Blogger-powered blog, sign up for a new blog, or visit a random blog. The Navbar appears on all hosted Blog*Spot blogs, but can be disabled for users publishing to third-party hosts via FTP.

Searches in the navigation bar take users to a results page on the Google site, where AdWords ads are served to the right of the organic search results.

According to the Blogger site, the goal was to improve access to key Blogger features: “The Blogger navbar replaces the default ad block formerly inserted on pages with a more useful navigation tool.”

Blogger underwent a redesign in May 2004, with a new look and additional blog templates for users to choose from. The work was a collaboration between Stopdesign and Adaptive Path. Stopdesign’s David Bowman notes in his blog that Stopdesign played a small role in the navbar project, contributing to the navbar’s visual design and the basic code.

“In a bold move that meets a long-standing request by many of its users, Google recently removed the awkward ads on Blogspot-hosted blogs. In the ad’s place, a new, much slimmer navigation bar gets tucked into the top of the browser window, adding functionality to each blog,” Bowman wrote.

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