Website performance impacted by Google Ad Services failure
On Tuesday March 13th, an unusual, or to put it more aptly, an extremely rare event occurred: a major failure of Google’s advertisement services. Let’s review this incident briefly to see what we can learn from it
Downtime for Google Ad Services: website performance impacted
Our web monitoring tools found that there was a significant increase in response times on websites across Europe. The phenomenon was not confined to just one place in Europe; it was observed in France, Belgium, Italy and beyond.
For a good part of the afternoon up to the end of the day, Google Ad Services were affected by a significant slowdown. Under the domino effect, there consequently was a slowdown or even a blank screen for all of their customers’ and partners’ websites. As can be seen on the chart below based on a Swiss website, the disturbance lasted around 6 hours, from 3 pm to about 10 pm.
A performance view of what happened
Detailed analysis of performances indicates that the ad serving service was the one affected. For the period in question, the time Google ads took to display was multiplied by 1000: in other words, display time went from 20ms on average to 20s or even 40s.
This is easy to visualize when the loading times of a web site are displayed by domain. The Google domains that are hardly, if at all, visible under normal circumstances became the slowest items on certain sites (see chart below).
European website performance suffers
The problem affected all of the customers of Google’s advertising service, Google Ad Services, but also those of Doubleclick, another advertisement distribution service owned by Google. Considering Google’s leadership of the global advertising market, the impact was felt widely. To give a few examples, Bild in Germany, Monoprix in France, and Caddy Home in Belgium were affected.
On all of the websites affected, visitors noted a general slowdown as well as the absence of advertisements. Depending on how the sites are coded, the result in some cases could be either a total crash or the inability to navigate on the site.
Monitoring web performance by an APM expert
The extent of this incident makes it an exceptional one. It serves to remind us all that even at Google, there are technical weak points. And, despite all current possibilities, some components apparently cannot rely on redundancy.
As websites are increasingly dependent on third-party content for advertising, marketing, or design, this failure of Google the Great is a reminder of the harsh realities of production: any third-party content must be loaded after the main site. The proper order of loading should ensure that navigation is not blocked for visitors in the event of a problem. This principle of ergonomics applies even to ads, the main source of revenues for so many web portals.