5 Tips For Balancing Ad Viewability and Ad Slots

Reading time: 6 minutes

Did you know that ad viewability[3] has the highest impact on your revenue per thousand impressions (RPM) optimization? It’s the very reason why ad placement is so important. Unfortunately, ad viewability isn’t where advertisers would like it to be as nearly 40% of display ads and 25% of video ads continue to go unviewed on mobile devices. 

It also doesn’t help that the ad tech[12] industry’s entire definition of a viewable impression[4] makes things even more challenging. (To recap, the IAB[1] defines viewability as an ad that appears for more than one second and is showing a minimum of 50% on the user’s screen).

This is exactly why advertisers have shifted their bidding and media buying focus to highly viewable inventory[13] — and only highly viewable inventory. Higher prices and all.

The key to keeping your website’s viewability high as a publisher[14] is to manage and balance your ad slots properly. After all, it’s ad viewability that’ll fatten your RPM while low viewability will cut potential revenue off at the knees.

Let’s jump right into balancing your ad viewability and ad slots with these five ad tech tips:

1. Use Sticky Ad Slots to Increase Ad Viewability

Sticky ads[5] are hands-down the best for improving ad viewability. This is because sticky ads — also known as anchor ads — never leave the viewport. They “stick” or remain in place while a user is viewing the content on a webpage for the duration of their session. No matter how far down a user scrolls, the sticky ad will stay in view.

This means you won’t have to worry about users zooming past the ad slot, resulting in the ad loading outside of the viewport. 

Since we’re primarily talking about mobile-ready websites, there are only two feasible spots for sticky ad slots: The top and bottom of the viewport. 

Now, you’ve likely seen sticky ads on either side of a webpage. However, it’s not recommended to place them there because on mobile devices, the screens are much smaller compared to tablets, laptops, and desktop computer monitors. 

Therefore, the sticky ad would take up too much screen space — which you’ll want to avoid for the sake of the user experience (UX).

2. Use Refreshing Ad Slots For More Impressions on Highly Viewable Inventory

The downside to sticky ads is that they really only give you two solid ads. That is, if you aren’t refreshing them. One way to make sticky ads more advantageous (no pun intended) is to use ad slots that refresh.

This will allow you to deliver tons of ad impressions. However, it’s only beneficial if the user remains on your webpage. Sticky ad slots won’t refresh if the user is viewing another webpage on a different tab, which can also be seen as ad fraud[15], even though it’s not.

This comes from the misconception that refreshing ads violates Google’s Policies. However, if you implement your ad refresh[6] correctly — i.e. beyond 30-second intervals — then it’s allowed on mobile apps. It’s even allowed on non-mobile browsers, as long as you declare that you’ll be refreshing the inventory.

When done right, your sticky ad-refresh-viewability will remain intact, and you won’t have to worry about filling extra ad slots. Just keep in mind that the traditional methods of ad refreshing don’t take into account whether a user is active on a web page, which can lead to poor ad performance[7]

So, aside from implementing refreshing ad slots on your page, you’ll want to continuously measure your ad viewability to make sure the ad performance is up to par.

3. Use Exposure Time to Refresh the Ads in the Right Way

One way to measure your ad slot refreshes is to measure from the time of the last refresh event to when the next ad is fully rendered. This is considered a more passive approach, and it comes with a few disadvantages. 

For example, let’s say you’ve implemented the refresh method on your sticky ad slots. The user currently viewing one of your web pages decides to switch to another tab or get’s distracted and opens their text messages or leaves their phone on the counter and wanders off. 

If you’re using a conventional ad refresh method, then your ad slots will continue to renew, rendering them ineffective because no one is actually viewing them. Your click-through rate (CTR[2]) will be zero, which isn’t good, and if your ads aren’t sticky and they’re refreshing out of sight, then your viewability will start to take a hit as well.

You can take a more active approach by keeping an eye on the exposure time. Ad exposure time is calculated by taking into consideration the amount of time users are shown or “exposed to” the ads on your page. You can easily test the impacts of ad exposure via your Google dashboard to ensure your ads are being refreshed at the best possible intervals.

4. Optimize Your ATF Ad Slots For Optimal Results

Yes, the above the fold (ATF) area on a web page matters. It’s the first area to load which makes it the first part of the web page users will see. Therefore, it makes the most sense to place your ad slots above the fold[8] for higher ad viewability.

However, ATF doesn’t always work seamlessly. For example, ATF is an area that tends to get scrolled past first. This means if an ad takes a while to render, the user will whiz by it before it finishes loading. 

The result? A drop in viewability. 

So, how do you optimize your ATF slots for better viewability results?

One of the best ways to optimize your ATF advantage is to place your ad slots after the first paragraph of the content, such as the intro or descriptive blurb. This also works towards the bottom of the ATF area or even the next fold. 

Either way, this strategic placement will allow your ads more time to render and load, which will prevent your viewability from dropping. (It also works best using 300×250 ad slot sizes). 

5. Find the Ideal Number of Ad Slots For Your Site

The ideal number of ad slots for you will be different from the next guy. However, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at your competitors to see how many ad slots they’ve placed if you already know they have high viewability metrics.

Of course, to find your sweet spot to optimize your viewability, you can start by running some tests. One reliable test is to add your ad slots one at a time and stop once the newest ad slot shows a less than average rate of viewability on your pages. If a newer ad slot is hurting your viewability, you’ll want to take it down and choose a new spot.

It’s mostly a game of trial and error, but it works.

Pro tip: Most ad ops[9] professionals would recommend implementing at least one stick ad and three or four non-sticky banner ads[10] to your site. However, these numbers will change per page layout and user activity, which means you’ll still have to keep an eye on your viewability metrics to see if what you’re doing is hurting or helping your optimization efforts.

You’ll also need to keep in mind that desktop browsers offer a lot more room to play due to their larger screen sizes. There will be fewer combinations of what you can load onto a screen when it comes to mobile browsers since those screens are much smaller.

Moving Forward

It’s essential to maintain a healthy balance between your ad viewability and ad slots. Not only will this allow your website to run more smoothly, but it’ll guarantee that advertisers will want to work with you at higher rates. However, the most important thing to remember is that how you place your ad slots won’t matter if it inhibits the user experience. 

A bad experience will make your users want to jump ship and move on to the next website — leaving you with terrible CTRs, viewability, and an overall lower RPM. Therefore, your top priority should be maintaining the speed of your website in terms of page load speed and how quickly your ads render. 

We suggest implementing lazy loading to help with both your website’s speed and ad viewability at the same time. Lazy loading[11] will also increase your chances of partnering with better advertising and demand partners — and you can’t beat that!

Terms
1. Interactive Advertising Bureau [IAB] ( IAB ) The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media companies, brands, and the technology firms responsible for selling, delivering and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions. IAB is committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., the trade association advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. Founded in 1996, IAB is headquartered in New York City.
2. Click-Through-Rate [CTR] ( CTR ) CTR relates to how many times users clicked on an ad divided by the number of times that ad was displayed to users.
3. viewability. Viewability relates to the amount of time a user saw an ad.
4. impression. Impression is when a user views an ad on a page or when an ad is displayed on a webpage.
5. Anchor Ads ( Sticky ads ) Anchor ads or also known as sticky ads. These are ads that stay fixed at a particular position on the screen even while the user scrolls up or down on the page.

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