How to Address Latency Issues

Reading time: 9 minutes

As a publisher[13] in the ad tech[14] ecosystem, ad fraud[15], ad blocking[6], and low viewability[7] are just three of the obstacles you’ll have to deal with. The fourth? Latency issues. 

Latency is considered the silent killer in the ad tech industry as it completely interrupts the user experience — and does so just when you think you have the first three challenges beat. Website latency is something that affects all web pages and can cause a negative cumulative effect on your page views and ad impressions. 

It’s actually the primary reason why publishers stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars each year. In fact, for every one second of an “added delay” in page load time, there’s a 1.1% decrease in the volume of impressions for mobile traffic[8] and a 1.9% decrease in desktop traffic. The viewability rate also decreases by 3.6% for mobile traffic and 2.9% for desktop traffic, all per each second of latency.

In today’s high speed world, more than 47% of digital content consumers expect a website to load in just two seconds or less. Whether it’s a desktop or mobile site, your users will undoubtedly become frustrated with a slow-loading page — and they will leave immediately. Adversely, websites that load within five seconds or less see twice as much mobile ad revenue compared to slower loading pages (beyond five seconds), which equates to a 25% higher ad viewability rate and a higher rate of average user sessions at 70%.

Therefore, all publishers should adopt a “need for speed” when it comes to their page load times as well as how to address latency issues to keep these page load times as quick as possible.

So, how can publishers successfully address latency issues? Read on to learn more.

Latency in the Digital Advertising World

The Interactive Advertising Bureau[1] (IAB) defines latency as “the delay in time between request and display of the content and an ad.” This definition also includes that latency is a result of the time taken by a data packet to travel to and from, between the sender and receiver.

High amounts of latency on your website will lower its overall performance[9], which in turn negatively affects your search engine optimization[2] (SEO) efforts and causes users to abandon your site.

The Importance of Faster Page Load Time in Advertising

The number of online users out in the world only continues to grow. They’re also becoming relentlessly impatient. When you consider this along with the statistics mentioned earlier, it’s not difficult to understand the importance of a faster loading page as a part of your overall digital ad strategy and brand reputation. 

A slow website will only bring you low conversion rates and higher bounce rates. Not to mention, a low number of pages per visit that continues to decline. What’s more, the success of your SEO efforts and monetization efforts depends directly on how long a user stays on your site and engages with your content and the ads displayed on each page.

This is why it’s so important to understand how you can address your website’s latency issues. But first, you’ll need to learn what causes latency in the first place.

What Exactly Causes Website Latency?

There are several factors that may be contributing to your website’s page load speed — which is a core web vital that you should be keeping track of.

Let’s dive into those factors:

  • The number of ads on your website: More is not better when it comes to ads on a web page. Not only do they cause latency issues as more ads require more time to render and load on each page, but they also cause banner blindness among users.
  • Using the wrong ad formats and placements: When you’re using various ad formats on your website, you may be witnessing a delay by a matter of milliseconds in your page load time. On top of multiple ad formats, ad placement is another factor contributing to latency as some placements are incredibly disruptive, such as pop-ups ads, prestitial ads, and full-screen roll rollover ads.
  • Adding third-party tags: A typical website will have between 40 and 80 third-party tags running at one time. These tags are third-party codes that could potentially slow down your pages to the point where your users become aggravated and bounce over to one of your competitors’ sites. This is essentially what happens when various solutions are adopted to solve your programmatic and page load problems.

Latency in Various Advertising Methods

Aside from the above factors contributing to website latency, there are also various advertising methods that also contribute:

Direct-Sold Advertising

In direct-sold advertising, latency issues may crop up when there are issues with the general setup. For example, when the media buyers (advertisers) haven’t added creatives to their tags or have added an excessive number of scripts to individual creative[16] tags. 

When creatives are large or incorrectly sized, they can consume the bandwidth needed for their ads to render within a user’s browser, which slows down the website they’re being served on. 

To mitigate this issue, make sure to double-check your ad setup and tags before launching your next ad campaign[17].

Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic ads are also riddled with latency issues due to working with multiple middlemen such as demand-side platforms (DSPs), supply-side platforms (SSPs), data management platforms (DMPs), and more. Each time a bid partner sends their inventory[18] information to one of these sources to garner bids, there could be a delay in the process of calling and receiving, which will cause latency on your website.

If you want to avoid losing site traffic or ad blocking software, you’ll need to take the time to analyze the programmatic ad set-up and measure the potential bid response latency and ad creative latency (separately). This is incredibly important as these latencies can and will have a negative impact on your monetization efforts as well as your inventories.

Header bidding is popular in programmatic advertising[3], however, it’s a large contributor to page latency since it involves extra pieces of JavaScript code to function plus any new bits of necessary code which increase page loading time. That’s why you need to evaluate its implementation process to ensure it doesn’t affect your website.

Video Advertising

Although video advertising is very appealing to publishers thanks to its high engagement rates and eCPM[4], it comes with some unique challenges of its own. For example, loading videos quickly can become a challenge when pages have a lot of heavy ad creatives plus multiple tracking tags. This is especially true if you’re still using traditional techniques, such as the waterfall ad technique to sell your video inventory.

Video ads[19], unlike display ads[10], don’t play on their own. Users are required to click the play button to get them started, but even after doing so they still have to wait to view the video content for the proper ad calls to be made. Here is where the latency crops up.

Not much can be done to resolve video ad latency. Your best bet is to take the time to identify and evaluate the demand partners causing the latency. You can also try using video ad throttling, which essentially works to prevent problematic video ads with low view rates and high error rates from entering in and competing in your programmatic auctions. 

AMP Ads

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) are another method that comes to mind as AMPs tend to come with solid resources for creating mobile pages with faster content delivery. However, there are still challenges for publishers running the ads via AMPs as they can take more than a second to appear after the page has already been loaded. 

This usually causes users to scroll down further, skipping the unloaded ads, or leave the page without ever seeing the ads. This is because AMP[5] loads instantly while the actual ads do not.

A loss of ad revenue isn’t the only issue this poses either. Seeing empty ad spaces rather than actual ad content looks bad to the users as well because if there’s one thing that’s worse than seeing a bunch of ads, it’s seeing a website that looks aesthetically disorganized.  

One way to deal with latency issues on AMP pages is by investing in a high-performing server-side infrastructure and paying more attention to the technical details that have to do with the process of fetching and rendering your AMP ads.

How Can Publishers Reduce Latency issues?

Sometimes it really doesn’t matter how efficient your tech stack is. Reducing latency requires constant managing — as in mapping, monitoring, and characterizing all of your potential latency sources. Therefore, you’ll want to start with your demand partners and evaluate each method of programmatic ad bidding and advertising.

Here are a few methods you can use to reduce your latency issues:

Use a Content Delivery Network

A content delivery network (CDN) works by speeding up your website and making it more reliable and scalable as they distribute your website’s commonly accessed files and content around the world more efficiently. Simply put, CDNs compress these files into the smallest possible size, which is how this is accomplished. 

Generally speaking, when a web-hosting service has a different physical location from the users, you can expect them to experience varying degrees of latency as they wait for the files from the fixed location to be fetched and rendered. However, using a CDN allows your global users to receive these files quicker as it renders them from the servers nearest to their closest physical location.

This not only lessens your latency issues but can also mitigate the impacts of outages and other infrastructure issues. It should be noted, however, that CDNs are best suited for static content that sees minimal change such as CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files and video content. 

Set Up Cache Requests

Caching saves servers from having to consistently multi-task as images are rendered to web pages. It can also reduce any repetition from generating on a page by skipping the usage of PHP to serve static HTML files to your users.

Caches are typically associated with the users nearest to the content provider, which is one way caching reduces latency issues. Caching also reduces network traffic since the pages served directly from the cache can avoid traveling through an entire network to get to a user’s browser. It also reduces the number of requests sent to the actual content provider, which lowers the overall costs of access to the files being requested. 

Upgrade to Universal Analytics

Thanks to Google upgrading its classic (ga.js) coding to a newer version of universal analytics (analytics.js) coding, publishers can get access to all of its latest product features as well as some of its performance improvement features.

The primary advantage of this upgrade is that the Universal analytics.js was designed to reduce browser dependency on cookies — which directly reduces latency time.

Optimize Site Speed to Reduce Page Overhead and Ad Load Times

The layout of a website page tends to get overlooked when publishers are focused on improving their site’s speed. However, it actually plays a prominent role in the entire user experience. When you have pages with a lot of content — video widgets, CC, images, JavaScript, etc — it’s a major contribution to the increase in the number of ads and page overhead.

Fortunately, you can control this and manage your ad load times as well as your on-page overhead execution. 

For example, you can remove any synchronous[11] JavaScript files, implement inline dynamics iframe[20]-based widgets, and even use asynchronous[12] video players. You can also mitigate your network congestion by using the lazy loading technique to delay content load.

What’s Next?

You’ll never be able to completely eliminate latency, however, you can keep it under control. It’s up to you to take the time to understand what’s causing your latency issues and how to combat them in each process.

Ultimately, you’ll need to consistently audit your page overhead, monitor ad delivery, and be very strict with any demand partners that are allowing problematic ads to get through. It’s an ongoing job, but a very necessary one.

Terms
1. Interactive Advertising Bureau. 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. search engine optimization. SEO, also known as Search Engine Optimization, is the process is optimizing a website to rank higher in a search engine. SEO is merely one of the many methods publishers use to send traffic to their sites.
3. programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising entails using machine learning and technology suites to buy and sell ad inventory with a data-driven process.
4. Effective Cost Per Thousand Impression [eCPM] ( eCPM ) eCPM is known as the effective cost per thousand impressions and is a metric used by publishers to determine the actual rate they’re earning from their ad inventory. eCPM is calculated by taking your (total ad earnings/impressions) x 1000.
5. Accelerated Mobile Pages [AMP] ( AMP ) Accelerated Mobile Pages is a project supported by Google to provide web publishers with a way to serve web page very quickly for mobile devices.

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