The Importance of Mobile Viewability

Reading time: 8 minutes

As the world increasingly becomes digital, advertisers are following suit and allocating a more significant proportion of their budget to mobile advertising. In 2020, mobile ad spending was a whopping 276.21 billion. 

Despite this increase in investment, there is still a big problem within the industry; 65.6% of mobile ads aren’t viewable. This common problem means that advertisers are paying for ads that users never see, and publishers are losing out on ad revenue.

This article will examine the challenges associated with mobile viewability[2], why it’s essential, and how to address them.

What Makes Mobile Web Ads Viewable?

Ad viewability has been a concern of advertisers since the early days of online advertising and the rise of ad blockers. Advertisers want to know that consumers see their ads and that they are getting value for their investment. The mobile advertising industry has attempted to address these concerns by developing viewability standards.

In 2014, the IAB released its first set of mobile ad viewability standards. A working group of publishers, platforms, agencies, and measurement companies helped develop the standards. The goal of the criteria is to provide a standard definition of viewable impressions for mobile ads.

Viewability is a measure of how much of an ad is seen by a human user. For an advertisement to be considered viewable, at least 50% of the ad must be in view on a screen for a minimum of one second. For video ads[10], the view time increases to two seconds.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau[1] (IAB) standards, to count as a view, ads must:

  • Mobile Web Ads: 50% of the ad pixels must show for at least one second
  • Mobile Video Ads: 50% of the ad pixels must show for at least two seconds

Now that you understand what qualifies as a view let’s look at why mobile web ad viewability is important.

Why is Mobile Web Ad Viewability Important?

Ad viewability has become an increasingly important metric for publishers and advertisers alike. This is especially true as the amount of time users spend on mobile devices continues to grow. 

By some estimates, globally, adults spend over 3 hours 43 mins on their smartphones. This increase in screen time means a corresponding increase in the amount of time users get exposed to web advertising. And as mobile web usage continues to grow, so does the importance of mobile web ad viewability. 

Advertisers are increasingly looking to reach their audiences on mobile devices. Viewability is a crucial metric for measuring the effectiveness of these campaigns for a few key reasons. 

First, you want to track real human engagement with your ads as opposed to bots. This ensures accurate data on who is seeing and interacting with your ads.

Additionally, monitoring viewability will give you insights into ad performance[3] and how users are engaging with your site on mobile devices. By understanding these key concepts, you can make informed decisions about where to allocate your marketing budget and how to optimize your web advertising strategy.

Issues with Mobile Web Ad Viewability

The ideal ad viewability rate for the industry is 60% or higher on any ad unit[11]. However, viewability is an issue on mobile web pages. A number of factors can contribute to mobile ad viewability problems, including small screen sizes, poor internet connections, and ad blockers. 

Ad Layouts

When it comes to mobile web ad viewability, the layout is everything. While it’s true that ads placed above the fold[4] on a website are more likely to be seen by consumers on mobile devices, the term “above the fold” is often misused.

Mobile devices have much smaller screens than standard PCs do. Therefore, what’s often thought of as above the fold on a typical website will often appear below the fold on a mobile device. The fact that mobile users scroll down faster, sometimes too fast for an ad to even load at all, makes matters more complicated.

The layout also affects how long an ad is visible. Remember, 50% of the ad needs to remain visible for at least 1 second. It’s also important to note that there’s a difference between an ad that loads on a page and an ad that is actually visible within the browser window.

Slow Websites

Another reason for ads not getting seen is poor core web vitals. Slow website load times can negatively affect the viewability of mobile web ads. Low viewability scores mean lower ad revenue for publishers too.

Users won’t stick around for a page that’s taking too long to load. The truth is that a website has only 50 milliseconds to capture a visitor[12]’s interest in the first place.

Ad Blockers

Ad blockers have been a thorn in the side of the digital advertising industry for years. But as more and more people adopt ad blockers, the impact on ad viewability is becoming increasingly apparent. Many ad-blocking browser extensions can block traditional display ads[5], video ads, and other rich media[6] ads. 

Knowing the reasons why people choose to use ad blockers gives some insight into what not to do on your website. Here are the top six reasons:

  • There are too many advertisements on one page.
  • The ads shown aren’t relatable and so are annoying.
  • The ads are overbearing and disruptive.
  • People have little to no interest in personalized ads based on recent activity.
  • Primarily, it’s a privacy issue.
  • Ads on a website make it load slow or affect the performance in some other way.

Traffic from Bots

Bots are computer programs that execute predetermined tasks such as crawling websites. For advertisers, bot traffic has a significant impact on mobile ad viewability.

While bots can be good in some situations, using them to inflate mobile ad viewability stats is deceitful. Unfortunately, one form of ad fraud[13] uses bots to click on ads, but the advertiser[7] still gets charged for the click.

Bots also skew ad viewability stats by artificially inflating the number of views an ad receives. This makes it appear that an ad is performing better than it actually is. Obviously, these particular views aren’t from a real human being.

As a result, advertisers may end up paying more for ads that aren’t reaching their intended audience. In the end, advertisers are paying for views that aren’t actually helping them reach their target audience.

How to Increase Mobile Ad Viewability?

We know that mobile viewability has issues. So, what can we do to fix the problem? Increasing mobile ad viewability can be a challenge, but there are a few things publishers and advertisers can do to improve the chances that consumers will see their ads. 

Place Ads Above the Fold

One way to increase mobile web ad viewability is to ensure that ads get placed above the fold, where users are more likely to see them. In fact, research has shown that more mobile ad impressions get placed below the fold. These ad slots are significantly less likely to be seen by users.

Not sure what “above the fold” means for your website? Check Google Analytics to see the exact devices visitors are using to view your site. This will give you an idea of how much space you have to work with.

Use Vertical Banners

Another way to increase viewability is to use vertical banner sizes that stick to the top or bottom of the site. These are more likely seen by visitors while remaining unobtrusive. 

Since people tend to hold their phones in an upright position more often than a horizontal one, a sticky vertical banner is ideal.

Use Sticky Ads[8]

What exactly are sticky ads? Sticky ads are the ones that “stick” to the screen when a user scrolls down. This ensures that the ad is always visible, even if the user isn’t directly looking at it.

Sticky ads are beneficial for advertisers and publishers because they increase viewability rates in a big way. Sticky ads are always on the screen, increasing the opportunity for users to see them. Combine sticky ads with a refresh strategy for an even bigger punch.

Implement Ad Refresh[9]

Ad refreshing is a key tactic for increasing mobile ad viewability. By refreshing ads, publishers can show more ads, increasing the chances of ad interaction. Ad refresh also allows publishers to show more relevant ads to users, as they can be targeted based on user behavior and interests.

Refreshing ads also help to combat ad fatigue, which is when users become less likely to notice or interact with an ad after seeing it multiple times. However, when implementing ad refresh, make sure that you’re only refreshing your viewable ads. 

Refreshing all of your ads just for the sake of it will end up hurting your overall ad viewability in the long run.

Place Ads in High Engagement Areas

Ensure that ads get placed in positions where an interaction is more likely. This entails focusing on putting ad slots in the already high engagement areas of your website. In general, the sidebar, header, and footer are all prime locations for placing ads.

Optimize for Page Speed

Your website’s page speed is vital for a variety of reasons. A slow website can irritate visitors, leading them to click the back button before they’ve even had a chance to see what you have to offer. 

In addition, search engines like Google factor page speed into their ranking algorithms, so a slow site could mean lower search engine rankings and less traffic.

You can use free Google tools to test and learn how to optimize page speed. 

Fortunately, there are several fundamental things you can do to improve your website’s page speed. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Optimize your images. Make sure they’re not too large and that you’re using the optimal file format. If your website is a WordPress-based site, a plugin like Smush will automatically optimize your images and serve next-gen versions.
  • Minify your code. Remove unnecessary characters, like whitespace and comments, from your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files.
  • Switch to an optimized WordPress theme such as Generate Press or Neve.
  • Consider using a content delivery network (CDN).
  • Implement a method of Lazy Loading.

Circumvent Ad Blockers 

Up to 47% of internet users employ an ad blocker. To recover some of that ad revenue loss, use a solution that detects ad blockers and serves alternative ads instead. Serve static images with affiliate links instead.

The replacement ads are undetectable by ad blockers because they avoid the words that ad blockers look for inside your website code. You probably won’t recover the total 47% loss, but it’s better than nothing.

What’s Next?

In conclusion, positive mobile viewability can help publishers and advertisers get more value out of campaigns and digital advertising spending. However, there are a few everyday issues that negatively affect mobile ad viewability. 

They include:

  • Page Load Time
  • Incorrect Ad Placement
  • Bot Traffic
  • Ad Blockers

To combat these issues and increase mobile ad viewability, advertisers can use strategies such as testing different ad placements, using sticky ads, implementing an ad refresh plan, and speeding up their website.

Now that you know how important mobile ad viewability is and the most common pitfalls, is it time for some improvements? Follow the guidelines in this article to ensure that your mobile ads are seen and have a higher chance of being clicked on.

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. viewability. Viewability relates to the amount of time a user saw an ad.
3. performance. A form of advertising in which the purchaser pays only when there are measurable results.
4. above the fold. Typically the upper half of a website or any part a user can view without having to scroll down. Automatically viewable.
5. display ads. Display ads are a term used for traditional banner advertisements that serve on mobile or desktop web pages. Like video ads, many variations, types, and sizes exist.

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