Using Ad Refresh with AdSense and AdX

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If you’re the sort of person who only really scans websites and doesn’t spend a whole lot of time reading them in depth, you may only be subject to a single ad impression[4] from any ads you’re exposed to. But, if you tend to read in-depth articles, or for whatever reason, something has captured your attention, the original ads you see may refresh with new ones appearing in their place. Known as ad refresh[5], the process can be beneficial to publishers — but only in specific situations.

If you, too, are considering using ad refresh when monetizing your site, here’s what you should know.

What Is Ad Refresh?

Ad refresh, also known as managed refresh, is a tool that allows publishers to increase ad monetization by loading new ads or content with certain conditions. Instead of a publisher[12] only having one opportunity to load an advertisement for a website visitor[13], ad refresh enables the ads to reload without the entire page and content reloading.

Ad refresh can be either user- or publisher-initiated. Examples of user-based auto-refresh include users scrolling through content on the page or clicking through a gallery. Site or publisher initiation is when the publisher controls auto-refresh, such as when a time period of 30 seconds or more is set for ad impressions.

What Are the Advantages of Ad Refresh?

When looking for opportunities to increase a site’s monetization, ad refresh presents a potentially great one. 

Ad refresh definitely increases ad inventory[14][6] size, which can create more impressions. Usually, more impressions mean extra ad revenue. For publishers with high viewability[7], low bounce rates, and pages with a lot of engagement, ad refresh is a valuable addition to your toolbox.

It may be possible that ad refresh has a more positive effect on influencing conversions. Sometimes, high clickthrough rates (CTR[1]) on the first ad impressions are due to accidental clicks. However, ads that appear later in the refresh sequence and are clicked on may indicate more accurate user interest and engagement.

What Are the Disadvantages of Ad Refresh?

Although there are possible benefits for publishers to gain from auto-refresh, there are also some trade-offs. 

The biggest disadvantage is that it’s not a guaranteed way to increase ad revenue. If most website users spend less than 30 seconds on a page, ad refresh won’t create any significant results. 

Although it will increase publisher inventory, refreshing ads can decrease inventory viewability and your CTR. This leads to a reduction in your CPMs. For ad refresh to create an increase in revenue, publishers must find the sweet spot between the added value of an inventory increase and a decrease in CPM[2]. Even then, revenue increases are only incremental. 

Using ad refresh can also impact your pool of advertisers. Advertisers buy ad impressions so that their ad can remain on the page for the user’s entire time on your site — not just a fraction of it before the ad refreshes. As a result, some advertisers view ad refresh with annoyance and will not bid on refreshing units.

Because Google requires publishers to declare refreshed ads, advertisers using the Google AdSense[8] and Google AdX platforms know when publishers use the practice. What they don’t know is where their ads are showing up in the ad sequence — maybe their impression is first, or perhaps it’s the fifth.  There’s also no universal standard regarding conditions required for ad refreshing to take place. Ad refresh can occur based on time, user action, content change, or a combination of these triggers, making it difficult for advertisers to know how well their ads will perform. This, too, can lead to a reduction in the number of interested advertisers for your ad space.

Site performance[9] can also decrease, especially if there’s heavy mobile usage, extensive website content, and slow connections. When ads reload, data usage can increase, leading to a poor user experience. Depending on the type of ad, the load time can vary greatly — which means publishers may have to limit the types of ads they accept if they plan on using ad refresh.

When publishers use ad refresh incorrectly with Google AdSense and Google AdX, Google can ban them from using the program in future. That’s why it’s crucial that if you choose to implement ad refresh on your sites, you do it properly.

How to Refresh AdSense and Google Ad Exchange Ads 

Google AdSense and Google AdX have drastically different policies when it comes to managed refresh. 

For the most part, AdSense is mainly against the practice. Site-initiated ad refreshing is not allowed, and user-initiated ad refreshing is viewed similarly to a regular ad impression.

Google AdX is more flexible, allowing auto-refreshing to occur as long as it’s declared. This provides transparency[10] for ad buyers. Failure to declare ad refresh or improperly declaring it is a violation of Google policy.

Declaring ad inventory that refreshes on Google AdX is done by logging in to Google Ad Manager[3], clicking InventoryAd Exchange[11] rulesPublisher declarations. Click New [inventory type] publisher declaration and enter a name for your declaration. Complete the rest of the information, such as refresh triggers and targeting[15] criteria. For each refresh trigger, specify the minimum time interval between ad refreshes. For optimal engagement with ads in mobile apps, Google recommends at least 60 seconds for event-driven content changes and time-based refresh triggers.  Be sure to save your information before exiting.

The Bottom Line

Ad refresh presents a potential opportunity to boost monetization of ads — but it’s no guarantee. Websites that use ad refresh need to comply with Google policy and follow ad refresh best practices. For the greatest chance of success, publishers should complete adequate A/B testing.

1. 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.
2. Cost Per Mille/Thousand [CPM] ( CPM ) Cost per mille, or thousand (mille = thousand in Latin). A pricing model in which advertisers pay for every 1000 impressions of their advertisement served. This is the standard basic pricing model for online advertising. See also CPC and CPA.
3. Google Ad Exchange ( Google Ad Manager ) Ad Exchange is often referred to as the premium version of AdSense, and also a Google-owned ad network of sorts. To join Ad Exchange, publishers need to meet specific requirements such as 500 000 minimum monthly traffic, be invited or join through a Google certified partner. Recently Google has rebranded this product, and it is now called Google Ad Manager.
4. impression. Impression is when a user views an ad on a page or when an ad is displayed on a webpage.
5. ad refresh. This is when a publisher reloads ads on a page at an every 30, 60, 90 seconds or even a custom setting.

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