What is Ad Viewability and How Does it Impact Your Revenue?

Publift
August 4, 2021
2020/05/Ad-view

Ad viewability can have a direct impact on the publisher’s revenue. Being able to monitor and optimize ad viewability can directly increase your CPM rates.

Publift has researched the ad performance on the sites we manage. We’ve seen a direct correlation between the average effective cost per mile (eCPM) and ad viewability.

What Does Ad Viewability Mean?

Let’s start by agreeing upon the ad viewability definition. At its essence, ad viewability looks at how many of the ads served by digital advertisers actually get seen by users. The widely agreed upon industry standards for ad viewability comes from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Council, whereby an ad impression is considered viewable if:

  • For display ads, 50% of the ad’s pixels are visible for at least 1 second
  • For video ads, 50% of the ad is visible for at least 2 seconds

Viewability rate is the percentage of total ad impressions that were deemed viewable.


What Impact Does Ad Viewability Have on Publisher’s Revenues?

Digital advertisers know that ads with high viewability generate a better return on investment for their campaigns. So advertisers are targeting sites and ads with high viewability. They are also willing to pay a lot more to win these ad placements. On the flip side, advertisers are excluding web pages and ad placements with less viewable ads because they know they are adding very little to the performance of their advertising campaigns.

eCPM vs. viewability chart
eCPM vs Viewability Source: Publift top 8 publishers average eCPM and Viewability for 300×250 creatives

You can see among the top-performing sites we manage – those that had an average ad viewability above 50% were attracting significantly higher eCPMs (almost double) than those publishers who had less than 50% ad viewability.  

In fact, from the buyer’s perspective – that 50% threshold appears to be a key figure.  We spoke to some key buyers in the market to see what sites they would include when targeting high spending campaigns. Here’s what they said:

“We have a minimum threshold well above 50% viewability for all campaigns”

- Alexis Spurgeon, Programmatic Manager, Commbank

“Amnet must adhere to certain viewability thresholds for select clients, ranging from 40-80%, depending on the client, channel and campaign KPI”

- Vanessa Croew, Client Service Manager, Amnet

“Telstra will pay a very high cpm for viewability over 70%. It’s a key metric for their business goals”

- CJ De Guzman, Business Analyst, OMD

So, if your average ad viewability is below 50%, the likelihood is that some of the best-paying campaigns are not targeting your site. If these buyers go through DoubleClick Bid Manager when they look at which sites to include in their campaigns, they can see your account’s average ad viewability figure. They are not likely to target your site if your average viewable impression rate is below 50%. You may still see some revenue for these buyers from the AdSense/AdX open auction as they target specific users moving across your site, looking at your better-performing ad formats. But you won’t be getting as much spend from these buyers as sites with high average viewability.

Is Low Ad Viewability Affecting Your Revenue?

To help you gain insights into whether low viewability affects your revenue, we’ve outlined a step-by-step process.

  1. First, check your account average ad viewability for your AdX/AdSense account for the last month.
  2. Go to Query Tool > New Query, select last month as the date range, month as the report dimension, and select ‘Active View viewable’ in the report metrics.
  3. Hit Run Report.  Are you above or below 50%?
  4. Now take a look at this compared to your eCPM over the last 12 months. Press the Edit button, then change the date range to last 12 months.
  5. Rerun the report. Has your monthly average eCPM dropped, increased, or remained the same? Has your Active View viewability done the same thing?

If eCPM has dropped and your ad viewable impressions rate has remained below 50% or dropped even further – there’s a good chance low viewability is reducing your revenue.

How can you determine if your low ad viewability score is affecting your revenue?

To help you determine if low viewability is affecting your revenue, we’ve outlined a step-by-step process for you.

  1. First, check your account average ad viewability for your AdX/AdSense account for the last month.
  2. Go to Query Tool > New Query, then select last month as the date range, month as the report dimension, and select ‘Active View viewable’ in the report metrics.
  3. Hit Run Report.  Are you above or below 50%?
  4. Now take a look at this compared to your eCPM over the last 12 months. Press the Edit button then change the date range to last 12 months.
  5. Run the report again. Has your monthly average eCPM dropped, increased or remained the same? Has your Active View viewability done the same thing?

If eCPM has dropped and your ad viewable impressions rate has remained below 50% or dropped even further – there’s a good chance low viewability is reducing your revenue.

How Can You Improve Ad Viewability?

So if you are among the half of publishers with an average viewability below 50%, what can you do about it? Well, here are a few little tricks to help publishers increase their served impressions and attract some of those high-paying ad campaigns back to their site.

Ad Size

Viewability data shows that the two factors that have the most significant influence on your ad viewability rates are the ad sizes you use and where you put them on the page. So, which sizes should you use to make them more viewable?

Use the Best Performing Ad Sizes and Ad Positions

The 2 factors that will have the biggest influence on your ad viewability rates are the ad sizes you use and where you put them on the page. So, which sizes should you use to make them more viewable?

300×600 and 160×600 sidebar ad units
300×600 and 160×600 sidebar ad units

When we looked at the performance of all ad sizes across our top 10 publishers, we found vertical formats (like the 300×600 and 160×600 above) averaged viewability rates of 59%. That was 22% higher than other standard sizes like 300x250s and 728x90s. 

Longer vertical ads added a 22% uplift in viewability.

We recommend trying to use at least one vertical unit on every page of your site. Preferably in the sidebar of your site layout to avoid interference with your site content.

Likewise, several studies on video ads have shown that bigger video ads perform better than their smaller counterparts.

Ad Position

Next is the ad position. Most pages we manage have three common ad positions – a leader at the top of the page, an ad in the sidebar, and another leader at the bottom of the page, depending on the page design. Subtle changes to exactly where you position these ads can dramatically affect how viewable those ads are. For example – positioning the top leader below your site navigation bar instead of at the top of the page. Users often scroll past the ad before it loads when this ad unit is above the navigation bar. Which means the viewability is poor. Publishers can improve viewability by moving this ad unit below the site navigation bar making the content below visible while the ad unit is loading. 

On the top sites we manage, publishers that moved the top leader ad unit below the site navigation bar had 19% higher viewability for that ad unit than the publishers that left the ad unit above the navigation bar.

In a similar vein, moving the bottom ad unit above the comments, author biography, and page navigation bar can dramatically increase ad interaction and make the ad more viewable. 

We tried this change on a news site we manage. We also increased the size of the ad unit from 728×90 to 970×250. The CPM of this ad unit increased a whopping 27%.

We’d recommend using a 300×600 instead of a 300×250 and making the ad unit sticky for the sidebar ad unit. 

For mobile pages – the top mobile leaderboard (320×50 and 320×100) underperforms on all sites we’ve assessed. As mobile page load is usually slower than on desktop – the problem of the user scrolling down before the top ad unit loads is even more exaggerated. We found that using a 300×250 ad further down the page (ideally with part of the ad poking above the page fold) drove a much higher viewability on mobile and the average eCPM increased 68%.


Make Sidebar Ads Sticky

Sticky ads follow users as they scroll down the page. When used correctly, they can significantly improve the performance and appearance of ads. Make sure they do not cover or hover over other content, though. They should only be sticky where there is no content below them. Most site layouts have the main content body section on the left and a narrower sidebar on the right. If you want your ads to be interacted with and drive strong eCPMs – you can, of course, put them in amongst the content section on the left.

The reality is that most premium-looking sites we work with will not position ads in this configuration. It’s just too intrusive and annoys too many users. If you feel this way – you have to put some kind of ad unit in the page’s sidebar. These sidebar ads often have poor viewable impressions rates because the user scrolls down through the content on the left without seeing or interacting with the ad unit on the right. 

An excellent way to increase interaction and the rate of viewable impression for this ad unit is to make it longer and sticky. Here’s an example of the change we made on one of our publisher’s homepages:

300×600 sticky sidebar ad unit led to a 3% increase in viewability and a 37% increase in eCPM
This sidebar ad unit used to be a 300×250 and it sat below social buttons on the right. By switching this ad unit to a 300×600 and making it sticky – we achieved a 3% increase in viewability and a 37% increase in eCPM.

Page Load Speed 

Slow-loading web pages and mobile sites lead to poor user experience and high bounce rates. In terms of digital advertising, this leads to a decrease in publishers’ viewable inventory. 

Viewability data by Hosting Tribunal has shown that a mere 1 second delay in page loading can reduce page views by 11% and can eat into conversion rates by almost 10%.

Publishers can make several technical adjustments for speed optimization,  including enabling file compression, reducing redirects, and optimizing images to improve server response time. This will ultimately lead to increased total impressions.

Lazy Load Ads with Poor Viewability

Lazy loading allows you to delay loading parts of the page that are out of view until the user scrolls down. As well as improving site speed, lazy loading often increases viewability. Only ads that are seen are loaded. We recommend lazy loading below-the-fold ads which have a poor ad viewable impressions rate. These ads often load without the user ever reaching that part of the page, and they are the placements advertisers are trying to exclude from their campaigns. They provide no value to the advertiser as the user never sees the ad. By lazy loading these ads, you can increase account average viewability score.

Impact of lazy loading on viewability
Impact of lazy loading on viewability

This is the impact on the viewability of lazy loading BTF ads on one of our real estate publishers. Viewability went from around 35% to nearly 60% while eCPM for those ad units jumped 80%. We don’t recommend using lazy loading on all units though: it can cut sellable impressions significantly. We recommend only using lazy loading on BTF ad formats with low viewability to drive your account average viewable impression rate.

Monitor Your Ad Viewability to Increase Earnings

Ad viewability is a key metric of your ad unit’s performance. A low viewable impression rate can directly impact your eCPMs, which will affect your total revenue. To maximize your revenue, there are some changes you can implement to your ad inventory to increase the viewability of your digital advertising units. If your ad revenue has been affected by poor viewability, making these changes won’t reverse that impact overnight. On the sites we made these changes to, we measured 30 days before against 30 days after. The more significant impact came after this period when advertisers recognized that site viewability rate had increased. That’s when you’ll begin to see the big CPMs from those top advertisers hitting your site. To find out more about what Publift can do for your publishing business, get in touch with us or explore how we helped our clients grow.

Click here to skyrocket your ad revenue with Publift's all-in-one Fuse Platform for AdSense & GAM Publishers.Click here to skyrocket your ad revenue with Publift's all-in-one Fuse Platform for Independent Publishers.Click here to skyrocket your ad revenue with Publift's all-in-one Fuse Platform.

Calculate your potential

/* Unbounce pop-up script below */ /* New Jotform code - 14/10/2021. */