With an increasingly saturated digital ecosystem, publishers are looking to find new ways to maximize revenue from their websites.
Ad revenue optimization is essential for publishers who are monetizing through display ads, and ad placement is a vital part of this revenue generation strategy.
This article takes a deep dive into ad placement—the options available for any given web page, how to optimize existing placements, and how to ensure maximum ad impressions to get the most from this revenue model.
Table of Contents
What Is Ad Placement?
Ad placement refers to a single ad unit, or group of ad units, that designate areas on a publisher's website where advertisers are able to place their advertisements.
Publishers using Google Ads can use automatically created Google Ad placement, or they can define their own placement criteria if they desire.
Where an ad is placed on a page goes a long way to determining ad viewability, and ad viewability, in turn, affects ad revenue. Ads with low viewability will often be overlooked by advertisers looking for the best return for the advertising dollar.
Ad Sizes and ad formats play a large role in how users engage with an ad, and publishers should be analyzing user data when placing ads to ensure the highest engagement possible.
With an average click-through rate (CTR) of 3.17% on Google Ads, it is essential that publishers select the best ad placement for their web pages to ensure user engagement and maximize revenue on their display ads.
Why Is Ad Placement Important?
When it comes to creating an online ad campaign, where the ads are placed on a particular web page can be as important, if not more important, than the ad creative itself. It doesn’t matter how awesome an ad is—if no one sees it, then the click-through rate (CTR) will suffer and revenue opportunities will be lost.
The best ad placement will also differ depending on ad types and ad size. Leaderboard ads, for example, have been shown by Google to perform best when they appear at the top of the page above the existing content, rather than in feed.
3 Best Website Ad Placement Strategies for Publishers
1. Balancing Customer Experience
Maximizing revenue from your site is a fine balance between considering the best performing ad units and considering user experience when planning ad campaigns. You want your site to provide the best possible user experience to continue building a loyal user base and increase the number of users coming to your site.
You also want users to hang around for as long as possible. Often, the best performing ads may be the more intrusive placements, which can harm the user experience.
Intrusive ads lead to poor user experience and Google can penalize for this.
This kind of ad placement can have knock-on effects on your site as a whole, as poor website engagement is factored into your search rankings. Higher bounce rates and less time spent on page will mean you make less revenue from these impressions. So, intrusive placement could also mean Google will view your content as less relevant to users and lower you in search results.
2. Analysis of User Behavior
Google recommends taking a user perspective will really help you in best dealing with this balancing act.
What Is the User Intent on Your Site?
Are they there to browse through long-form content, to buy something they need, or to use a tool you provide?
Looking at the user journey to your site, and what they expect when engaging with it, can help you to better think about where your ad placements should and should not be located—this prevents placements from getting in the way of what your user is trying to achieve.
Analyzing user intent can also help determine which ad formats to implement—will half page ads be effective? Perhaps video ads or native ads will be the best choice for your user base.
Where Is User Attention Focused?
Think about what they do when they appear on a particular page. Are users reading the content in-depth from left to right? Are they viewing a video halfway down the page and would video ads placement be helpful? Or are they trying to complete a task within your website?
Areas where the user’s attention will be focused should be where you think of adding prime ad placements. You want to think about how you can integrate ads into this area of content without getting in the user’s way.
3. Look at the Site Data
Choosing the right ad placement for your site should be guided by some data and research to know where your ad inventory performs best. There are a variety of tools and data points you can choose from to guide your decision and help you optimize your ad placement layout.
Google Analytics gives you in-depth data on how users are interacting with your site and from which sources your traffic is coming. It will help you find your top-performing content, tell you if a particular landing page is performing well, whether your most avid users come from organic search or direct traffic for example, and which devices or countries drive the most valuable search traffic.
Heat and Click Maps
Heatmaps highlight to you where users appear to spend the most time on your page. It will help you understand what content they are looking at, how they interact with the page, and what they expect from it. You may have ad placements appear underneath your content posts, but find no one scrolls below the fold on your page.
Click maps are similar to heatmaps, but they indicate where users are clicking on the page. These tools will also give you recorded screencasts of real users interacting with your site so you can watch in real-time and better understand the user interactions occurring.
You should conduct A/B testing for ad placements and site user experience to make the most of your website. Google provides a tool called Optimize, which allows you to send search traffic to a specific link to see a number of different pages. This way, you can test optimizations of ad placement and the user experience.
3 Best Ad Placement Optimization Techniques
1. Multisize Ad Placements
Having multisize ad placements appear on your website means you can send requests for multiple ad sizes in one bid request.
This increases the amount of third-party competition you have for an ad placement as you can now choose the highest bid for that impression from a range of advertisers with different creative placement sizes. If you’re using a 300×600 placement, consider including the 160×600 placement in the same request. If you’re running a 300×250 placement, consider using a 336×280 and/or 250×250 placement.
By increasing the flexibility of ad placements on your website, you can also reduce the chances of having no ad placement filled as you have opened up the number of advertisers available to bid on your inventory.
2. Ad Refreshes
Viewability is becoming increasingly important for advertisers as they try to optimize ad spend and tackle consumer ad blindness.
Sticky ads give the user more time to see the ad, and we’ve found that they appear to perform better than other ad formats without harming user experience, with big increases in CTR, CPMs, and nearly doubled viewability.
Again, you want to think from a user perspective when you choose these ads and think about what ads could appear intrusive. Generally, horizontal ads on the top or bottom of the page perform best for mobile, while vertical ad placements on the left or right of the screen perform best on desktop. Generally, you want your sticky ads’ height to be <250px and the ads must take up less than 25% of the screen at any time.
3. Lazy Loading
When a user visits a website, all the content is downloaded immediately before the user can begin to navigate the site.
Lazy loading pages are built with placeholder content boxes that load initially. These are then replaced with content, or ads as the user scrolls down the page. This allows for faster page speed times as users don’t have to wait for ads that may never be in their view to see.
It also helps to increase the viewability score of your ad inventory, as you are not calling for ads until a user has begun to scroll, making it more likely for a user to see. Ad visibility is highly sought after by today’s advertisers so anything you can do to improve your ads in this way can help to increase the CPM you can charge.
The Publift team has found on mobile devices—ad units need to be called before they come into view. This is to combat how quickly mobile users scroll down and address slow internet connections such as patchy 3G.
Our Fuse platform actually allows publishers to decide, test, and alter how many pixels before the ad unit appears that the ad is loaded. No more manual code changes on the live site!
How Many Ads Should You Put on Your Website?
There are no hard limits on how many ads can be placed on a website, with publishers instead needing to review their placement on a page-by page-scenario.
Looking at Google’s Webmaster guidelines, the search giant has very little to say about ads other than that ad links should not “affect search engine rankings”. Google has a much stricter stance when it comes to advertisers and how they use Google Ads.
When it comes to news pages, things become a little clearer with Google noting that ads shouldn’t exceed the amount of content.
While publishers could take this to mean that 51:49 ratio in favor of content would work, we’d suggest erring on the side of caution here. As such, we recommend using the 30% ads to 70% content as a general rule of thumb.
For smaller posts of just a few hundred words, this might only mean being able to squeeze in one ad that doesn’t take up too much screen real-estate. Crowding a page with too many ads can affect UX and lead to poor SEO performance, ultimately reducing the number of page views for your website and leading to a loss in revenue.
Publishers should continually analyze and test their sites to adjust this for their particular user base.
How Can Publift Help With Maximizing Revenue With Ad Placements?
We have been doing this for a long time and have a team of account managers dedicated to helping publishers optimize their ads’ layout. We have worked through trial and error on countless websites to find what works best.
Our technology platform, Fuse, provides you with all the technologies and ad formats mentioned above, along with a host of the latest advancements in the adtech world, to help our publishers increase their revenue and make their lives simpler.