As a publisher, you want to get your viewability rate as high as possible. Ideally, that would be 100%. But we don’t live in an ideal world and having a 100% viewability rate is close to impossible.
Which begs the question – what is a solid viewability rate? When can publishers tap themselves on the back for a job well done and rest on theirs?
Sorry to be the party pooper here but the short answer is – never.
Even if you hit a decent viewability rate with one ad campaign, that doesn’t guarantee the same rate on the next, which means – you don’t get to rest, ever. Unless you employ someone or some*thing* to walk the walk for you (more on that further below).
But to answer the first question – a good viewability rate nowadays is around 70%. At that moment, you can say that you’ve hit the industry’s golden ad viewability standard.
Many publishers fail to hit that 70%, but who can blame them? Hitting the industry standard – and staying there permanently – is a gargantuan task with many moving parts. Think page loading times, ad loading times, maintaining good ads per pageview ratio, audience, geography, cultural differences between visitors, their internet speeds, attention spans… the list goes on.
At the same time, the stakes are high. In order to hit ad campaign goals, while having lower viewability rates, publishers need to sacrifice additional impressions, hurting their bottom line. After all, those extra impressions could have been used for other ad campaigns, bringing in more revenue.
The stakes are high for publishers everywhere [Credit: Giphy]
To improve their viewability rate, publishers opt for a wide variety of tactics, all of which might move the needle a little, and none of which can guarantee moving the needle. The common denominator for all of these tactics is that they’re a lot of work. Furthermore, most of them mean risking antagonizing the audience by eroding the user experience. It only adds to the complexity of the task at hand.
Chasing viewability rates down the rabbit hole
For example (and this is particularly true for direct ad campaigns), publishers will often shuffle ads around from one position to another, depending on the performance of each position. If, on a Monday, ad unit A is viewable and ad unit B isn’t, the publisher will move their direct ad campaigns there, for maximum impact. If, on a Tuesday, ad unit B performs better, well, you get the idea.
To make matters worse, most publishers can only rely on historical data which might even be inaccurate, rendering all these efforts (at least to some extent) useless.
And that’s just one method, from an entire picnic basket of methods – A/B testing different ad placements, adding more ads to the page, using sticky placements, trying to improve site and ad load speeds, lazy loading ads, or removing demand partners. Sometimes (although rarely), they’ll even redesign the site (fonts and font sizes, color schemes, ad layouts, etc.).
All of these methods work to some extent, but this is an iterations game. As soon as you improve your rates once, you move onto the next method, to try and improve further. The game never ends.
One method in particular, lazy loading, will probably help increase viewability – but that will be at the cost of reducing the number of impressions by (usually) a lot – eventually causing a loss of revenue.
Unless, as I’ve mentioned earlier, you employ someone or some*thing* to walk the walk for you. Employing someone (or multiple someones) is a hefty anvil pressing down against your wallet. In an age where publishers aren’t exactly sitting on piles of cash, hiring an army of people isn’t necessarily cost-effective. You should also know that there’s only so much humans can do, regardless of the number. At the end of the day, humans are limited by the speed at which they’re able to work.
Which brings me to the second point – some publishers have started thinking outside the box, opting to go for Artificial Intelligence-powered tech to optimize their ad viewability for them. It makes sense – AI is infinitely faster and can carry infinitely more load than entire armies of human beings while being not as nearly expensive.
Are you personalizing the ad experience?
AI can create a personalized ad experience for each individual visitor, in the split second before the page loads for them. It takes hundreds of anonymized data points (think all the things I listed earlier in this article – geographies, demographics, internet speeds, and add dozens upon dozens more) and rearranges the ad layout on each individual page. That way, once the page loads, it’s fully adapted to the user, their reading and scrolling habits, their device’s screen real estate, and so on.
The publisher gets an ad inventory that continuously keeps hitting the golden industry ad viewability standard, often pushing into fable territory (80% and up). Most of the legwork is eliminated, freeing up precious time for more creative work. Data is more up-to-date and accurate than before. Visitors are happy, as the ad inventory is perfectly aligned with their expectations and habits. Furthermore, there’s no risk of in-view ad refresh breaking the page – user experience at the apex.
Nowadays, ad viewability is the alpha and the omega of the advertising industry. Everything starts and ends with how many eyeballs a publisher can get on their ad inventory. With so many things on the line, hitting at least a 70% viewability rate – and staying there – has become crucial.
The good news is that it’s doable. All it takes is a little effort, a little creativity, and a little help from technology.