Less Is More: How Fewer Ads Can Make You More Money
When a site has too many ads, websites become slower, content becomes obscured and readers become frustrated. But too few ads and publishers won’t be able to fund the content they work so hard to produce.
In conversations I have with publishers, I see this reconciliation of user experience and ad revenue is one of the toughest challenges when it comes to digital publishing. Fortunately there are steps publishers can take to ensure they are offering quality ads and an experience that both delights users and boosts revenues.
No Higher Than 30% Ad Density
By now, you will undoubtedly be aware of the Initial Better Ads Standards, which have been released by the Coalition for Better Ads. Violations of these standards are now being punished by Google Chrome, which will block all ads on websites found to be using poor ad experiences.
One of the ad experiences users identified as one of their least favorite was when ads take up more than 30% of the vertical height of a page. This demonstrates how poor user experiences brought about by ads can turn away users, increase the use of ad blockers and ultimately result in ad revenue losses.
Speed is King
Speed is absolutely critical, particularly on mobile — which, as we know, is where the majority of browsing now takes place. In fact, 53% of users will abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
In her article for Forbes, Kayla Brizo explains how her team conducted an experiment that gave up a small amount of revenue by removing low-value ads. This resulted in users staying on the website for longer due to the gains in speed, and actually resulted in revenue gains.
We witness this time and again when working with publishers. For example, National Review boosted its PageSpeed score from 43/100 to 90/100, and as a result saw its mobile traffic increase by 35% within 60 days, and its mobile bounce rate drop by 30% over 90 days. This demonstrates that prioritizing value in your ad configuration alongside optimal speed will lead to big earnings.
This very interesting Digiday case study is also worth a read for publishers looking to examine performance. It explores how Meredith was able to use a code audit to get its ads to load faster and eventually increase its revenue per visit by 20%.
A Focus On Engaging Ads
Given that more ads generally means more revenue, some publishers were tempted to place as many ad formats on their pages as possible. However, that short-gain approach has often been proven unwise.
Before being forced to close due to a Facebook algorithm change, online publisher LittleThings set about reviewing its ad configuration. Rather than having interstitials, autoplay ads and clickbait-heavy recommendation ads, it focused on contextually relevant ads. This had positive result, seeing engagement and ad revenue increases, so much so that its ad revenue grew by 36%.
Quality trumps quantity when it comes to online ads, and this mantra can help publishers to earn more revenue with fewer ads.
Safer, Faster & Lighter Ads with AMPHTML
AMPHTML, a Google initiative for serving ads, is something to keep an eye on for the future.
As you likely know, AMP is a framework spearheaded by Google to create Accelerated Mobile Pages and, more recently, AMP Stories. The AMP team is now working to use AMPHTML to bring reliability, fast performance and superior user experiences to ads too. The team argues that without fixing ads, its efforts to improve the web will be in vain.
AMPHTML Ads (previously “AMP Ads”) are faster, lighter, safer, more engaging and more flexible. They are 3x lighter than traditional ads, 6x faster and need to be validated before being served, which eliminates the risk of malware (take, for example, how ads are being misused to use the processing power of machines to mine for cryptocurrencies).
By helping to tidy up ads, AMPHTML Ads will mean publishers can offer ads that easily outperform their standard counterparts, boosting viewability and the value of ad inventory for publishers.
If you would like to take a look under the hood the AMPHTML Ads code is on Github and the readme file offers a great overview of the project.