Best practices for ad viewability in 2019

Best practices for ad viewability in 2019

You could show a million ads, but if no one sees them, you won't make any money. The specifics of what this means on the web are constantly changing, but the importance of ad viewability is a constant. The first step to ensuring your ads get the opportunity to be seen is to understand the rules.

Google has 3 general requirements for what constitutes as a viewable impression:

  • For ads, 50% of the ad’s pixels are visible in the browser window for a continuous 1 second.

  • For larger ads (those greater than 242,000 pixels), 30% of the ad’s pixels are visible in the browser window.

  • For in-stream video ads, 50% of the ad’s pixels must be visible in the browser window for a continuous 2 seconds.

But AdWeek points to even more stringent guidelines from HP and Integral Ad Science (IAS) requiring that display (banner) ads have 100 percent of pixels in view for at least five seconds to be considered viewable. For video ads, ad networks must display 100 percent of a video's pixels for at least half of the video's duration.

So, how do we make sure ads are viewable? These best practices will help you improve ad viewability and ensure that your ads land squarely in front of  your potential customers.

Ad design & responsiveness

Certain ad sizes have become common due to their proven viewability rates. For example, smaller display ads perform better than larger ones, while bigger sizes work better for video ads. 1440p video ads (2560 x 1440) have a viewability of 95% compared with 88% for smaller 480p video (854 x 480). The viewability of vertical videos is also above average, due to the rising popularity of vertical videos being watched on mobile devices.

The variation in devices and sizes mean responsive ads are as important as responsive sites. Google Publisher Tags and other tools can help you build responsive ads to fit any browser whether on desktop, tablet, or smartphone. This is just part of the ever-increasing imperative to optimize your site for mobile users.

Ad placement & page design

While many might be familiar with the term "above-the-fold" (ATF), there are more specific targets for ad placement than simply being on screen when the page first loads. Google says the most viewable placement for an ad is right above the fold and not at the top of the page. They also caution not to forget about user experience—too many ATF ads will make your page appear cluttered and visitors may leave the page quickly.

Below-the-fold (BTF) ads should be placed on the left or right side since they have higher viewability rates than those that appear in the middle of the page. Additionally, placing ads in a separate column from the content can keep the content column clean and unobstructed, increasing the chance that the user will proceed down the entire page.

In general, engaging content will help lead users to BTF ads. Visible headlines of the next article or story near the bottom of the top fold also helps encourage visitors to find out what’s further down the page. Quality content will keep people on your website, meaning they can linger on ads for longer as well.

Additionally, shorter pages, where there is only a single fold, tend to yield higher viewability. Single-page content is popular at the moment, but shorter pages produce better stats and are easier for users to go through. If longer form content is necessary, it’s best to enable infinite scroll.

Speed & measurement

Speed matters every bit as much as placement and content. Mobile sites, for example, that load within 5 seconds versus 19 seconds, have 25 percent higher viewability. Using asynchronous ad tags can ensure that ads don't slow down a page’s loading times and are still rendered with the rest of the content. Speed optimization tools, such as Google Pagespeed, can be used to analyze and optimize site performance according to the network and make sure you stay on track with your performance budget. The point to remember about speed is that viewability is really tracking how long someone has been looking at an ad. The faster content and ads show up on the screen, the longer the timer runs and the more likely an ad will be counted as viewable. Increasing page speed will help to reduce bounce rates, which will lead to more people seeing ads, and will help ads render faster, so that a user hasn’t scrolled past the ad before it actually renders.

Viewability continues to be a challenge for both publishers and advertisers, but following these best practices and finding tools that improve both monetization and the overall user experience will bring better results, build better long-term relationships, and drive more revenue.