Put The User First, And Revenue Will Follow

So much of the time advertisers focus on the wrong things. Viewability as a metric is a classic example.

Here’s the problem with viewability: Advertisers put entirely too much emphasis on it as a metric. It’s something to optimize against, sure, but reaching the right audience is far more important.

An advertiser might demand 70% viewability, and publishers could guarantee that. But can they also guarantee the audience will meet that advertiser’s criteria for quality? Isn’t it better to reach the right audience, even if the ad is slightly less than 70% viewable?

This is why so many publishers really dislike viewability as a metric. It negatively impacts RPMs, which means that publishers are generating less revenue, even if they’re consistently attracting and engaging high-quality audiences. To publishers, it feels like advertisers are too focused on the wrong KPIs.

That’s not just a problem for publishers, it’s a problem for the industry.



When we focus on the wrong KPs, we end up with lower RPMs or worse: bad ads, unhappy users and the rapid adoption of ad blockers.

Focus on User Engagement First

User engagement tells a more complete story than viewability. It’s one important metric that deserves more attention. Are users really slowing down and looking at any of the 30 ads crammed onto the page? Are they engaging with any of them? Probably not. So, why not strip out all the autoplay placements and content recommendations to improve the user experience?

Many publishers, rather than focusing on loading up on above-the-fold ad placements, are now intent on building a better experience for their users. Forward-thinking publishers would rather put fewer, less obtrusive and frankly less obnoxious ads on a page and ensure that users interact with them.

It starts with the recognition that not all ads make sense for all pages or all contexts. Some really do distract from the content experience that users came in for. There’s plenty of data showing users are seriously irritated by autoplay ads. Some ads, like content recommendations, actually lead users away from your page.

Even if they drive revenue, does that experience help your long-term goals, or the user’s? And are those recommendations representing quality content, or just lowering the perceived value of your original content?

It’s bad advertising practices that have created the ad-blocking problem we’re facing today. Why perpetuate it? Publishers have more power than any industry player to change this story.

Fixing the problem isn’t rocket science, but it does take a little leap of faith. Some of these measures may even seem counterintuitive. That said, they’ll work if publishers can focus on keeping users happy, remembering that engaged users are what advertisers really want.

With that in mind, here are some recommendations:

  • Less is more: Rather than cramming as many ads as possible on a page, consider monitoring the ratio of content to advertising. It’s a focus on quality over quantity, so instead of putting eight ads on an article with three paragraphs, drop to two ads. If there are 20 paragraphs, eight ads will probably be fine; 25 will probably be too many. Think about proportion, and test the number of ads on each page until you find the right balance.
  • Respect the user: Advertisers want big, flashy, rich-media ads, but users don’t. Publishers may worry about losing revenue, since those ads take up a lot of real estate and demand high CPMs. But consider that strategically placed, well-targeted native ads might take a third of the real estate -- and ultimately, they may command higher CPMs because they’re targeted better and offer a far more engaging (and less annoying) user experience.
  • Don’t take mobile for granted: Responsive pages in particular are often designed without consideration of revenue. Those right-rail ads that drive so much revenue on the desktop may appear at the bottom of your mobile-responsive site. They may never be seen, which can result in huge losses! The simple solution is for content, development and monetization teams to work together to ensure that ads are dynamically inserted back into the content, where users can engage with them. Handled in this way, usability will skyrocket -- and revenue will be positively impacted as a result.

Focusing on the experiences of users, rather than on the demands of advertisers, will result in a better ecosystem for everyone. By putting the user first, publishers can create the engaging experiences they seek -- and by keeping users engaged, create the environment advertisers also seek. It can become a genuine win-win-win, if publishers insist on keeping ads polite.

Keep in mind: Users will install an ad blocker based on one single bad experience. They can’t then unblock ads on a case-by-case basis. So one bad ad by one bad player can ruin it for everyone. Insist on keeping your ad experiences user-focused, so everyone can win.
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