Ad Viewability | What is It and How to Improve It?

ad viewability new

Ad viewability is one of the most frequently discussed topics in the advertising industry. It’s sometimes referred to as the main currency of display and video advertising. 

So, why is ad viewability so important? 

An ad served doesn’t necessarily equal that the user had seen it. Advertisers tend to target websites with high ad viewability because it generates a better performance and ROI (return on investment) on their campaigns.

Both publishers and advertisers are striving to increase their ad viewability rate. In this article, you will learn what ad viewability is, why it is important, and tips to improve it.

Table of Contents:

What is Ad Viewability?

Ad viewability is a metric used in digital advertising to measure how visible the ads are to users on the publisher’s website.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) and Media Rating Council (MRC) standard, for an ad to count as viewed, 50% of it must be visible to a user for at least 1 second. For video ads, 50% of the ad must be visible for at least 2 seconds. Google refers to viewable impressions as ‘Active View‘. 

However, different SSPs may use a different viewability measurements. For example, when it comes to large-size creatives (display ads sized at 242,500 pixels or greater), Xandr and OpenX count the ad as viewed when 30% of the creative is visible for 1 second.

What’s The Ideal Ad Viewability Score?

According to the data from leading SSPs like Xandr, OpenX, and Rubicon, the ideal ad viewability score should be above 70%.

50%-70% is acceptable, but for optimal results you need to try and reach above 70%.

Below 50% is too low and means that you need to focus on your ad viewability.

The higher the ad viewability rate, the better the performance and the demand for your inventory will be.

How to Measure Ad Viewability?

To measure ad viewability, you have to find the total viewable ad impressions served and divide it by the total ad impressions served. In other words, ad viewability rate is the percentage of viewable ads out of the total number of served ads. 

ad viewability formula

Viewable impressions served–the number of times your ad impressions were considered viewable (you can see this metric in your Google Ad Manager or any other ad server).

Viewable impressions allow publishers and advertisers to understand if the ad was displayed in a viewable position.

Why is Ad Viewability Important?

SSPs have pointed out that it’s important to reach above 70% ad viewability. According to a report, global desktop ad viewability reached 71.9% in 2020, and 67.6% for mobile.

If users don’t view more than half of the served ads, ad campaigns become ineffective, and the price is much less than for a viewable ad. Other metrics such as viewable time and user engagement add an extra layer of clarity about the ad inventory’s value. As a result, publishers have a clear picture of the best-performing inventory and can optimize their sites accordingly.

For advertisers, ad viewability is one of the most crucial metrics and is equally important for both brand awareness and performance campaigns. A study by Google concluded that viewable display ads across the Google Display Network had a 4X lift in conversions than display ads that don’t meet the ad viewability standard. 

Currently, the programmatic industry focuses more on checking viewable impressions rather than served impressions. 

Setupad’s dashboard lets you check ad viewability for the whole ad inventory for a selected time period.

viewability setupad dashboard

Additionally, our dashboard now includes the ad viewability rate for each ad unit and the total ad viewability for domain-level for selected time periods. 

viewability by ad units

What can cause a low ad viewability score?

  • Page length and quality of the content–according to Google, shorter content has higher viewability. Setting pages with a single fold allows users to get through content more easily. 
  • Slow load of ads–if your ads don’t load fast enough, users might scroll past them before they load, causing a drop in viewability.
  • Ad position–ads placed below the fold have a lower viewability rate.
  • Ad units–some ad units influence the viewability results, regardless of how fast they load or what ad format is used. For example, the top leaderboard would rarely have viewability above 50%.
  • User behavior on a website–if users don’t interact with your page long enough, it can create low engagement meaning that ads can be requested but aren’t served.
  • Internet speed–if the user’s connection is slow, ads might not load. Therefore, you must have a speedy and responsive website or app for ads to load faster and achieve higher ad viewability.

6 Tips to Improve Ad Viewability

Follow these tips below to improve your ad viewability rate:

1. Improve the page speed of your website

A slow-loading website is the biggest offender of ad viewability. Page speed directly affects ad revenue, so consider making page speed your top priority. 

To improve page speed on your site, we recommend:

  • Using responsive layouts
  • Reducing redirects
  • Optimizing images to improve server response time
  • Using asynchronous ad tags

Setupad Expert Opinion:

povilas Povilas Goberis, COO at Setupad: “There is a trend that we’re seeing where high viewability is correlated with the website’s overall performance. According to our publisher data, if the website is well-optimized, it has a good ad viewability rate in all placements. In other words, it’s not just sticky and interstitials that have high viewability rate (which is the case for most websites), but also all other placements.” 

2. Improve ad load speed

One of the most critical factors impacting ad viewability is user behavior combined with the ad load speed.

This means that even if your website is fast but ads take too long to load, there might be a negative impact on your ad viewability. 

To improve your ad load speed:

  • Implement lazy loading for below-the-fold ads. The concept of lazy loading is simple–an ad request is triggered right when the user is most likely to see it. But remember, there is no point in implementing lazy-loading for banners that are visible above the fold because you want them to load as fast as possible. 
lazy load example
  • Minimize passbacks. This will reduce the number of ad calls made from one server to another. Fewer ad calls will reduce page latency and improve ad viewability. Moreover, this can help your video inventory, as videos load faster, and users are more likely to stick around and watch them. 

3. Choose the best-performing ad sizes

The most viewable ad sizes are the vertical sizes units, for example, 160×600. Vertical ad sizes stay in view longer than horizontal. Not surprisingly, sidebars have the highest viewability rate in the industry.

Setupad also offers publishers sticky banners, which stick to the viewport and stay in view for the whole visit duration. 

sticky ads example

Typically, reaching optimal viewability might not be easy if the banner is large. That’s because the user needs to scroll more so that 50% of the banner is in view. Therefore, some SSPs even have different measurement criteria for larger-sized banners. 

It’s also important to use high-performing mobile ad sizes, such as  medium rectangle (300×250) and large mobile banner (320×100) to get the best results.

4. Implement ad refresh

Ad refresh allows reloading ads if they are in view for some time. This will guarantee that the new ad will be visible immediately after rendering it. Also, this will increase your ad placement’s viewability score in your ad server and get more ad impressions, thus increasing ad revenue. 

But don’t get carried away and let the ad show for at least 20 seconds, so the user can actually notice it and hopefully click on it. A high ad refresh rate will lower your CTR score. At Setupad, we utilize a smart ad refresh mechanism that considers user behavior and refreshes the ads only when it benefits the publisher.

5. Get more familiar with your audience’s behavior

When you understand which pages users spend most of the time and engage with the content, you can decide how many ads you should serve. Having too many ads can harm the user experience as too many multiple ad requests to your ad server could cause page latency. Monetization companies, like Setupad, can help you and suggest the optimal number of ads on your page.

bad ux vs good ux example

Remember, sometimes less is more. To reach higher overall ad viewability, consider removing low-performing placements. Advertisers are looking at the inventory as a whole, so by removing low-performing placements, you can increase the total ad viewability for your inventory.

Related Article: How Many Ads Should I Put on My Website?

6. Choose the best-performing ad placements

Ad placements are one of the most important factors influencing ad viewability rate. According to a study by Google, above the fold (ATF) video ads, on average, have a 73% viewability score, compared to 45% for below the fold (BTF) ads. 

Based on these figures, your aim should be to keep your site’s viewability score either the same as the industry average or slightly higher.

The most viewable ad placement is an ad right above the fold, not at the top of the page. 

most viewable ad placement

However, that doesn’t mean that placements below the fold aren’t viewable at all. If there is content below the fold that holds a user’s attention, then that area of the page might have the highest viewability.

Nevertheless, it’s advisable to stick to the most popular ad placements and ad sizes to reach maximum viewability.

When deciding on ad placements, it’s also important to consider user experience. Google’s John Mueller pointed out that there has to be some content above the fold, meaning that a part of the publisher’s page should be visible when a user visits the site.

Place ads in line with the main content or in content-rich areas of the site. Avoid placing ads in areas with little or no content.

Before making any ad placement decisions, you can review where your site’s page fold is most often located. You can do it by using heatmap tools or the Google Analytics screen resolution report. Alternatively, you can delegate this task to your monetization partner. 

Final Thoughts

Publishers should continuously improve the loading speed of their webpage and user experience. High-viewability inventory is becoming more relevant, and advertisers are shifting their attention to metrics like vCPM (viewable CPM) instead of CPM

The content of the website and the ads should both load at the same time but asynchronously. This will help to improve your ad inventory’s quality and increase ad revenue.

Viewability helps publishers ensure that they can make full use of their inventory by serving ads. By focusing on page design, website, ad speed, and creating engaging content, publishers can reach higher viewability and entirely use their inventory by serving ads.

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