Google’s Side Rail Ads – Should Publishers Use Them?
On November 30, 2022, Google launched a new ad format called side rails.
This is great news to AdSense publishers who previously couldn’t utilize this format. Why? Because this is one of the best-performing ad formats in the industry.
This article will cover everything you need to know about Google’s side rail ads, how to use them, and their benefits for publishers.
What Are Side Rail Ads?
Side rail ads are essentially sidebar ads that appear on the left or right sides of widescreen devices, like desktops, and remain in view for the entire visit.
This ad format isn’t new to the advertising industry. Adtech companies sometimes call this ad format sticky because ads “stick” to the page’s sides while the user scrolls through the page’s content.
AdSense Side Rail Ads Example
How to Enable Side Rail Ads?
If you have enabled anchor ads in your Google AdSense account (ads that stick to the bottom of the screen), side rails will appear on your website after December 13, 2022.
If you do not want to display side rails, you can disable this feature in your Auto ads settings.
Source: Google AdSense
Why Did Google Do This?
Side rail ads have been around for a while but traditionally required custom development and coding. Because this format has a number of benefits for publishers, monetization partners like Setupad have been offering them to clients for years.
However, with this step, Google AdSense made it easier for publishers to use these ads by including them in its Auto ads feature. Currently, Google’s premium exchange, Google AdX, does not offer side rail ads as a built-in option, so publishers who want to use them must create them themselves or work with a monetization platform.
The main reason why Google has decided to go ahead with this format over any other is, of course, ad viewability. Not surprisingly, ad viewability has remained the most important adtech trend in the past couple of years.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) defines a viewable impression as an ad that meets the following criteria:
- For ads, 50% of the ad’s pixels are visible in the browser window for a continuous 1 second.
- For larger ads (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.
It’s to no one’s surprise vertical sizes have better ad viewability because they stay in view longer than horizontal. Some of the most viewable ad sizes are 160×600, which is the default ad size of Google’s side rail ads.
Benefits for Publishers
Side rail or sticky ads remain visible on the screen as the user scrolls down the page. They can effectively increase ad viewability and drive more clicks and conversions. Some benefits of these ads for publishers include:
- Increased ad viewability: Side rail ads remain in view as the user scrolls, increasing the likelihood that the ad will be seen and potentially clicked on.
- Increased ad engagement: Because these ads remain in view, users may be more likely to interact with them, potentially leading to higher click-through rates and conversions.
- Increased ad revenue: Higher visibility and engagement can increase the publisher’s ad revenue.
- Only appear on wide screens: Designed to only appear on wide screens, side rail ads don’t appear on narrow screens like mobile devices, where they would harm the user experience.
- Great for direct campaigns: Because of their longer exposure, these ads are great for reaching many advertising objectives. Therefore, publishers can utilize this ad format for their direct campaigns to boost ad revenue even more.
Of course, just like with any other ad format, it’s essential over-clutter to respect the user experience, maintain optimal ad density, and not over-clutter your page with too many ads. That being said, sidebar ads aren’t the most intrusive ad formats and are generally perceived well by the users.
What’s great about this update is that publishers can now essentially display sticky sidebar ads with AdSense’s Auto ads feature. Google AdSense will automatically place side rail ads on their websites and will continually optimize the ad placements on your website to try to maximize your earnings.