A Publisher’s Ultimate Guide To Ad Placements

A Publisher’s Ultimate Guide To Ad Placements

Ad optimization should start on a solid foundation, which includes planning where to place your ads, ad sizes to run, maximum and minimum count of ads per page, choosing ad formats, while providing users the best user experience. In this article, we’re going to share tips and tricks, and best practices on ad placement.

Using the right tool to deploy your tags matters as much. When it’s straightforward and user friendly, you save time and can focus on other important tasks. You should also be ready to debug in case any issue comes up after deployment. This entire process brings its own set of challenges, and for as long as you know the direction you’re going for, it should be easier to manage.

Deciding on ad placements is not a one-shot deal. It requires a lot of data analysis and constant changes until you’re fully satisfied with the numbers you see. Every site is unique, and you should be able to strategize around improving ad performance without compromising user experience.

How to analyze ad placements

#1 – Run a Historical report on Google Ad Manager (GAM). Break down by Ad Units > Creative size (delivered)

(Filter by device category: Desktop, Connected TV, Setup Box first, then Smartphone, Feature Phone, Tablet)

ad placements 1

If no GAM, but you have AdSense, run a report on AdSense (or request the publisher to provide the report if you don’t have access). Follow the setup below to see the Active View Viewable %.

ad unit report

There’s more you can do with Google Ad Manager, and Google AdSense reports. Check out PubGuru University.

#2 – Retain the good performing ones on their current spot/placement.

Pay attention to the bad performing ones – low viewability % (less than 50%)  is usually where the opportunity lies.

Also, pay attention to the volume of traffic (Total code served count). Negligible numbers are most likely cached and not an indication of the inventory being active. Focus only on the ones with decent traffic volume.

metrics selected

#3 – Look for optimization opportunities

Ad sizes

If you are currently running a single sized ad unit, consider adding more sizes in the mix and make it flexible. When multiple ad sizes are configured, they all compete in the auction, and the best paying size wins. When choosing which ad sizes to run, consider the following:

1) Spot where the ad is to be deployed (e.g. can’t run horizontal ads on a sidebar, and vice versa)

2) The top-performing ad sizes:

Desktop: 970×250, 970×90, 728×250, 728×90, 336×280, 300×250, 300×600, 160×600

Mobile: 320×50, 320×100, 300×250, 336×280

3) Smaller ad sizes usually perform worse than the bigger ones. On mobile, add 300×250 to the mix where applicable.

Ad spots

Above-the-fold doesn’t necessarily perform better than Below-the-fold. Depending on your site layout, users tend to scroll down right away to consume your content. The following spots potentially perform best:

1) Mid-content (in between paragraphs)

2) Right below or above an image content

3) Close to navigation links or buttons

4) Sticky units

Learn how to deploy your tags using WordPress Ad Inserter on PubGuru University.

Use these questions as a guide:

1) What is the user trying to accomplish on your site?

2) What do they do when they land on a specific page?

3) Where do they focus their attention?

Naming convention

Help yourself by correctly naming your ad units, making it easier to optimize and manage. When you run reports, or do random quality checks on-site, ad unit names should make sense. If you currently have confusing ad unit names, create a new set! Don’t just change the name of the pre-existing ones. Ad unit code is not editable, and it’s highly recommended for the name & ad unit code to match (applies to those using Google Ad Manager).

naming convention

Number of ads to run

Although Google has removed the restrictions in terms of the number of ads/page, they recommend at least a 50:50 ratio of ads to content. You may have fewer ads than content, but never more ads than content. The magic number is 5 (five). Once you implement more than 5, you’ll start seeing performance plummeting. The Law of Diminishing Returns also applies here. Competition starts to loosen up. Buyers won’t bid high CPMs anymore because they still get the opportunity to display their ads, given the many available ad slots.

Rule of thumb: Do not implement more than five ad units per page unless essential (e.g., lengthy content).

For mobile, put a single ad unit at the bottom (sitting right above the fold), then skip a screen height → then another ad unit → another screen height → another unit → , etc., up to 5 units.

mobile ads

Intrusive ads (e.g., outstream)

This type of ad can be an incremental revenue source but can negatively impact your other ad units. When it covers the ads, viewability and CTR drop, and CPMs follow along. When running non-standard ads, do it slowly, testing one section at a time and closely monitoring performance per ad unit.

#4 – Quality of content

Run your Google Analytics report and look at your:

  1. average user time on page
  2. pages per session
  3. bounce rate

All these are key performance indicators of your site’s content quality. When users are not engaged, they are not engaged with your ads either. Revisit these metrics and identify how you can get users to stay longer and browse more pages.

#5 – Site speed

Google’s research has found that 53% of mobile web visitors leave if a webpage doesn’t load within three seconds. Ouch! Use PubGuru Ad Inspector to troubleshoot issues in real-time that could be affecting your site speed. Also, check out https://developers.google.com/publisher-ads-audits.

Best Practices

Below are some of the best practices on ad placement. Again, every site is unique, and some of these recommendations might not apply to you. Nevertheless, it’s a good starting point.

Desktop

Header section / Above the fold

header section atf

Recommended sizes:

GAM: 970×250, 970×90, 728×90, 728×250

AdX hardcoded: 970×250

Content area

content area

Recommended sizes:

GAM: 728×90, 728×250, 300×250, 336×280

AdX hardcoded: 728×250

Sidebar

sidebar

Recommended sizes:

GAM: 300×600, 300×250, 336×280, 160×600

AdX hardcoded: 300×600

Anchor/Sticky

anchor-sticky ad

Recommended sizes:

GAM: 728×90, 970×90

AdX hardcoded: 970×90

Mobile

Paginated content

paginated content

  • one 320×100/320×50 after title
  • one 300×250/336×280 incontent
  • one 300×250/336×280 before pagination button
  • one 320×50/320×100 sticky bottom anchor (optional)

Long articles/not paginated

long articles not paginated

  • one 320×50/320×100 after title
  • one 300×250/336×280 every screen height
  • one 320×100/320×50 sticky bottom anchor (optional)

Post implementation

Monitor performance per ad unit after going live. If using GAM, run a Historical report, break it down by Ad Unit, and by date. Be on the lookout for any weird spikes or drops. Expect the numbers to drop initially and should slowly stabilize as days go by.

report type post implementation

Important metrics:

metrics 1 metrics 2

To calculate your Unfilled Impressions %:

=Unfilled impressions / Total ad requests

Learn more about the important metrics you should pay attention to and how to address abnormal fluctuations in PubGuru University.

Conclusion

With this guide, you’ll be able to become an expert with ad placements! However, it does take a lot of work, knowledge, and tweaking to get everything working as it should. If you don’t have the time to test and manage your ad placements for optimal performance, let MonetizeMore do it for you! We’ve got teams of ad optimization experts working around the clock to maximize ad revenue for our publisher partners. Are you ready to take your ad revenue to the next level? Sign up today!

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Kean Graham

CEO and Founder at MonetizeMore

Kean is the resident expert in Ad Optimization covering areas like Adsense Optimization, DFP Management, and third-party ad network partnerships. Kean believes in the supremacy of direct publisher deals and holistic optimization as keys to effective and consistent ad revenue increases.

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