Ad Viewability - Why It Is Important, and How to Improve It

May 28, 2021 ad viewability

There are multiple concepts and criteria that publishers should be well acquainted with in order to keep their monetization strategies optimized and up-to-date. One such major concept is ad viewability. 


Even though it isn’t actually new, ad viewability as a concept is relatively unknown to the general public. It started to gain popularity following a report by research firm comScore, published in 2013. The report showed that a whopping 54% of display ads were not seen by the audience, despite advertisers paying for them. After that, as a result of intense debates and collaboration of hundreds of people throughout the digital advertising ecosystem, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Council (MRC) came up with a standard for ad viewability in 2014. 


What is ad viewability? 


Ad viewability measures how visible the ads are to the audience of a website or mobile app. According to the standard by IAB, in order for an ad to be considered as viewed, at least 50% of it must be in view for a minimum of one second for display ads or two seconds for video ads.


Although in reality the situation with the standards of ad viewability is a little bit more complicated. As the industry, fragmented and increasingly complex as it is, still hasn’t fully adopted these standards. This is why individual platforms and media providers can have different definitions of ad viewability. 


And this, as Google’s Senior Director of Product Management points out, is a big problem. “When consistent advertising viewability standards aren’t used, marketers may come to inaccurate conclusions about the effectiveness of their ads, which could lead to misguided buying decisions and suboptimal results,” said Babak Pahlavan. 


Why is ad viewability important? 

ad viewability why


The main reason why ad viewability is getting increasingly important should be rather obvious. Originally, advertising networks and exchanges in their offers to advertisers were focused on the number of ads served. Digital advertisers were concerned that the amount of ads served is not equal to the number of ads actually viewed. Eventually they got quite a lot of data, such as the above-mentioned comScore report, to support these concerns. 


Today, advertisers are more inclined to demand that ad suppliers should apply ad viewability principles when measuring the ad views. This separates the number of actually viewed ads from the total number of served impressions. 


Why is it important for publishers? 

why is ad viewability important


For the publisher, poor ad viewability results in lower ad revenues. Advertisers are looking to pay for highly viewable ad placements. 


Because of that, the requirements for ad viewability are rising. Poorly viewable ads become less successful in attracting advertisers. Today many advertisers have a minimum threshold for ad viewability in order to buy ads from a publisher. These thresholds vary from 40 to 80% on average, depending on the advertiser and KPIs. 


How to improve? 

ad viewability important


Checking the viewability of ad units is a bit of a separate issue and depends on the platform(s) you are using. Google’s AdX and AdSense services, for example, have ad viewability reports functionality.  


Assuming you found out that the viewability of your ads is low or maybe just not as high as you’d like it to be. So how do you improve the viewability of ads of your digital properties? Let us give you a few recommendations. 


  • Use ad units of appropriate size. 


It makes sense to design your property in a way for the ads there to have maximum visibility potential. Two main factors: the size of the ad and its position on the page. 


Longer vertical ad units are considered to be the best option from the viewability point of view. Which is understandable since they tend to stay on screen longer as users move around a page. According to research by Google, these ad sizes typically are best: 120×240 (55.6% viewability), 240×400 (54.9%), 160×600 (53.7%), and 120×600 (52.5%). 


  • Place ad units in most viewable positions. 


Placing ad units in good positions is another major component of the ad viewability success. ‘Above the fold,’ which is a term used for content located on the top half of the page, is naturally the best position for ads if you want them to be highly visible. Google claims that “right above the fold, not at the top of the page’” are the most viewable positions. And they are generally right, as ad units positioned at the top of the page often remain unseen when users scroll down the page before the actual ad is loaded.  


  • Utilise ‘sticky’ ad units. 


Sticky ads is a type of ad unit that remains locked on the page and follows users as they scroll down. This can be an effective solution to the ad viewability problem. Implementing sticky ads the right way may be a challenge though. You need to make sure such an ad won’t cover any other content of the page. This is why sidebar is the most appropriate and commonly used type of a sticky ad. 


  • Use lazy loading for ad units ‘below the fold.’ 


Recently we published a separate piece on lazy loading and the benefits of using this technique, mentioning increased ad viewability as one of the advantages of lazy loading. Lazy loading is most effective when applied to ad units ‘below the fold,’ at the part of the page when a user scrolls down. This way, only the ads that are seen by viewers will be loaded. Lazy loading improves viewability of such ads and increases the load speed of the website. 


  • Make your websites mobile-friendly. 


Even though having mobile-friendly versions of websites is quite common these days, not all websites are mobile-friendly. And even if you use a responsive web design template that adjusts itself for mobile devices, the viewability of ads for mobile impressions can still decrease. It happens in cases when such a template is poorly designed or not optimized in ad units placement.   


Wrap up 

ad formats


One more bonus advice we would like to share with you by the end: you might want to start monitoring and measuring your ad viewability using several industry-recognized solutions. And making these indicators available to advertisers. This way, you can show them that you are aware of potential visibility problems while proving that you have nothing to hide when it comes to measuring viewability of your ad units.


By the way, adopting pubGENIUS’s suite of publisher-focused ad solutions is a great way to make sure your digital properties don’t have ad viewability problems or other issues and are well-optimized to fit modern-day requirements. Our ad ops specialists are well-versed in the best practices and trends of the industry. We can help you optimize your web properties to reach their highest potential, resulting in higher ad revenues for you. 


Get in touch with pubGENIUS Team to get free consultation 🙂