Selling ad spaces on the sites is one of the ways how publishers can generate revenue. However, to make it truly successful, you have to think about several elements – let’s call them commandments of good online advertising. And that’s what we’re going to discuss today.
If you run a company in the publishing industry, start by reading our article about growing digital subscription revenue.
First of all, don’t annoy your readers
Bulbshare, a digital consumer research firm, has recently conducted a study on how generation Z perceives online ads. Here are some of the most important findings:
- 99% of consumers in this generational cohort will hit “skip” on an ad if it’s an option
- 63% use ad blockers to avoid online adverts
- 74% of consumers feel bombarded with ads
- 25% find advertising extremely intrusive
The conclusion is obvious – people (especially young ones) generally don’t like ads. So, if you want to be successful with them, you have to avoid irritating your potential and current readers at all costs. Forget about ads with auto-play (audio or video) and other formats that distract people and force them to stop whatever they are doing just to close your ad. Avoid also unexpected redirects from your ads that can increase bounce rate. That’s not the best way to win people over.
WHAT ABOUT POP-UPS?
In general, that’s yet another hated format, but for some reason, it’s still here. Try using so-called exit pop-ups – when someone intends to leave the website, they see a pop-up encouraging them to conduct a specific action in order to keep this particular person engaged. You can try pop-ups, but don't go overboard with them.
Test (and measure) everything
There are no one-fits-all answers when it comes to advertising. The best way to find out what works best is to test various ad formats and stick to those that are the most efficient in your case. You can conduct A/B tests to find out which forms your readers prefer.
You can test almost everything, from diverse formats, through graphics, colors and fonts, to sizes. After several weeks of intensified tests, you should have a list of formats that are most likely to be successful. Of course, you can (and should) test ads that you use more than once – people and their preferences change, and the fact that the ad X works today doesn’t mean it will work the next year, too.
Secondly, you should measure the results your ads generate. Even if you have a proven ad format, it doesn’t automatically mean that every ad using it will be successful. Add analytics to your ad strategy and verify how each of your ads performs. This way, you will find out what needs to be improved.
Don’t use too many ads
Some time ago, many websites had more ads than content. Here’s a good example: eHow.com. That’s how this website looked in 2011:
Image source: iSpionage
And that’s how it looks today:
The difference is apparent – the new version has no ads on the main website. That’s the direction the market demands. If you want to place some ads on your website, limit yourself to a few and pick them carefully. In this case, less is more. Sovrn recommends have up to five ad placements per page.
Make sure your ads are interesting…
Carefully analyze what you’re advertising. If your ads are personalized and carefully selected, there is less probability that your readers will dislike them. Use a decent personalization engine to optimize the ads that you display. Concentrate on ads that bring some added value – if you want to promote a specific product, make sure to explain why. If you want to recommend a new piece to read – make it compliant with the given reader’s profile and interests.
Of course, ads should help you make more money and drive more traffic to your website. But they have to be attractive from the user’s perspective; never forget about that.
That’s what Google recommends on their blog: “People are more likely to engage when ads load fast and don't slow down content.” That's yet another thing that has to be optimized – your ads need to be light so that they can load quickly, even on slower devices. Typically, static ads with a simple form are faster to load, so you should revolve around them. Of course, you can test richer, interactive, and animated formats, but they shouldn't be your only choice.
Use ad refreshing wisely
Ad refreshing is a strategy that allows displaying more ads to the website visitors by updating old ads with new ones. As a result, publishers can maximize the revenue per session. However, it is not so simple as it may seems. Refreshing ads too often may lead to low-quality impressions, displaying irrelevant ads to the users and, as a result, lead to a shorter sessions and a bad user experience. To avoid this you have to test the triggers (users' actions, time, updates on the site, etc.) and roll out it on the pages with high engagement where users stay long enough to be exposed to the refreshes.
Watch out for mobile devices
According to general web usage statistics, at least 50% of your users view your website from a mobile device. You have to take these users into account, primarily because it’s usually more difficult to close an ad on a cell phone or a tablet. Ensure ads that are displayed in the mobile version of your website are easy to close and compliant with a smaller screen.
No one wants to say it out loud, but ads are a bit of a necessary evil. Companies use them because they help them achieve their marketing and business goals. However, if you want to attract readers and not annoy them, you should stick to the rules we outlined in this article. This way, your ads will be more interesting and pleasant to view and, therefore, more effective.
And don’t forget that you have an abundance of other forms to reach new readers and users. Take a look at our use cases concerning push notifications in the publishing industry and see how we can help you drive more traffic to your platform.
P.S. Unlike traditional ads, web push is resistant to ad blockers, so you can reach more users this way.