For publishers, maximizing their website’s advertising revenues is a must, but in doing that they should also take user experience into account. Finding the right compromise between these two aspects is often not easy. Since web pages cannot contain an infinite number of ads, publishers should make the most of their existing ad spaces, maximizing the revenues that each one of them can provide. This is the goal of smart ad refresh. In this blog post we will explain what smart ad refresh is and how it works, and we will provide some useful best practices to employ this technique on your website.

Summary 

What is ad refresh?

Before explaining what smart ad refresh is, let’s first see what ad refresh means in general. This is a technique that allows publishers to automatically reload the ads of a webpage based on predefined triggers, without reloading the entire page. For every refresh, a new ad is served on the same ad space. Thanks to this technique, publishers can therefore multiply the number of impressions of a webpage, showing more ads to the same user in a single session.

The different types of ad refresh

There are different types of ad refresh, depending on the trigger used to reload the ads. The most traditional one is the “time-based ad refresh”, where ads are reloaded after a predefined period of time (usually between 30 and 90 seconds). It is important to note that this type of ad refresh doesn’t consider whether the user is actually looking at the page. For example, the user may have left the tab open and be visiting another website. Therefore, the reloaded ads may not be viewable. Considering that advertisers are not willing to pay much for less viewable impressions, time-based ad refresh doesn’t necessarily bring an increase of ad revenue proportional to the increase in the number of impressions.

Another type of ad refresh is the “event-triggered ad refresh”, in which ads are triggered by some user activity. For example, ads could be reloaded when the user clicks on an element of the page, or when they scroll down the page, or submit information. In all these cases, since the reload is triggered by an active interaction of the user with the webpage, ads generally have high viewability. However, event-triggered ad refresh is mainly used in websites rich in elements that call for user actions.

A third type of ad refresh is the “viewport-based ad refresh”, which reloads only the ads displayed on the viewport (the portion of the page actually being browsed by the user in that precise moment). As such, this technique tackles the viewability issue by refreshing only the ads that are indeed in view. However, it lacks accuracy: for example, it cannot detect whether the user has left the tab open and is elsewhere.

None of these types of ad refresh actually manage to fully solve the problem of the viewability of the reloaded impressions. That’s where smart ad refresh comes in.

What is smart ad refresh?

Smart ad refresh consists of a dynamic reload of the ads: the system analyzes multiple variables to accurately predict if the ad is viewable in that moment, and refreshes the ad only if that’s the case. Variables like clicks, browser usage, viewable area, and time spent on the page allow the system to predict quite accurately if the user is interacting with the web page, hence whether the ads are actually viewable. In this way, smart ad refresh achieves its goal: that is, to maximize ad revenues by multiplying the only viewable impressions (the really valuable ones).

Smart ad refresh, some best practices

Smart ad refresh offers undeniable advantages. But there are some best practices you should keep in mind if you decide to use this technique on your website. First of all, you have to make sure the ad networks and ad exchanges you work with support ad refresh: not all of them do so, and each platform has its own policy on the topic. If you use Google, for example, you must declare that you are applying ad refresh and on which parts of your ad inventory, as Google lets the advertisers decide if they want to serve their ads on the reloaded spaces. Not declaring ad refresh, or doing it improperly (for example without specifying which type) is considered a violation of Google’s policy.

Another useful best practice is to conduct A/B tests to evaluate the real impact of ad refresh on your website. For example, you could initially apply different types of ad refresh on limited parts of your website. Then, by comparing the results in terms of revenue against a control setup, you will figure out what type of ad refresh is best suited before applying it to all your web pages.

Is smart ad refresh useful for my website?

As discussed, smart ad refresh is a useful tool to maximize revenues without adding new ad spaces on your website. That way, you don’t undermine the user experience, respecting your users and encouraging their return to your website in the future. However, you should keep in mind that the decision of using smart ad refresh depends also on the monetization strategy of your website. If your revenues come from selling ads programmatically, using this tool makes sense. But if you are selling ads directly to advertisers, it would generally be better to maximize the value of the single impression by keeping the user’s exposure time high.

In addition, smart ad refresh results are particularly effective on specific ad units characterized by high viewability. For example it is effective on sticky ads, units that follow users while they scroll down the page. Tests performed by Clickio last year show that smart ad refresh led to an average increase in revenue of 34% using refresh after 30 seconds on sticky ads. The same tests also show an average increase in revenue of 43% for fixed ad units with an average exposure time of over 30 seconds.

In conclusion, when you decide to use ad refresh, it’s wise to rely on a tech partner that knows how to value the actual benefits of this tool based on your specific website and inventory, and that can determine the best way to implement it on your website. Clickio’s monetization service offers a smart, automated management of your website’s ad layout, designed to maximize your revenues while respecting user experience and the policies of Google and other ad networks. Contact us if you want to know more.