Ian Poole, editor of Electronics Notes, has provided some great insight with his blog posts in the past, which is why we were delighted to receive Ian’s latest blog detailing what Active View Viewability is, and his journey to adopting Google Ads as the primary form of revenue generation for Electronics Notes.

What is Active View Viewability and How Can You Improve its Performance?

Many advertisers are now opting for programmatic forms of advertising such as Google Ads or one of the variety of other systems available. This is done to reduce costs and increase performance. As a result, advertisers need to be aware of various factors in choosing which websites their advertisements should appear on, if they want to select websites on which their ads should appear. From the other viewpoint publishers need to be aware of factors that make their sites attractive to advertisers whether they use programmatic banner advertising or directly placed ads.

In the electronics industry, companies have traditionally adopted directly placed ads. However, with click through rates diminishing and advertisers wanting to improve their return on investment, many have adopted other tactics including email campaigns and content marketing.

However, banner advertising can still provide some excellent returns – not only does it provide the click throughs directly onto a tailored landing page, but it also gives a high level of branding. Some reports have indicated that the branding aspects of banner advertising are equally or more important than the number of clicks received.

When selecting where to advertise, one of the key metrics now being used is that of Active View Viewability (AVV).

According to Google: “Active View metrics have been created in compliance with industry standards for measuring the viewability of online ads, as developed by the Media Rating Council (MRC). According to MRC guidelines, the standard for measuring the viewability of ads, are as follows:

A display ad is counted as viewable when at least 50% of its area is visible on the screen for at least 1 second. ”

Traditionally many advertisers have requested that their ads appear above the fold, and this normally gives better results, but the actual picture is a little more complicated and AVV provides a defined metric to understand what is happening better.

At Electronics Notes, I have adopted Google Ads as the primary form of revenue generation. It enables me to focus on content generation all the time without hassle of managing the ads.

I have been on a journey to improve the overall site performance and improve its attractiveness to advertisers, and I hope that others can learn from this.

One key element of this journey has been to improve the AVV performance, so that advertisers using the Google Display Network (GDN) will want to target the site via Google Ads as what is termed a “managed placement.”

It really started when I attended a day at the Google offices in London for AdSense users. (AdSense is the publisher side of Google Ads). Here the topic of AVV came up and returning home, I discovered my AVV was well below 40% – it was hardly surprising that at this time Electronics Notes was not a particularly attractive proposition for advertisers.

At the time, I used a large proportion of the Google delivery below the fold – ads above the fold were used by other advertising schemes. Although there are some advantages to showing ads just below the content, the AVV performance was very poor, so I made a number of changes.

Before detailing the changes, it helps to understand where the ad positions are located on the page:

  • Top leaderboard – a 728×90 slot at the top of the page in line with the logo
  • Top MPU – a 300×250 at the top of the right hand column
  • Bottom MPU at the bottom of the right hand column,
  • Skyscraper – 160×600 to the right of everything else and towards the top of the page
  • Bottom leaderboard – 728×90 underneath all the content

Firstly, I enabled the advertisement positions above the fold for Google Ads – namely the Top leaderboard and Top MPU. Positions below the fold were given to another network that preferred below the fold advertising.

Next, I moved Bottom MPU up to around the page fold and enabled it for Google Ads.

The next stage was to enable the floating or “sticky” right hand skyscraper ad for Google Ads. Permission was required for the use of “sticky ads,” and Google requests certain requirements are fulfilled. These were all very sensible and so with this permission gained, I started to show Google ads here. In terms of AVV, this performed very well, and it offered advertisers a good position.

Similar changes were made to the mobile site which was very important because about 45% of my traffic is mobile.

All of these changes required extensive experimentation but significantly improved the AVV performance, and we had a large rise in AVV figures.

A few interesting figures came out of this. The leaderboard at the top of the page did not score the highest AVV figure – people scroll down very quickly, often before the ad had loaded. I could have improved the AVV figure for this position by moving the ad beneath the logo, etc, but I retained it where it was to preserve the page layout and retain the “user experience.”

The “sticky” skyscraper had an excellent AVV figure, which is not a surprise as it stays within view all the time.

The MPU at the top of the right-hand column performed well, but again, it suffered from people scrolling down quickly. That was particularly interesting. The most interesting one was the MPU position just on or below the fold. This performed better than the one at the top of the right-hand column. The reasoning for this is that it comes into sight once people start to scroll and remains there for a while.

In view of the MPU performance, I later decided that one ad in the right-hand column would suffice. I moved the top MPU position down almost to the position of the lower one, so that it was virtually on the fold, and removed the lower one.

This probably did not make too much difference to the overall site performance and revenue, but it reduced the ads by one which was useful from a user experience viewpoint and slightly improved the overall AVV figure.

So far, I have not mentioned in-content ads. I enabled these for both the mobile and desktop formats. Introducing these has not made much difference to the AVV figures as Google uses its AI algorithms to select the optimum positions. These have performed well and provide a good click through rate.

With in-content ads in place, it has also been necessary to look carefully at the number of ads appearing, and we are still experimenting with this. I am also trying to improve the quality of the content, so that people still want to visit the site. Pages have to be sufficiently useful to attract people, and I hope we are winning the battle here.

When I started on this journey, I did some research into the typical AVV figures that were being obtained by websites. Figures varied according to the research organisation, the country where the website was located, and the sector, but it appeared that typical figures were in the region of 45 to 55%. With the changes I made to Electronics Notes, I started below 40% and now have been consistently able to maintain figures of between 60 and 65%, although it does vary a little on a day to day basis.

There are a number of messages to take from this. The position of an ad within the page is crucial to its performance, and it is not just the top position that is best. Sometimes positions on the fold work well as they are in view for longer. It also helps to have a reasonable amount of clear space around the ad to prevent accidental clicks, and to make it nicely visible.

Programmatic Ads like Google Ads not only provide very cheap advertising when compared to directly placed ads, but they also give more insights into the performance for the advertiser.  It is possible to select websites with high AVV ratings so that advertising will give the highest ROI.