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Ad Unit Audit Increases Revenue Performance

Online ad sizes
This graphic shows how the three major ad sizes compare proportionally to each other. The sizes are 160x600, 300x250 and 728x90. The 160x600 occupies the most space, but it is the hardest to use and the least popular of the three. © 2017 Scott Bateman

An ad unit audit on a regular basis will often lead to an improvement in revenue performance.

What is an ad unit audit? It is a review of the results of different ad units, advertisers and locations to see which ones perform above average and below average. The audit should lead to changes in creative and placement that improve click rates.

Website publishers who only place ad units on a page and report total revenue or results per advertiser at the end of each month are missing a major opportunity.

The difference in performance between two advertisers in two different ad units is often as much as hundreds of percent in click rates.

Likewise, the difference for network advertising such as Google AdSense is often that much.

What causes these differences? The reasons include:

  • The location of the ad unit on the page.
  • The demand by advertisers for that location.
  • The size of the ad unit.
  • Distracting content that surrounds the ad unit.
  • The quality of the creative.

How to Improve Ad Unit Results

An ad unit audit should take place at least every month after the end of the month. A weekly review is not useful because of the variances each week that make it harder to predict patterns.

For direct sales advertisers, the review should look at the click rates for each ad unit and for each advertiser.

If two advertisers have widely different click rates within the same ad unit, the more likely cause is the quality of the creative. If the creative has similar quality, but the advertisers appear in two different ad units, the leading suspect is the location of the unit.

The same is true for network advertising. If the network pays based on cost per click (CPC) rather than cost per thousand impressions (CPM), the site publisher can focus on click rates, costs per click and the resulting revenue per thousand impressions (RPM).

Whether the ad units are displaying direct sales or network sales, a 30-day review will show if an ad unit location isn’t working as well as other locations. The publisher should analyze possible causes and either remove those causes (such as distracting nearby content) or move or even delete the location.

Sites may also have too many ad locations, all of which are competing with visitors for attention. In that situation, the answer is obvious: get rid of one or more ad units. If total revenue remains the same, it will justify the change.

Some ad units will always perform better or worse than others. Units at the top and in the middle of the page usually do better than ones on the left or right sides.

It means that publishers aren’t trying to get all units to perform the same way. Instead, they can try to improve the performance of the weak ones and narrow the difference in results among all ad units.

In addition, they can adjust the rate card so that better performing locations have higher CPMs and weaker locations have lower CPMs.

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