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Ad Viewability Standard Rises with Google and Yahoo!

eyesGoogle this week took another major step with raising the standard for ad viewability.

The company rolled out a new version of the AdSense partner revenue reports that make viewability a prime tracking number.

Viewabile impressions are those ads that are seen by consumers. They usually are the ads located in the top half of the page and don’t require scrolling to be seen.

Google defines the new report as, “The percentage of impressions that were viewable out of all measurable impressions. This metric only includes impressions from regular AdSense for content, AdSense for video and AdSense for games ad units. It doesn’t include data from link units, or data from dynamic allocation in DFP Small Business.”

Yahoo! Initiative

Previously, Yahoo! jumped into the fray for setting a higher standard for online advertising with a product called Prime View, which guarantees an advertiser 100 percent viewability with site visitors.

The reason why ad viewability is so important to advertisers is because 54 percent of all online ads are not seen by consumers, according to Comscore.

A viewability product mainly impacts cost per thousand impression (CPM) ad campaigns and not cost per click or CPC campaigns. The new Yahoo! product affects only desktop ads and not mobile ads.

“Yahoo is the largest publisher to offer a viewable impressions solution using a methodology accredited by the Media Rating Council (MRC). Yahoo Prime View’s viewable impression methodology is based on a new MRC accreditation that is aligned with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) standard for display ad viewability measurement,” the company said in its announcement.

Google already has such a product call Active View in the Google Display Network Reserve. “In the near future, Google will be making the Active View metric universal by offering it within DoubleClick for Advertisers (DFA), alongside served impressions, as well as to all of its media and platform customers, including publishers,” the company says.

Not All Ads are Equal

One major reason why ads are not seen is that they appear below the fold, another way of saying that people must scroll down the page to view them. The smaller the screen resolution, the more likely the ads won’t be seen if the visitor doesn’t scroll.

Another reason why they are sometimes not seen is if a site is slow enough that the visitor clicks to the next page or exits the site altogether before the ad has a chance to load.

To be clear, the viewability standard does not say that the entire ad has to appear.

The Media Ratings Council created a viewable impression standard earlier this year, called Making Measurement Makes Sense (3MS) that says at least half of an ad must appear on a page for at least one second.

That doesn’t sound like much, but the average site visitor looks at an online ad for one third of a second, according to the book “Eyetracking Web Usability”.

Impact on CPMs

An important concern for salespeople and advertisers alike is the value of an ad below the fold. For that reason, many sites that offer CPM rates will give such a position a lower CPM.

The long term result may lead to more stable and consistent rates with sites charging too much being forced to lower them and sites charging too little finding a way to raise them.

Either way, the advertisers win because below the fold ad impressions will be guaranteed rather than a shot in the dark. They will get what they pay for.

Impact on Mobile

The more interesting impact goes to mobile because of the narrow screen resolution that forces a viewer to do quite a bit more scrolling than on a desktop.

CPM-based ads on a mobile site are likely to have a much lower viewability, which could drive CPMs even lower.

At least some of us who publish mobile sites have found that click rates at the bottom of a mobile page are quite low while those in the middle and upper half tend to do better compared to a desktop site.

End Results

Ultimately, the shift toward a viewability standard is fair, logical and healthy for online advertising.

It does raise questions about not just advertising rates but also advertising placement on sites.

Should a site risk having what is essentially dead space for an ad placement if it doesn’t produce any results?

Does this lead to more aggressive techniques to entice visitors to scroll down the page?

Will sites push more ad space into the top half of every page?

The online advertising environment continues to evolve in ever more complex ways.

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