As we mentioned in our Ezoic review and case study, implementing Ezoic’s display advertising optimization program can produce a nice bump in your website’s revenue. With eight sites on the platform, our top priority for all of our new websites is growing organic search traffic to the level where we can qualify for Ezoic’s ad testing platform.
That being said, lets look at how Ezoic can make you more money. There are a couple of basic levers here:
- Access to Google’s Ad Exchange Demand (pays more than AdSense)
- Bid Competition with Other Advertising Networks (Amazon, Media.net)
- Optimizing Ad Placements to Increase Revenue & Extend User Sessions
We’re going to focus on the latter here, since the first two are basically “automatic” once you move a website onto their platform (higher ad rates for more competitive bidding).
How Ezoic Ad Placeholders Work
Ezoic’s machine learning system is solving an optimization problem.
Given X places to put an ad, where do I put the ads to earn the most money?
The 2015 version of that question included the limitation of only being able to run X AdSense units. This has relaxed a bit (Google’s valuable content policy), allowing you to run extra units on long pages.
The system also has to make a “now or later” decision. We have a visitor reading the page, right now. If they read another page, we can earn money from that page too. The more ads we show, the more money we make. However, if we show too many ads, the visitor is more likely to leave. So how do we balance this?
Ezoic’s system is smart enough to identify differences in visitors and adapt to their level of interest. The case study they shared a PubCon was for a sports site. The system was able to identify the regulars (entered via home page, long sessions). Compare that with news driven traffic (from Facebook, after a player injury). The news driven traffic was unlikely to read more than one page. Ezoic’s system varied the ads by audience type.
Use Lots of Placeholders
The first rule of analyzing digital advertising: ads don’t exist in a vacuum. While it is temping to look at the results of individual units, each unit affects each other. You can see this when you turn off a strong unit (for compliance or other reasons) – much of the impact is redistributed to other units. You need to test combinations, not units.
This is why Ezoic recommends you put a lot of placeholders on the page. Load it up. Let the system figure it out. Ezoic’s ad tester system will manage compliance and user experience. You have the ability to set a balance of money vs. user experience as well.
I do recommend setting up separate placeholders for each screen format (mobile, tablet, desktop). It is often helpful to sketch out each possible layout before you set up the placeholders. Think about the different combinations you can set up.
If you anticipate a lot of mobile traffic, spend additional time thinking about the above the fold experience for your mobile phone audience.
80 / 20 Rule of Placeholders
While you need to test combinations and not individual units, you will notice that a handful of ad units drive your revenue. This is common and known as the Pareto principle.
This occurs both within the page and within the session. Most smart ad bidders have an impression cap which limits how many times their ad can be shown. So as you get more page views out of a session, particularly for the same topic, you’re going to start to run down your ad bidder pool.
Within a page, the first couple of ads tend to generate most of the revenue. The same concept applies here (top bidders get best slots, rates and ad quality drops as you go down the page).
Beware of Shouters
I’m not a fan of low paying ad units. This is more than just a financial annoyance. It goes to how the people running these ads are marketing.
High paid ads are generally driven by some kind of targeting. They may be using visitor information to re-target a high value offer. Alternatively, they may be using the content on the page to do contextual targeting of relevant offers. As a general rule, both of these sources of ad traffic are well-behaved solid citizens from a user perspective. They know they have a relevant fish on the line and are trying to land them gently.
Which brings us to everyone else, who isn’t really targeting anything beyond the basics. So what are their marketing options?
They Yell To Get Attention.
And then they Yell Louder. Generally with some kind of obnoxious image or auto-playing video intended to click bait the audience into engaging with the ad. Or, worse, inflicting some kind of shock-jock triggering of an emotional response.
Which annoys the typical user.
How do you purge them? Simple – remember these guys are cheap bidders – they don’t have a real offer for the audience, so they’re just screamers. So what I like to do is set up a “direct buy” bid for house content at some very low bid (5 cent RPM) to chase the junk away from my site. It generally doesn’t affect your earnings and keeps the junk away.