See and Be Seen: Tips and Tricks to Improving Ad Visibility

Ad visibility is still a key concern for many brands and publishers. But banner ads have a bad rep: being inexpensive to produce (and often sell) publishers load up pages, and years of bad advertising has created wide-spread banner blindness among consumers. One study by Infolinks found that upwards of 86% of advertising on a given webpage is ignored. This is problematic for all parties. For brands, not only is it difficult to measure the effectiveness of advertising when it isn't internalized by the end user (how do you ask whether an ad resonated if the person doesn't remember seeing the ad?), but it also means their ad dollars are seemingly being wasted online, with campaigns struggling to result in sales or conversions. For publishers, this devalues the real estate on a webpage: less effective media commands less in revenue.

However, when ads are seen, they can be very effective - and efficient. One study by Invesp found that ads that are seen can contribute a 31% lift in brand awareness, while another study by the IAB (albeit, it has a vested interest in the success of online) found that digital ads can be five to six times more efficient than direct mail. The first step is to put your ads where they're going to be seen.

Whenever we at Sortable start working with a new publisher, one of the first things we do is advise our clients on how to best optimize their page layout so that ads can best perform. This is, of course, tailored to each individual site. However, there are some overarching themes everyone can adopt to improve ad inventory placement.

viewable impressions

Above-the-fold banner blindness

One prevalent myth is that banners at the top-most part of the page (generally referred to as leaderboards) get the most views. Unfortunately, years spent online have trained consumers to ignore that top spot, making them banner blind. In fact, Google actually penalizes page rankings if they're overly packed with advertising above the fold. As the saying goes, less is almost always more.

While above the fold ads (that is, the ad placements seen before having to scroll down the page) are typically seen most, it's actually ads that are just at the fold of the page that gets the most visibility.

According to one eye-tracking study by EyeTrackShop, ads placed directly above the fold were seen 225% more quickly than the standard leaderboard ads at the top of the page. Google echoed this in its own study, finding that horizontal ads performed best when placed just before the fold (especially those that ran 320 pixel long by 50 pixels wide, with 80% visibility).

The EyeTrackShop study found that ads placed in unconventional page locations, such as the edges of screens, nestled between the text, or integrated into navigational elements, were more likely to be seen than those in more traditional places on a page. For example, ads on the margins of a website were seen 50% more quickly than the standard display units.

Shining below the fold

Even though ads at the top of the page are the most effective, it's important to keep below-the-fold content in mind.

Ads that perform best on this half of the screen tend to run vertically rather than horizontally, according to Google. In fact, ads that run 160 by 600 pixels showed the slowest drop off of views below the fold, remaining visible for 40% of the page length.

So size really does matter?

ad viewability by ad size

Google found that the most visible ads, overall, were vertically running units.

Ads that ran 120 by 240 were the most seen units, with 55.6% of people seeing them. This was followed by 240 by 400 (54.9%), 160 by 600 (53.7%) and 120 by 600 (52.7%). The exception to this rule are ads that run 300 by 600 (only 46.3% of people saw these), with this unit falling in the middle of the pact in terms of effectiveness.

For horizontal ads, the most effective typically run 234 by 60 (51.4%), 320 by 50 (48.4%) and 468 by 60 (48.2%) before dropping off. The least seen ad sizes are typically more square than rectangular, with units running 300 by 250 seen the least (41% of the time), with 336 by 280 ads faring only slightly better (44%).

Be seen, but not annoying

While it might be tempting to load your site with pop- up ads that force the reader to see the content, being unobtrusive is an important factor when it comes to favorability, which is important for your advertisers. The same goes for stacking your site with as many ads as possible. While it might incrementally increase your revenue, an overload of ads will overload your reader's minds. The rule of thumb, of course, is don't be annoying “ and we all know annoying ads when we see them. The last thing you want to do is contribute to the growing banner blindness or increase in ad blocking.

Need Help?

Sortable helps publishers understand Ad Operations. We run 30 different websites and apps and would be happy to share what we have learned with other publishers.

Request a Free Ad Operations Report Card and our team will analyze your site and give you some insights on how you could optimize your sites.