Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles promise users a faster internet experience; however, if ads take a considerable amount of time more to load than the general text on a publisher’s mobile site, then users will never actually see them. They could read the content well before the ad has even appeared. In addition, revenue for publishers will consequently decrease since they will not be able to show advertisers the value for placing an ad on their site.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported the MRC’s (Media Rating Council) new standards for mobile viewability. According to the MRC, 50% of the mobile ad must be in view on the user’s screen for one second to be considered viewable. For video ads the criteria would be two seconds.
The issue that remains is the load time. The one second standard needs to be measured after the ad has appeared; not before. But since mobile ads have notoriously long load times, many publishers and advertisers are counting the one second-time criteria before the ad has loaded and are therefore counting them as being seen where in fact they have not actually been served to the user. In such a case, the advertiser, publisher, and user all lose from the lag in loading time.
So what are the ways to improve mobile ad speed?
Even though advertisers have to optimise their creativity and reduce the piggybacking with the server and the render times, there are several other important things publishers can do today to boost both the user experience and profitability of their inventory.
Implementing lazy loading for all inventory units so that ads are only loaded when they are about to appear on the viewport is a big benefit in terms of bandwidth and responsiveness of the user experience. For publishers, having a good ad anticipation and pre-loading strategy is a key to success.
Another hot area to be improved industry-wide is the traditional waterfall strategy followed to fill in ad requests, which generates tens of unnecessary inquiries to different servers before getting the ad a user will see. Header bidding and more advanced machine-learning techniques can help decide the winner impression, minimise the number of network requests, and avoid the traditional waterfall delays and performance hogs.
Publishers can also dramatically improve the performance of their sites by optimising the amount of impressions. The combination of optimised ad placements, ad sizes and floor prices translates into much fewer impressions that pay much more money with a better user experience.
This year has been a major improvement in mobile content loading speed; in fact, most publishers recognise that it should be a major component for publishers’ mobile marketing strategy to keep the user experience optimised. However, advertisers want to be assured that ads will be seen by users and eventually translated into revenue. To optimise the advertiser and publisher benefits - emphasis on shrinking ad load time - will dramatically improve inventory results and the publishers’ ability to prove ad value on their site.
As the adage says, “time is money” and on the mobile web speed matters most since every second is a potential revenue loss or gain.