Betrayal - one of the worst forms of pain that exist. Where Nitrogen replacing Pringles (66%) surpassed all degrees of irritation in my life, browsing content online shouldn’t have overpowered the cause. Yes, I’m talking about the obnoxious ads here. And the distorted browsing experience which they brought with them.
No one wants these intrusive banners to pop-up in the middle of an interesting read. Or have a “remarketing campaign” haunt you wherever you go. Or an auto-playing video that chooses the perfect time to embarrass you in public. And that’s not just me whining here, it’s the facts talking. 81% respondents, in a HubSpot study, admitted that they've exited a webpage because of pop-up ads. 51%, in fact, said they have a lower opinion of brands that use auto-playing video ads.
But if we hate them so bad, why do they still hang around? Why does our browser come across more than 4000 ads every day? And if I don’t like them and you just empathized with those sufferings, then who really is clicking on these ads? And in today’s era of ad blockers, why’s advertising still in business? Well, it’s true that the protagonist doesn’t really have a good reputation in digital media but there are people that don’t want ads to vanish.
That’s right, people that found their favorite brands through one of the online creatives they saw, still support ads. Things go south only when a bad or a misleading ad degrades their browsing experience. They feel irritated when cluttered, interruptive or, for god’s sake, dumb ads fill their web pages. No justification for that.
Even advertisers, against all odds, are grabbing amazing leads through ads, good ads! But amidst the chaos of generating quality content and making visitors get along with the only content monetization source they have, how are publishers holding up?
It all started from a spam email sent out to 400 recipients by Gary Thuerk in 1978 and here it is today, a $600 billion dollar industry. The emails were sent through an ARPAnet directory - a precursor of the internet and resulted in a $13 million worth of sales from the 400 potential clients they were sent to.
In it’s prolonged journey, advertising evolved in ways no marketer ever imagined. With the advent of PPC campaigns in 1999 and social media advertising in mid-2000’s, ads delivered an exponential boost to the ROI of it’s practitioners.
But all of this went down the drain when ad relevance declined and started impacting user experience adversely. Well of course, would you appreciate a travel blog offering essential oils to grow more hair?
Not to mention, digital publishers were deeply troubled by this curtailing traffic. Irrelevant ads were affecting the only revenue coming from the root cause itself. What next? The onset of a new ad format became the dire need of every Publisher who wanted to keep the business running.
Google AdSense was launched in 2003 as content targeting advertising program. The program turned the tables for publishers by bringing them back in business for good. In 2009, AdSense enabled multiple ad networks to remove publisher’s hassle of integrating the networks separately. In 2010, AdSense started leveraging search history to improve its contextual advertising. In 2014, the ad placement service offered the feature of Direct Campaigns where a publisher could directly sell ads.
Adsense continues to be the market leader and first port of call for publishers as they start their content monetization efforts. Used by over 2 mn publishers across the globe, Adsense is the first self-serve platform for publishers.
Next, I have the most important section of this piece. So, without any further ado, let’s get on to understanding the forms, examples, trends, challenges and, last but never the least, top-notch providers for each form of ad.
Marketers have always been experimenting with new ways to attract more and more eyeballs. The result is ads getting delivered to you in different formats. These formats are leveraged on the basis of objectives you're willing to achieve with it.
Definition: In simplest words, it’s a design or a visual containing a commercial message, a logo and/or an image triggering viewers to click. Once that’s done, the ad takes them to a landing page linked to it.
Trends: From the first ad rolled out in the 1990s by AT&T till today, banner designers kept experimenting with the features to derive more and more traction. From ad placements to color schemes, from text only to image only or both, from desktop friendly to mobile-friendly first, from all business to pressing the most emotional nerve of a targeted viewer, it all changed.
Performance: As per IAB, banner ads generated $27.5bn revenue in 2017 which was $22.3bn in 2016 (23% increase). From the total of desktop advertising, banner ads contributed 24% revenue ($9 billion) in 2017 which was 37% ($18.4 billion) from mobile advertising’s total.
Challenges: More than 4 billion people (54.4% of world’s population) have access to the internet today. This number was 16 million (0.4% of world’s population) back in 1994. For an industry this huge, spreading more and more ads online doesn’t seem odd but 4000 ads per individual, as I mentioned above, certainly does. This, subconsciously, has made you and me blind towards banners. They’ve entered a white noise zone which our brain is trained, over the time, to simply ignore.
Definition: On a basic note, it is a backlink. Html scripts integrated in your website’s code assign a hyperlink to a word or a phrase that the advertiser has targeted. When visitors click on this linked text (anchor text), it takes them to a different website (a landing page). Such ads are best used for performance centric campaigns and you get paid on the basis number of clicks (CPC) or actions (CPA) that your link provided the advertiser with.
Trends: Ever since Google started ranking websites on the basis of the quality of links it had, a new business emerged. There were emails exchanging links, site owners paying powerful media houses for providing a backlink to pass the link juice.
Google, until today, has made many iterations to its search algorithms in order to filter these links. This, comparatively, is easier while removing other paid ad links, however, text link ads being difficult to identify are still dancing in the safe zone.
Search engine owners, no doubt, have released multiple penalties targeting the culprits. The objective of any upcoming penalty or trend will be to make the most relevant content rank and not the one influenced by advertisers pocket.
Performance: What can be better than an ad providing search engine value as a bonus to your customers? That’s right, by- passing the link juice along with fulfilling the ad intent, these ads are in limelight today. Text-link ads, being a part of your content, have more chances to get clicked than any other ad format. These are big deal for the advertisers as it helps them reach out to the most targeted audience. It also escalates their brand awareness making it equally important to you.
Challenges: Unlike other forms of ads, text-link ads own the least amount of viewability. Since publishers get paid on the clicks the link gets, lesser viewability means lesser clicks. Also, Google has always been on a lookout to remove sites fooling the algorithms. Penalties like Penguin and Panda are a perfect example of Google's punishment for unnatural linking.
Definition: These are banner ads incorporating videos. Video ads, as per IAB ad format, are of three types:
Linear Video ads:
These are video ads that intrude a streaming video content just like TV commercials. The ad, here, can be shown before (pre-roll), after (post-roll) and/or during the video (mid-roll).
Non-Linear Video ads:
Non-linear video ads are superimposed on a corner of the streaming video. These ads are banners that overlay a video content so that a viewer can see the ad along with it the whole time. Non-linear ads, usually, are of small size but can be of any format, i.e., text, static images or even a video.
These ads assist linear and non-linear ads as a companion while delivering the intent. These ads can be used in various shapes and sizes, and follow all three basic ad formats - text, static image, and small videos. These ads aim at backing the branding efforts of linear and non-linear ads.
Trends: A monetization platform, LiveRail, for video publishers that places 7 Billion ads every month, was acquired by Facebook in $400 million back in 2014. Video ads, since then, have been overwhelmed with industrial trends like:
Performance: Video advertising is exponentially lifting up the growth curve. In its revenue report of 2017, IAB compared the stats of 2016 and 2017, and estimated a 16% boost in the growth of video ads on desktop and 54% on mobile platforms. It was found that, video ads represented 15% - $5.7bn (from the total of desktop advertising revenue) which was 13% - $6.2bn (from the total revenue of mobile advertising).
Challenges: Lack of good content used to create videos is making the entire industry look shallow. With more and more brands entering the video advertising, it’s becoming difficult for a few good ones to come out of the noise and leave an impact.
Loading time being another obstruction of this ad format, thanks to the huge tracking codes, is also paining the pockets of advertisers today. According to emarketer, 80% out of surveyed 1,011 adults responded that they either change the device or stop viewing the content that takes too long to load.
Definition: Wikipedia describes Native advertising as a type of advertising that matches the form and function of the platform upon which it appears. But a layman would say, it’s a paid content which is kept relevant to the content on the page showing it.
Trends: According to Native Advertising Institute, more media companies are shifting or planning to shift towards creating their own Native Advertising Bureaus. This will help them target the audience more precisely and publishers will be able to perform better at the campaigns. The native ad industry, also, is gradually shifting towards videos from banner only now.
Performance: When compared with banner ads, consumers look at native ads 52% more frequently. Native ads being a part of the editorial feed builds the contextual base and delivers more value to the publisher. As per Sharethrough, a study on 4,770 participant’s behavior showed that the percentage lift in purchase intent was 52% with Native ads whereas it was only 34% with banners. In fact, the study reflected that more people (26%) looked at native ads than the original content itself (24%).
Challenges: Difference in the writing style of the content and the native ad ruins the visitor experience. Native ads also fail to perform when inserted using the same image that was used in a banner ad. The appearance of a native and a banner ad is different which means the images must not be interchangeably used which they are.
Definition: An emerging ad format that allows you to push banner ads on web push notifications. The Push ads target a publisher’s subscriber base, also known as Publisher Inventory, and can get pushed to a particular segment of users as per campaign’s requirement.
At the beginning of 2020, a new ad format called in-page push ads has evolved from push notification ads. Their design is similar to the latter's, but instead of being pushed only to subscribers who chose to opt-in to receive them, in-page push ads are displayed directly on the publisher's website. Resulting in the same impressive performance rates while addressing a wider audience (including IOS devices).
Trends: Web Push notifications were first rolled out in April 2015 but the inception of delivering ads on it, is fairly recent. It’s still in its initial stage. So, let’s take a look at how this ad channel works for a digital publisher:
Assuming that a website receives 3 million unique monthly visitors with a subscription rate of 2% and 20% subscriber churn. Let there be a CPC of 10 cents and average Click through rate of 2%.
Now, if an Ad Network pushes 2 ads every day and receives a CTR of 2%, we have:
A publisher will keep earning $192*30 = $5,760.00/month for the lifetime if there’s no further subscriber churn.
Performance: From the revenue dashboard of more than 500 mid-enterprise publishers, we have seen the ad revenue escalating up to 15%.
From our intense customer feedback efforts, we perceived how this channel was actually helping publishers build a loyal following. A following that loved getting updated with new, relevant and high-quality content. A following that was gradually expanding. A following that now is contributing up to 7% more website visitors.
A large audience doesn’t mean long-lasting revenues. Large audience used judiciously absolutely does. The scalability of an inventory and the ad revenue it generates heavily relies on the user experience. A difference that publishers and marketer in the ecosystem, need to mark the darkest.
Considering Monetizing your push notification audience? Follow this checklist
Challenges: Along with the tempting benefits mentioned above, the ad format also brings with it a set of challenges that barricade this channel’s growth in a longer run.
The formats described above can only be used on specific advertising channels. Further, these ad formats must be leveraged by keeping the required performance factors into consideration.
This brings us to the end of the piece. I hope, by now, you’ve realized the value that this ”why” delivers and understood different forms of ads to monetize your blog better than ever. Got a question? Jump over to the comment section below. Got a better solution to the challenges mentioned above? You know what to do.
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