How Web Publishers Can Ensure Economic Revival Post COVID-19 Despite these challenges, we are now noticing a slow economic revival. Here are some strategies publishers can employ in the meantime to ensure business continuity:

By Ankit Oberoi

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The first half of 2020 witnessed web publishers scrambling to maintain their revenue numbers. What started with minor fluctuations in CPMs snowballed into a full-blown crisis since the global outbreak of COVID-19. The words "COVID-19' and "coronavirus' swiftly climbed keyword blacklists, curtailing monetization of essential journalism. Digital media events were cancelled without any insurance backups. On the buy-side, brands cut their ad spend budgets short because of internal financial constraints. Many publishers eventually resorted to employee pay cuts, furloughs, and lay-offs.

Despite these challenges, we are now noticing a slow economic revival. Here are some strategies publishers can employ in the meantime to ensure business continuity:

A/B Testing for Banner Blindness

Users have learnt to subconsciously "tune out" advertising since nearly every website runs display ads. This phenomenon commonly called "banner blindness" often contributes to a low CTR. One of the things publishers can do to combat banner blindness is start performing A/B tests. Some of the common variables for layout testing include ad format, size, placement, user device, and others. Publishers must constantly optimize their ad layouts to improve site UX. When ads garner user attention, engagement metrics improve, and so does the advertising revenue.

Hybrid Header Bidding

Instead of using only client or server-side header bidding, publishers must consider the hybrid model. In fact, eMarketer reported in 2018 that approximately 50% publishers were already using client and server-side header bidding in tandem and the adoption was expected to increase further. While client-side header bidding is easy to set up, it comes with latency issues. Server-side header bidding on the other hand, reduces latency but comes with less data transparency. The hybrid model combines the best of both by increasing bid competition, while reducing page latency.

Initiating Direct Deals

In recent years, a growing number of publishers have adopted programmatic for its ability to reduce operational time and increase revenue. But this might be the best time for publishers to embrace direct deals again. With keyword blacklisting in place and brands still uncertain about their budgets, directly contacting advertisers and offering premium placements on the ad inventory is a good idea. Additionally, as opposed to pure-play programmatic, Google Ad Manager charges only 1% revenue share as platform fee for direct deals, thus making it the most profitable option for selling inventory.

Trying Ad Refresh

Ad refresh technology is used to display a new set of ads to a user within the same session, thus helping publishers earn more revenue per session. The key lies in maintaining a healthy balance between UX and incremental revenue. If implemented poorly, ad refresh can backfire and lead to a low viewability score—thereby hurting your inventory reputation. It's important to make sure that your site has above average session duration, making it a good candidate for ad refresh, and setting healthy time intervals of 30 seconds or more. You can start by testing the technology on a small segment of audience or traffic, before rolling it out site-wide.

Adding More Demand Partners

Publishers are often on the lookout for demand partners that offer both high yield and easy management. However, every demand partner has their own set of restrictions and it is difficult to get whitelisted. In these times, when publishers are struggling with plummeting CPMs, the more the demand partners you can add to your stack, the higher the overall revenue. Publishers can start with partnering with an ad network (or more) which provides access to a variety of demand partners. An ad network will ensure that publishers avoid wasting time on getting approved by demand partners, and instead immediately start benefiting from the increased bid competition.

Recovering Ad Blocker Users

Let's admit it, publishers' battle with adblockers might never really end. But recovering some of your ad blocked revenue might just be the revenue boost you need right now. While improving ad quality is something to always strive for, it doesn't offer immediate payback, which is why publishers must consider using ad-reinsertion technology. Eyeo, the maker of the most widely used ad blocking software in the world, allows publishers to serve ads that meet the "Acceptable Ads" criteria to adblock users. In this way, publishers can generate revenue from their ad blocked inventory in a legitimate manner without harming the user experience. All you have to do is find a certified vendor and start testing.

Conclusion

Each publisher is different and they need to ensure that their monetization strategies are in alignment with their niche. While the above strategies are helpful tips that every publisher can follow, the key lies in recognizing your strengths and improving on them.

Ankit Oberoi

CEO and founder, AdPushup

Ankit Oberoi is a co-founder at AdPushup, a startup focused on helping publishers and bloggers optimize their ad revenues.

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