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When starting down the path of website monetization, particularly display advertising, it can become a bit overwhelming relatively quickly. There are a lot of moving pieces and ever-changing variables circling behind the curtain. However, there are several action items publishers can take to ensure positive ROI with their display advertising efforts.

Here are five steps we highly recommend for publishers just getting started with their digital advertising efforts, particularly display advertising.

  1. Pinch of yum native advertising sovrn.comDecide where to put your ads

Putting as many ad units as possible on your site may seem like an easy way to increase revenue but at some point it starts to hurt you more than it helps. A page riddled with ads that interfere with content and detract from the user experience will lead to less return visitors and ultimately less revenue.  Additionally, advertisers are willing to pay more money for web pages with no more than 5-7 ads. In order to maximize profits you need a select number of strategically placed ad units.

By “strategically placed,” we  mean that the ads are visible but they do not obstruct the site’s content. Placing ad zones in the sidebars of the site is typically safe but it is important to remember that the more visible an ad is, the higher bid it will yield.

Our friends at pinchofyum.com do a great job of seamlessly weaving display ads into their sidebar without detracting from user experience (image below).  They place one of their house ads, or pieces of promoted content before every display ad, creating a more cohesive user experience. This strategy makes the user feel like they are absorbing one rolling stream of content, as opposed to being bombarded with advertisements.

  1. Pick your ad partners

Once there is inventory to sell, the next step is to choose which  ad partners you’ll be working with to monetize your website. This step will require some research since there are quite a few networks and exchanges with different offerings to choose from. Every publisher wants high CPMs, but high CPMs aren’t all that matter when crafting your monetization strategy. Last year, Sovrn teamed up with Viglink and Netpop to survey around 500 publishers about their monetization thoughts and strategies for the Publisher Roundtable Report on Monetization. One of the focuses of this report is the process of picking ad partners and the results show that along with high CPMs, publishers value a partner that only works with reputable advertisers and publishers. Integrating ad networks that fit this description will increase competition amongst quality bidders and therefore drive up CPMs.

picking an ad network roundtable report sovrn.com

Experimentation is one of the most important steps to settling on an ad partner. Do your research on which partners you think might be a best fit for you. Once you have a solid list of potential candidates, test each of them out at different spots in your ad stack. Allow each partner time to find their sweet spot in terms of CPM and fill rates, then reorganize your stack accordingly.  Fortunately, publishers aren’t restricted to just one ad network so trial and error is a viable strategy to determining which partners to work with.  According to the publishers we surveyed, the average amount of networks used is approximately 3 and it takes 1.8 months of testing to see if a network is a good fit.

publisher roundtable reports networks sovrn.com

For a more in-depth look at selecting an ad network check out our post on what you need to know picking an ad partner.

  1. Set up your ad stack

When you work with multiple networks you need to decide the order in which they will be called to fill an impression. The network that is consistently delivering the best CPMs should be put at the top so they have the first opportunity to fill a request. This ensures that a low CPM/high fill partner won’t take it and cost you potential revenue.

ad stack module sovrn.com

The general strategy to setting up a successful ad stack is to have your highest CPM partner at the top and your highest fill rate partner at the bottom. In between, organizing by a combination of CPM and fill rate is generally advised.

  1. Monitor your data and always be optimizingmeridian earnings metrics sovrn.com

With new trends emerging and audiences always changing, you will need to keep an eye on user behavior and how advertisers are performing in order to maintain positive ROI. When you sign up with sovrn, you gain access to our analytics platform, meridian. Here you can find data regarding your audience and ad tag performance, which can be used to optimize revenue.

Of all the data available, CPM and fill are going to be the most important when trying to optimize your stack. CPM and fill rate are inversely related which means when one goes up the other goes down. You can’t fill every request with a high CPM bid so you can have a network target either high CPMs at the expense of fill rate or a larger fill percentage with lower CPMs.

One network may not be able to have both, but publishers don’t have to work with just one partner. Find out which ad network is serving the highest CPMs and put them at the top with a price floor so they only deliver those desireable bids. Then decide which high fill partner is performing best and place them at the bottom to catch all the requests that could be missed.

  1. Try something new

Even when your ad stack is optimized, there are always new strategies and opportunities to experiment. Mobile is more popular than it’s ever been so having a mobile-friendly site is almost a necessity. Combining display advertising with a mobile site will give you more opportunities to serve ads and earn revenue.

Video advertising is not an entirely new form of display advertising but it is now more effective than it has been in the past. Sovrn is now offering our new in-banner video (IBV) ad unit. You can check it out here (link to the IBV landing page).

If you want more information on display advertising check out Intro to Display Advertising and be on the lookout for our upcoming e-book A Bloggers Guide to Making Money through Display Advertising.

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