A new mantra has taken over the publishing world and it goes by the name of “user experience.”
A new year has dawned on us and with it, a new set of priorities. A couple years ago, we were shouting “content is king” at the top of our lungs. But a new mantra is here to dominate the publishing world in 2017, and it goes by the name “user experience.”
It’s all well and good of publishers who are producing amazing, enthralling, and interesting content, trying to earn the loyalty of their readership. But how can your content even reach your audience, if your user experience is driving them to click away?
We’ve all been on the other side as readers. You visit a website and suddenly you’re bombarded with way too many ads for products you’re not even close to interested in, all crammed on a page that took forever to load. Then suddenly an intrusive pop up interrupts your reading. You can’t find the navigation bar, there are too many “recommended readings” that seem a little sketchy, and something about the page’s aesthetic is just not pretty.
What do you do next? You click away! Chances are if you’re doing it, your readers are doing it too.
Poor user experience has a number of cumulative problems.
- Slow Load Times
- Increased Bounce Rates
- Reduced Engagement
- Incentivized Ad Blocking
- Poor Viewability
- Weakened Revenue Generation
Each are a result of major challenges all publishers face. If you’re not filling your site and inventory to its maximum, then you’re losing out on opportunities to capitalize. You need maximum fill to happen, but too many complicated ads can slow your load times which drives away potentially loyal readers who.
Too many irrelevant ads prompts banner blindness and therefore reduced engagement. Worse yet, they could be what pushes your audience to turn on the ad blockers and empower their user experience themselves.
With viewability increasingly becoming a major KPI for your ad partners, a lack of placement optimization could mean that you’re running ads in placements that either have the wrong traffic or aren’t even seen.
Beyond these issues, publishers also have an added challenge: not knowing who is running ads on their properties. It’s not just a matter of quality either, it’s an issue of brand safety. Not knowing exactly who may end up running ads on your site could result in inappropriate placements that could hurt your own brand.
So how can publishers take control of their user experience without sacrificing their monetization needs?
1. Change your philosophy
Publishers need to understand that ads are a central part of the user’s experience. Strong UI design that remembers this is what can set a publisher a part and build a loyal following. If you want people to return to your site, you need to make sure their experience is as pleasant as possible.
2. Test regularly
You should be constantly split testing your design and ad placements to understand the impact it has on your audience. Get your readers to actively provide you with regular feedback as well through polls. Trust in your audience, and in the data, to dictate how you redesign to benefit their experience and then watch both viewability and engagement skyrocket as you learn to better optimize ad placements.
3. Forgo bombardment
Respecting your audience’s user experience means listening to their grievances. One of the biggest complaints out there? Too many ads! Reducing your placements doesn’t necessarily mean lower fill rates or less revenue. Users are more likely to return to your site if address the issue of clutter, and fewer ads may allow you to command higher rates and offer your inventory at premium. Most audiences in the digital age are open to some form of advertising, but intrusive ads are often the reason why they click away or turn on the ad blocking.
4. Work with a DMP
The first thought here is why would a publisher need to work with a data manage platform (DMP) anyway? Advertisers require data to target audiences with relevant ads. As publishers, your job is to help facilitate this to protect your audience from irrelevant ads and enhancing their user experience. To do so requires understanding your audience data. Working with a DMP allows you to capture all of your first-party audience data and enrich it with insights for advertisers. The result is more potential to increase your CPMs across direct, performance, and programmatic inventory simply because of accessibility to actionable data insights.
5. Go Private and Premium with PMPs
Fighting ad fraud and ensuring your own brand safety on the open exchange has always one of the top concerns for publishers. But it’s no doubt a challenge without the technical know-how or the right partners. Working with private marketplaces (PMP) can alleviate any concerns publishers have had about offering their inventory for CPMs on the open market. Private marketplaces offer a more transparent and controlled environment where knowing the brands that will be running on your properties is no longer foggy. While complaints have been logged about ad tech having yet to catch up in the PMP ecosystem, some PMPs, not only drive premium Performance but also safeguards publishers from fraud with multiple defense systems.
At the end of the day, publishers must make user experience a priority. Measuring and managing the impact of ads on user experience should be central part of your philosophy to win and keep audience trust. After all, it’s a loyal and happy audience is what drives your revenue generation.