Balancing Ads and User Experience: Best Practices for Publishers

At Advertising Week in 2022, Joanna Coles, the chief creative officer of Boudica and a former Hearst content chief, highlighted the biggest irony of the advertising world: people’s aversion to ads. She stated, ‘Consumers will take any opportunity to avoid advertisements.’ However, this view may provide a partial perspective.  

Many people are not generally bothered by all ads, but rather by those that are irrelevant, invasive, or disruptive to their online experience. As a result, marketers risk missing the opportunity to engage and convert consumers if their ads fail to be relevant and targeted. Therefore, advertisers and publishers must prioritize the creation of ads that are engaging, less intrusive, and tailored to meet the needs and interests of their target audience.

Why do people dislike or avoid ads?

Ads can hinder user experience when intrusive or disruptive to the user’s browsing experience, making it difficult or annoying to access the content they are looking for. Another way is when ads are irrelevant to the user’s interests, wasting time and resources.

For example, a user who is researching for a specific product or service online and they click on a link to a website that claims to provide content on the same. Once they arrive on the website, they are bombarded with multiple ads that are irrelevant to their search or offer products or services that they are not interested in. This can make it difficult for the user to navigate the website and find what they are looking for, leading to frustration and potentially causing them to leave the website altogether.

What is user experience and how is it correlated to ads? 

User experience refers to the overall impression and satisfaction that a user has while interacting with a website or application. Maintaining a high standard of user experience is paramount for publishers to take website monetization to the next level as it directly impacts customer loyalty and conversion rates. However, when advertisements are introduced into the user experience, they can elevate or diminish that experience. The positive aspect is that publishers can have complete autonomy over this aspect of their online platform. 

By carefully curating ad content, placement, and frequency, businesses can ensure that ads enhance the user experience rather than detract from it. When ads are relevant, engaging, and seamlessly integrated into the website’s design, they can serve as a valuable tool for reaching target audiences and driving conversions. On the other hand, poorly executed ads can alienate users and damage the overall perception of the brand. Therefore, it is essential for publishers to prioritize user experience when implementing advertising strategies.

Incorporating ads into a website does not have to come at the cost of achieving a seamless user experience. 

Here’s a checklist for publishers to strike the right balance between ad revenue and user experience. 

  1. Improve page and ad loading speed

Loading speed is crucial as slow loading times can result in users leaving the site. Publishers should monitor the loading time of their website pages and ads along with other important metrics to ensure the ads are optimized for maximum revenue generation. They should also consider programmatic advertising as it is a useful approach to improve the speed of heavy ads. By using top ad networks, publishers can optimize their ad delivery based on a range of factors such as user behavior, ad format, and device type, among others.

  1. Avoid ad cluster

Publishers should be mindful of the number of ads on their websites as an excessive amount can interrupt the user’s experience and increase loading times. They should prioritize quality over quantity and strategically place ads using programmatic ad platforms. Ad fatigue can be a negative experience for users causing them to overwhelm their screens and disrupt their browsing experience. This can be frustrating and may even drive users away from the website. 

  1. Prioritize high-quality content

Ads should complement the content, rather than obstruct or interrupt it. To be successful in advertising, publishers should focus on creating high-quality content that provides value to their audience. Users are more likely to engage with ads if they first land on a page with valuable content. By providing valuable content, publishers can attract and retain users, increasing the likelihood that they will engage with the ads displayed on their sites.

  1. Focus on niche advertising 

Website publishers should consider the benefits of focusing on niche advertising and contextual targeting. By utilizing website cookies, publishers can gain a better understanding of their users’ online behavior, interests, and preferences, and use this information to display relevant ads.

Another effective approach to enhancing user experience while displaying responsive ads is to show ads from the same niche as the website’s content. For example, if a user is visiting a website to read about the latest mobile phones, they are likely in the market for a new phone. By displaying ads for mobile phones, publishers can provide users with targeted ads that are more likely to be of interest to them.

Overall, niche advertising and contextual targeting can help publishers create a more relevant and engaging advertising experience for their users.

  1. Avoid repetitive ads

Website publishers should aim to avoid displaying repetitive ads to their users. While technology has advanced to the point where users can be fed relevant ads based on their search history, it is also possible to detect when a user is no longer interested in a particular ad.

Understanding user behavior has become much more convenient in recent years, and publishers can utilize this information to provide a better advertising experience for their users. If a user has already shown disinterest in a particular ad, it is unlikely that they will engage with it if it is displayed repeatedly. Instead, publishers can use frequency capping to limit the number of times an ad is shown to a user and prioritize displaying other ads that are more likely to be of interest to them.

  1. Video ads are good but auto-play is not

The rise in video ad formats is one of the top programmatic trends of 2023. Publishers should consider video ads as a potential ad format for their website, but it is important to avoid auto-play videos that disrupt the user experience. Video ads that play with sound automatically, take up too much space, and distract users from the content they are trying to view can be frustrating and may cause users to leave the site. 

To use video ads strategically, publishers should pay attention to the size and length of the video. The video should be long enough to capture the user’s attention but not too long that it causes the website to load slowly. Publishers can strike a balance between providing engaging content and ensuring that the website is easily accessible and user-friendly.

  1. Make websites mobile-friendly 

Publishers should focus on mobile optimization for both their content and ads. With increasing number of users accessing websites through mobile devices, it is important to ensure that the website is mobile-friendly. To do this, publishers can adopt responsive design principles that make their website layouts adjust dynamically to the screen size of the user’s device. This means that content and ads are displayed optimally, regardless of whether the user is accessing the website on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer.

While ads may conflict with user experience, strategic ad placement and the use of advanced programmatic technologies can mitigate this risk. Real-time bidding, for instance, can ensure that the most suitable and high-yielding ads are displayed to the user, maximizing revenue for publishers while also providing a better experience for the user. Furthermore, targeting users with ads that are relevant to their interests and online behavior can increase engagement and ultimately lead to more successful outcomes for both the advertiser and the publisher.

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