Are you leaving revenue on the table with AMP?
Editor’s note: The following was originally posted on Medium by Vamsee Jasti, AMP Product Manager at Google
I’m a product manager working on AMP and we strive to make advertising better on the web while helping publishers thrive. I’m writing this to give you some background on design choices we made for advertising in AMP and then follow up every week with specific optimization recommendations to help you take maximum advantage of AMP pages.
Bottom line first: If you are publishing AMP pages, please at least make sure they are monetizing well. It’s possible, if one invests in them.
When AMP launched, it was important for us to help publishers make revenue from your AMP pages just the way you did from your non-AMP because ads are still a big source of revenue for many publishers. After numerous interviews with publishers, I’ve seen some not take full advantage of their AMP pages and therefore leaving a lot of revenue on the table.
We worked with a number of publishers to get feedback around AMP monetization and used to hear that there were many ad features that needed support in AMP but that feedback volume has decreased after we launched a number of features over the last year. There is always more work to be done but since AMP’s launch, we’ve launched a number of features and closed almost all gaps now.
There are publishers out there who have not only reached revenue parity but exceeded revenue from their AMP pages compared to their non-AMP. For some publishers who receive close to 50% of their traffic to their AMP pages, this can be a million plus dollars per year!
If you are a publisher who is in the business of developing an audience (visitors who choose to come to your site often) and not traffic (visitors who visit based on one-off click baits or by purchasing traffic on platforms) you probably already consciously balance a tradeoff. The tradeoff between the user experience of the site to the revenue you generate from ads. To take an extreme example: one could easily show 3 successive pop-up ads before the article which would generate a lot of revenue but it would also either lead users to immediately leave the site or negatively associate the publisher brand in a way the visitor thinks twice before going to the site.
Principles behind advertising in AMP
When it comes to this tradeoff, with AMP, we took a balanced stance to prioritize user experience over anything else but re-imagined how ads could still earn very good revenue with features that are hard to implement on non-AMP pages for legacy reasons.
Here are a few of them:
1. Get ads out of the critical path of rendering the page
Unlike regular pages, AMP pages make the ad requests on the page as early as possible in the lifecycle of the ad. This allows us to parallelize rendering the page, while also letting the ad server run its auction to pick the best ad. Chances are, by the time the ad comes back, the page has already finished loading and therefore the ad can also immediately render which leads to ads having better viewability and click through rate. We’ve gathered data that shows that AMP performs really well on these measures. A win-win for both publishers and advertisers by simply orchestrating the ad request sequence. We call this “Fast Fetch” and you can read all about the improvements here. Following this change we have had great results with users seeing a lot fewer blank rectangles.
Contrast this to delayed fetch, where the ad request isn’t made until the browser encounters the ad tags, therefore delaying making the ad request and subsequent rendering.
2. Don’t allow user visible reflow but support multi-size ads
How often do you visit a site and start reading content and out of nowhere, an ad appears and pushes the content down, causing your thumb to do a micro-dance so you can continue reading as it loads? We think this experience is clearly bad for the user which is why AMP made an early tradeoff to ensure that doesn’t happen. Therefore, every ad must have a predetermined primary size, so AMP can reserve the space for the ad but continue to render content all around without ever reflowing content.
But we know that multi-size ads lead to better monetization since it makes the ad auction demand pool larger. AMP introduced a way for publishers to define a primary size and also pass along secondary sizes which allowed resizing the ad to the returned size as long as the ad was below the viewport or was smaller than the primary size, if in the current viewport. Publisher feedback has shown that this was a healthy tradeoff giving publishers > 90% chance of serving the ad size that earns them the most revenue. I’ll go into more detail in a future post, but here is the launch blog post.
3. Prefer ad formats that users can easily dismiss or scroll past
Let’s admit it. A majority of users visit your site for content, not ads. So some design choices were made in AMP to never show an ad that would “cover” content. Which means no pop-ups (interstitials) that cover content. Interestingly, the industry as a whole is rejecting such ad formats. Instead we supported all ads within fixed layouts, including all Rich Media Ads.
In addition, AMP launched some native ad formats like sticky ads and flying carpet ads. We plan to support even more richer formats that publishers tell us they’re interested in while ensuring a great user experience. With any ad format, users should be able to tap the dedicated close button on the ad or could simply scrolling away.
OK, show me the money?
Don’t get me wrong, nothing is as easy as flipping a switch. You constantly optimize, try new things out, experiment and settle with an ad setup that gives you the most revenue while adhering to good UX principles.
But the good news is that such optimizations are fairly straight forward in AMP. Plus, you only need to do a handful of things to ensure that your AMP pages generate maximum revenue.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll dive into each of these topics:
- Ad Density
- Prefer Viewability over Views
- Multi-size ads & fluid
- Traffic your direct sold ads (formats & single request architecture)
- Header Bidding & AMP
- Video monetization using AMP IMA Video
- Auto Ad Refresh
- The future with AMPHTML ads
With AMP, we believe in providing you with flexibility in implementing where you source your ads from and what vendors to work with. You don’t lose a slice of your rev share just for using AMP. There are over 100 ad networks that are natively integrated with AMP pages and many more supported via header bidding (using AMP RTC) and server side exchanges.
The AMP team strongly believes in the open web and strive to help publishers build a sustainable business on it whether it be paywalls or advertising.
Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks and we look forward to your feedback on this series or anything else about AMP. In case you can’t wait to get started, check out the summary of monetization best practices and implement away!