Last week Google announced that it would stop charging advertisers for unviewed impressions on the Google Display Network. With over half of impressions going unviewed, this could be big news for the AdSense publishers who make up that network. We’ve previously posted about the importance of Active View metrics, but viewability is still an issue that many publishers ignore. The announcement wasn’t made through publisher facing channels, only so far being published on the AdWords blog, and as such was missed by many publishers.
For those that missed it, here is the relevant part of the announcement:
More accountability: the GDN is going 100% viewable
Most display ads — 56% in fact — never had a chance to be viewed because they were below the fold, scrolled out of view, or in a background tab. Soon, we’ll make the GDN one of the only media platforms where advertisers don’t pay for an ad impression unless it was viewable. This means your media dollars will only be spent where they can have impact. In the next few months, all campaigns that buy on a CPM basis will be upgraded to be viewable CPM (vCPM).
Why do impressions go un-viewed?
There are a number of things that can cause an ad impression to be created but not viewed. Bot traffic is a factor, but for most publishers it is simply down to layouts. Ad units that sit below the fold on pages that the users don’t scroll down on will not be viewed.
For an ad to be considered ‘viewed’ in line with Google’s Active View standard at least 50% of the ad has to be visible for 1 second.
How does this impact publishers?
AdSense publishers get paid a share of revenue, 62% in the case of AdSense for Content. If Google don’t charge the advertiser for the impression then the publisher will receive 62% of nothing for that impression.
With over half of impressions going un-viewed some publishers are already beginning to panic that this could see them lose half their revenue. Thankfully that is unlikely.
Most AdSense ads are paid CPC (per click) rather than CPM (per impression). An ad that wasn’t seen isn’t going to be clicked on anyway, so this change is unlikely to have much impact on those earnings. It will though likely impact your CPM earnings.
The Bid-types report in AdSense can give you a good impression of the revenue that might be at risk. This report breaks down earnings for different bid types. Sites that attract strong placement, interest and demographic targeting can earn good revenue from CPM bids.
In this example the publisher is earning $2,000 / month from CPM bids with only 53% of those measured as viewable. This could have an impact of around $1,000 per month for this publisher.
What can publishers do about this?
If you are attracting strong CPM bids, then you should be looking to raise Active View scores to protect and build that revenue. Reporting on Ad Units + Bid types together will show you what units are attracting CPM bids and what Active View performance each manages. Ensuring that units are placed in locations where the user lingers (not always just above the fold) should push these scores up and help you get paid for more of the impressions that you serve.