How Publishers Can Optimise On-Site Ads Using Audience insights

posted by Daniil Tarakanov on 20.11.2020

Programmatic advertising is everywhere, it’s essentially woven into the fabric of today’s business world.

By leveraging modern advertising techniques, publishers and advertisers can generate additional revenue through the eCommerce model, where personalisation is everything.

In an age where print and digital publications are facing a sharp decline, it is important to embrace a modern advertising approach to meet the needs of the modern consumer.

Programmatic advertising is already established, but will continue to garner relevance upon the discontinuation of third-party cookies. This pressing topic was explored previously when we addressed marketing approaches in a cookie-less world

Today, it is a matter of being creative in order to survive, where publishers must make their programmatic advertising offerings smarter and more effective.

Being ready and willing to embrace programmatic advertising is one thing, but deploying the progressive techniques involved is another. The definition of programmatic advertising has become rather elusive, with varying explanations floating around.

Rather than dive into the benefits of programmatic advertising and how it works, let’s explore how publishers can optimise their on-site ads to generate more revenue from the existing ad inventory.

How do on-site ads work today?

In general, publishers use three types of on-site ads:

  • Site-wide banners
  • Display ad networks such as Google Ads
  • Featured articles

Site-wide banners are typically reserved for strategic sponsors and are charged monthly. But what exactly are they?

Well firstly, a sitewide banner is one which appears throughout a website. Advertisements of this nature typically consist of an image or other multimedia object, thus taking an either static or animated form. These ads are usually embedded into many of the web pages within, with the intention of attracting traffic by linking to an area of interest for the consumer.

Example of a site-wide banner on Hotel & Tourism Online

Display ads from the ad networks such as Google Ads are based on third party cookies that follow the user throughout the internet and across devices, which allows the ad network to guess their interests and serve more relevant ads. Publishers typically place these ads throughout their sites and get paid a small commission per view, and a larger commission per click.

While the display ads tend to be hugely relevant to the particular visitor, they are not without their drawbacks. Firstly, these don’t normally fit the theme of the particular publication where they’re displayed. For example, as I was browsing a gardening publication, I was displayed an ad for the Under Armour facemasks, despite a nifty addition to my garden potentially being more appropriate.

This is where targeted ads optimised for individual consumers are much more effective. When an ad truly resonates with a customer’s needs and requirements, they’re much more likely to engage with the ad and ultimately act in the best interests of both parties.

A display ad on the Modern Gardens Magazine

Finally, featured articles are a great way for a brand to engage their target audience. As readers browse through a site, these features are presented as interesting content that the reader willingly interacts with. Publishers then earn a fixed fee per feature or monetise these articles via affiliate links. However, as publishers try to balance great content with revenue streams, the amount of featured articles has to be limited.

This is especially important since Google updated its algorithm to preference high value content over that which is overly promotional. In an ideal world, feature articles should bring value to the reader, utilising actionable content that can be applied directly to the user experience.

Content of this nature is viewed more favorably, and will ultimately help websites secure higher SERPs for relevant search terms.

A feature on the Facilities Management Journal

How can these ads be improved?

Let’s take the Facilities Management Journal (FMJ) as an example. It became a thought-leader in the facilities management industry by publishing relevant industry updates, organising trade shows, hosting a job board and lots more. Some popular topics in this publication include construction, HVAC and pest control.

FMJ can monitor each user’s activity and behaviour as they browse the website to understand the topics that interest them, guess their in-market segment, find out when they’re more likely to interact with ads, etc. Based on this data, FMJ can now display more relevant ads that would improve their reader’s experience and bring them more revenue.

Let’s take a facilities manager, Adam, as an example. He frequents the FMJ website and reads a bunch of articles on pest control. The programmatic platform used will identify Adam’s behavioural patterns and show pest control ads on the homepage of the website, rather than simply showing ads from HVAC providers.

The following week, Adam visits pages within the construction section of the website, alongside reading construction literature from the FMJ blog. Using programmatic principles, FMJ will reevaluate Adam’s interests de-jour, presenting him with more relevant ads, this time within the construction niche.

The more relevant ads are displayed, the more likely the consumer will click on them and purchase the advertised service. The ultimate goal in all of this is to increase revenue via cost per click, which is more likely when ads are targeted and personalised based on relevant factors (such of those categories listed above).


Let’s take this a step further. A month later FMJ editors decide that the site is overloaded with ads, which detracts from the user experience, leading to low engagement levels and high churn as a result. They could now use the same principles to intelligently display ads to the right consumers at the right time.

In this example, FMJ’s ad engine learns that Adam usually reads five articles before leaving the site or clicking on an ad. Hence, FMJ can decide to only show Adam ads once they’re on their fourth article, hence improving the experience for Adam, and still benefiting from the likelihood of him clicking on the ad.

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