Programmatic

Ad Fill Rate: 7 Questions that Publishers Ask, Answered

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I believe you’re here wondering “Does my question about ad fill rate gets answered here?” Well I hope so. But first, facts.

2 million ー that’s the number of websites where Google displays ads.

2 million ー that’s also the number of AdSense publishers out there (running those ads and making money).

Meaning, you’ve got hell lot of competition. Doesn’t matter if you’re an AdSense publisher or some other, your competitive market is already loaded. Worse, it’s getting crowded day by day. So, advertisers have options to choose for their ads. But do publishers have enough ads to run

When you’re trying to find answer to this very question, you’re basically dealing with ad fill rate (in context with ad tech glossary). Just like most topics, ad fill rate also comes with a cluster of questions attached with it.

So here, I’m jotting down the most important questions publishers usually ask about ad fill rate. Whether you’re someone who’s just starting out, or someone who’s already mastered being a publisher, hopefully your questions get answered. Shoot!

Q. #1 What Is Ad Fill Rate?

Ans. As you might know, publishers strive to sell as many ad impressions as possible at the best price. Of course, the intent is to make money. And this is where ad fill rate comes in equation.

Technically speaking, ad fill rate is the percentage of ads ‘getting served’ out of the total number of ‘ad calls’ being requested on a site/page

And generally speaking, the number of ads which served impressions to your website visitors, out of the total number of impressions that could have been served to those visitors, determines your ad fill rate

How great or average is your ad fill rate helps you decipher the proficiency of your ad network. Also, how much you’re monetizing (or not monetizing) the impressions on your website.

Q. #2 How To Calculate Ad Fill Rate?

Ans. Let’s do some math:

For instance, your apartment has space for 20 tenants. Out of 20, only 17 tenants are residing in and paying you the rent. Now here the catch is, we’re not counting the number of spaces (ads) you sold.

For the reason that you managed only 17 paying tenants in a space of 20, your fill rate (17 divided by 20 times 100) amounts to 85%.

Likewise, let’s say your website abcdef.com has the bandwidth to serve 2,00,000 impressions but ends up serving 1,75,000 impressions. So by applying the same formula as above, your ad fill rate will be 87.5%.

→ # of ads delivered ÷ # of ad calls made x 100 = Ad fill %

In case you get 1,85,000 impressions the next day, your ad fill rate will rise from 87.5% to 92.5%. (which may or not be good news. I’ll tell you why)

Q. #3 Why Am I Not Getting 100% Ad Fill Rate?

Ans. The simplest (yet the most clichéd) answer is technical errors. You might have heard “technical errors” as an excuse to a lot of things. In daily life, from a fixed-line broadband issue at your home till data syncing issues in your work CRM, they all say, “Apologies, we’re facing a technical problem.”

Similarly, the loose ends in your website are big-time-contributors affecting your ad fill rate. The challenge here is, some technical errors might be in your hands. While, there could be many which you might just not be able to identify in the first place.

Nevertheless, you might have to deal with them, today or tomorrow. Some more typical technical errors are latency, insufficient demand, mobile/device/browser incompatibility, etc. So go, fix them.

Q. #4 How To Improve Ad Fill Rate?

Ans. You may have been waiting for this, so here it is. There are many factors which hamper the occurrence of ads when you need them to. These are technical errors which you may or may not be able to tame. See for yourself:

Work on website/page load time

Users don’t wait. Because you run a website, I’m assuming you know that every second counts. Especially in case of ad impressions, timely rendering is one of the most dominant factors that make you lose impressions, hence revenue.

Now load time is something you may be able to decide. This is time for you to look up to your ops team who should be able to help you achieve a load time which is favorable.

This had to be next. Why? Understanding how the demand and supply cycle works, you might observe, there are times when you’re unable to meet sufficient demand to fill your ad slots.

Get started with Header bidding

Result? You leave a blank impression, leaving money on the table. This is exactly why publishers are ditching old school methods like daisy chaining and publishers waterfall and shifting to header bidding.

The point is, these old processes can’t promise great CPMs, are relatively less automated, and add on to your load time.

Go for location based targeting

Next, you can go one step ahead by targeting users not just by interest, industry, or niche, but also their geography. If you have no idea yet, your google analytics account or any tracking you use should help.

All you need to do is figure out the regions (city or country) bringing you the maximum traffic. Having specifically targeted regions is likely to get more traffic, hence likely to make more ad calls leading to more ad impressions

Switch ad sizes when required

Change is constant. Okay this may sound metaphorically vague here, but heck this is true. Let’s say you might prefer a 300×600 ad size as your data shows that it has brought the max. CTR.

However, you need to have the flexibility of different ad sizes in case your primary sized ad slot isn’t in demand. A backup size 300×250 here can help you. The leverage of flexi ad sizes is they let you fulfill the demand and achieve a better ad fill rate faster

Deal with ad blocking

Ad blockers are the scariest. It’s like, you follow all rules, stay compliant, execute all good practices, but yet you get blocked by your users. And this is something you can’t even control.

What ad blockers do sometimes is they block the ad network instead of the ad call. Meaning, your ad request is made, but the blocker did not let your ad appear.

Although with solutions like pagefair and ad block recovery, it has become possible to save some impressions and revenue while not disrupting the users’ experience on your website.

Q. #5 What is the Average Industry Ad Fill Rate?

Ans.  Usually, ad networks promise anywhere between 25-55% ad fill rate. This really means you need to change your ad network and switch to someone more ambitious. This generally means they have plenty of supply, but not enough demand.

Largest ad networks like AdSense give you the bandwidth to scale your ad fill rate up to 100%. Once set to 100, their algorithm tries its best to make you achieve 100% fill and impressions.

However, they have their own rationale on why you should/shouldn’t have 100% ad fill rate? (up next)

Q. #6 Does 100% Ad Fill Rate Imply 100% Potential Revenue

Ans. This is a question of dilemma. Honestly, it’s just easy to say that “Yes, 100% ad fill rate is the best thing.” Since impressions = revenue in the publisher world, achieving 100% of it is like a dream come true.

But 100% ad fill rate is not always good. In the ad tech world, things don’t always run so easily. And neither does the logic behind it. Sometimes, with intent to uplift your ad fill rate, you might end up seeing your CPMs falling.

We know every lost impression means loss of potential revenue. Therefore what happens is, you may try to display all your ads (once you fix the technical ends) but it has to be regardless of how much your impressions will value.

Sometimes, high ad fill rate yields high CPMs. However, sometimes publishers compromise their CPMs to keep their ad placements filled all the time. In such cases, the ad fill rate increases, but you never know what value your impression will bring you ($0.2 CPM or $2 CPM).

Q. #7 How To Optimize Ad Fill Rate (Whether 100% Or Less)?

Ans. This is a myth that 100% always wins. In case of publishers, some numbers indicate ー the least, the best. In the above logic, you may have noticed how 100% ad fill rate can sometimes take your CPMs down.

Thankfully, the ‘ad balance’ feature from AdSense gives the control in publishers’ hands. How does it work? You, the publisher can set the percentage to which you want to display ads.

For instance, if you want you may choose to show only 75% of your ads instead of the whole 100%. The intelligence of AdSense is that it’ll choose the highest yielding ads for you. The ultimate benefits are:

  • Only your highest yielding show
  • Your ads are monetized optimally
  • Your site experience improves with lesser ads

The Crux

Hopefully you might have understood by now, publishers shouldn’t just be aiming for increasing their ad fill rate. The effort should also be focused on strategizing targeting, ad placement, and website improvement for revenue generation.

The outcome of all efforts should be a nicely done user experience, opportunities for high yields by going for the highest CPMs, and optimizing ad network performance to monetize the website ad inventory.

Are you someone who has done all of this already? How did it go?

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