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Data-Driven Approach to Find the Best Ad Placements on Your Site

Best Ad Placements
There's no doubt that ad placements influence your ad viewability, CTR, and eCPM. But most are following the general best practices without testing what works for them. Well, you don't have to.

Have you been searching for someone who can tell you the specific placements and specific ad unit sizes that will take your ad revenue to the rooftop? Trust us, you won’t find anyone. Even if someone is promising to do so without looking at your website performance, then the suggestions you will get are based on general practices which work for most publishers. The results will be average, not excellent. And how do we know this? Because we manage the inventories of hundreds of publishers. 

So how can you find the best ad placements for your website? The best way is to have a data-driven approach to the process. Therefore, in this post, we will not only tell you how to do it but also why you should do it. Our suggestions will be based on facts and not on assumptions and opinions.

What Should You Consider Before Testing Out Ad Placements?

Before you start to change your ad placement, we suggest you implement the prerequisites for the placements to perform at their best. After all, even the best ad placements can’t get you a better ad price if you haven’t taken care of the other necessary steps.

Make sure that the ads are personalized

In a study of 1000 consumers by Adobe, 67% of respondents said that it is important for brands to adjust content automatically based on their current context. 42% of respondents said that they get annoyed when their content is not personalized. Another study by Adlucent concludes that 71% of consumers prefer personalized ads.

So, it is evident that personalized ads make the user experience better. If the ads will be relevant, then the users will also be more likely to click the ads. Therefore you will get a higher CTR too.

Leverage the rush for videos

The huge demand for video ad inventory is known to almost everyone in the industry. If you do not trust us then refer to eMarketer’s report which says that video ads will account for 49.9% of the total US digital display ad spending this year. You will find multiple such reports which are forecasting similar trends.

Programmatic Video Ad Spending

So if we know where the money is flowing, it makes sense to go in the same direction. Make sure that your placements contain ad units that can deliver videos. Here is the list of ad sizes supported by Adsense for video ads:

  • Leaderboard (728 x 90)
  • Skyscraper (120 x 600)
  • Wide skyscraper (160 x 600)
  • Small square (200 x 200)
  • Square (250 x 250)
  • Large rectangle (336 x 280)
  • Rectangle (300 x 250)

Be ready for testing

Testing will help you validate your assumptions. Your goal should be to make sure that you are implementing the best placements, not just something better than the last one. Testing should be a continuous practice to make sure you are not incurring any opportunity cost. Google Ad Manager gives you the option of conducting A/B tests on native ads only. But you can hire external service providers for advanced testing on your website.

Finding Best Ad Placements

Table of Contents

Start With Your Revenue Model

First thing first, begin with having your revenue model in mind. Do you get paid based on CPM or CPC? If you are on a CPM based model, then your strategies will focus on increasing the viewability of your placements. Whereas if you are on a CPC based model, then your placement strategies will focus on increasing the number of clicks on the ads. You should figure out the ad placements based on what your focus is. While it doesn’t look a lot more interesting now, you’ll see different results in the end. 

Avoid the Illusion of Completeness

User experience research firm Nielsen Norman Group warns us about the “Illusion of Completeness.” In mobile devices, large ad units placed at the lower part of an article can signal the article’s end. In yet another study related to user scrolling behavior, NN/g concluded that the users pay the least attention to the content below the first fold. 

If you combine both of the user behavior discussed above, you get a perfect recipe for increasing the bounce rate. As soon as the users feel that they’ve reached the end of the article, the decreased interest will make them bounce instantly. As a result, the ad units below that point will remain unviewed. In fact, the content itself won’t be read. 

To avoid the Illusion of Completeness,  you should implement visual cues above your placements that can signal the users that the content is remaining below the ad unit. Just a simple text above the ad unit saying “Continue Reading Below” can do the work. Alternatively, you can stop using large ad units at the bottom of the article and replace them with smaller ad units (say, 300*250). Remember, testing is the key.

Illusion of Completeness - Automatad

Use Heatmaps

User behavior changes according to the site’s layout. Due to this reason, “one size fits all” cannot work in selecting placements. If you know how the users are interacting with your website, then you can make informed decisions. 

Heatmaps tell you where your visitors are focussing by tracking their clicks, mouse movements, and various other indicators. Once you have first-hand data of how attention flows through your site, you can start testing the placements in the areas which enjoy a high amount of it. 

You can use tools like Hotjar to study your site whereas you can also use the heatmap from Adsense for general purpose.

Website Heatmap - Automatad

Image Source: Hotjar.

Once you are aware of the facts like where the users click the most, where their cursor goes while they read the content, which part of the page gets the more attention etc, then you can place the ads in those areas and get more clicks on the ads.

Use Sticky Container

The real estate on mobile phones is far less than a PC. Using larger ad units for mobile users can limit the visibility of content. It can lead to a lousy user experience resulting in a higher bounce rate.

Additionally, the average mobile session duration is just 72 seconds. Adding up the constant stream of notifications can bring the attention span further down. So even if a user sees a relevant ad and decides to check it out after completing the article, there is a very high chance that the user will forget about it.

Sticky Banner Ad - Automatad

The sticky container at the bottom of the screen solves both the problems. It doesn’t take a lot of space and allows more content to be visible. It doesn’t break the flow of the user. And if a user wishes to engage with the article when it is finished, it will be readily available on the screen.

You can replicate the same for desktop too. But ensure you aren’t running too many sticky ad units and declaring that the unit is sticky on Google Ad Manager.

Analyze Direct Campaign Performance

The direct deal campaigns can give you valuable data for selecting the best placements on your site. An advertiser approaches publishers after doing the due diligence of the publisher’s site. The audience, geography, niche, layout, and other related factors are studied by the advertiser before running the campaign. The campaign itself has its objective, it can be clicks, conversions, awareness, etc. So by studying the results of direct campaigns, you can easily find out which ad placements work the best for clicks or views.

You can use the same placements in your non-direct deals for better results.

Experiment With Google’s Data

Google has provided the list of best performing ad sizes and their placements. Since Google is the biggest advertising company in the world, we can trust its data.

Use the ad units and placements which it has declared as the top-performers. But as we said, test with different combinations, use insights from Google Ad Manager reports as well as from the ones you gained from studying the heatmaps, and then create a strategy.  Here is the list of ad units with their recommended placements.

  • 300×250 – In-feed and at the end of the article.
  • 336×280 – In-feed and at the end of the article.
  • 728×90 – Above main content and on forum sites.
  • 300×600 – On the side panel.
  • 320×100 – For mobile devices.

Google also published viewability research in 2014 which gives us many actionable insights: 

Goole Viewability Study

Leverage ATF Placements

The space above the fold is the first to load whenever a user opens a webpage. So the ads placed in this area are sure to get high viewability. But if such ads are blocking the whole content then it can lead to policy violation for some partners. Therefore, if you can use the space without breaking the rules then the placements in this space can give you great returns. For instance, see how the BBC uses its ATF space. 

Ad Placement Above the Fold - Automatad

But the ads above the fold need to load faster because the user starts scrolling as soon as the page loads. If the ad delivery is slow then you will start facing viewability problems. This is the reason why Google says that above the fold doesn’t always mean high viewability.

Note: Keep policies in mind. While placing the ads, make sure you are not violating any ad policies. Read the policies of all your monetization solution providers carefully. Any violation can cause you the loss of revenue, resulting in the opposite of what you wanted to do. The guidelines will also help you in zeroing down your placement choices.


When placing ads on your website, have a systematic and data-driven approach to find what is best for you. Listen to generic suggestions but accept them only after verifying them. It is more important to find out what works for you rather than finding out what works for others. If it is difficult for you then feel free to contact us, we will help you in optimizing your ad placements and the complete setup to get you the best possible eCPM for the ad impressions. 

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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