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Back in April, we discussed the impact of performance for online publishers. With the recent Facebook Instant Article announcement, performance for online media companies has never been more important. While Facebook’s instant articles will increase the accessibility of media sites’ content, it will drive users further away from the source and position Facebook to become an online publisher of its own.

The challenge for online publishers is to provide an excellent user experience while driving revenue and keeping users on their site. Often times third-party assets and ads are the culprits of poor performance.

Rigor gives you the ability to configure checks that verify your ads are served up correctly to the end user, and alert you if the specified criteria is not met. In the following example, we’ll set up a Rigor check to monitor ad performance and use it to diagnose why a particular ad does not show up on a page. We can attribute the errors to the web server that is hosting the site, or to the ad server that is pushing the ads to the page. We can then use Rigor’s Performance and Domain reporting to dig further into the issue.

Set Up Steps

1. Visit site every 30 minutes from 5 locations.
RBC steps2. Check for div on page that is written in by ad JavaScript – “interstitial frame present”. This is the first step in the check. If this step fails we know something in the site’s code is broken.div code snippet3. Check for a child iframe – “iframe present”. In this step, we could either check for any child iframe or check that a specified ID on the page is present. If this fails the ad server is the performance culprit.code blur

Analysis

Below we see runs occurring every 30 minutes in a 24-hour window in the Rigor app. The green dots indicate checks that have successfully run and the red Xs signify failed runs.

RBC Dashboard - blurred

Drilling into the specific runs in the check, we are able to verify that these steps are running successfully or are failing based on the defined criteria.

When the site correctly displays the ad (resulting in a successful Real Browser Check run), the end-user experience at the time of the test looks like this (note the ad banner at top of page):

homepage ad

When the site does not display the add correctly, (resulting in a failed check run), the Rigor user receives an alert and can navigate to that particular run.

alert window

The alert notifies the user that the “interstitial frame present” step in the check failed. As we established above, this is an error from the site’s web server.

We then scroll down in the alert screen to verify this error by viewing the screenshot that is taken at the time of the alert. Note that the ad pictured in the previous screenshot is not present:

homepage no ad

Page Performance

Configuring checks similar to the example above can benefit the performance and end-user experience of your site. In Rigor, you can configure checks to alert you when your ads are not correctly served, and you can dig deeper into the issues behind these failures. This makes it simple to distinguish between random errors and those that are systematically occurring on your site.

Below, we see a check that was running successfully up until around 4/21. After this date, we can asses that something in the code broke, causing multiple failures across every run during 4/22-4/27.

performance history

With the Performance History charts in Rigor, we are able to diagnose what changed on this particular date, and are alerted when the ads are not delivered successfully on your site.

Domain Performance

domain perf

Another function in Rigor is the Domain Performance trending. We can use this graph to see whether latency is caused by requests to a specific domain. You can trend runs over time and assign costs to each domain. In the graph above, the purple shaded curve represents the “googleadservices” domain that is serving up the ads on the site in our example. This specific use case in Rigor can be applied to any third-party tags or ads that are present and ensure that your users get an excellent experience on your site.

Conclusion

As web performance for online media sites continues to become a priority, publishers need to address the issues that are hurting their bottom line.  The ability to optimize performance and UX issues from multiple angles will translate to more viewable impressions and greater revenue generated from ads on your site. It is imperative that publishers automate testing of their websites so that they can:

  • Tackle ad viewability and performance issues before they impact users
  • Receive alerts when their ads are not interacting correctly
  • Diagnose and identify the bottlenecks of performance in real-time
  • Obtain all necessary information to quickly solve performance problems

Online publishers need this type of insight in order to deliver an experience that will keep visitors actively engaged and cause them to return in the future. Lost impressions from poor performance or non-viewable ads equate to lost revenue.  Achieving great performance is no longer an option, but a requirement for the success online media companies and publishers.

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