Ad revenue on the web is growing exponentially year over year. In 2013, web ad revenues soared to $42.8 Billion, hitting a landmark high & surpassing broadcast television revenues for the first time. By 2016, online ad spend in the US will likely have doubled since 2011, eclipsing 67 billion dollars per year (13.7% compound annual growth). Below are some stats outlining some of the ways web ad revenues grew in 2014. Stats provided by wishpond, iab.net, and statista:

  • Digital ad revenues surging to $23.1 Billion in the first half of 2014
  • Mobile revenues increased 76 percent to 5.3 billion at HY 2014, from the $3.0 billion (15% of total) reported at HY 2013, with the 2014 six month total consisting of $2.7 billion mobile search, $2.5 billion mobile display, and $103 million in other mobile formats
  • Search revenues in the first half of 2014 hit $9.1 billion, up 4 percent from $8.7 billion in the first six months of 2013

Exponential Growth - blog

Despite the exponential growth of online media, web pages are getting bigger, more complicated, and slower.  With issues arising around ad viewability and performance, publishers and ad vendors are under more pressure to ensure that their ads are being seen, loading properly, and not degrading the user experience. This is not a new problem. As far back as 2009, Bing found that a 2 second latency reduced advertising revenue per user by 4.3%. However the problem is compounded by the growth of mobile users. As mobile users have grown, so have user expectations. In fact, 85% of mobile users expect pages to load faster or as fast as desktop pages. If a page takes 8+ seconds to load, visitors will spend only 1% of their time on page looking at ads.

Digital Ad and Page Load Optimization

To help publishers address some of these problems, we built a list of optimization techniques that site administrators can utilize to build faster, cleaner, and more reliable websites.

Requests

Reduce requests that ads bring to the website by combining multiple javascript or CSS files into one. HTTP redirect should only be used to help count the requests. External javascript and CSS files reduces amount of HTTP calls.

Domains

Reduce domains by retrieving components several at a time (in parallel). Performance can be diminished by the time required for the DNS lookups required by using multiple domains. Use at least 2, but not more than 4 domains.

Page Size

Reduce size by compressing text/script/CSS components with GZIP because it reduces load times due to reduced size of HTTP response. Use JSMin to help the minification process, removing all unnecessary characters from the ad code without altering the functionality.

Images in ads should be used as JPEG or PNG for photos or large number of varied colors and GIFs for images with small number of uniform colors.

Image Optimization - blog

Optimize Video

To optimize video ad units reduce resolution and frame rate or increase key frame rate (smaller file size because fewer full frames are stored).  In regards to managing the size of the audio, compress the AVI file to make the audio smaller while sacrificing some quality.

Get Content Closer to the User

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) which is a system of geographically distributed servers that replicate (cache) origin server content at locations close to end users.

Use Caching

Cache content because with the appropriate expiration and cache control settings, if a piece of ad content is needed again in the future, the information will already be available closer to the end user. It is recommended to set the expires header associated with each static file to a date that is well into the future.

There are three different types of cache control:

  • Public → HTTP response can be stored by any cache. Sharing of content by users using the same proxy server or CDN
  • Private → Must not be cached by shared cache. Response intended for single client
  • No-cache → No cache should maintain copy of response

You can also reuse content to get rid of the geographic distance by enabling support for HTTP/CDN keep-alives on the server

Asynchronous Loading

Making an ad request asynchronously is an efficient use of available bandwidth. Making ad requests in parallel with other content can also minimize ad requests. Friendly IFrame (FIF) gives you the ability to execute a JavaScript ad call in an IFRAME in the same domain as the page.

Asynchronous - blog

Polite Downloads

A polite download is also effective because it shows a part of the ad before the page content then loading the rest after the content is fully loaded, minimizing HTTP requests regardless of their order relative to the page content.

politedownloads (1)

Third Party Vendors 

For publishers managing large media sites, it is important to monitor high trafficked pages or user flows. When monitoring, ensure that you are separating first and third party systems so that you are notified when it is an issue that you can correct yourself. Is it your own content/system failing or one of a third party vendor? Also, ensure that 3rd party vendors are incentivized to consistently provide service at a consistent  The easiest way to do this is to engage third party vendors with Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Verify compliance by monitoring them consistently and establish performance thresholds for each vendor so that you’ll be able to recognize an SLA violation. Repeated violation by a third party service and that technology has to go.

Takeaways

Web advertising and the consumption of web content is growing exponentially year over year. Issues of scale and device variability are adding incredible complexity to the web, but users expect content to load on their devices faster than ever. Despite this fact, the web has gotten slower and in some ways less reliable. To ensure that your content is being delivered to meet the expectations of your users follow these steps:

1. Reduce requests, domains, and page size

2. Optimize your video

3. Get content closer to users

4. Use caching

5. Employ asynchronous loading

6. Use polite downloads

7. Monitor your site proactively

8. Watch 3rd party content

Suggested Blog Posts

The Perception Gap for Poor Web Performance

E-commerce revenue continues to grow,as consumers turn away from shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to shopping online.  However, many businesses are not prepared for this growth because they do not fully understand the market and how to invest in...

Read More

Using Browser Trends to Maintain a Better Site

Because of the multifarious nature of web clients today, it’s important to consider the usage statistics when designing, implementing, and managing your site. However, misconceptions often arise when determining what browsers to design...

Read More

Finding Causes of Intermittent Errors from Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools is a web service that allows webmasters to view the status of their sites as seen by Google and the Googlebot crawlers. In addition to indexing your site structure and content, the Googlebot crawlers also record data on perform...

Read More

Optimization Options not Always Optimal

Web designers and developers are always looking for ways to speed up their page load times. Yahoo has an excellent article written on the best practices for speeding up your page. How do you know if implementing one of their suggested practices will...

Read More