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What’s the deal with EBDA (Exchange Bidding in Dynamic Allocation)?

Adi Pinco, October 26, 2022

Takeaways:

  • EBDA offers a number of advantages to publishers, including ease of use and higher CPMs
  • EBDA is Google’s answer to header bidding
  • Publishers of all sizes can benefit from EBDA in adding value to their ad inventory
Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

Publishers are constantly searching for the right balance between creating an engaging user experience and generating revenue, and one tool that has proven successful at helping to find that sweet spot is Exchange Bidding in Dynamic Allocation (EBDA).

Also referred to as Open Bidding, EBDA was introduced by Google in 2018 as its answer to header bidding. Despite its ability to reduce the complexity of the bidding process for publishers, many are still unsure on exactly how EBDA works and what it can offer.

In this guide, we will try to clear up any uncertainties you may have around EBDA.

 

What is EBDA?

EBDA is a server-side solution that allows both ad exchanges and SSPs to bid on publisher inventory alongside Google’s ad exchange AdX. This all takes place in a unified auction within the ad server side and not a user’s browser.

To understand why EBDA was developed, first we must take a step back and examine the introduction of header bidding itself.

 

The history of Exchange Bidding in Dynamic Allocation

Prior to 2016, Google had a strong advantage in the ad bidding process. The Dynamic Allocation function within DoubleClick for Publishers essentially allowed Google Ad Manager to compete with publishers’ direct sales teams before other ad exchanges and SSPs were involved. AdX was therefore able to offer premium inventory, while other players could only purchase unsold inventory.

Header bidding was developed to level the playing field. Within this method, multiple exchanges can bid on inventory simultaneously, allowing publishers to invite other partners to create a bid request before AdX. However, Google immediately started working on its own solution.

EBDA was created as an alternative to header bidding. Within EBDA every exchange and SSP invited in by a publisher gets to bid in a single Dynamic Action.

 

What are the benefits of EBDA?

For publishers, there are numerous advantages offered by EBDA:

Ease of use Header bidding can take time and specialist knowledge to implement; EBDA by contrast can be set up within a few minutes, with minimal coding knowledge thanks to its ability to work alongside your existing tags.

Reduces latency – Thanks to the bidding process taking place within Google’s infrastructure though server-to-server connections, webpages and ads load faster on a user’s device, which  enhances their experience. If a request takes more than 160 milliseconds, the page will automatically time out.

Eliminates bid discrepancies – Thanks to Google handling all layers of billing within the process, billing is very precise. Header bidding, by contrast, can leave you at risk of revenue loss when the bid sent and payment received don’t match.

Involved reporting – Like many products within the Google ecosystem, the reporting on EBDA is clear, precise and transparent, with in depth analytics that allow you to maximize the value of your ad inventory.

Higher eCPMsUltimately, EBDA can have a positive impact on ad revenue. The increased competition that comes from all partners bidding simultaneously on inventory leads to higher eCPMs and revenue, allowing you to gain a better understanding of the value of your ad inventory.

New and improved In the latest version of EBDA Google released Header Bidding in yield groups, a simpler, more efficient way of setting up header bidding in AdManager. The feature also provides improved, more accurate reporting and better performance through header bidding with more granular bidding facilitated.

Is EBDA right for you?

If you have already had success with header bidding, then the answer is yes. Its easy integration, accurate billing, and in depth reporting can help publishers of all sizes to raise the value of their ad inventory.

If you would like to find out more about Exchange Bidding in Dynamic Allocation and how you can unlock its potential, don’t hesitate to get in touch

How publishers can prepare for an uncertain future

Ben Erdos, September 14, 2022

Takeaways:

  • First-party data is an important bedrock for all publishers
  • In-depth knowledge of your audience can help weather any storm
  • Never be afraid to ask industry partners for advice

The brakes have been reapplied to Google’s phase-out of third-party cookies.

Now slated for 2024, this comes as no surprise to anyone who has been watching the situation develop. The constraints of Google’s own solutions and lack of a front-running replacement means too many would be left in the lurch if the phase-out were to go ahead.

In an ideal world, we would see an industry standard endorsed by the likes of the IAB, laying a solid foundation to build upon going forward. But as it stands, no one solution has the scalability to succeed. Ultimately, this leaves publishers stuck in the same position — in limbo until a workable answer appears.

In the fast-paced world of digital media, changes of direction such as these can throw publishers into a panic. However, being prepared for whatever comes down the pipeline is important for negotiating these twists and turns. Here’s how your company can be ready for anything:

First-party first

Focusing on first-party data can provide a solid backbone for all publishers, especially as the cookie depreciates. While the cookie gets a bad rap, identifiers were what the open web was built on. But we are now seeing a transformation towards a more privacy-focused web, and Google’s deadline shift doesn’t stop that.

All publishers should be pushing forward with crafting an effective and privacy-secure first-party data strategy. Not only does this provide a buffer against incoming privacy changes, such as the proposed UK Data Reform Bill, but these rich audience insights can also help to increase the value of ad inventory in a sustainable way.

This data needs to be stored responsibly, not only to stay on the right side of regulations, but because this is data on your customers – keeping their personal information safe should be a top priority.

Listen to your audience

Cookies have allowed publishers to keep a distance from their audience. This separation has made it easier to view site visitors purely in terms of clicks and ROI. But as time goes on, this level of detachment is clearly unsustainable.

Listening to what your audience wants — whether via social media, questionnaires, or login pages — can help to build closer relationships between publisher and audience. Not only can existing content be better tailored, but it can also provide guidance on the creation of additional revenue streams — whether that be audio, video, subscriptions, or newsletters.

Trust Your Content

Ultimately, having a solid content strategy can provide any publisher with stability in times of uncertainty. Maintaining quality in everything from the content produced to the user experience will ensure that audiences keep returning. This needs to be done sustainably, with medium- and long-term planning having flexibility built in to deal with industry shifts. 

Gain a wider perspective

When caught up in the latest twist or turn, it can often be difficult to see the bigger picture. Technology and regulations are always changing and always have done. The latest sticking point that may feel like the end of the world is simply another evolution in digital publishing.

In situations like these, publishers need to know they can lean on their partners — the advice and knowledge they can provide are invaluable. The insights gained from the wider perspective of trusted and informed partners are vital for effective decision-making.

If you would like to find out more about what the latest Google delay means for you, how to harness a first-party data strategy, or ask our advice on other publishing trends, feel free to get in touch

Helpful Content Update: Not just another Google algorithm update

Ryan Rakover, September 7, 2022

Takeaways:

  • The update process is automated using a machine-learning model. 
  • The goal is to help וsers discover rich, valuable people-first content 
  • People-first content can still rank high from low-quality sites (unhelpful content)
  • The signal is weighted, meaning some sites get hit harder than others.
  • Only English searches will be impacted, to begin with.

update
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash


Staying up to date with Google updates requires commitment. Google is continuously working on all aspects of its products, and for those navigating the delicate balancing act of digital media, Google doesn’t let you rest on your laurels. Veteran publishers will remember learning the lessons of not correctly adjusting for the Panda update in 2011. At that time, Google announced that the update would help differentiate low-quality sites. Learning to adapt to those new signals set publishers in different directions.


A little over ten years later, we are seeing Google again taking a more earnest position on defining the quality of content. The ‘Helpful Content Update’ supports “People First Content” –  content that answers questions and satisfies the reader. This update goes further into the user journey, beyond the ‘search results’ experience, and looks at where the user journey leads to answer the question: will those top results successfully connect users to valued content?   


Google released a statement about this latest update, saying it  will “tackle content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines.” It aims to boost content written for people and devalue content based primarily on SEO best practices.


If you have been busy building your content department with passionate writers writing on topics that engage your users, you’re off to a good start. Google is saying that your writers should not only be subject experts but have also experienced the topic(s) of choice. The editorial team needs to work on blending the collected voices of your writers to best amplify the mission statement that supports your domain(s). The user is the audience for your uniquely crafted content, not the SEO gods. 


How to change from a search engine-first approach?

Users are frustrated with low-value content at the top of searches because of high attention to SEO rules and best practices. The reader is left going back from one of the top results to redefine their query to better identify the content they are searching for.


To make the switch from an SEO-focused strategy, you must put your readers first. When users visit your site(s), they’re there to understand what you (or your brand) have to say. They’re not looking for redirection to somewhere else or someone else’s content cleverly retitled with key takeaways added below the headline. 


What does it mean to create people-first content? Publishers and content creators should be asking themselves the following questions: 

  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus? Or are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have already said?
  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines rather than made for human consumption?
  • Will a user leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience? Or will they need to search again to get better information from other sources?


No to content for content’s sake…please!

The helpful content update points out that not all content is in fact helpful.  Along the way, while building the open web, publishers became focused on trying to understand the impact of SEO and developed strategies to infuse content with SEO best practices. The result has created a style of content that doesn’t necessarily meet the user’s needs or answer their questions. Search results are inundated with redundant results that don’t add much value. 


Google has long been committed to quality and, through updates, is steadily guiding publishers and content creators in this direction. Below we can see a timeline highlighting some of the Google updates that helped focus publishers and creators on how to best publish their content to get seen by users.  People-first content is valuable, offering users helpful content to answer their queries. With so much information available within each search, connecting users to the right results becomes harder and harder. The goal of this update is to identify those high- and low-quality sites that aim to enrich all participants: publisher, advertiser, and user alike.  


Google updates timeline


Also good to know:

  • “Sites identified by this update may find the signal applied to them for months,” revealed Google.
  • Google won’t tell you which URLs or pages are considered not helpful
  • The update affects English searches worldwide and will expand to other languages in the future.
  • There is a validation period for Google to trust that you are committed to updating your content and not just making a quick fix. Google will then re-rank the domain(s). 
  • Google needs you to prove, over several months (no clearly defined timeline yet, but it will require commitment), that your content is actually helpful and written for a person-first audience.
  • This is an algorithm update, not a core page signal update. Google is waiting to see how the rollout goes. Based on the rollout, the weight of the overall page signal ranking may change, but not for now. 


Have any questions about this or any of Google’s updates? Want to discuss what it means to create people-first content for your site(s)?



About the author: Ryan Rakover is the head of our Trust and Safety efforts at Total Media Solutions. One of the things Ryan enjoys the most in his role as a publisher’s strategic partner is the challenge of bringing policy from a place of rules and standards to delivering solutions to clients to improve their client’s bottom line. Find Ryan on LinkedIn.

Attack of the 50 foot Ad Blocker: 4 ways publishers can beat ad blockers and regain their ad revenue

Ben Erdos, August 22, 2022

Takeaways:

  • There are four ways publishers can beat ad blockers and regain ad revenue: Server Side Ad Insertions (SSAI), subscription models, becoming a member of the Acceptable Ads Committee, and maintaining transparency with audiences. 
  • Publishers need to take existing audiences into consideration when rerouting ad blocking methods.
  • Ensuring online ads are high quality is essential for publishers looking to break through ad blocking ice.

No matter how well optimised a website is, how well placed the ad inventory is and how much care has been taken with website UX, there is always one stumbling block standing between publishers and ad revenue – ad blockers.

Since their inception way back in 2002, ad blockers have been a thorn in the side of publishers and brands alike. Nearly half of internet users claim to use an ad blocker – resulting in a huge amount of wasted spend and lost revenue. With budgets tightening as the economic situation worsens, recovering that lost spend will be vital for publishers looking to continue to grow.

However, all is not lost. For publishers looking to regain revenue lost to ad blockers, there are several tactics that weaken their grip. Let’s explore these:

 

Act natural

Server Side Ad Insertions (SSAI) are a technical workaround that helps to trick ad blocking programmes. Essentially, SSAIs let publishers place ads on-page via their CMS, weaving it into the fabric of the web page itself. Ad blockers look for signals that an ad is starting and move to block them. But if an ad is baked into a webpage they are unable to detect them.

If SSAIs are the route to go down, there is one thing to keep in mind: audience reaction. Remember, they have made a choice to install an ad blocker;  they may not react positively to finding ads once again, and bounce straight off your site.

 

Building a wall

There are numerous subscription models that publishers can choose from, and each can recover lost revenue. From the hard paywall favoured by the likes of the New York Times or Financial Times or a more flexible option that allows paying readers to view without ads, paywalls can be tailored to your needs. 
You need to take into consideration your already existing audience, your plans for growth and what other content types you can supplement it with. Find out how to build a subscription model that works for you and your audience in our deep dive into the subject.

 

Raising the standard

The Acceptable Ads Standard is a certification put in place by the Acceptable Ads Committee that helps publishers to white list ads that are non-intrusive. A number of major ad blocking applications – including AdBlock, Adblock Plus, uBlock, and Crystal – acknowledge this whitelisting and will allow these ads to still show on webpages. Essentially, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Not every blocker accepts these standards however, and many sell themselves on their avoidance. Smaller publishers may also be asked to pay for membership to become accredited, so it may not always be cost effective.

Education, education, education

Sometimes it is worth remembering that online advertising isn’t just a relationship between publishers and advertisers or brands – audiences are the most vital part of the system. After years of data privacy scandals and intrusive pop ups it is no wonder that many are no longer keen to be exposed to advertising online.

Transparency with your audience on why the need for advertising is vital. This could be as simple as a pop-up to any visitor using an ad blocker that explains why whitelisting your site helps you retain an important source of revenue so that they can continue to see great content.

The Coalition For Better Ads, an industry group drawn from the ranks of advertisers, publishers, and internet technology providers, advocates for better audience education as the key driver to decrease the number of consumers using ad blockers.

While ad blocking software is still available, publishers are going to have to figure out how to either avoid them, work around them or get their audiences to switch them off – or maybe a combo of all three. While, as an industry, publishers may not be as reliant on digital advertising as they were previously, the potential lost revenue will sting in the coming years.

What publishers need to remember however is that ad blockers emerged because of the consumer exhaustion with seeing inappropriate, repetitive or invasive ads. As an industry, publishers need to continue to work together and with advertisers to ensure that online ads are as high quality as possible. If we can win back consumer trust, we may banish the need for ad blockers altogether.

 

Worried that your customers are blocking you out? Seeking extra revenue for your ad efforts? Get in touch with our team if you’d like to talk more about how to maximise your ad revenue..

Implementing a subscription model – what should publishers consider?

Adi Pinco, July 20, 2022

Takeaways:

  • Diversifying revenue streams is essential for publishers to expand on offerings and create a balanced subscription model
  • Website optimization is vital for publishers that want to convert flyby users into loyal brand users
  • Publishers need to communicate with audiences to understand better what loyal users are looking for when it comes to subscriptions and contextualized ads
Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

Like everyone else, we’re pleased that the coronavirus rollercoaster seems to be coming to an end (touch wood). For publishers, however, the ongoing unreliability of ad budgets has left them wondering if there is another way to gain the stable revenue needed to keep creating great content. The majority, it seems, have settled on subscriptions.

Subscriptions have become a part of all of our daily lives. We have music subscriptions, TV subscriptions, grocery subscriptions – even clothes subscriptions. While the declaration that we now live in a ‘Subscription Economy’ might be overblown (I’m not sure I need new underwear sent via subscription), the options are, essentially, endless.

But subscription models aren’t as simple as building a paywall, sitting back, and waiting for the money to roll in. Publishers need to ask themselves some serious questions before diving headfirst into the world of subscriptions:

What are your aims?

The New York Times’ recent proclamation that it had reached 10 million subscribers will have been a vindication of the subscription model to some publishers. But the cold truth is that the hard paywall model implemented by the NYT and others such as The Financial Times probably won’t work for many publishers.

When deciding if and how to implement a paywall, publishers first need to ask themselves what their aims are – audience growth, for example, can be stunted by the implementation of hard paywalls.

A soft paywall, on the other hand – one that partitions some content but leaves some free to read – can offer both a solid user base and help turn first-time or fleeting users into paid subscribers. Alternatively, paywalls that reward subscribers with bonus content can reward your most loyal visitors while leaving others to explore the rest of the site.

Whichever path you take, you need to have a clear vision of long-term goals and factor in how a paywall can get you there.

Is your website optimized?

No one likes a slow website. Many of us are still scarred from the agonizingly slow days of dial-up and are relieved those times are behind us. For all publishers, keeping their websites as fast and responsive as possible is a priority. But when users are paying to use your service, your website has to work perfectly.

With frameworks like Google’s Core Web Vitals providing a clear set of metrics relating to speed, responsiveness, and visual stability, poor site performance should be a thing of the past. While it can seem basic, optimizing these pushes up a website’s CWV performance and ultimately keeps loyal users coming back.

Are there other options?

Everyone knows not to put all their eggs in one basket – and in the same vein, publishers should be wary about banking solely on subscriptions? Audio and video, for example, have captured eyes and ears worldwide – especially during the last few years. The barrier to entry for those mediums is also getting lower all the time, allowing publishers of all sizes to add their voices to these new spaces.

And while the whole point of subscription models is to lessen reliance on advertising, publishers cannot simply dismiss it altogether. Online advertising is continuing to mature, with expanding safety and suitability options giving brands more confidence to invest, while cookieless targeting solutions are providing a new way to reach consumers when third-party data is phased out.

Diversifying revenue streams shouldn’t be binary – various different content types can be balanced to enhance a subscription model.

What does your audience want?

Any subscription model will fail if you don’t consider one key thing – your audience. Publishers need to listen to what their audiences actually want and whether they’d be willing to pay for it. 

Diving into the data and examining audience journeys can help determine the right balance for your audience. Reaching out and asking them for input can also be powerful. They may be willing to pay for new forms of content a publisher does not currently offer – such as audio or video – or they may be willing to pay micropayments for newsletters or certain columns. Conversely, they may be simply happy to view more advertising on the site but not pay a subscription at all.

Finding the right solution will involve trial and error, but by listening to audiences, publishers can make small adjustments to strike the perfect balance instead of wholesale changes.

Laying the foundations for a hard paywall? Looking to entice users with exclusive content? Get in touch with our team if you’d like to talk more about how subscriptions can work for your site.

Listen up!: Finding the right digital audio ad

Adi Pinco, July 11, 2022

Takeaways:

  • There are three main ways digital ad space can be purchased: manual ad insertion, dynamic ad insertion, and programmatic ad insertion.
  • Manual insertion is the traditional way to purchase ad space and, until recently, has been used for the majority of ad placements.
  • Dynamic ad insertion is the most popular way digital audio ads are placed and offer greater targeting options.
  • Programmatic insertion is in its infancy but offers more personalized messaging thanks to better targeting.
digital audio ads
Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

Like a lot of people, we feel lost these days if left commuting without our favorite podcast, or winding down at the end of the day without Alexa playing the radio in the background, or if on the treadmill without our well-curated gym playlist. Digital audio has become a staple of our daily lives.

Brands have taken note of our growing love of digital audio, with increased spending over the last few years on all areas. Highly effective due to its personal nature, and with endless creative possibilities, the growth of these formats has been music to many advertisers’ ears.

But like any other advertising channel, brands diving into digital audio need to buy their advertising slots in an effective, scalable, and context-appropriate manner if their campaigns are going to grab the ears of consumers.

For those still struggling to get their heads around the world of digital audio ads, let’s look into the three main ways that space can be purchased.

1. Manual ad insertion 

This is the traditional way to purchase ad space, especially for podcasts. Usually, brands will negotiate directly with publishers or podcasters. Ads are then ‘baked’ into the audio, meaning they are part of a single audio file that cannot change. Hosts or artists can read these ads out, blending seamlessly into the content.

Until recently, a majority of ad placements were run using this method – in 2019 52% of podcast ads were purchased manually. The method also chimes with consumers, with the often personalized tone, familiarity of a host’s voice, and naturalistic insertion leading to a 71% brand recall.

The downside is that these kinds of placements can be taxing to implement and lack true scalability. As the market for digital audio continues to expand, these individual insertions will be time-consuming for advertisers and may cause brands to miss out on potential audiences. 

2. Dynamic ad insertion 

Dynamic ad insertion (DAI) is currently the most popular way that digital audio ads are placed, seeing explosive growth during the pandemic. Second best to manual podcast insertion in 2019 with around 48% of placements, it now accounts for 84% of podcast ads.

In short, DAI differs from manual insertion in that publishers mark spots within an audio file where ads can be inserted. Advertisers are then able to serve ads the moment audio is downloaded. It’s basically a win-win for brands and creators – ad messaging can be kept up-to-date while back catalogue can continue to be monetized.

DAI gives advertisers greater targeting options, meaning audiences to be found via genre, geotargeting, and even specific episode titles. Data signals can also be harnessed with DAI to serve ad messaging dependent on variables such as time, or even weather data. The use of audience data overlays from third- or first-party data is also possible.

Despite this, murkiness about the true measurability of DAI hampers its effectiveness. While advertisers can see downloads of a podcast, whether an advert was actually listened to remains somewhat a mystery.

3. Programmatic insertion

Programmatic is still very much in its infancy within the digital audio space. Though effectively used on many music streaming platforms – Spotify has Private Marketplaces (PMPs) and Programmatic Guaranteed (PG) buys available to advertisers – the podcast space is slower on the uptake. Only 1.7% of podcast revenue was generated through this buying method in 2021 (compared to 67% for display advertising back in 2019).

Its growth in the space could lower the barrier for entry for smaller brands and creators alike. More personalized messaging can also be served into the ears of listeners thanks to better targeting abilities.

There are however currently big question-marks over the brand safety solution in the audio space. While targeting via show type or description is possible, the ability to screen on an episodic level is not yet effective enough – the recent Joe Rogan vaccine denial scandal would give any advertiser cold sweats. As the technology develops and industry-wide safety standards are implemented, programmatic will start becoming a real contender in the digital audio space.

Any further questions on audio ads? Want to get further into the details on programmatic? Or do you have any other publisher-related questions? Get in touch with our team.

Building an ad tech strategy: 3 elements publishers must master

Adi Pinco, April 28, 2022

Takeaways:

  • Publishers should explore different inventory allocation opportunities to determine which mix best aligns with their business model.
  • Yield management strategies need to be employed to maximize revenues.
  • Publishers are responsible for complying with policies and data protection regulations.
ad strategy, ad tech

Building an ad-tech strategy is perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a publisher. A simple Google search will reveal thousands of ad tech companies, each claiming to offer the best monetization methods and strategies. It’s easy for publishers to quickly become overwhelmed and get lost in a sea of advice and recommendations. 

The result is publishers with overly complicated or underperforming tech stacks, misconfigurations, policy compliance issues, and many other problems, all of which amount to lost revenues and other consequences. 

Creating the right ad-tech strategy is a lot like cooking. Just as you balance flavors to suit your tastebuds, you need to find the right ad-tech mix to achieve your business goals.

In this post, we’ll cover the ingredients you need to make your ad-tech stack sizzle. With the right in-house expertise, you can follow it and create a workable, revenue-generating machine. 

1. Supply allocation 

When it comes to allocating inventory, publishers have several options. How inventory is divided among demand sources can significantly impact revenue, so publishers must do this with great care. Since publishers have different business models and strategies, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Publishers should evaluate various opportunities and determine which types of deals are most beneficial.

Let’s look at some of the most common types of deals.

Private marketplace 

Private marketplace deals (PMP) are invite-only auctions in which a selected group of advertisers get bidding priorities before inventory is made available to all other advertisers. Publishers determine minimum costs, and the advertiser with the highest offer wins.  

Direct deals

Direct deals are struck between sellers and buyers without ad exchanges or intermediaries. CPMs are pre-negotiated and higher than open market rates because deals are for premium inventory.

Programmatic guaranteed and preferred deals

With preferred deals, publishers sell premium inventory to a preselected group of advertisers at fixed prices. Advertisers bid in real-time, and the winner is determined by the highest bid or the advertiser that offers the pre-negotiated price. Guaranteed deals are similar but come with a fixed number of impressions. 

Remnant inventories

Remnant inventories are suitable for open auctions as real-time bidding is open to many advertisers. Demand will vary, but publishers can still get an acceptable price for unsold ad inventory. 

2. Yield management 

Yield management is a variable pricing strategy that enables publishers to sell inventory for the best price. Publishers usually alter prices based on demand, demand sources, seasonality, or user behavior. Yield management allows publishers to maximize fill rates and earn the highest CPMs possible. 

Here are a few ways publishers optimize their yield management strategies. 

Demand partners 

Publishers need to think carefully about the demand partners they work with, adding them to tech stacks to test their value. Some supply-side platforms (SSPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs) have commitments or relationships with agencies to provide certain opportunities for buyers. Other demand partners might specialize in specific geo-locations or verticals, which can benefit publishers.

Header bidding 

Header bidding, which occurs outside of ad server auctions, gives advertisers a ‘first look’ at a publisher’s inventory, allowing them to choose high-priority impressions. Impressions are auctioned to all partners simultaneously, and the highest offered price determines the winner.

Varied ad formats

Some ad formats are more valuable to advertisers than others. To maximize profits, publishers should offer a variety of traditional and non-traditional ad formats, including video, application, interstitial, native, and anchor or sticky ads. Advertisers will pay a premium for ads that provide a better return on investment (ROI), resulting in more revenue for the publisher. 

A/B testing 

Every yield management strategy should include an A/B testing component. Publishers can test new technology, ad formats, header bidding solutions, and more against what they already use to determine which mix provides the best yields. 

3. Stay on top of everything!

The ad tech industry is no longer the wild west it once was. Today, organizations such as the IAB have been working to clean up the ad supply chain and restore confidence for both publishers and advertisers. Publishers that follow the rules, implement privacy policies, cookie compliance, and data protection measures can capture the revenue that would otherwise be headed toward non-compliant publishers.  

Traffic monitoring (trust & safety)

To instill a sense of trust and safety for advertisers, publishers need to monitor their traffic and understand their traffic sources. Publishers that don’t do this consistently will undoubtedly suffer from invalid traffic (IVT). Those with high IVT rates will see revenues and reputation diminish, and persistent IVT can cause publishers to lose access to Google products and other third-party partners. 

Policy compliance 

The ad tech industry and supply chain have suffered due to poor business practices and malicious actors. Nowadays, reputable programmatic platforms require publishers to meet standard compliance terms. For example, many platforms, including Google, won’t monetize publisher content that promotes illegal activity, including harmful or derogatory content, sexually explicit content, and much more. 

Data protection 

Data protection regulations vary by region and country. They include laws such as the EU’s GDPR, California’s CCPA, and Brazil’s LGPD. It is a publisher’s responsibility to make sure they comply with local laws and properly obtain user consent to collect data. 

Should you whip up your own ad tech stack?

As we mentioned earlier, it depends. Does your team have the right ingredients – the required knowledge, experience, and development skills?

While we encourage you to explore your options, we also know that sometimes publishers can be the most successful by focusing on the business activities they do best and allowing an expert like Total Media Solutions to do what it does best – provide publisher revenue management services.  

If you don’t want to waste more time or miss out on monetization opportunities, reach out to us. We’ll get you cooking in no time!

The four most important SEO strategies for publishers in 2022

Naomi Rabbie, March 16, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Preparing for MUM might not be required today, but it will keep you ahead of the game.
  • Make increasing page speed a priority and evaluate your site speed routinely.
  • Leverage Google’s tools for the best chance of earning a spot in Suggested Clips.
  • Refresh old content to build on the wins you previously had. 
MUM, Google, BERT, algorithm

There’s no denying that Google is the king of the internet. As such, all of its subjects, a.k.a. advertisers and publishers, must abide by the rules to court favor with the king in an attempt to win a coveted spot on the first page of search results. That, of course, is no easy feat. Landing a spot on page two is still a good consolation prize, but any further down is the equivalent of being sent to the Tower of London with a fate similar to Anne Boleyn.

Alas, for you publishers, the way to curry favor with the king and remain in its good graces is to focus on SEO strategies that meet its ever-changing algorithms. So, what does the ruler of the digital land have in store for us as we look at the year ahead? Google is flexing its mighty tech muscle, building on its AI and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities and focusing on how to provide internet users with better, more relevant sources of information. 

In this post, we’ll unpack the treasure chest of what Google has been working on so you can adjust your SEO strategy and prepare for tomorrow and the years to come. 

Google MUM is coming

Last May, Google introduced its new AI algorithm called MUM (Multitask Unified Model), which is built on top of its already in use algorithm BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers). According to Google, MUM is 1000 times more powerful than BERT and takes a radically different approach towards serving users’ implied search intent by understanding context, concepts, and how topics intersect.  

No one knows how MUM will affect search results. Google has been vague about that so far and about when it will be released, only saying “months to years.” At this moment, you can’t truly create a strategy to beat this algorithm, but you can start producing content that reflects the way this future algorithm will prioritize and display results: based on intent questions.

To put this in more concrete terms, Google gave an example of a person who, after hiking one mountain, wants to know how to prepare for a hike on a different mountain. Google posits that the user currently needs to perform several searches to find out about all aspects of their query – elevation levels, trails, temperatures, gear, etc. With MUM, all of those underlying non-verbalized questions would be answered with one result.

The key takeaway here is to think like a user and create content that answers more of their questions. 

Focus on improving page speed

Google cares about your site’s speed – a lot. A significant part of its last update, Core Web Vitals, focused on speed: how long it takes the largest page element to load, how elements shifted on a page while it was loading, and how quickly elements responded to clicks

You can quickly find out your scores with Google’s PageSpeed tool, and if pages are slow, there could be many culprits. Here are a few of the more technical but quick tweaks you should consider:

  • Minimizing HTTP requests 
  • Minifying files
  • Using asynchronous loading for JavaScript and CSS files
  • Deferring JavaScript loading
  • Using a fast DNS provider
  • Compressing files and reducing image sizes
  • Switching hosting providers
  • Using a CDN 

The list goes on and on, but the point is there are lots of ways to address site speed and eliminate the issues slowing your load times. 

Optimize for Suggested Clips

Video consumption is off the charts these days, and Google offers plenty of video results when users search. According to a global survey conducted by Statista, over 27% of people watch more than 10 hours of online video per week, while another 15% watch 7-10 hours, and 18% watch 4-7 hours. Chances are, you already know this and have prioritized creating video content.

So, if your written content isn’t landing you in the top ten results, try optimizing your videos to give them the best chance of appearing in Google’s Suggested Clips. Using the new structured data types, Clip Markup and Seek Markup, you manually tell Google which timestamp and label to use to create key moments and increase your chances of appearing in the results.

Refresh old content

Experts will always encourage you to create evergreen content, but the world moves fast, and things change quickly, meaning what you thought was evergreen has now fallen out of favor with Google. But all is not lost with those pages because refreshing them with updated content can restore them to their former glory. Google loves ‘fresh,’ and this is one of the quickest SEO 

strategies you can implement.

The best way to get that shine (and ranking) back is by refreshing old content. One of the best tactics is to look at the top ten Google results for a topic or keyword, put on your sleuthing cap and uncover what makes those pages rank. It could be the structure, keywords in the headers, optimized images, new data, or other factors. Take what you learn and apply it to your own page. After all, you already invested in producing this content, so giving it a refresh builds on that equity.

SEO is never done

SEO is like a castle’s defenses – there’s always work to be done, and you can always improve your site’s SEO. Thankfully, today we live in the digital age, and there are countless tools at your fingertips to help you.

Remember that these days, SEO is not just about adding keywords to your content, titles, meta descriptions, and alt tags – although all of those will help. Modern SEO is about thinking of the needs of your readers, prioritizing their experience, and answering the questions they are asking. 

If you prioritize those elements in your SEO strategy, you’ll be well on your way to becoming internet royalty – or at least snagging a top spot alongside other royals in Google-land.

If you need advice about SEO, monetization, or any other aspect of your publishing business, reach out to us.

About the author Leah Grantz is the Marketing Manager at Total Media Solutions. You can find Leah on LinkedIn or reach out to her via email to discuss content and SEO strategy!

Google is thinking of taking the F out (…of First Input Delay)

Ryan Rakover, February 23, 2022

Key takeaways

  • First Input Delay will be updated to Input Delay
  • The update will focus on the user journey rather than user moment
  • Expect more metrics to be updated 
  • CWV coming to desktop February 2022

What happened to the F?

Google is adjusting their Core Web Vitals (CWV) metrics to focus more on the user journey rather than just a moment within the user journey. Understanding what makes up a positive page experience has always been key to ranking high in Google Search and has been the North Star of the CWVs.  When setting priorities, publishers understand that speed is essential. When calculating speed it is critical to have picked the right “breathing” moments that the user may take – the moment content is either loading or ready for interaction. First Input Delay looks at the first loading event. The Input Delay metric will look not just at the first load but what comes next in the user journey. With this update Google is switching to evaluating more of the user’s journey rather than first arrival to a web page. The belief is that this approach will promote a better user experience and page experience.  

Last year (that would be 2021) Google released Core Web Vitals. This provided transparency for publishers on how their page performance is being “seen” by Google. The update was aimed at building publishers’ understanding about how loading, interactivity, and visual stability is measured/evaluated in Google’s eyes.  We covered this update on our blog last year (Understanding Core Web Vitals). At the time of the announcement Google made it clear that these metrics would be open to change, depending on how best to further the dialogue of helping publishers publish fast, secure, and reactive pages. 

What Core Web Vitals are doing to your page experience score

Lighthouse from Google continues to be the go to for publishers for understanding page performance. With the release of Core Web Vitals, Google integrated the scoring for Core Web Vitals into their transparency tool Lighthouse and Google Search Console, helping publishers see the impact of CWV as well as delivering insights into scoring. Since the launch of these metrics for mobile web in June 2021, publishers have been busy working to use this knowledge to make better page experiences for their users. 

The metric First Input Delay or FID measures how fast a browser can respond to a user interaction with a website. Playing a critical role in response time is a publisher’s content management system (CMS). However, the CMS provider usually has their own interests which are not always inline with Google’s. 

CMS companies offer a great advantage for small publishers but it is often delays in template optimisation and additional CMS features that keep publishers performing poorly.  At the time of the update this was one of many concerns from publishers. What could they do?  However, for the most part, the major content management systems – WordPress, Wix, and Drupal – released versions that score very high. This performance change has given Google the ability to expand their page experience score to look deeper into the user journey.  

What’s new? ID – Input Delay 

The main point to understand about this new metric is that it isn’t measuring a single interaction. It is measuring the collective interactions that are part of the user experience of the page. When a user lands on a page there are a series of events that are loaded. The updated metric will include those “first” events loaded, as well as those subsequent events needed for further interaction. 

In a blog post on Google’s web developer page the following four points were highlighted. The blog points out that these four points will help publishers to focus on the user journey.“These four points take the concept of FID and bring it to the bigger picture. The user journey does not stop when the first interactions are loaded but is only able to be seen in movement.” Towards a better responsiveness metric

  • Consider the responsiveness of all user inputs (not just the first one)
  • Capture each event’s full duration (not just the delay).
  • Group events together that occur as part of the same logical user interaction and define that interaction’s latency as the max duration of all its events.
  • Create an aggregate score for all interactions that occur on a page, throughout its full lifecycle.

LCP, CLS what can change next?

Core Web Vitals and their impact on search ranking is still yet to be seen. What is clear is that Google’s Lighthouse Audit allows a publisher to see under the hood of their domains. The picture isn’t always pretty, the years have brought a lot of legacy, plans abandoned, and an overall weight on current publisher offerings. Having publishers invest in balancing their pages benefits the whole ecosystem and promotes positive user experiences. 

Updates to the Update are expected to continue as Google (Chrome) learns more about the user experience. The expected roll out for Core Web Vitals on desktop is this month. It will be interesting to see what metrics may come into focus with desktop publishing. This update and the CWV initiative is challenging and asks the publisher to really sit in their user’s seat. What comes next we will have to wait and see. 

If you have any questions about Core Web Vitals and what you can do to improve your score, please be in touch. 

About the author: Ryan Rakover is the head of our Trust and Safety efforts at Total Media Solutions. One of the things Ryan enjoys the most in his role as a publisher’s strategic partner is the challenge of bringing policy from a place of rules and standards to delivering solutions to clients to improve their client’s bottom line. Find Ryan on LinkedIn or reach him by email.


References

Google Is Creating A New Core Web Vitals Metric, searchenginejournal.com

Towards a better responsiveness metric, web.dev

Feedback wanted: An experimental responsiveness metric, web.dev

Google Feb 2022 Update of Page Experience – What you need to know NOW!, webvitalsdev.com

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and What it Means for You

Brian Blondy, November 20, 2019

cca

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a new data privacy law that applies to businesses that collect personal information from California residents. The act creates new consumer rights related to limiting access, sharing, and usage of personal data that is collected by businesses.

The CCPA is considered the strictest piece of data privacy protection that has legislatively passed in the United States to date. The act allows consumers to request that their data de deleted in addition to possessing the power to request that their data be deleted and restricted from being sold to third-parties. In essence, CCPA regulations offer specific guidelines for what businesses need to do to become compliant with the new law.

The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

For users of Google Ad Manager (GAM), Google will offer updated service provider terms under the CCPA, which will supplement those existing data protection terms (revised to reflect the CCPA), effective January 1, 2020.

The new terms will be in addition to the data protection terms Google already offers related to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe.

The new CCPA service provider terms are planned to be incorporated into GAM’s existing contracts via the data protection terms. For GAM customers, there is no action required to add the service provider terms into the contract.

These service provider terms will be made available alongside new tools for partners to enable restricted data processing. Restricted data processing is intended to help Google Ad Manager users prepare for the changes that come with the arrival of CCPA.

How to Get Ready and Additional Information

Subject to the service provider terms, Google will act as the CCPA service provider for GAM users with respect to data processed while restricted data processing is enabled.

Subject to the service provider terms, Google will act as the CCPA service provider for GAM users concerning data processed while restricted data processing is enabled.

You can refer to this article for more information on restricted data processing and determine whether restricted data processing meets your CCPA compliance needs. Please also refer to Google’s Help Center articles for Ad Manager, AdMob, AdSense for more information on enabling restricted data processing.

For more information about CCPA, you can view an overview of Google’s data privacy policies on the following link:

Subject to the service provider terms, Google will act as the CCPA service provider for GAM users with respect to data processed while restricted data processing is enabled.

You can refer to this article for more information on restricted data processing and determine whether restricted data processing meets your CCPA compliance needs. Please also refer to Google’s Help Center articles for Ad Manager, AdMob, AdSense for more information on enabling restricted data processing.

For more information about CCPA, you can view an overview of Google’s data privacy policies here.

If you have any questions about this update, you are welcome to reach out to us, and we would be happy to consult with you.