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Increased ad opportunities for smaller publisher sites

As publishers watch visitor numbers to their site start to grow, writes Crimtan’s Tony Evans, they can find themselves faced with a challenge: How to make more money from their site.

By Tony Evans

For large sites this has never been much of a problem, but the options for small and medium sized publishers (SMPs) are somewhat limited, and generally fall into three main categories:

* Product sales – This is often the biggest source of income for sites with products to sell, however publishers whose focus is entirely on creating unique content must look to other chief revenue drivers.

* Affiliate sales – There are hundreds of affiliate companies representing a vast range of products and services that might appeal to SMPs’ visitors. The affiliate provides ads or links for the site and pays a commission for each visitor that clicks a link and makes a purchase.

* Advertising revenue – This is a real growth area and the best source of revenue for publishers that exclusively provide content. SMPs often have low site traffic, and so have few choices. The most popular option tends to be automated self-service platforms like Google’s AdSense, but while revenue will start to flow, it is difficult to increase much beyond its initial level. The big issue SMPs need to address is how to move beyond the likes of AdSense and take control of their revenue to grow it further.

Recently, new technology like behavioural profiling and real-time bidding (RTB) has encouraged new ad services for SMPs. While offering access to leading ad agencies and premium advertising, some of these services also offer the kind of hands-on advice, support and technology that only large sites have previously been able to access. This development has been driven by a fundamental shift away from advertisers buying sites with content relevant to them, to buying users with the specific interests they want to reach.

The paradigm shift from ‘pages to people’ has increased the value of ad impressions for SMPs. This means that ad placements aren’t limited to the context of the content, rather the value of the ad impression rises to the rate the advertiser is willing to pay for users with the interests they want.

RTB allows each ad impression to be auctioned to a host of competing advertisers in real time at a pre-agreed minimum price. When a visitor lands on a publisher’s site, the advertisers ‘see’ an anonymous profile and, if it matches their requirements, they can bid on that user. The advertiser with the highest bid then gets to deliver their ad on the site, and to that specific user. Using the right technology, all this happens automatically and faster than the blink of an eye to ensure that publishers always get the maximum possible revenue for their inventory.

As well as significantly improving SMPs’ revenue, a fully managed service can take charge of all of a publisher’s inventory along with other commercial interests such as sponsorships, ad campaigns and other traffic and revenue drivers providing SMPs with the time and revenue they need to focus on the bit they and their visitors really care about - the content itself.

Managed services should also provide SMPs with access to enhanced analytical tools that provide insights into user behaviour and visitor interests, along with new intelligence on the site’s visitors to help publishers run their own highly cost-effective marketing campaigns to bring back previous visitors and even to extend the audience to drive new users to the site.

To increase revenue and traffic by taking advantage of the benefits that new ad technology has brought to the market, SMPs must ask these 10 essential questions of a managed service:

1. Does the network have proprietary behavioural targeting technology with which they can develop profiles, and how do they segment users?

2. Which ad exchanges do they have seats on and can they perform RTB there?

3. What are their service-level promises? This can be extremely technical and complex, so SMPs should look for a company that is prepared to look after all their inventory, and help with other aspects of their site such as tenancies and sponsorships.

4. How much of the inventory will they take and what will they pay? They should be flexible enough to take all or part of a SMP’s inventory, and should split ad revenue at least 50:50.

5. Can they handle rich media such as videos and expandables which can attract high CPMs?

6. How long has the company been operating and what kind of relationship do they have with the large ad agencies?

7. What kind of inventory reporting does the SMP get, and can they access inventory payment reports and revenue analysis through a user interface?

8. What visitor analytics does the service provide that the SMP can use for marketing and content improvements?

9. Do they provide any other marketing help such as custom segments to use for retargeting and audience extension?

10. What privacy controls do they have in place? SMPs must ensure that the service has signed up to the EU Framework for Behavioural Targeted Advertising, and that their logo appears on the IAB’s site at

Providing SMPs ask the right questions they should find a service that will not only take all the hassle of advertising off their hands, but help to deliver better quality advertisers, increased revenue and more traffic – helping to turn their niche interest site into a potential goldmine.