Part 2: Ad Layout Best Practices



Lesson Overview + Resources:

By now, you should have learned all about best practices for ad location (if not, we suggest you jump back to part 1 of 3 to learn those important tips). Next, we’ll move on to best practices for user-friendly ad performance.

In this lesson, we’ll dig into why publishers should and how they can:

  • Exceed expectations
  • Test, test, test
  • Avoid ad clutter

Here are additional resources pertaining to the lesson above:

Read the Transcript:

One of the biggest mistakes a publisher can make is forgetting about the user while they’re building their digital ad strategy. In the end, you need happy users to have great experiences on your website or app. Otherwise, your audience will dwindle and your revenue will dwindle with it.


With that in mind, let’s cover some best practices for user-friendly ad unit performance:


We’ve all experienced reality just not living up to expectations. It is no less annoying when that experience is on a website.

There’s a theory that user engagement and satisfaction are correlated to users’ expectations and nothing else. In other words, if a user expects a great experience and gets a good experience, they’re unsatisfied. And if they expect a bad experience and get a halfway decent one, they’ll be satisfied. 

There may or may not be other factors at play in user satisfaction, but it’s clear that expectations play a big part. So, your best bet is to exceed your users’ expectations when it comes to navigating your site and being presented with ads. 

To do that, try to avoid creating environments in which a user clicks on one item and ends up seeing another, such as an ad. Make sure they know when they’re about to see an ad, and don’t ever surprise them with one if you can avoid it. Steer clear of the all-too-familiar behavior on ad-heavy mobile pages where the page is forced to reload and scrolls the user all the way back to the top. Essentially, do everything you can to keep users happy, which keeps them on your site.

Number 2, Test, Test, Test.

While the best practices we’ve already discussed create a great starting point, they should not be considered an endpoint. You should be testing ad unit placements and watching the effect they have on user behavior and ad revenue to find the perfect mix for your website.

A “set it and forget it” mentality when it comes to the strategy for your ad layout will hinder you in reaching your full ad revenue potential. Make sure you are regularly testing and keeping a watchful eye on how each change affects your user data.

And, number 3, AVOID AD CLUTTER

Let’s start by looking at Mobile Ad Density.

The Coalition for Better Ads has a very clearly defined standard for ad density on mobile devices. They recommend:

“Ads take up no more than 30% of the vertical height of a page. Ad density is determined by summing the heights of all ads within the main content portion of a mobile page, then dividing by the total height of the main content portion of the page.” 

Follow the 30% Rule for Mobile: Quite simply, on mobile devices, make sure you are following the 30% ad density or less rule provided by the Coalition for Better Ads.


Desktop experiences

Desktop experiences, on the other hand, have no such clearly defined guidelines. This is where you find yourself at the intersection of an art and a science.

Because there are so many different ad units out there, and so many different ways to incorporate them into the content of your website, it is very difficult to strictly define what makes an experience too “ad dense.”

Let’s go through some best practices that should keep you away from a cluttered experience.

Number 1, Use a Mix of High Impact and Standard Ads. 

An easy way to keep ad density in the right place is to use a blend of standard display ads and high impact ads. This keeps you from using too many display ads (which will start to lead to clutter), and strategically works in high-impact units that increase ad revenue much more with each impression.

Number 2, Pick the BEST Positioning for Display Ads. 

Reducing your total number of display ads shown (to keep clutter to a minimum) means that you need to pick the best possible positioning for those display units to drive the maximum CPMs from them. 

Some guidance includes: keeping ads away from navigational elements, ensuring there is plenty of padding between ads and content, and keep ads above the fold but lower on the visible portion of the screen (for instance, don’t place an ad right at the top of the page where the user will immediately scroll away from it).

In general, make sure to follow the advice provided in the ad layout best practices section of this module, and it should help keep you in a safe place.