Yield Optimizer: Tweaking Timeouts

In the first edition of our Yield Optimizer Series, we will be looking at how publishers can optimize their page load speed to improve overall yield and advertising revenue.

For most publishers, advertising is an essential part of their revenue strategy, but the tech required to target and deliver ads on a website can result in increased page load timesEvery additional micro-second of page load time reduces the customer experience and increases the probability that a user will navigate away from the site, which hurts a site's ability to make money. In this article, we will provide you with real, practical tips for optimizing ad time-out rates to ensure monetization goals can be achieved without sacrificing user experience.

What are time-out rates?

When an advertising request is sent to programmatic channels, demand partners respond to a publisher’s bid request with a return bid within a time limit set by the publisher. If this doesn’t happen, the bid is said to have ‘timed out’.  (This can happen for any number of reasons – poor CMP configuration, faulty integrations, slow internet connections, etc.)

The time-out rate measures how frequently a particular bidder cannot return a valid bid response in the allotted window of time. Consistently high time-out rates are of concern to publishers for two key reasons.  Firstly, they harm the user experience by slowing the site load (while it waits for bids to be returned).  And secondly, they limit the publisher’s revenue-generating capacity.  If a bid for an ad auction times out, a bid will not be submitted for that demand partner, and the ad slot goes to the highest of the returned bids. Publishers could be leaving money on the table if high bids are not submitted in time; these submissions would also add bid density and could push the winning bid up higher.

User experience vs. revenue

The first step for publishers wanting to tackle timeouts is to find the right balance between user experience and revenue opportunities; too short a time limit results in more failed bids and therefore lost revenue; too long a time limit can lead to slow page load times and lost users, which also hurts revenue (and your brand).

Professor Prebid assistance

Header bidding tool Professor Prebid is an ally here. The Professor Prebid Chrome extension offers a suite of different features that can help you diagnose issues with your setup, optimize page latency, visualize auctions in real time, and even use CPM overrides to test out potential bidding scenarios. It enables publishers to check the response rates from bidders and adjust the set timeout accordingly. 

Tactical page positioning

Publishers have traditionally grouped all ads on a page and sent them to demand partners in a single request, with one universal timeout. This creates operational efficiency, but, depending on the timeout window, can have negative impacts on page latency or fill rates for all ad slots.

An alternative approach is to work with where the ads are on a page – above the fold or below the fold is a good place to start.  A publisher that is tracking timeouts can see the times in which different bidders respond, and group ad calls accordingly; above-the-fold inventory can go to demand partners with faster bid return times while the slots that appear on the lower parts of a page can also be sent to those that typically take longer to return a bid, which allows more bids to compete for the same inventory.

This method lets publishers realize revenue from slower partners, with minimal impact on page load speeds and, therefore, user experience.  At The MediaGrid, using this dual approach, rather than a single request one, has seen 10% higher CPMs and a 20% increase in bid rates – proving the benefits of ‘tweaking timeouts.’

Looking for more tips and tricks to maximize yield? Check out our header bidding health metrics guide for five straightforward metrics you can tweak to boost yield and unlock incremental revenue.

Download your free Header Bidding Health Handout

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