The goal of any publisher when serving ads on a website is to earn money – we get that. Too often publishers forget that if the content is useful, then ads are a great way to compensate publishers for all their hard work. It’s hardly like payment walls have been a huge success. So if ads are here to stay, let’s all feel good about making money from ads so that we can keep creating free content for the whole world to use!
With that said, implementing and staying on top of the job of monetization can require more time and effort than most of us want to put in.
Most publishers are playing a balancing act between maximizing revenues, ensuring that the website provides a pleasurable experience for users and not spending all your time on ad ops, and getting distracted from the most important output – that of producing more high quality content which will get us up the rankings and increase traffic.
Ezoic’s take on all this is that if you serve ads on your site, and they are not seen or clicked on, then they really aren’t serving their purpose – that of providing value to your advertisers (and money to you!). On the other hand, if you place ads in positions that make it hard for visitors to navigate the site or are simply ‘too much’, they will most likely bounce and you’ll find a different resource for information on another site.
The biggest question for all publishers – when considering their ad locations and ad density generally – is how to find and maintain a happy medium that benefits both the publisher and the users.
CEO at Ezoic
When we spoke with Ezoic – they told us that they have cracked this problem with a technological solution. They say that their system can find the best way to determine the correct ad sizes for each page and device (including number, size and location on the page) from scientific testing. Testing what combinations of ads work best, based on the users’ responses – monitoring UX and earnings. These tests provide valuable data that can determine the ‘optimal’ ad sizes and locations for a given user session. If specific ad combinations increase revenue without hurting user experience metrics (bounce rate, time on site, page views per visit), the revenue increases are totally sustainable long term.
While testing ad sizes and locations will help optimize earnings, Ezoic make the case that it can get extremely time consuming very quickly if you’re trying to do this manually (using a/b testing tools ‘like optimizely‘). We agree. Ezoic gave us this example – below – which shows the increasing complexity of testing. The number of test permutations increases with the number of combinations that can be tested on any given page:
That looks like a lot of work! I doubt anyone would want to take that on, especially when that time could be allocated to producing more content.
The good news is that Ezoic have developed some technology that automate the multivariate testing process, allowing publishers to focus on other aspects of their website business and still enjoying the benefits of more income and better UX.
So, what is Ezoic?
Ezoic and Google: Ezoic is one of the few companies in the world that have been accredited with ‘Google Certified Publishing Partner‘ status. This means that Google trusts them to help any AdSense or ADX publisher (that’s a big responsibility considering how much income those businesses bring in for Google – or Alphabet as it is now).
Why did Google accredit Ezoic and not other companies? We asked Ezoic and they told us
We are really excited to be a Certified Publishing Partner with Google – it was hard to pass the exams and go through the audit and interview process. They don’t make it easy!
CCO at Ezoic
Ezoic – Technology. Ezoic is first and foremost a tech platform. It was was built to help publishers improve website revenue and user experience. Ezoic’s Ad Tester App allows you to set ‘placeholders’ on your site where ads of varying sizes may be tested. The system will auto test different combinations of ads and sizes on each page and measure the effects on overall session income (not RPM). The combinations that make the most money per user, while still promoting good user experience, are then shown to more of the users, lifting the overall site income.
Testing is ongoing, so they say. The ads help overcoming ‘ad blindness’, and stay ‘fresh’. It’s good to hear that the UX metric monitoring stops the ads being overwhelming (if the bounce rate goes up, the system auto corrects – using the original site as a scientific ‘control’), because the idea of having too many ads would be a concern for most (and the Google Certification makes us think that they must be on top of that issue).
How to use Ezoic
We think that the set up process with Ezoic is OK, but not ‘super easy’. It took us about 40 minutes to get going and about a full day to be up and running. That’s ok – but we’d have loved it to have been instant. If you’ve ever put ad units on your site before, you will have no problem setting up the Ad Tester.
You will need to integrate with the Ezoic system in order for things to work. There’s a variety of ways to do this, including:
- Changing your Name Servers at your Registrar
- Integrated via Cloudflare
If you’re already using Cloudflare – looks like that would be the best and easiest way to integrate. The name server change thing was a surprize, but it’s no different to using a CDN, and so long as the DNS settings are imported correctly, then the folks at Ezoic assure us that it’s a smooth way of accessing the technology. The JS option is for blogger sites etc that cannot change their own name servers.
Creating and Implementing the Ezoic ad units
The testing ads are produced by the Ezoic system and you have to put them in the site in place of your existing ads (which are imported) or – which we preferred to do – ‘wrapped’ around the existing ad units. Interestingly, the Ezoic people told us that the Ezoic ads are actually DFP ad tags, using feeds from ADX / OpenX / Criteo / Outbrain / Infolinks and a bunch of other ‘Ezoic Partners’.
These are aggregated with some machine learning optimization to provide the ads to be tested. Once we established what ad sizes and locations we wanted the system to test, we tried the ‘convert your existing ad units into Ezoic ones’. This flagged the current ad tags (aka – in Ezoic speak’ – ‘original ad placements’) to be used as an ad location. We then went into our code and just did a find and replace to insert the Ezoic code in the place of those tags. The idea is that the tag values are supplied / stored by Ezoic and will show the original adsense ads in their original positions when not testing. Confused? We were… But we got the hang of it by talking to the Ezoic staff via the chat system in their dashboard.
Next, we were told to add even more Ezoic placeholders around our site. The Ezoic persona said that ‘the more you add, the better your chances of boosting ad revenue!’. Well that sounded good! They said it was because the system needs to test different ad combinations for each page and then determine which ones are best for each user session. When I mentioned that I’d put in 10 placeholders – they said that was great and I could do even more. When I expressed a concern that ‘10 ads is not too much?!)’ – they explained that the whole placeholders thing is only ‘potential ad positions’. That helped explain a lot.
Ezoic – kind of like a lot of yield optimization companies say that they have machine learning system that incorporates lots of demand sources and handle the RTB ad auction. OK – great. But what was interesting was that all Ezoic publishers have the ability to show 5 Google ads per page instead of the usual AdSense maximum of 3. Nice!
Once we got everything is setup, the Ezoic ads started to show on the site about 24 hours after we set it up. The reason for the delay was to wait to get approved by Google for the AdExchange access. Apparently, there is no way of hurrying that up.
Ad Tester is essentially a free tool. There’s no out-of-pocket costs. Instead of monthly fees, Ezoic makes money by collecting the revenue from one ad located at the bottom of the page. There’s no contracts holding you in, and the whole process is 100% reversible.
The Ad Tester App is pretty amazing technology. The idea of dispensing with ad networks and getting access to RTB without having to set up DFP and dynamic allocation was music to our ears! Although somewhat hard to get your head around (30 ad placeholders on a page?!) – the the idea makes sense. The basic idea that ads in new positions might well make 50% more sounds like it could well work. And of course the Google Certification is good to see, as was the % – by screensize – choice to send to testing (so you can start at 10% of mobile, 10% Tablet, 10% Desktop).
We Didn’t Like:
The setup is slightly tricky. The dashboard is not that intuitive – for instance, you have to go into each app to see it’s settings (you get to control the percentage of traffic you set – and you have to set those settings which are hidden away). Checking DNS settings vs the host was not something I was familiar with, but that said, once done and set up it all looks to be automated. I hope we’ll soon be making the 50% more money vs before – which is what Ezoic claim is their average improvement.
Not Just Ad Testing:
It looks like Ezoic will be one to watch this year. They have a bunch of ‘apps’ for websites (additional apps offered by the platform that help better optimize your site).
There’s the iOS App Creator, which creates your very own app for the Apple App Store. There’s also the Layout Tester, which allows you to test different layouts to optimize your user experience and revenue. Interesting stuff!