Did You Know Heavy Ads Can Erode Ad Revenue?

by Andrew Reed, on Jun 24, 2021 9:00:00 AM

As a publisher, your user experience (UX) is key to maintaining and optimizing your ad revenue. If a user comes to your site and is frustrated or disappointed by their experience, you will most likely see an increase in your bounce rates. When users bounce, that translates into a decrease in your revenue, as you are getting fewer eyes on the ads on your site.

Paying to create good content, having a useful product, developing an online presence, and driving users to your site is not cheap. So the last thing you want is to drive that expensive traffic away with a poorly managed user experience.

Heavy ads can be the one of most disruptive elements to your user experience as they suck up the users’ resources, can be a host for dangerous malware, and can slow down the overall speed of your site, driving users away in the process.


What is a “Heavy” Ad?

Heavy ads are digital advertisements that consume enough system resources that they significantly slow down website page load times.

Currently, Google considers heavy ads any ad the user has not interacted with, and that meets any of the following criteria:

  • Uses the main thread of your site for more than 60 seconds in total
  • Uses the main thread of your site for more than 15 seconds in any 30-second window
  • Uses more than 4 megabytes of network bandwidth

The “main thread” is responsible for your site’s basic, step-by-step functioning. 

Programs are essentially like individual steps in a row for your webpage to follow, and the main thread is the execution of those steps.

Because of the way main threads function, JavaScript in particular will block the rendering of your page layout if it takes up too much of the main thread's resources.

Because digital ads rely on JavaScript for their execution, when it comes to their time to load, they can block the loading on the rest of the page by using too much of the main thread. 

By limiting the file size of an ad, you free up resources from the main thread, creating faster page load times and better responsiveness.


How Heavy Ads Can Hurt Your Ad Revenue

Heavy ads are not only inconvenient, but their frustrating impacts on a user's experience can drive users away from your site and impact your search engine rankings.

Page load speeds are a cornerstone of UX management, so search engines (and users) expect a certain level of quality (around 1-3 second load times) when browsing sites online. 

Back in 2010, Google started calculating site speed into its search ranking algorithm. So now, if your page load speeds aren’t up to snuff,  your site will be penalized in Google’s search results.

On top of this, any user who does find their way to your site will likely leave in a rush the moment the load speed begins to dip.

This means you are losing on two fronts. Not only are these heavy ads damaging your ability to bring in net new organic traffic, but they’re sending away the users that have already managed to arrive on your site.

Using up your users’ resources can also mean eating up their browsing data if they are on mobile. This means you could potentially force them to overuse the data they pay for, causing them to be charged with data fees.

In any of these cases, your revenue is tied to your site traffic and session lengths, and having a poor UX due to heavy ads will have a direct and significant impact on those metrics. 


Chrome 85 and Ad Blockers

Since August 2020 and the release of Chrome 85, a heavy ad intervention system has been in place for Chrome users. If a user comes to your site on Google Chrome, the web browser will automatically block any ads Chrome deems unacceptable.

Google uses the following criteria to determine what to block:

  • Ads that load large video files before a user engages
  • Ads that perform expensive operations in javascript, such as CPU timing attacks or decoding video files
  • Ads that try to load poorly compressed image files
  • Ads that mine cryptocurrency

For users that aren’t using Google Chrome, additional actions will need to be taken in order to protect them from poor experiences caused by heavy ads.


What You Can Do To Protect Your Site

Google estimates that about 0.3% of ads currently meet the established criteria for heavy ads.

But at the same time, this small category of ads can eat up 27% of a user's network data requirements and 28% of total ad CPU usage.

So stopping this 0.3% of ads can potentially solve up to almost 30% of your page load speed issues.

This makes it worth your while to take the time to block advertisements that aren’t properly optimized. While Chrome already blocks these kinds of ads, if a user is not on chrome, they will need additional protection.

If you’re experiencing unusually low session lengths or unusually high bounce rates, you may be experiencing an ad optimization problem. Take the time to explore the front end of your site and the pages on which you are seeing strange metrics.

If you find these pages are having trouble loading, find the ad that is struggling to load and add the advertiser to your block list.

This will prevent this advertiser from continuing to place ads on your site and ideally lessen the threat of a user encountering heavy ads on your site.


Wrapping Up

No one likes waiting, especially online. Your site traffic is crucial to maximizing your ad yield as a publisher and one effective way to ensure your users don’t churn is to minimize or even eliminate heavy ads from your site. 

Heavy ads will suck up your user’s resources, create a poor experience, and cause metrics like bounce rates to worsen. When this happens, it means fewer views on your ads and less overall revenue.

Make sure you are keeping eyes on your KPIs and following up on any strange activity. Google Chrome automatically protects users from heavy ads, but those on different browsers are still vulnerable, so make sure you block any ads that are giving your site trouble.

Topics:AdOps StrategyHeavy AdsAd Revenue

Our blog

Where businesses come to learn more about protecting the points of digital engagement with their customers, audiences and users.

Subscribe to Updates