5 tips for maximizing mobile ad revenue

Mobile advertising expert Simon Birkenhead outlines some key areas that publishers should focus on to maximise their revenues.

Simon Birkenhead has launched three digital advertising start-ups, including Axonix

The explosive growth of smartphones over the last few years means we are rapidly approaching the point where mobile will become the dominant channel for accessing digital content. Last year, mobile internet use in the UK overtook desktop and in 2015 mobile searches will supersede traditional desktop and laptop search activity for the first time.

However, despite this dramatic shift to mobile, many publishers continue to regard desktop as the only source of advertising revenues worthy of attention. A worryingly large percentage of publishers that Axonix talks to admit they don't have a clear strategy for effectively monetising their mobile user base. Yet in the next breath they admit that on average over one third of their traffic now comes from mobile – and this continues to increase every week.

Even some app developers, for whom mobile is 100 per cent of their business, still don't adopt best practices for their in-app advertising.
With this pace of change, publishers need to grasp the scale of mobile advertising urgently. Not only are they missing out on revenues today but also the future of their entire advertising business is at sake.

So here are my top five tips that publishers can adopt today to optimise their mobile ad revenues.

01. Use the right ad formats within your app or site

Many publishers remain loyal to banner ads, despite these generally being too small for an engaging ad message and susceptible to inadvertent clicks. They also consume precious screen real estate, which disrupts the user's overall experience of the app or site.

Instead, explore ad formats which are more embedded within the user's overall experience of your content, such as videos and full-screen interstitials during natural breaks in the content, such as between levels of a game. Although fewer of these larger ads will be displayed, their value will be greater and advertisers will love the improved user engagement they offer.

02. Tailor your ad spaces to users' downtime

At Axonix we see far greater mobile ad engagement, and therefore higher prices, when users are in 'time-wasting' mode, such as playing a game or catching up on social media. When users are in 'lean-forward' mode, such as when they are reading a long form article or researching a product they want to buy, they are less open to being distracted by an advert.

Consequently, they are less likely to click on an ad, and even regard ads as disruptive. Where possible, it's best to incorporate ads in areas of your site or app when users are in a more 'exploratory' or 'lean-back' mode, such as when they are browsing for interesting things to read or celebrating the completion of a task in a game.

In addition, for optimal impact, serve ads between 8-9am, 5-7pm and after 9pm. These are periods when users are most likely to be in 'lean-back' mode and when Axonix sees the highest click-through rates.

"A large percentage of publishers admit they don't have a clear strategy for monetising their mobile user base," says Birkenhead

03. Optimise your content for mobile

Up to 50% of some publishers' traffic now originates from mobile devices. So make sure your content is optimised for viewing on a mobile device. This is usually achieved either through custom m-sites or website that automatically adapt their layout to smaller screen sizes.

A variety of companies, such as Marfeel, have technology that can do this easily, automatically and inexpensively for publishers. Only once you have a site that's optimised for mobile can you then focus on optimising your ad spaces for mobile.

04. Data can boost the value of your ad space

Advertisers will pay higher prices for ad spaces if they know their specific target audience will see their advert. However, unlike desktop advertising, where ad targeting is driven by cookies that reveal insights into a user's interests, most mobile ad space is sold with no user data attached to it.

This means the advertiser has no idea who is going to view their ad. Publishers who have user data, such as their gender or age, can boost the value of their ads by appending this data to each ad request.

Data can boost the value of your ad space

05. Consider selling your ads via a specialist mobile ad exchange

Selling your ad space 'programmatically', through real-time auctions enabled by an ad exchange such as Axonix, provides many benefits to publishers, advertisers and mobile users. Fortunately, programmatic trading in mobile has learnt from many of the mistakes made by desktop advertising over the last few years and consequently it is being widely adopted by mobile publishers and advertisers.

Since each ad impression is sold in real-time to the higher bidder, publishers receive the optimal market-driven price for each ad that's sold. Ad targeting is improved so users are more likely to be shown ads that are relevant for them. There's no need for a high cost media sales team and the large (and often hidden) margins made by ad networks are retained by the publisher, boosting their profits.

Just as it’s inevitable that consumers' use of mobile devices will continue to grow, it's also inevitable that marketing budgets will continue to follow those consumer eyeballs onto mobile. So get ahead of this disruption now.

Just as Facebook has rebuilt its entire ad business around mobile, it will be those publishers and app developers that optimise their entire business for mobile and harness the programmatic opportunity to offer more intelligent mobile advertising who will find themselves in the best stead to capture these budgets in the future.

Words: Simon Birkenhead
Main image: Kyle Bean (illustration), Aaron Tilley (photography)

Simon Birkenhead is the CEO of Axonix, a leading mobile ad exchange that helps mobile publishers to maximise their ad revenues. He has 20 years' experience in digital marketing, mobile advertising and business management, the majority of which has been within high tech companies at the cutting edge of their industries.