What Is Ad Refresh? All That a Publisher Needs to Know

The ad tech industry is packed with several solutions (such as header bidding, A/B testing, etc.) to help publishers optimize their ad revenue. One such solution is ad refresh, which is considered advantageous by a lot of publishers yet there is some skepticism around using it due to its controversial nature.

So, what exactly is the deal with ad refresh?

In this post, we’ll deep dive into the technology to understand how these ads can be implemented for positive results.

What Is Ad Refresh?

Ad Refresh or auto ad refresh is the technique of rendering a new ad on an existing ad unit. This technology allows publishers to display more ads for a user in a single session.

In other words, this practice allows publishers to update ads without refreshing the entire web page content. This, in return, increases the number of ad impressions and boosts the publisher’s ad revenue.

How Does Ad Refresh Work?

Ad refresh works through predefined triggers or publisher declarations.

Time-Based Refresh: 

A time-based refresh calls the ad server to load new ads at a set time interval. For example, ads can be placed to reset at an interval of 30, 60, and 90 seconds.

User Action Based Refresh: 

User-action-based refresh is based on actions taken by the user on the web page. This includes:

  • Clicking on the screen
  • Scrolling on the page
  • Conducting a research

Event-Based Refresh:

When this type of trigger is set, the ad refreshes only when a content event occurs. For example:

  • A news ticker finishes a cycle
  • Refreshing page to update current stats
  • A game finishes loading

Who Should Use Ad Refresh?

Let’s understand this with a use case:

Website A has an excellent time-on-site, but the number of served ad impressions is low. 

For instance, one of their users spent three minutes reading an article and watched a video for two minutes — yet only one ad impression was generated for that session.

Consequently, despite the engaged users, Website A records lower revenue since it can serve ads only once (when the page reloads).

In this use case, implementing ad refresh will positively impact revenue generation.

Through ad refreshing, Website A can render its ad server for a new ad without reloading the entire page. This way, they’ll continue gathering impressions while their users remain on the site.

Hence, the final answer:

Websites that have above-average session duration are ideal for implementing this technology.

This includes:

  • Gaming sites
  • Online media sites
  • Pages with infinite scroll
  • Service-based site
  • Educational sites
  • Sites with high-value niche content

Session duration is an important factor when considering implementation. That’s because ad refreshing can prove counterproductive and redundant if your website users are not sticking around long enough to view the ads.

Another thing to remember is that not all ad networks permit this practice. Each ad network and exchange has its own policy. For example, Google Adsense doesn’t approve it, whereas Google Ad Exchange, OpenX, and Rubicon support it.

Therefore, publishers must review their ad network or exchange policies while enabling ad refresh for their website.

AdSense Policy on Auto-Refreshing Ads

As per Google AdSense, it is okay to refresh Google Ads, but only when the user initiates it. Specifically, publishers are not permitted to alter the behavior of Google Ads. This includes:

  • Playing ads on pages or apps or in auto-redirect or auto-ad refresh placements.
  • Displaying ads for a preset time (also called pre-roll) before users can view things such as games, videos, or downloads.
  • Publishers are not permitted to refresh a page or an element of the page without the user requesting a refresh.

Impact of Ad Refresh on Website’s UX

Ad refresh doesn’t essentially slow down the loading speed of a page, but it consumes additional data whenever ads are being refreshed and rendered.

The initial page load will be the same irrespective of whether auto-refresh has been enabled or not. This is because the browser only makes a new rendering request when the refresh is triggered. During this step, some additional bandwidth will be used.

Best Practices: 

As mentioned earlier, your site can be impacted negatively if you aren’t doing it correctly. So, here’s a summary of best practices to keep in mind while implementing auto ad refresh on your website:

  • Implement ad refresh only on pages that have engaging content.
  • Do not refresh AdSense inventories.
  • Do not refresh too aggressively.
  • A/B test with different types of triggers to learn which one works best for your site.
  • Before refreshing ad inventories, measure the engagement and fill rate.
  • Do not implement ad refresh if the user is not active.
  • Monitor Revenue Per Session (RPS) as a success measure metric.
  • Always consider ad viewability while refreshing inventories.
  • Learn about your ad network’s policy to steer clear of policy violations
  • Partner with ad tech vendors that can enable ad refresh with minimal impact on inventory quality, CPMs, or UX.

Summing Up

Although ad refresh practice has been frowned upon by some publishers, most people in the industry accept that auto-refreshing is the only viable option in certain situations.

As long as publishers ensure that both brands and users derive value from auto ad refreshing, they’ll be able to boost their ad revenue sustainably. If a publisher maintains the number of ad units and page load time at an optimal pace, they’ll see better results with ad refreshing.