10 Proven Ways to Increase Your Programmatic Ad Revenue

March 26, 2023 || By Editorial Staff

With the abundance of content and ad inventory across various marketing channels, both brands and technologies are becoming increasingly cautious about where ads are served through programmatic channels. Advertisers tend to put more money in the pockets of brand-safe publishers. What future are we looking at, quality over quantity? To survive in this ever-changing ad-tech ecosystem, publishers of today have to invest heavily in content planning and communicate with the intent of their audience. To do so, you need to scale your advertising revenue, and thus, it brings us to today's topic on how we can improve and scale our programmatic advertising revenue across all possible channels.

  • Choose a Niche with High Advertiser Demand
  • Create Content that Drives Value for Brands and Advertisers
  • Focus on Viewable Impressions
  • Optimize your Price Floors
  • Use Multiple SSPs and Header Bidding Intermediary Tags
  • Enable Auto Refresh of Ad Units
  • Bring in Programmatic Guaranteed Demand
  • Use Affiliate Banners
  • Focus on Brand Safety
  • Try to Reverse Engineer' Ad Serving' to Delve Deeper

10 Proven Ways to Increase your Programmatic Ad Revenue

Here are actionable points; techniques that have actually worked for me. Some are important enough that you can't simply ignore. Some points discussed here are long-term strategies that might take years to implement successfully. But what I can promise you now, right here, at this point in time.

If you do all of these or, rather, most of these, you are securing yourself from the uncertain future of publishing and will be able to monetize all of your ad inventory at premium rates and scale.

1. Choose a Niche with High Advertiser Demand

If you're getting started with blogging, choose a niche that has a high advertiser demand. There is a definitive checklist to do it, and I might write a blog post on it soon. Choosing a niche with high advertiser demand, like- SAS products, growth hacking, adtech, depression, etc., increases your potential to get high CPM ads in the open auction. This is mainly because of the higher number of advertisers bidding on such niche resulting in increased competition and higher bid rates. The advertiser who makes the highest bid is then eligible to show the ad on the publisher's website. There are some websites where CPMs are well above USD 10 and somewhere where it struggles to reach a CPM of 30 cents. Such a huge difference doesn't lie in the lack of optimization or higher-paying exchanges (because most of them are now integrated) but mainly because of the website niche and the quality and intent of the audience. As an example, even a highly valued user wouldn't browse an adult site with the intent of buying a SAS subscription. So, the key takeaways here are:-

  • Focus on a high-value niche
  • Make sure to align the intent of your website to generate more conversions

2. Create Content that Drives Value for Brands and Advertisers

Well, honestly saying, all content is not created equal, and the outcomes are only felt eventually. You will either see a decline or a rise in your overall ad CPM rates. Same niche and same traffic but the quality and tone of the content can either drive a conversion rate way above the average or lower it significantly. Algorithms constantly monitor sites for conversions and KPIs that are valuable to advertisers. One of the best ways to increase your programmatic ad revenue is to create a style of content that is persuasive and impactful at the same time.

3. Focus on Viewable Impressions.

I cannot stress the long-term benefits of viewable impressions enough when you're a mid-sized publisher who is selling inventory in the open exchange. If clubbed with high-converting traffic, you are certain to see a guaranteed increase in overall advertising CPM rates. Most of the DSPs and exchanges take into measure the ad viewability when it comes to classifying a publisher's website. If the audience is not tracked or outside the cookie pool of the advertiser, chances are low that the advertiser will bid on those impressions. However, adtech is becoming more robust as technologies are slowly moving to cookie-less implementation. The most crucial metrics which lie as an arsenal for all the DSPs and exchanges include conversions, engagement, CTR, and ad viewability. The first three metrics are only realized when an ad is clicked. The CTR metric doesn't become relevant only after a certain volume of clicks per site, per segment, and thus we are left with one extremely powerful metric, which is 'ad viewability'. In one sentence, I can say your viewable impressions will govern your increase or decrease of programmatic ad revenue. In Google Ad Manager, head over to reports >> click on 'ad unit' under the 'dimensions' section >> select 'all the active view metrics' under the 'metrics' section.

Here you can see the ad exchange active view viewable impressions and active view %viewable impressions. Ensure to maximize the 'active view % viewable impressions.' to reap the long-term benefits of higher CPMs in the open exchange. Congrats!

4. Optimize your Price Floors

If there is one tool at the disposal of publishers to defend their inventory and serve ads from high-paying advertisers and also increase the overall auction pressure-- it is the 'price floor.'

If implemented properly, you can truly evaluate the worth of your inventory in the open exchange. It also gives you a fair idea of how much you should be charging from your direct advertisers. You can set soft price floors, hard price floors, and dynamic price floors. Target CPMs in ad exchange can be used to set up soft price floors, which if monitored regularly, will maximize your overall ad revenue. Also, a dynamic price floor is a great way to increase your programmatic open exchange revenue.

Setting them up is a bit technical, and if I manage to create a 'video course of ad monetization', I would definitely do a walk-through on how you can set up these price floors to increase your ad revenue.

5. Use Multiple SSPs and Header Bidding Intermediary Tags

While every SSP and header bidding intermediary will ask you for 100% of your ad inventory, it is you who need to play the smarter game. Obviously, from a business standpoint, it makes sense for them to take the maximum portion of your inventory since it will result in higher revenue for them, as most SSPs and intermediaries take a cut of 15-20% of the generated revenue.

I would like to share my understanding and logic behind using multiple SSPs and header bidding intermediaries. An SSP is plugged into different Ad exchanges and DSPs, while a header bidding intermediary is plugged into different SSPs and some DSPs and exchanges too. Based on the availability of the demand, the header bidding tech, bid request time-outs, and a few more technical factors, you'll see varying CPMs. Also, the CPMs vary because of the auction pressure, which is different as the same inventory is bought at different prices by the same advertiser. This is because both SSPs and DSPs have additional information about a user, which they can map with the advertiser's KPI and generate the likelihood of conversion (lead, sales, increased user engagement, video views, etc). If the likelihood is high, they don't want to miss the impression and assign a comparatively higher bid to win the auction. This results in varying CPMs for the same impression or inventory. Now, there is no way to really predict this ad stack is good unless you use it. Also, if you give all your impression through one exchange, SSP, or header bidding partner, it becomes more obvious for the DSPs to predict the margins for the winning bid. This results in a loss of revenue for the publisher as they will try to minimize the gap between their winning bid and the second-highest bid. Also, more availability of the inventory will decrease the demand spike! Aha… well, it seems complex.

The simple solution is the have 4-5 such SSPs/header bidding partners and set up creatives for each one of them and make them rotate evenly to see which one is generating the highest revenue for you. You can assign the priority of the line item to network or standard with a CPM to get ad exchange beat this CPM to take winning bids. Wait for a few weeks to see results coming in! Take me for a coffee if this works well for you!

6. Enable Auto Refresh of Ad Units

Today, the industry is filled with auto-refresh ads, a practice that every SSP and publisher-side adtech firm is using to increase the overall revenue for publishers. To harness the maximum potential of auto-refresh ads, you need to delve into its best practices. I've written an insightful article on how to harness profit from auto-refreshing ad units, which you definitely need to take a look at.

Using auto-refresh in the right way, together with price floors for inventory that is considered to be high in demand, will result in 2-3X of your existing revenue.

7. Bring in Programmatic Guaranteed Demand

Seated at the highest priority level, programmatic guaranteed deals are a great way of increasing your overall advertising revenue from programmatic ads. Since you need to have millions of monthly visitors to get a hold of programmatic guaranteed deals, these are generally reserved for top publishers who also have their in-house sales team and a reach of the direct advertiser base. It can get a little difficult for mid-sized publishers to close such deals unless they drive high conversion rates for advertisers. Programmatic guaranteed deals result in high revenue and a forecast of your revenue projections. Wish to know more about how to can generate and close such deals? Read my article here.

8. Use Affiliate Banners

Now they do not exactly fall under the category of programmatic ads, but they can be a good additional source of monetization that would top up your existing revenue. An interesting way to set this up is the create a line item and set up a pass-back tag for the auto-refresh sticky ad unit. Due to the nature of auto-refresh, you'll end up with some impressions which your third-party tags will fail to fill in. Now place this newly created ad tag as a passback for all your third-party tags (you can't use AdSense here because Adsense doesn't allow auto-refresh or sticky ads). Under the creatives section, you can create as many affiliate banners as you wish and make them rotate evenly and track which banners are generating sales and prioritize them. So, this is a great way to further maximize your ad space for profit.

Tip: Feel free to mention the 'exclusive coupon codes' for your visitors while creating the image creatives to further increase the chances of conversions. You can use tracking macros to further monitor your conversions.

9. Focus on Brand Safety

Ad fraud vendors like IAS and others closely monitor the performance of websites and pass insightful data to ad exchanges, DSPs, and other analytics companies who are largely responsible for the buy side. Along with some of the metrics which are being passed, ad fraud and brand safety take the top list. Your entire legion might fall if some of the biggest ad exchanges, like Google blacklists you. Chances are high that other DSPs and Exchanges will follow. Brand safety is not only an important concern for advertisers; they are equally crucial for publishers, especially the ones where user-driven content forms a majority part of the inventory. If this is something that matches your concern, do take into account the necessary brand safety precautions and feel your revenue flowing.

10. Try to Reverse Engineer' Ad Serving' to Delve Deeper

The most valued part of the ad tech ecosystem is 'advertiser's money.' You can't grow and scale if you don't value the budgets spent by the advertisers. In order to maximize your revenue from programmatic exchanges, you have to engineer your approach and align them with the approach of the DSP and advertiser. First, you need to understand how an advertiser or DSP values an inventory and when they are ready to pay a premium rate for the inventory.

  • The content drives advertiser KPIs (leads, sales, engagement, web views, and more)
  • The content drives high viewable impressions
  • The website is easy to target for advertisers and DSPs
  • It's easy for the DSPs to evaluate advertiser KPIs

The final pointer is one of the reasons why niche sites generate higher CPMs compared to sites with mixed traffic. Despite the granular targeting options, measuring KPIs becomes challenging because you cannot get more detailed than the 'site id' or 'ad unit' id. The website would have mixed content, and the same ad unit or widget (for native ads) would run sitewide. So, you're left with the option to target at the site level and based on the cookie information you have. Yes, and since the site has tons of content, you might not be very precise and contextual able to target your audience.

The Results?

A minimized ability to optimize the campaigns even if you've budgeted and the site actuary works well for you.

Now, advertisers are living with this reality, and to a certain extent, if you can optimize your site well for high CPMs and is super niche, you can go ahead with the idea of buying traffic and making it convert for your advertisers, thereby building an arbitrage model that does more than slowing 10 ads per page. Needless to say, you'll see much improved programmatic ad revenue if you can crack this part of the adtech puzzle.

Well, take your time because there will be more to come. The deeper I try to understand programmatic advertising, one thing that gets very clear is the intent and interaction of your customers are very crucial. That's where content can either make or break a website. The hunt for quality inventory and one that converts will be the challenge of the future. So, why not start focusing on them from now onwards? Wishing you more awesomeness in life and more abilities to increase your programmatic ad revenue.


Editorial Staff at Publisher Growth is a team of blogging and AdTech experts adept at creating how-to, tutorials, listings, and reviews that can publishers run their online businesses in a better way.

Frequently Asked Questions

The four main components of programmatic are: 1. Demand Side Platform 2. Supply Side Platform 3. Data Management Platform 4. Ad Exchange

A Demand Side Platform (DSP) is a software platform used by advertisers and agencies to purchase and manage programmatic advertising campaigns across multiple ad exchanges, data exchanges, and inventory sources.