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Google Viewability Bidding Might Not Be That Valuable After All

Google Adwords Rolls Out Viewability Bid on the Display Network

Google announced this Thursday morning on its Google+ Ads profile a new bid strategy option for the Display network, the viewability bid. The new feature is part of Google’s objective to make the viewability metric “a core part of [Google’s] products”.

What is Google’s Viewability Bid Option on the Display Network

Google first introduced the viewability metric for reservations buys on the Display Network. This practice refers to the ability to “reserve impressions in advance at a set cost” on certain Google sites, such as YouTube.
Google now allows you to “buy based on viewability” in real-time, but what does it mean? Basically, you can pay to ensure a higher chance for your ads to be seen by the visitors of the 2 million websites on the Display Network. Google will optimize the placement of the ads to maximize the impressions. Google provides the following description in Adwords: “We’ll optimize for viewable impressions and you’ll only pay when your ad becomes viewable”.
The real-time bidding allow you to skip the planning of your viewability placement, you can just turn on the feature whenever you want.
As for the device compatibility, Google said the bidding would be available for ads displayed “across desktop, mobile and tablet”.

How is Viewability Calculated?

Google relies on the IAB/3MS standard to define what is considered as a “view”:  50% of the ad surface area has to be within the visible area of the visitor’s browser window for at least one second.

How to Use Google’s Viewability Bid on the Display Network

To enable the viewability bid, go to your Google Adwords account and follow these steps:

1.    Create a “Display Network only” campaign

2.    In Bidding and budget section, you will see the Bid strategy options. Click on Advanced options, and select Focus on impressions – use maximum CPM bids

3.    Click Enable viewable CPM (with Active View reporting) as seen above
4.    Save your campaigns settings
5.    Define a Max viewable CPM bid in your ad group page
6.    Click save and continue

How Can Advertisers Benefit from Google’s Viewability Bids?

Google’s new viewability bids seem to offer several benefits to advertisers:
-    Bids are optimized to favor ad slots with the highest visibility. For example, ad slots above the fold will be targeted since they often get displayed a lot more.
-    Pay only for impressions considered as viewable.

Google’s viewability bidding option is particularly interesting for advertisers who want to ensure a maximal exposure and guaranty a prominent placement.

Limitations of Google’s Viewability Bids

At first you might think that paying only for viewable impressions is a breakthrough, because you would only pay when there is a “confirmed” benefit: the visitors have seen your ads. But here is why Google’s viewability bid might actually not be that valuable.
The value of a “view” according to the IAB/3MS standard only requires half of your ad to be displayed for just one second. As a result, a visitor scrolling down a webpage might end up costing you money even though they barely saw your ad. If the definition of a view was stricter, such as a full display of the ad for several seconds, the viewability metric would have been a lot more meaningful. But that would require Google to compromise on its revenue.
As a result, the viewability bidding strategy might actually end up costing a lot more than a cost-per-click strategy. Because the definition of a view is so loose, you might end up paying for a lot of impressions that didn’t benefit you. On the other hand, the cost-per-click strategy allows you to only pay for the clicks, i.e. for the visits that the ads generated to your website. So even if your ads are not placed as prominently all the time, you actually only pay for interactions with your advertising content and website.

This new feature is most likely part of a plan to increase the profitability of the Display Network which is a lot less profitable than the Search Network for Google. This profitability disparity is due to the Display network’s notoriously low click-through-rate, and the fact that it is mostly used as a brand awareness and exposure tool at limited cost due to the commonly used cost-per-click strategy.

We will revisit this topic once advertisers start using the feature to analyze the performance of the viewability bidding. In the meantime, let us know what you think of this announcement, and if you plan on using the feature.