Meredith increased revenue per visit 20 percent by getting ads to load faster

Cutting down the amount of code on its webpages has helped Meredith make more revenue per visitor.

Meredith, which publishes women’s lifestyle titles including Better Homes and Gardens and Family Circle, began an audit of its code a year ago. This led it to remove several vendors and shift code from browsers to servers. The code audit helped Meredith speed up its ad-rendering times by 15-20 percent across desktop and mobile, which, along with an increase in native advertising, contributed to a 20 percent increase in revenue per visit, said Matt Minoff, Meredith’s chief digital officer.

The results were especially dramatic on mobile, where Meredith gets about 60 percent of its traffic and where speed is especially important: There, getting ads to load faster helped drive a 74 percent increase in revenue per visit. Meredith wouldn’t share raw numbers.

Meredith used the analytics tools Krux SuperTag and Google Tag Manager to analyze which pieces of code were no longer necessary. The changes have been incremental and carried out on a site-by-site basis. Meredith’s ad products and ad platforms team, which has between 20 and 30 people, oversaw the project.

The audit led Meredith to remove third-party data collectors and heat map products that visualize where users click since Meredith has gotten better at gathering that data itself. Meredith also built its own ad-blocking measurement tool to replace third-party providers. Meredith declined to name the vendors that were scrapped.

Meredith has a multifaceted header bidding approach, which uses waterfalling, on-page header bidding and server-to-server connections to sell its display inventory, and it’s used this to fight latency as well. Meredith built its own wrapper to host its two server-to-server partners, Index Exchange and Amazon. This makes it easier for Meredith to move supply-side platforms across various channels, depending on how they’re affecting revenue and latency.

Meredith also mitigated the perils of header-bidding latency by shortening the timeouts that SSPs have to respond to ad calls. SSPs used to have about a full second to respond to ad calls, but now they only have 0.5 seconds on desktop and 0.8 seconds on mobile to respond before the auction moves on without them, said Nicole Lesko, Meredith’s vp of digital ad product and operations. Two SSPs were removed for not being fast enough, and Meredith is looking into moving a few more SSPs to server-to-server connections to further speed up bids.

While Meredith has cleaned up its code to speed up ad loads, it can’t control for the weight of incoming ad units. Since the demand for verification and viewability has increased, it isn’t unusual for Meredith to receive ads that have tags for several viewability and measurement vendors, even if the vendor products overlap.

“We’ve done as much as we can on our side,” Lesko said. “But there is an element outside of our control, and this goes for any publisher.”

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