With the pandemic affecting the global economy in more ways than one, every sector has suffered its share of losses, and the adtech industry is no exception. Advertisers were unwilling to spend a lot in some categories, which is why overall ad spends took a hit. However, people started spending more time online due to worldwide lockdowns. Given this scenario, as a publisher, one might wonder- With outright ad spend pulls preventing you from charging higher CPMs for this traffic, is there a logical way around this paradox? Yes there is. Say hello to Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic is one of the most sought-after methods of protecting ad revenue in such volatile environments. Being an automated process of buying and selling ad inventory, programmatic lets brands get ad impressions in real-time through a bidding system. 

Publisher’s Guide to Increasing Revenues with Programmatic Ads

Programmatic advertising enables buyers and sellers to participate in the most optimal way of purchasing and inventory for their business – by opening up the inventory to the widest possible range of advertisers which is not possible via any other way of digital advertising. More advertisers means more competition for publishers’ audience and inventory, therefore better bids and higher revenue. 

Here’s a brief guide to help you secure and increase ad revenue growth with your Programmatic ads in 2020: 

1. Understand Corona-fatigue & pivot your content strategy accordingly

Smartocto’s Story Value reveals that even as the pandemic is at its peak, readers are seeking non-corona related reading material. Even brands are shunning associations with content connected to the virus and are imposing a blanket-ban on many keywords associated with COVID-19. Advertisers are blocking COVID-19-related keywords across programmatic platforms. 

This is where publishers have to step up and pivot their strategy to provide content that their audience is interested in.  With people spending more time indoors, it is wise to offer content on DIY activities, features on healthcare, and expert lifestyle hacks. Homebound traffic will find such material relevant, and brands that want to stay on top of consumers’ minds will invest in inventories that are in high demand. Thus, you can avoid the repercussions of slashed ad budgets and improve fill rates.  

2. Diversify your demand stack and leverage header bidding

When it comes to placing bids on ad inventory, the higher the number of demand partners, the steeper  the competition – resulting in higher revenue. It’s important, therefore, to make sure you are working with different sources of demand / advertisers because it can offer direct outcome in the form of  sharper yields. Different demand sources like search budgets, display, video, native etc. will mean that your revenue will likely remain stable and any dips or losses on one front will be offset by another.

Besides higher returns, multiple demand partners and sources can give access to different ad types. Running a balanced mix of ad types on your page leads to better audience engagement, thereby resulting in improved CTRs. Also, as CPMs vary among the different formats, channelling diverse ad formats can further boost your revenues. 

One viable solution when adopting such strategies is header bidding- a type of programmatic implementation. Header bidding is a collective auction conducted outside of a publisher’s primary server that gives an opportunity to all ad exchanges and networks to compete for every impression without slowing down your website or impacting your user experience negatively. In your header bidding set-up, you can plug in various demand types like search, display, video, native etc. and run multiple ad formats with the highest bids possible for each impression and placement. 

3. Partner with the right ad tech experts

It’s important to realize that your website should provide high visibility into information and infrastructure that helps them advertise themselves effectively. Programmatic advertising is known to be one of the best mediums that directs diverse and expansive demand from marketers. So it’s important that when you choose your programmatic partner, they must bring something unique to the table – especially when it comes to ad spends / demand sources. These programmatic partners could use many ways to target ads. The most common are- 

  1. Audience targeting– The most common form of targeting by storing cookies that get dropped on your browsers and gathering user information like gender, age, income, education, and interests. However, with cookies phasing out, advertisers and publishers will have no choice but to move to other forms of efficient targeting that does not use personal data of users.
  2. Contextual targeting Targeting based on content being consumed by the users you want to target. This form of targeting does not rely on audience data and with cookies going away, it is the most effective and privacy-compatible form of advertising available to advertisers and publishers. 
  3. Retargeting – This form of targeting is used to engage users who have already been exposed to your brand. These users could have visited your site, and taken some action thereby displaying some interest. This is an effective way to keep such users engaged and convert them into customers by showing them the right messaging every time.

Another benefit of partnering with a good programmatic ad buying platform is that you can get extensive reports that allow you to monitor your ad impressions and returns on a near real-time basis. This will help you optimize the management of your ad campaigns and maximize monetization. 

4. Build your audience through social and paid media

Your ultimate aim as a publisher is to keep driving new traffic to your website. Hence, it is crucial to know your current and target audience well. Using analytics to know the kind of audience your content is resonating with and then creating a plan to acquire more such audiences is the key to keep increasing your traffic and subsequently your revenue. There are a couple of channels that you must invest in to do this – Run paid media campaigns to keep advertising your content and acquiring traffic for it. And secondly, promote your content on social media where the engagement is much more organic and the chances of your content garnering new and returning audiences are higher. These two strategies are indispensable in an environment where you are fighting for attention of an audience that is spoilt for choice. But if you do this well and build a loyal and large base of unique visitors, then your ad revenue will remain well protected because there will always be advertisers who want their brand to be exposed to your audience.


With the target audience now swarming the interwebs, most companies are dumping their digital marketing spends. The best strategy at present would be to keep churning out quality content for relevant audiences. If you marry productivity with creativity, your traffic will grow steadily and you can reap the rewards, once the ad rates return to normal.