What is the Best Refresh Rate for Display or Banner Ads?

Media buying today has changed completely and is going through a roller coaster. As more sites are emerging everyday, the quality of a website is becoming more crucial for the media buyers to ensure that their money is spent in the right channels. With the emergence of programmatic technology, DSPs and demand platforms are getting more automated but at the same time tightening their display buying and video buying KPIs to ensure the advertiser’s ROI is honored. This has led to a significant change in the overall ad strategy for publishers and the new rule of the game is “viewability” and “respecting the ecosystem”. Anything you do in the display landscape should ensure that you value these two rules to the utmost. While viewability is a more direct metric which can me measured, the other is more of a subte one. “Respecting the ecosystem” means from both a publisher or advertiser point- one shouldn’t do anything that hampers the entire ecosystem. The concept of “auto refresh” stays within the purview of a healthy ecosystem unless overdone.


Should you Auto Refresh for Display Ads

While this can be controversial, a good rule of thumb is– if your inventory has good demand outside of google adx, you should auto refresh display ads. However, if your site is niche and primarily earns good through Google AdSense, then you shouldn’t consider auto refresh display banners. At the most, we recommend auto refresh a sticky 300×250 or a 300×600 sidebar banner for such publishers.

Auto Refreshing of Ad Units and its Impact on Revenue

A general perspective remains that “auto refreshing of ad units can significantly increase your overall revenue” However, this has turned out to be a more vague statement as refreshing ad slots can significantly lower the value of impressions as the same user can be targeted a number of times on a particular website. We have seen CPMs to drop drastically when auto refreshing ad units are enabled. We took some time to audit the performance of auto-refreshing ad unit and found the following

  • Simply using auto refresh without a price floor doesn’t significantly increase revenue.
  • Viewability is a crucial factor for auto refreshing ad units
  • The refresh interval should be set to an optimal to balance revenue and refresh rate.
  • One should follow the best practices for auto refreshing display or banner ads which are listed below.

Best Practices for Auto Refreshing Display or Banner Ad Units

There are a lot of publishers and intermediaries who are using auto refresh for banner ads. However, there are certain principles that needs to be followed to ensure that you’re actually generating revenue from these refreshing banners. As we all know that media buying through exchanges are calculated through CPMs and advertisers take into consideration the viewability as a major factor when buying CPM ads. However, in the long run the advertisers also keep a track of the CTRs for banner impressions. Normally, sites which are acting as outliers might be blocked by advertisers as they would notice an extremely low CTR for such websites. We are listing below the best practices for auto refreshing display ad units.

1) Refresh Interval- Keep refresh intervals in the range of 60-90 seconds. This would ensure that your ads are viewed and the user had enough time to interact with the ad unit.


2) Viewability- Always ensure that you’re only refreshing viewable impressions. This is extremely crucial and pattern recognition, scroll depth analysis comes into action to see if the impression refreshed is actually viewed by the visitor or the screen was idle. Refreshing ads when the screen is idle wouldn’t add any value to the advertisers and they are simply paying for impressions which are not even viewed.

3) Multiple SSPs- Rotate creatives to ensure higher revenue. If you’re using the same adtag as your creative, the same SSPs sends the request to the same bidders, and the same algorithms comes into play. A better trick is to have at least 2 SSP tags for each line item and make them rotate homogeneously. This would result in an increased revenue from your refreshing ad units.

4) Setup Price Floors- Always set line items to price priority and let ADX bet the impressions. This is another method that can ensure higher revenue returns. Setting up line items in price priority forces ADX to pay more since the auction changes from first price to second price. This would eventually result in higher revenue for publishers.

5) Multiple Line Items- Create multiple line items targeting specific geographies and demand partners or SSPs. These would additional bring in exclusive demand which are available to select partners and thus result in higher revenue altogether. This works effectively if you’ve millions of traffic coming in from a specific country and have a number of demand partners for that traffic as well.

Best Refresh Rate for Display or Banner Ads

It is important that you come to an optimized balance between refresh rate and revenue. Ideally, the entire concept of running auto-refresh ad unit is to ensure displaying a second ad since the user had enough time to interact with the first ad and he/she didn’t go enticed to click on the ad unit. Also, after a certain period of time, the ad can be refreshed since it has already been long in view to the visitor. So, the end objective is to give sufficient time to the user before refreshing the ad unit.

Now, let’s take another example where you site is valued highly by the advertisers and a number of advertisers have made bids to show their ad on your website. However, at a time, only the winning bid will be showing the ad. The same visitor would in fact be lost for the subsequent advertisers as their didn’t get a chance to slow their ad. If auto-refresh is enabled on that ad unit, they the ad will refresh and new bid requests are made. Most likely the first advertiser wouldn’t place the same highest bid and it would pass on to the second advertisers. So, there the advertisers get a chance to show their ads on the website.

So, if your inventory is in heavy demand in the RTB, it would make sense to have a refresh interval of 45 seconds to 60 seconds. Otherwise, we would suggest you use a refresh interval of 90 seconds.

If you’re using a sticky 300×600 ad unit which generally has the higher demand in RTB, you can even set the refresh interval to 30 seconds. However, I would still prefer to have the refresh interval set to 60 seconds to ensure optimal display time.

How to Auto Refresh Banner Ad Units?

There are some SSPs and intermediaries that have developed the technology to refresh in-view ad units to ensure advertiser safety. Either you can use their SSP tags or set it up by yourself in DFP using the various custom functions provided by DFP. You can take a look at this article here to know more.


Thus to wrap up, the end game of using auto refresh functionality is to ensure that publishers earn higher revenue. However, in the quest of refreshing ad units, make sure you don’t compromise with viewability and other brand safety metrics since these days most of the DSPs and advertisers can becoming more aware of display advertising KPIs to ensure better ROI.  

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Works as an ad optimization specialist helping publishers increase their ad revenue in display, video, native, and high impact ad formats. You can contact him on skype (skype id: ronniedey) to increase your ad revenue immediately or hire him for a consultation. If you're an ad network owner, do get in touch for sponsored reviews.

2 Comments
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