Ad Load Performance Best Practices

This document explains several best practices that can be employed by creative agencies, ad-serving vendors, and publishers to reduce the load time for ads.  Ads that load faster can help web pages load faster, leading to higher user satisfaction, lower page abandonment, and, most importantly for agencies and marketers, more opportunity for ads to yield higher conversion or click through rates.  These best practices can typically be implemented with very little cost and can be a win-win-win situation for all parties involved in the development and serving of interactive advertising.

Reducing the load time for an ad consists of many of the same steps for reducing the load time for a Web page.  In order to get the ad’s components to the user faster, two basic categories of best practices emerge:

  • Make things smaller – Both making the size (in bytes) of an ad smaller, as well as reducing the number of its components.
  • Get content closer to the user – Hosting content physically close to the user, as well as ensuring that unchanged content for subsequent visits does not need to be retrieved again.

The best practices that follow were born from industry work on Web page improvement but have been specifically tailored for online ads.  In addition, an Advanced Techniques section discusses more sophisticated methods of least impact ad delivery.

The Testing and Tools appendices of this document outline techniques, best practices, and available tools for functional and performance testing of ads.

Finally, the Checklist section of this document provides a quick reference that can be incorporated into the QA process for agencies, ad servers, and publishers.

Ad Creation and Delivery Ecosystem

In the ad creation and delivery ecosystem, there are typically several key parties involved from start to finish:

This document focuses on the portions of the ecosystem involving the Creative Agency, Ad-Serving Vendor, and Publisher.  Some of the best practices below are only applicable to one party (e.g. image compression would be done by the Creative Agency), while others are equally applicable to all. To help understand how to best leverage each best practice, labels are used to indicate applicability within the ecosystem.