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The ad networks use various behavioral targeting methods. When advertisers make a buy through a network they may want to target people who have been to the advertisers site in the recent past but not purchased before.
The advertiser may sell tires and have ads showing up on a recipe site because the consumer has been to the tire site in the past but then ventures off to the recipe site.
The value lies in the targeting and not the inventory on the specific website in this case. The network can charge a higher CPM because of the targeting. The reporting also counts "view through" conversions. A media program may look like a terrible investment if only click-through sales are attributed to it, however if everyone who merely sees (or just gets cookied because they loaded a page with a banner at the foot of the page they didn't even see) a banner and buys is credited back to the buy, the ROI looks a lot better to the advertiser and they are willing to pay more if they buy into the "view through" conversion model.
Moral of the story - if the payout % seems low, it may be as a percentage of what the network takes in but their targeting and tracking add-ons probably enable them to command a higher CPM which means that whatever % they pay out may not be so bad as compared to selling directly to advertisers unless it is a really focused site.
So basically i'm just wondering what other people are seeing as far as ad networks, and what their fill rate is on the impressions you're giving them. Are they serving all of the impressions that you give them? or are they serving a large number of default ads and/or passback ad tags?
I'm beginning to think that a 30-50% fill rate with a lot of these networks is to be expected - especially on a website like ours with a high number of page views per unique user. (i think a lot of the users are being capped by a cookie on the network side - causing them to serve a large number of default and passback ads, whereas a site with a lower number of page views per unique may be seeing a better fill rate.
Anyone else out there have feedback on fill rates?
In terms of the percentage, this can really range from as low as a few percent to as high as 100%. It really depends on how much inventory they have of yours they have sold. The real way to work this is to have a good default strategy for your ad network chain. Highest to lowest and stay away from the cookie cutter networks. The last tier (dead bottom) should earn you between .20 - .40 for mostly US traffic. This may be 5 levels down, but at least you get something. If that is not acceptable, then you can always send it back to run a site promotion or something.