As a publisher, it becomes very important to diversify revenue streams, while looking for new sources to generate income. Ad refresh is one such technique that publishers use to maximize their revenue. But, what exactly is ad refresh, and how does it work?

What is Ad Refresh

The term ‘ad refresh’ refers to the process of refreshing ads to serve new ads to users when they visit a particular web page. From a publisher’s perspective, the number of ad impressions served to users increases based on certain preset triggers, which can also be based on user action, time or custom events. Auto-refreshing ads allow site owners to maximize their revenue. However, this depends on a few factors, and may not be a suitable method for all web pages. 

How Do Auto-Refresh Ads Work

Ad refreshing works via certain predefined publisher declarations. According to Google’s Ad Exchange, there are 3 major types of triggers, defined by publishers. 

User Action Based 

In user action-based refresh, ads are refreshed based on actions that the user takes. From scrolling to clicking on the screen to conducting a search, all direct user activity assures a higher viewability for ads than event-based and time-refreshed ones. 


When publishers initiate content changes, event-based triggers refresh the ad units. The most common example of this can be seen on sports sites, where the content is updated according to the latest scores and stats. 


A time-based refresh is a simple trigger, which depends on certain time intervals to call the ad servers to load new ads. This can be set to intervals of 30,60 or 90 seconds. The minimum time interval that Google allows is half a minute, while the recommended best practice is 1 minute. Publishers must note that most time-based ad refreshes occur regardless of whether the user is browsing the page. This could mean a boost in impressions but a decrease in ad viewability. Advertisers often bid less for slots with a time-based refresh, because no one wants to buy slots with poor viewability scores. 

In-View Ad Refresh

This method depends on technology to ensure that the ad unit gets refreshed only when it is 100% in view of a user. The value of the ad impression is not lost for the advertiser. In-view ad refresh actually drives up viewability, as each subsequent request will have 100% viewability because each ad is viewed by the user. CPMs stay flat, while impressions increase, leading to a revenue boost. 

What Are The Websites Best Suited For Ad Refresh

Ad refresh is not effective in all cases. Sites with above-average sessions are the best candidates. Gaming sites, educational sites, or websites with high-value niche content fall under this umbrella. Session duration is a very important factor. Refreshing ads will be redundant if the user isn’t sticking around long enough to see them.

Also, not all networks and exchanges permit ad refresh, with each having its own policy. For instance, Google’s Ad Exchange, OpenX, and Rubicon allow for automatic ad refresh, but Google’s AdSense does not. Publishers must remember their exchange policy while making ad refresh decisions. If they do not adhere to the policy, their account may be suspended. 

The use of ad refresh also depends on the website’s strategy. If publishers want to maximize revenue per user through programmatic ads, then ad refresh is a good tool to use. However, if you are selling directly to advertisers and wish to maintain your inventory’s value, it makes sense to concentrate on ad viewability and the view time of your ad units, to ensure each advertiser gets the maximum value for their ad placement.

What Are The Risks To Keep In Mind

While the prospect of increased overall revenue is appealing, ad refreshing can have a negative impact on your inventory and reputation, if mis-implemented. Here are some risks you should keep in mind. 

Ad Viewability Concerns

When an Ad set on a page is refreshed, the user should be able to see them. The ad should be within the user’s viewport because the latter needs time to engage with the ads. Many ad refresh vendors discard the viewability factor, opting for a ‘blind refresh’, which can damage a publisher’s inventory, bringing down its viewability score, which results in DSPs blacklisting a publisher’s supply. 

Refreshed Ads Have Reduced CPMs

Whenever websites auto-refresh ads, advertisers always get notifications. This could result in lower CPMs for each refresh, as advertisers lower bids due to ad viewability. However, lower CPMs are compensated for by higher total impressions per user session served. When using ad refresh, publishers would do well to consider alternative metrics for ad growth measurement. Parameters like Page RPM or EPMB (Earnings Per Thousand Visitors) rather than CPMs could give an accurate impression. 

Higher Bandwidth Usage  

Ad refreshing may not impact the initial page loading speed because the first set of ads loads per usual, auto-refreshing ads may result in the page making repeated new HTTP requests to the server for fresh ads, based on specific triggers. These repeat requests and the consequent ad fetching, end in higher bandwidth usage per refresh.

Best Ad Refresh Best Practices 

Follow Network Policies.

Various ad networks and exchanges have their own policies about auto-refreshing ads. Some have a blanket ban, others have a limit on the triggers that are used, like high minimum intervals. Some networks require publishers to declare their inventory. Read the network policy properly and follow the set parameters to stay away from policy violations. 

Using Time-Based Triggers 

Time-based triggers should allow ads to remain on the page for at least a minute, to ensure adequate viewability. If you want better UX and ad engagement, increase the intervals between refreshes. Some publishers even set intervals as low as 30 seconds or less to ensure more impressions. However, this is not advised as it hampers viewability, bringing down CPMs.

Keep Testing 

Always run A/B tests for various auto-refresh triggers and time intervals. Comparing results against a control setup can teach publishers what version of auto-refresh works for their site. Run these tests on a part of your site and check results before implementing them site-wide. 

The Right Partners 

Certain ad refresh solutions in the market take ad viewability criteria into account. Partnering with ad-tech vendors that offer such services ensures you don’t compromise on ad viewability, while increasing overall revenue, with no impact on the inventory quality of CPMs. 

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, if you use ad refresh carelessly, it can impact your revenue negatively. However, new and improved viewability measurements are slowly changing the way ad refresh is being used. Publishers should stick to the objective of advertising, when implementing ad refresh, to make sure that both users and brands derive some use from ads being served on the website. Read our blog on optimizing your ads so that you can maximize your revenue per dollar invested. 

Rayomand Engineer

I am a writer based out of Kolkata, West Bengal, and I like to write on tech, politics, travel, music, environment, and wildlife amongst others. I’ve also written scripts for branded content, and also scripts for short films. I’ve been writing for more than a decade and I love it.