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Published on Thursday, August 31, 2017

Misconceptions hindering publisher revenue growth

And the impact on header bidding today

This blog was published on the IAB website on the 31st of August 2017.

James Rosewell, CEO of 51Degrees writes about the misconceptions hindering publisher revenue growth and the impact on header bidding.

It has been 7 years since web professionals went mad for mobile first, Responsive Web Design (RWD), single URL, one size works for websites on every device. Every major publisher in the UK got swept along. Adtech and advertisers had to fit in.

A single misconception

The “one size fits all” misconception convinced many senior managers, who were told that Google would not rank their website well if they didn’t make the change to RWD. Most decided to abandon the perceived ‘out of favour’ ‘m.dot’ websites with the expectation of securing better SEO ranking with Google and securing good user engagement and conversions on their websites. Particularly before the clear revenue benefits of Facebook instant articles.

But the truth is Google favour web pages that perform well on mobile no matter which approach is used to achieve a great user experience and SEO gold.

Google – December 2015:

“Google does not favor any particular URL format as long as they are all accessible for all Googlebot user-agents.”


Google’s own Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are delivered using separate URLs. Here’s the same article from the Telegraph with and without AMP. Notice the text ‘amp’ at the end of the first URL example marking out this version of the web page as mobile optimised.



In SEO terms this is no different to the ‘m.dot’ websites. It’s the only way to deliver AMP alongside a desktop experience. AMP is a Google initiative to speed up web pages on mobile!

‘m.dot’ has become shorthand for a “not mobile first” web strategy when the ‘m.dot’ technique is being used by every major web business including Google. Understanding the difference between mobile first and ‘m.dot’ has never been more important. This blog from Search Engine Land is one such example where the term 'm.dot' is used incorrectly.

Case Study

An example of a publisher who did the appropriate research and opted for an adaptive website content using an 'm.dot' mobile friendly version was News24 who serve mobile devices on the domain m.news24.com and they have no problem passing the Google mobile test.

News24.com image
Figure 1. Screenshot of m.news24.com tested with Google Mobile-friendly Test page


News24 are the 13th most popular web site in South Africa, just behind Instagram according to Alexa. Their parent company Naspers has a market capitalisation of $66bn. Figures that any UK publisher would envy.

Because News24 can quickly optimise server side for mobile specific constraints such as mobile data networks, small screen size, and different viewing habits, the appropriate advertising appears quickly.

Has your business realised revenue benefits from moving to RWD? Or did the project just consume investment and time that could have been better spent on other things?

Header Bidding

As header bidding grows during the second half of 2017 the ability to make changes server-side is going to directly translate to competitive advantage. Server-side header bidding, where the web server rather than the web browser (client) triggers the advertising request, starts the request for advertising at the earliest possible point in the page delivery process. All other things being equal, starting early gets you to the finish quicker, which translates to more effective advertising. There are other benefits to server-side header bidding. See Paul Gubbins* writing for Mobile Marketing Magazine.

Many organisations are working under the misconception that server-side header bidding is harder than client side. Have web professionals forgotten the power of server-side optimisation or the techniques available to them?

In a highly competitive digital world, it is important to research the benefits of server-side optimised content before making an assumption that responsive would simply be easier and most cost effective. If your responsive site is not working well for mobile then you could end up incurring cost not making a saving. That is not to say that smaller websites that are light on content or sell a small number of products should discount using a responsive only website design. It may be more appropriate for your requirements. But certainly, large online publications, Adtech and CMS platforms should be leveraging, or at the very least testing, server-side optimisation.

Further reading:

*Paul Gubbins writing for Mobile Marketing Magazine explains header bidding

Learn more about News24

51Degrees are exhibiting at dmexco alongside IAB, in Cologne on the 13th and 14th September in Hall 6 Booth C-080. Come and say hello and find out more about the benefits of using device detection to enable server-side optimisation.

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Chris Rudwick

Chris Rudwick

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