How to Setup Backup Ads for Google AdSense or Ad Exchange

What are Backup Ads?

When Google is not able to monetize an ad, it does not display an ad. Whether or not Google displays an ad is based on its ability to deliver a targeted ad based on the attributes of the user and the viewed page. If no advertiser has bid on these factors, Google decides not to show an ad. Backup ads for Google AdSense are what will show when Adsense cannot display a monetized ad impression. In this case, you have three options for backup ads:

  1. Show blank space
  2. Show other ads from another URL
  3. Fill space with a solid color

Option #1 and #3 will leave you with a non-monetized ad impression and less money than you could be making. The smart option is #2.

What are Backup ads used for?

Backup ads are used to monetize ad impressions that your initial ad network (Google) was not able to monetize. In order to do this, you must be signed up with another ad network. See the ad network suggestions below if you aren’t already signed up with a different ad network apart from Google. Remember, if you try to setup Google AdSense or Ad Exchange to back up one or the other, the ad will not show because it’s against Google’s terms. If you want to monetize 100% of your traffic and your primary ad network is Adsense or Ad Exchange, it is very important that you use backup ads from another network.

How to Setup a Backup Ad?

  1. Sign up to one of the suggested ad networks at the bottom of the blog post or use a non-Google ad network that you already work with.
  2. Create the ad tags on that ad network or request them from the ad rep.
  3. Open a text document and paste the first ad tag into it.
  4. Save it with the name being the pixel dimension of the ad tag’s size (eg. A leaderboard would be named: 728×90) and add .html at the end of the name (ie. Your file name would be: 728×90.html).
  5. Make sure when you click to save that it is saved under “All Files” rather than a specific file type like “Microsoft Doc 97”.
  6. Repeat step 3 – 5 for each backup ad tag you would like to run.
  7. Open up your FTP uploader or whatever you prefer to use to upload files to your web server. We like to use CoffeeCup FTP.
  8. Create a new folder in your server called “passbacks” in the main directory (Remember, backup ads are the same as passback ads).
  9. Upload the .html files to your server in the “passbacks” folder.
  10. Using the examples given in the previous steps you should be able to see the passback ads in the following URL structure:
  12. Check each link and make sure an ad shows up on each link page. You can check that the ad tag is thereby checking the source code (Ctrl – U).
  13. Once you have validated the links, you can implement the backup ad URLs behind your relevant ad units.
  14. Make sure you include everything in the URL including the HTTP://
  15. If you’re using Google Ad Exchange via MonetizeMore, simply send the backup ad URLs to your sales representative and they will implement them for you.
  16. You’re done!

Suggested Backup Ad Networks

If you would prefer a fast and easy setup with decent performance: Sign up here

If the majority of your traffic is Canadian: Sign up here

If your traffic is very international: Sign up here

If over 90% of your traffic is American: Sign up here


Looking to set up backup ads for AdSense and AdExchange? Avoid non-monetized impressions and decreased revenue by claiming your FREE consultation with our team of ad ops experts.

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Kean Graham

CEO and Founder at MonetizeMore

Kean is the resident expert in Ad Optimization covering areas like Adsense Optimization, DFP Management, and third-party ad network partnerships. Kean believes in the supremacy of direct publisher deals and holistic optimization as keys to effective and consistent ad revenue increases.


  1. Thank you for providing this information. I am trying to setup backup ads in my account and I was able to do it successfully, however I came to a simple question. How can we track clicks and impressions of these passback ads? At a glance, I cannot understand if that’s possible unless we use a 1×1 pixel img. However, in that case how can we keep it associated with DFP or AdExchange?

    On the other side, would not be possible to setup these backup ads directly on DFP as House ads in order we can collect information on clicks and impressions? Wouldn’t have the same effect?

    • You cannot track clicks on your side via for external passback tags. You would have to rely on the CTR that the passback ad network would report. You can track clicks on your end for third party ad networks by setting up click macros within your ad server.

      You could however setup a second tier within your ad server and passback to those ad units. Then, you can setup the click macros for the ad networks targeted to those passback ad units.

  2. Thanks a lot for such a great post I wanted to know whether I can add css styles to the backup ad html ?

    • Hi Sneha!

      You can definitely add your own CSS style to the HTML backup ad code. But it depends on which ad network you are using as passback.There are some that allow customization of the ads via their UI which is the easiest way to go.

      If you’re comfortable to code, you may add it in the ad code, then convert it into an HTML file.


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