This post was most recently updated on January 18th, 2023
Ad trafficking is the process of formulating and running a campaign to show ads on a website or mobile app. It can be done by the creator or publisher of the website, or by dedicated ad ops teams within an organization.
Ad trafficking is more than just getting an ad to run, however, It is about getting the campaign to run in the most effective way possible, providing maximum returns for the publisher and satisfying advertisers. Ad placement, campaign type, creative layout, targeting, and competition are among the multiple factors that an ad trafficker will consider when setting up a campaign.
Before you even start trafficking a campaign, it’s important to understand what advertisers are looking for. When advertisers design an ad to be used online, they want as many people with an interest in their field to be shown the ad. Users who are not in the target market for the advertised product are considerably less likely to engage with the ad, or learn about or buy the product advertised.
Advertisers want their products to be shown on credible, well-designed sites, with a wide user base. Integration of ads with content should be appealing visually, and the user should have an enjoyable experience browsing your site and reading the content. This encourages longer dwell times on-site and a greater chance for the advertisers’ products to be seen. All these factors will increase the amount of money an advertiser is willing to pay to have their ad shown on your site.
Most ad traffickers will use Google Ad Manager at some point, if not exclusively. Ad Manager is an ad server, a comprehensive online tool that helps you organize your ad campaigns and inventory, target ads to where they are most profitable, and report on the results.
Ad Manager is quite daunting at first; so daunting we made our own Ad Manager certification course over at PubGuru University. The course gives you the knowledge to run campaigns and organize your ad slots and feel confident that you’re on top of what’s happening when a user visits your site.
It’s important to know that Ad Manager doesn’t supply ads itself. It can only serve the ads you give it, whether they are ads from advertisers directly, a third-party ad network, Google’s own AdSense, or some other ad technology. Payments will be handled externally and the ad trafficker will need to verify that the impressions declared and money paid by external vendors matches the totals in Ad Manager with minimal discrepancies.
We often get questions from those starting out, and a common one is ‘Where do I get the ads from?’.
Most publishers are aware of or use Google AdSense. Depending on the site you’re running, it’s easy to set up and easy to work out what you’ve earned, and AdSense access also gets you access to Ad Manager. AdSense is of course not the only source of ads; publishers use existing relationships with clients to serve direct ads, set up agreements with other third-party ad networks, and as they grow, also consider advanced ad technologies such as header bidding or programmatic.
In all cases though, the consideration of how to place the ads on the page, how to target them to the most appropriate pages and how to reach the most lucrative users is all within the remit of the ad trafficker. Ad traffickers are expected to maximize the revenue for the publisher as well as provide the best value to the advertiser.
Test environments are useful here to plan out the proposed layouts, and how they fit with the content. Split testing should also be considered, showing a proportion of live users the new layout and comparing the results with the old layout or alternatives.
Ad traffickers also provide updates for the advertisers in terms of reporting. This is important so that both the trafficker and advertiser can make changes to the campaign, or any aspect of it that isn’t performing as intended. For example, certain creatives may not be performing as well as others, or frequency capping rules are hindering delivery.
The world of ad trafficking is constantly changing. New technologies and techniques are constantly being developed to maximize revenue and user experience.
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