Most bloggers and online publishers understand how AdSense works, part of its universal appeal lies in the fact that it’s probably the simplest monetization method that exists — you just have to create an account, set up a few ads, and you’re ready to do.

Publishers who’ve been in the game for a long time, however, may begin to find that AdSense can be a bit limiting in terms of the features that it offers, and even more importantly, the features that it does not offer.

This is where ad exchanges and ad servers come in.

Google itself has an impressive set of products for publishers that commonly get overlooked because they just sound complex. For instance, most have heard of DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP), but few know how it works.

Here are a few common questions that publishers have in mind about DFP along with simple explanations that will hopefully take the complexity out of the whole thing:

What is Google DFP?

DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) is an ad management tool that allows publishers to sell, schedule, deliver, and manage their ad inventory. Although this comparison won’t be very accurate technically, but you can think of DFP as AdSense on steroids.

Since it’s built and managed by Google, you can expect the same intuitive user interface and robust functioning that you’ve likely experienced with AdSense, but DFP takes it a step further by giving you deeper control over your ad inventory and significantly more ad management and delivery options.

Before we move forward, do you know all the jargon used in DFP? No? Here is a glossary to help.

How does DFP work?

DFP is a hosted ad server, meaning that it acts as an intermediary between your ad inventory and the ad networks and advertisers that want to purchase your ad space.

With advanced features such as ad trafficking and delivery, inventory management, revenue optimization, inventory forecasting, and granular reporting — DFP provides an entire toolkit to publishers for delivering ads on their web, mobile, and video ad inventory. A full feature list of DFP is available at their website.

You can sell ads directly or deliver them using AdSense or any other third party ad network.

Do I need DoubleClick for Publishers?

If you’re just starting out with online publishing, have limited traffic, then DFP may not be the best tool for you — you would probably be better off using AdSense, perhaps in concurrence with another ad network, affiliate network, or content recommendation system.

If however, you receive a lot of traffic and wish to sell your ad inventory directly to advertisers, you could consider trying DFP. Other reasons why you may wish to work with DFP include managing multiple networks seamlessly and if you just simply need great control over when, where, and to whom your ads deliver.

Keep in mind, though, DFP is as simple to operate as it can be and not simpler. It is an advanced tool and it will take you some time to navigate it entirely and make full use of its many features. In case you’re not ready to put in the time and effort to get over the initial learning curve, you may not be able to see the returns that it can provide.

How is DFP different from AdSense and AdX?

AdSense is a display ad network that serves contextual ads from Google’s Display Network (GDN). Google Ad Exchange, on the other hand, is an ad exchange that allows publishers to sell their inventory directly along with ads that are displayed from the GDN.

There are some other crucial differences between AdSense and AdX, for instance, AdX allows publishers to serve up to five ads per page as compared to AdSense that only allows three — just this one feature can make a lot of difference to overall revenue numbers if managed well.

DFP, in contrast to both, is a platform that allows the serving and management of ads from different sources, in and of itself, DFP wouldn’t be able to do anything for your website — to make DFP work, you have to connect it to the right sources.

Can I serve AdSense ads through DFP?

Yes, you can! And here’s something amazing: Unlike AdX and AdSense, which limit the number of ad units you can serve on a page to five and three respectively — DFP places no such restrictions, although they do advise publishers not to go overboard and strike the right balance between revenue maximization and ad latency.

Another great thing about the DFP-AdSense integration is that in case your ad inventory is going unsold for some reason, DFP will automatically fall back on AdSense to fill up the unsold inventory — ensuring that your ad space doesn’t go to waste.

Is Google DFP free to use?

DFP comes in two versions: DFP for Small Business and DFP for Publishers Premium.

DFP for Small Business is free to use and built for the publisher who needs a self-managed ad server to better manage their inventory. On the other hand, DFP for Publishers Premium is paid solution intended for use by large publishers with complex sales operations and dedicated sales teams who need advanced customization and consulting services.

Do I need an AdSense account to use DFP?

Yes. Although you don’t necessarily need to serve AdSense ads on your website through DFP, connecting the accounts is a mandatory step of joining DFP.

What policies do I have to adhere?

Just like any other ad platform, DFP comes with its own set of rules and stipulations that publishers need to adhere to lest they risk getting their account suspended by the policy enforcement team.

Most policies are pretty common sense, such as “not using artificial means to inflate impressions, conversions, and/or clicks”, which is something any publisher who has worked with AdSense, or any other network for that matter, would already know.

Other policies are not so obvious and need a more careful reading. You should definitely read the platforms program policies before getting started with DFP. It’s better to be careful first than having to deal with a suspended account.

Can I use other ad networks in parallel with DFP?

DFP does not demand exclusivity, so you are free to use it along with any other ad management or ad serving product. This is great news for publishers who like to keep experimenting with their ad layout to optimize their revenue.

All in all, DFP is a great step up for any publisher with a growing operation that requires a higher level of customization and freedom to experiment — it’s completely free, loaded to the brim with advanced features, and the best part is, if it doesn’t work for you, you can switch right back to whatever network you were using anytime you want.