Ad Fraud

Ads.txt: How to Create, Update, & Implement Ads.txt

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Many recent reports have indicated a rise in fraudulent traffic on number of ads. Both publishers and advertisers are suffering due to fake impressions. According to AdExchanger, ad industry is losing as much as $6 billion every year and the numbers are rising as you are reading this.

Other than publishers and advertisers, there is a very complex advertising ecosystem complying supply side and demand side services. In an advanced advertising ecosystem, the role of each element is important. Any tampering with these elements can harm the entire ecosystem. The tempering might include:

  • Impersonating established sites and fabricating inventory
  • Faking mouse movements and social network logins
  • Showing fake heat map of visitors on a webpage

Domain Spoofing and appearing as a human has caused much harm to the businesses involved in advertising spectrum. This is when IAB Tech Lab took an initiative of introducing ads.txt. It is a  text file allowing publishers to host on their web server and declare their companies as authorized sellers of digital ads space.

What is Ads.txt

Authorized Digital Seller (abbreviated as Ads.txt) is a list of all companies (and publishers) authorized to sell digital inventory. IAB started this initiative and created a more transparent environment to improve digital advertising standards.

With the help of Ads.txt, buyers have an idea about the authentic inventory sellers to place their bids. Ads.txt file directly goes into the root code of the website and it’s not that easy to manually alter the root code of a website.

Also, it doesn’t require any specific technical skill to create and implement ads.txt on HTML root code. And if you use WordPress, then the process is as easy as installing a plugin.

However, not all the top websites use this method simply because most of them are unaware of ads.txt. It’s high time to start adopting anti-theft systems such as TAG certified channels to reduce growing frauds.

How to Create and Post Ads.txt

It’s easy to create and implement ads.txt file. The important part is to collect the details required in the file. It generally consists of four fields. Here you go:

1. Domain Name (required): Name of the publisher’s website (domain) to establish the ownership of the domain for the advertiser’s knowledge.

2. Publisher ID (required): A unique identification number of the seller or the reseller. Google Adsense can help you get your publisher ID.

3. Type of Relationship (required): Direct Publisher, directly selling the ad space and has complete control of domain. Reseller, vendors authorized by publisher to sell space on the domain.

4. Certification Authority ID (optional): A unique identification id of the advertising system which is certified by TAG (Trustworthy Accountability Group). Also known as TAG ID.

Once you have these details in place, simply put them one after another in a text file, separated by a comma (,) <Field #1>, <Field #2>, <Field #3>, <Field #4>. Save the file with ‘txt’ file extension. Lastly, place this file inside the HTML root code of your website.

Here’re examples of ads.txt file for Google products publishers:

google.com, pub-0000000000000000, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

google.com, pub-0000000000000000, RESELLER, f08c47fec0942fa0

Make Ads.txt Works In WordPress

Things get easier when using WordPress. Right? Every customization in WordPress starts with installation of a plugin. There are various free plugins available offering Ads.txt Manager.

Here’s how ads.txt works for WordPress users:

  • Install Ads.txt plugin on your WordPress managed website.
  • On the left panel, click on Settings > Ads.txt to customize the settings.
  • Place your Ads.txt details and Save the settings.

As most publishers are using WordPress to manage their websites, you will find a number of plugins to create and implement Ads.txt. Choose the one that you find easy to use and reliable for you.

Ensure Ads.txt is Crawled

Ads.txt file is placed in the root domain of the website to ensure it is easily crawled by Google. Avoid these issues with your ads.txt file to overcome crawling errors:

  • Make sure ads.txt file is always available, even at the time of re-crawling.
  • Place it in the root domain for bots to read it quickly; example: www.domain.com/ads.txt.
  • Your server / CDN should never return an invalid response to Google Crawler.
  • Ads.txt file should be accessible by both HTTP and HTTPS.
  • Robot.txt of the website should allow crawling your website.

Use the services of Google Webmaster to check your ads.txt file is properly crawled. Robot.txt file has details of files and pages available to be crawled by Google and Bing bots.

Benefits of Ads.txt

When the ad industry was losing billions due to the ad frauds going on in the market, ads.txt by IAB provided the most required safety. Quickly, many publishers chose this method after checking out the benefits. Here’s an idea about the major benefits of ads.txt:

Easy to Create

As denoted in the above section, it’s quite easy to create an Ads.txt file. Furthermore, it takes only a few minutes to install the file onto your website. Simply place the file in your HTML root code and you have secured your ad inventory.

Easy to Update

Ads.txt file can easily be edited and updated. For that, create a new .txt extension file with updated details. Remove the old .txt file and upload the new one in the place of that. Make sure the files are quickly crawled by the bots.

Private and Secure

Only the owner of the website can upload the ads.txt file on the website which makes it secure from external corruption. There’s no way a fraudster can edit the file unless having the correct credentials to access website.

Why Publishers Are Not Opting For Ads.txt

Ads.txt has shown an enormous decrease in ad frauds after its release in May 2017. However, the rate of adoption of ads.txt is not as it was expected.

According to a recent report, Ad fraud continued to grow and 2019 is going to be no different. If fraudulent activities are rising and Ads.txt can help combat it, then why publishers are not opting for it.

Well, the answer can sound a bit strange but vendors are not comfortable with being ‘resellers’ of the inventory. Most of the time, publishers do not sell inventory directly. This is when vendors come into the picture.

Handling the ad inventory part for publishers brings out a situation for publishers to give them the status of direct seller or reseller.This tension between publishers and vendor is discouraging publishers to implement Ads.txt.

The Bottom line

Only the use of Ads.txt in not going to resolve all the issues faced by ad industry. The entire advertising ecosystem needs to fight against the common enemy, i.e. ad fraud. More than that, there is a great requirement of transparency in the ad industry to eliminate all the questionable activities.

Ads.txt can be a start for publishers to bring back their ad business on track by regaining control in their hands. Being aware of the prevalent sharp practices in the ad industry, it’s high time for publishers to bring back the true meaning to their inventory.

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