If you are an online publisher, it can quickly become a complicated and inefficient process to constantly place ads manually, for your advertisers. It’s not only time consuming, but it becomes difficult to manage and report results to the advertisers. Ad servers can be a powerful solution to this problem. With the right ad server, you can automate the whole process and develop a profitable system that does most of the work for you.
What is an Ad Server?
An ad server is a service/application that depending upon its instructions, places targeted advertisements on your website(s). It can also take care of Inventory Management as well as reporting to your Advertisers. This technology uses a web server that stores various types of ads and matches relevant ads to the interests and online behavior of website visitors.
Ad servers are the reason that you often see ads related to your recent web searches when you browse different websites. The algorithms behind ad servers are updated constantly so that you are always seeing the most relevant ads.
As an advertiser, it’s far more effective to execute targeted advertising campaigns. With ad servers, you are placing ads in front of the most targeted audience. This allows you to get the maximum value from your advertising budget.
The Main Benefits of Using Your Own Ad Server
There’s little doubt that ad servers are the most efficient way to deliver the most relevant ads to your visitors. Yet there is still the question of why you, as a publisher, should get your own ad server. After all, you could rely on the ad network’s ad servers. This would be less costly for you and make your work simpler. Ad Networks also spend a lot in optimizing their algorithms on regular basis, which greatly helps advertisers and publishers.
There are, however, several other reasons why it could be better for you to use your own ad servers like various other large publishers.
The biggest reason you should have your own ad server is that it gives you complete control over your website data. When you rely on the network’s technology, you are giving another company access to all of your campaign data. In the long run this is more beneficial for the ad network than for you.
When your advertisers launch campaigns, your goal should be to have as much control over your data as possible. This includes the issue of privacy. Do you really want other companies knowing how profitable your campaigns are or which websites are performing best?
When you use your own ad server you have maximum control over your campaigns. This is important not only for the sake of immediate profit, but also for the long term health of your business.
Having your own ad server also allows you to see your results in real time. If you are depending on ad network’s reports you may have to wait for a few hours or a day to see the results. It’s much better to be able to get instant feedback from your ads. This allows you to make changes very quickly and not waste money on underperforming ads.
If you are working with multiple networks, it can be complicated to have each of them managing your inventory. With your own ad server, you can manage all of your inventory from one place. In addition to being more efficient, this also lets you see the bigger picture. An ad server allows you to see how your inventory is performing across the board.
In general, having an ad server helps you gain the maximum amount of independence and creative control over your inventory. This is something that can definitely help you build your business and develop a unique strategy to attract advertisers.
The Top Ad Servers
Once you decide to get your own ad server, you still have to decide which one to use. This is an extremely important decision, for if you want the best possible results you have to choose the right company.
Signing up with an ad server isn’t something you should do casually. It’s best to thoroughly look over the tools, features and price plans offered by each. It’s also good to look for comments, reviews and testimonials written by existing customers. All of this can help you decide if a particular ad server is right for you.
With this in mind, let’s look at some of the leading ad servers. The same ad server is not ideal for everyone, so what’s essential is, for you to find the best possible match for your needs.
Adzerk is a suite of APIs that make it easy for engineers and PMs to design, build, and launch a fully-customized, server-side ad server. Sold as an infrastructure-as-a-service for enterprises, plans start in the $3K-$5K/month range and scale based on needed features and monthly request volume.
Multiple APIs and a robust feature-set mean you can build an ad platform promoting native ads, sponsored listings, standard banners, internal content, audio ads, in-stream commercials, or even VR ads.
Adzerk has done a great job becoming the go-to solution for enterprises who want a customized solution (like Bed Bath and Beyond, TicketMaster, and EllieMae), but as they are API-driven, you have to be okay dedicating engineering resources to going live. Adzerk is so far doing an impressive job at serving the needs of its publishers and has no obvious flaws.
The company was first owned independently but was later bought by Google. Since Google provides every imaginable service under the sun, it’s hardly surprising that they offer ad server technology as well. If you use Google’s advertising platform or Analytics, it may seem like a natural next step to get involved with DFP.
This is one of the simplest ad servers around, which makes it ideal for someone just starting out with this type of service. Another big advantage is that it’s free. It also integrates with AdSense, so it’s the obvious choice for anyone who relies heavily on Google ads for advertising.
There is also DFP Video to help advertisers run profitable video ad campaigns, as well as DFP Mobile, which specializes in ads for mobile devices.
There is also the option to choose DFP Premium. While this is not free, it allows you to target and package your ads more comprehensively than the free version. While it’s designed for easy integration with Google ads, it’s also compatible with other types of advertising. DFP Premium, however, is not as simple to set up as standard DFP.
While DFP is owned by Google, Atlas was acquired by the other reigning internet behemoth – Facebook (it was previously owned by Microsoft). Atlas provides an impressive array of tools to help you manage your inventory.
Their Media Console allows you to manage every aspect of your inventory and easily transfer data from one place to another. Atlas Rich Media is useful if you want to leverage the power of rich ads, which includes elements such as images, video and interactive elements. They also offer Atlas In-stream Video which gives you another powerful way to engage your audience.
The main drawback to Atlas is that it was only recently acquired by Facebook and the integration is still not complete. This means Atlas is in a period of transition and it may take some time to find out what directions it will take. On the other hand, with one of the most successful brand names in the world behind it, it’s likely that Atlas will emerge to become one of the leaders in the ad serving field.
OpenX was previously called phpAdsNew but changed their name to something easier to remember and also upgraded many of their features. This ad server provides many of the same benefits as larger and better known companies.
It’s possible to geo-target ads, keep track of statistics and manage your inventory. OpenX also supports video, newsletter and mobile campaigns so you can create ads in many different formats, for your advertisers.
There is a certain learning curve with every ad server, but some can be quicker to master than others. OpenX could be structured more simply and intuitively.
Adtech is owned by AOL which, although no longer the internet leader it once was, is still a significant player in the world of high tech. This ad server is mainly geared for large publishers, but it can also be used by smaller companies who are looking for a robust solution to their inventory management needs.
Adtech has some powerful technology behind it, and its capabilities are comparable with industry leaders such as DFP Premium. It features especially strong analytics and reporting to help you pinpoint how your campaigns are performing. It also integrates smoothly with all major ad networks.
On the other hand, Adtech’s many features and options make it a little overwhelming for some users. As with OpenX, you should be prepared for a certain learning curve before you figure out how everything works.
Deciding on the Right Ad Server
Only you can decide if an ad server is the next step for your business. For a small business just starting out and with a limited budget, it may be more prudent to do some testing on your own before getting using ad server technology. Ad servers do, after all, demand a certain investment in terms of time and money.
On the other hand, when you are ready to scale up your monetization efforts, an ad server can help you yield better returns for your inventory. And while it may take you some time to learn the ins and outs of an ad server (unless you outsource this), once you do figure it out you’ll find that it’s a much more efficient way to manage your ad inventory.
Once you do decide to move forward, you still have to zero in on which ad server to go with. I’d recommend taking a close look at several of them. The ones reviewed in this article are a good place to start, though you may want to look at others as well.
With good time invested in research, To start off with one and have to make a change is a hassle you can do without. Fortunately, many ad servers offer free memberships so you can try out the technology without too big of a commitment. Still, you are investing your advertising dollars so you should do your research before making even this move.
Even though an ad server gives you a great deal of power and leverage for your advertising campaigns, you have to realize that it’s not a magical solution. It’s still up to you or your employees to some up with effective ads and figure out the best target audience.
Ad servers do, however, make it much easier to test and track your results. You can gain valuable information a lot faster using an ad server than you could on your own. Additionally, for reasons we’ve already discussed, there are limits to relying on your publishers’ ad servers.
An ad server is a big step for any business, and it’s something you should think carefully about and research before starting. You may find, however, that it’s the next logical step for growing your business.