As a website owner, a blogger, or an online publisher, with advertising as one of the main revenue sources, you want to display and manage ads from your advertisers and ads from ad networks. There are many ad servers available on the market so you do not know which ad server is the right solution for you. Below are some factors to consider while searching for a suitable ad server.
Before starting your search, you should identify your advertising needs, both short-term and long-term. Switching ad server is not an enjoyable project for any company so finding the right partner is essential. A right ad server can help you execute daily ad operations efficiently, sell more advertising, and bring in more revenue. Prepare a check list of features and quality criteria for your requirements and budget. Prioritize and separate between must-have items and nice-to-have items. You should also take into consideration your own strengths and limitations. Factors include your level of technical expertise, availability of human resources, growth projection, and of course a budget.
Setting ads up and including ads into your website should be simple and intuitive. Choose an ad solution that helps you set up your advertiser’s ads quickly and without much technical knowledge. This can be an intuitive work flow, a user-friendly interface and on-page help instructions. The ideal ad server packs complex functionality into a streamlined, simple and intuitive interface. It should support as many ad formats, ad types, and ad templates as possible. It should allow you to maintain and deliver ads using a single system with little technical knowledge. Using the built-in ad serving capability will also save time, save money and cut down unnecessary complexities.
There is a wide range of cost involved with ad servers, from free open-source ad servers to very expensive ad solutions. Your goal here is to pay the lowest fee and get all the features and support that you need to run an effective advertising program. Good quality ad servers usually come with a price tag because the company can only develop and perfect its infrastructure when there is a sustainable flow of revenue. Fees are based on impressions, traffic, income, or the size of your business, so shop around for the plan that meets your budget and requirements.
Free vs. Paid
Free solutions often do not come with technical support or customer service. It often relies on community support via user-participation forums, which can be slow and unreliable in getting issues resolved. It often has a limited number of features that is designed as a starting point for a future upgrade. Free ad server is more suitable for resourceful and technical individuals or companies that can take full advantage of the offer. For other companies, you might need to work with an external technology consultant or another support company to integrate, operate, and maintain the same product. The result is a complex supply chain with several companies for only one product.
Advertisers want their ads reach the right people at the right time. You want to satisfy both the advertisers and your visitors with interesting, relevant ads. You need an ad server that can serve the needs of all parties involved.
Can I serve ads from third party ad networks? Is there any limitation on the number or types of third party ads? Is there a delay in setting up ads?
Is there any kind of ad optimization where more popular or better ads will be shown more often? Ads that generate more clicks, more conversion, more revenue should be displayed more often.
How fast do ads load? Is there an edge/local ad server near my visitors?
Your advertisers can be very specific about who and how they want to show their ads. The right ad server should be able to accommodate all standard requirements and even more advanced or customized requests from your website’s setup and your advertiser’s requirements. You want to maximize ad revenue from your website while delivering the best ROI for your advertisers so that they continue to advertise on your website.
Ad metrics (impressions, clicks, leads, purchases, conversions) should be accurately recorded and presented in an easy-to-understand report. Customized tracking should be available to track interaction events for more complex ads. Industry-wide standards and protocols (like clickTAG for Flash ads) should be followed instead of using proprietary methods.
The ad server should be able to provide a big picture on activities on your ads. It should present metrics on both ads and visitors so that you and your advertiser can know how to improve existing ads and create new ads or products that cater to visitor’s demands.
What types of reports are available?
Can custom reports be created?
Is reporting in real-time? How often does data get updated? What is the delay for impressions, clicks and other ad metrics?
Are there reports on your visitors (referral, geographical, browser, search keywords)?
Are these reports accessible to your advertisers? Do they have their own advertiser account to view the reports online?
No one can learn and use all the ad serving and ad management features in a few days. There is a learning curve so the ad serving company should have a strong customer support. To help customers, a combination of multiple help channels should be available to you. This includes an online help center, FAQs (questions and answers), support help desk with a tracking ticket number, live chat, email, and phone. Responses should be timely and relevant to your issues/questions. Support staff should be polite, genuinely customer-driven, and appreciative of your business. Online help center with articles, instructions, video tutorials can be very useful to learn the features on your own pace at your most convenient time. On the other hand, you also want to get a hold of your account manager or a support person via email, phone, live chat to describe a specific objective/task and get specific instructions.
If you need additional features, the ad server should be able to offer through add-ons or customizations that tailor to your specific needs. Useful add-ons include private label (white label or private branding), media file management, ad network extension. A technical extension tool, like API, can be useful for your own IT team, either in-house or outsourced, to integrate between your internal business systems and the ad server.