Google Ad Manager – A Guide For Publishers

Updated on: November 25, 2023
Google DFP enables the publishers to manage their ad inventory in a more effective way by offering an intuitive set of features. Let's dive deep into what they are.

Did you know 81% of small publishers are using Google Ad Manager to monetize their ad inventories? Whether you knew it or not, the statistic must have astounded you. The market share of Google Ad Manager proves how it is leading in the advertising industry. 

However, due to the existence of several of Google’s publishing products, it happens to be quite difficult for beginners to understand the difference. And how each product works. If you are also in the same boat, this article is catered to you. Here we are going to discuss everything related to Google Ad Manager (Google Ad Manager tutorial) from the basics to how to set it up and start serving ads. So, shall we start?

What is Google Ad Manager?

In short, Google DFP (Google Ad Manager) is an ad server. But what’s an ad server? It is a technology that enables publishers to define, manage, and monitor ad inventories on their web, mobile app, or video ad inventories in order to display various types of ads.

Being an ad server, Google Ad Manager behaves as the central place that manages all direct advertisers, indirect advertisers, ad networks, ad exchanges, and other ad-tech partners. It enables the publishers to:

  • Display ads on the website including direct-sold ads, programmatic ads, and house (publisher’s in-house products/services) ads.
  • Control the ads and define rules to determine where the ads will be displayed on the pages.
  • Monitors and tracks the performance of ads.

Versions of Google Ad Manager

There are two types of Google Ad Manager accounts – Google Ad Manager for Small Business and Google Ad Manager 360. Let’s have a quick overview of both types.

Google Ad Manager for Small Business

GAM for Small Business is a free version of Ad Manager, and it is designed for small to medium-sized publishers. With this version, you can have:

  • 90 million monthly display ad impressions to 200 million monthly display ad impressions based on the country*, and
  • 800,000 monthly video ad impressions monthly.

In addition to the ad serving, it provides various decent features including reporting and access to API. 

API Access in GAM

However, these features are limited since it is a free version and designed for publishers with a few million impressions. To use advanced features and serve ad impressions more than the threshold, a publisher has to upgrade to Google Ad Manager 360.

Google Ad Manager 360

Google Ad Manager 360 is the premium or paid version of Ad Manager and provides access to features including advanced reporting, video solutions (hosted video size limit, interactive ad formats, etc.), audience solutions for better segmentation, and so on. Not only this, but you can also get direct access to Google support, integrate Google’s Data Studio for better reporting, and more.

Basic Terminologies Involved in Google Ad Manager

  • Inventory: The ad units available for you to sell is called inventory. These can be grouped into various categories.
  • Tags: Tags are the HTML and JavaScript codes that are placed on your website for the purpose of linking ad units to your inventory.
  • Placement: The pattern of various ad units.
  • Trafficking: Ad trafficking is the process of creating and managing ad campaigns. You can create inventory by targeting a specific audience.
  • Ad unit: Ad Units are the places on a web page where an ad or group of ads can appear.
  • Forecasting: Depending on the website impressions, Forecasting calculates the amount of ad inventory needed in the future. It prevents the overselling of inventories.
  • Reporting: The process of analyzing the ad data to see the performance of every ad is called Reporting. These reports are customizable and enable you to create a more effective ad campaign.

How Does Google Ad Manager Work?

As Google Ad Manager is an ad server, publishers are using it to manage their direct and indirect advertisers. At a basic level, the Ad Manager works as described below:

  1. A publisher defines the ad inventories (or ad units) in the ad server. There are a variety of ad units sizes available in Google Ad Manager
  2. While defining, he/she can generate the ad tags that need to be added to the page’s source code. These ad tags are snippets of HTML or JavaScript code.
  3. Publisher creates line items* and orders that are basically ad campaigns and represent the type of advertisers.
  4. When the user visits a web page, the ad tag sends a request to return an ad from GAM.
  5. The ad Manager finds the right advertisers (or you can say line items) according to the details sent via the ad request and displays the ad on the specified inventory.

*A line item is the primary element in Google DFP that helps the ad server to decide which ad to serve, how to serve, and when to serve it. Here’s a complete guide that you can refer to understand everything about line items.

How is Google AdSense different from Google Ad Manager?

Although Google AdSense and Ad Manager enable publishers to sell ads on their websites, each of them offers different kinds of features and services. AdSense is an ad network that helps publishers to sell their bulk of ad inventories to Google Ads advertisers. 

Whereas GAM allows you to sell your ad inventories to Google advertisers as well as non-Google advertisers. Because Adsense is an ad network, you cannot connect with other ad networks to monetize your ad inventories. However, with Google Ad Manager, you can.

Moreover, there are various other differences between Google Ad Manager and Google AdSense that we have outlined here.

Can you use AdSense with Google Ad Manager?

Of course. In fact, it is recommended to publishers use Google AdSense along with Ad Manager in order to maximize ad revenue. How does it increase revenue?

Selling all of the ad inventories is essential to reach the potential revenue. However, many publishers cannot sell all ad inventories every time. In such situations, Google AdSense helps to sell unsold ad inventories to its Google advertisers. Serving a Google ad is definitely better than leaving the ad inventory remnant, right?

You can run multiple other ad networks along with Google AdSense to increase the yield further. But make sure that other ad networks are compatible with AdSense. A detailed guide on how to run multiple ad networks in Google Ad Manager.

Google dfp with AdSense and other ad networks

Image Source: Tech Crunch

When do you need Google Ad Manager?

Getting more than 500,000 monthly visitors on your website? It’s high time to sign-up for Google Ad Manager. Google Ad Manager would be needed if:

  • You want to manage both direct and programmatic advertising campaigns in one place,
  • You want to take advantage of Google’s marketplace Ad Exchange, and
  • You want to run multiple ad networks/SSPs/exchange*s to increase the demand for your ad inventories. 

*SSPs and Ad exchanges are the middlemen that connect you to the advertisers. Unlike Google AdSense or any other ad network, SSPs and Ad Exchanges can offer you to sell your ad inventories to multiple advertisers in real-time and at higher eCPM rates.

Is Google Ad Manager an Ad Server or an SSP?

Basically, both. As Google says “Not just an ad server or sell-side platform (SSP)”, Google Ad Manager is a complete platform that can act as an ad server as well as an SSP. How does it behave like an SSP? Since Google integrated its Ad Exchange into Ad Manager, Google Ad Manager enables publishers to bring additional demand via AdX.

Google Ad Manager logo

Benefits of Google Ad Manager

Google Ad Manager has been hailed as one of the best ad servers for its numerous benefits for publishers. Here are some of the key advantages of GAM that you should know:

Simple User Interface

One of the most important aspects of ad-tech products is the user interface. Having a beginner’s mind, Google has designed the user interface of Ad Manager as simple as possible in terms of navigation and task orientation. 

It makes sure to show the right amount of information on a single screen in an organized way. On the left sidebar Google Ad Manager Home page, you can find all the necessary elements of an ad campaign. Additionally, if you don’t understand a particular element of the UI, you can simply click on the “?” and the Ad Manager will display the explanation and additional information.

Google Ad Manager Reports

Targeting Capabilities

A relevant audience is extremely important to scale up the ad revenue for the publishers. By using Google Ad Manager, you can display targeted ads based on common factors such as:

  • User domain,
  • Mobile carrier,
  • Bandwidth (Cable, Commercial broadband, etc.),
  • Device manufacturers (Amazon, Ericsson, etc.),
  • Device capability (Phone calls, Mobile apps, etc.),
  • Browser language,
  • Operating system,
  • Browser (Firefox 1.0, Firefox 1.5, etc.),
  • Device category (Desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) and so on.

In addition to the aforementioned factors, you can also target the audience based on custom parameters via key-value targeting

Reporting Features

Google Ad Manager offers various insights into how the ad campaigns are performing. With the ad server, if a user viewed/clicked an ad, you can track that. By looking at which ads get clicks and which don’t, you’ll quickly see where to invest your time. 

Formerly known as “Queries”, the ad server provides different reports including pre-defined templates so that new publishers can create reports on common data. By using Google Ad Manager reports*, you can find out valuable information and data about how much a particular advertiser pays you, how many impressions ads are getting, and more*. 

Reporting Features in Google Ad Manager

*By using key-values and reporting features together, you can gain insights into various custom parameters such as how an on a particular page performed, how an ad size 720×90 performed, and so on.

Testing Environment

The importance of ad testing is imperative. A lot of times this process is skipped by publishers. Therefore, the ad experience and user experience might get affected. To understand how the ads will look on the website, Google Ad Manager provides a testing environment for publishers.

With this testing feature of the ad server, you can create dummy advertisers and ads, and notice how user experience is getting affected. You can do A/B testing with different ad units and see which layout is looking better. This is just an example to illustrate the types of testing in the Ad Manager. Read this article to learn how to test your ads on the ad server.

What are the ad formats you can serve via Google Ad Manager?

Unlike AdSense, Google Ad Manager is not limited to just image ads or text ads. There is a long list of ad formats that you can serve via Google’s ad server. Such ads can run on websites, applications, and videos. Since we believe that you’re familiar with display ads, let’s have a quick introduction to other ad formats available in Google Ad Manager:

Native Ads: Native ads are the ads that match the look and feel of the organic content of the website. Such ad formats can appear in different names, for example, recommended widgets, sponsored ads, promoted ads, and so on. Check out this step-by-step guide to learn more about serving native ads through Google Ad Manager.

Just like native ads, you can serve Multiplex ads via Google Ad Manager.

Responsive Ads: Today, our audiences are everywhere. Desktop, mobile, tablet, etc. Google Ad Manager helps publishers deliver responsive ads so that publishers do not have to compromise with the user experience. Responsive ads are the ad types that can adjust their size and fit into the devices they are going to be served. Learn more about how to set up responsive ads in Ad Manager in this article.

Video Ads: For those who have been in digital advertising for a while, you might already know what video ads are. Video ad format consists of a video in the ad and can be played with video content or without video content. In Google Ad Manager, you can add any type of video ad unit i.e. instream and out-stream. Here’s a guide to help you how to get started with video ads in Google Ad Manager.

So, How to Set-up Google Ad Manager?

Signing up for GAM isn’t rocket science. But there is a prerequisite to join Google Ad Manager i.e. having an active AdSense account. If you have an AdSense account, then you’re just a few steps away from getting access to Ad Manager. Go to the Ad Manager’s home page, and fill in the details as required.

Sign up for Google DFP

After filling in the details, you need to wait for a few days to get approved by Google. Once you get the approval, you’re ready to set up the ads in Google Ad Manager. Don’t know how to do it? We are here to help you. Follow the steps to set up Google DFP.

So, you have set up the ad units and are ready to start serving ads via Google Ad Manager. Now, why not link AdSense to Ad Manager so that you can fill the remnant ad inventories? Sounds great? Let’s have a glimpse of the required steps:

  1. Sign in to your Google Ad Manager.
  2. Navigate to Admin > Linked accounts.
  3. Go to the AdSense tab and click the New AdSense link.New AdSense Linking To GAM
  4. Enter the property code (publisher ID) associated with your AdSense account. A property code looks like this ca-pub-1234567890.
  5. Enter the name and the same name will be selected when you’ll create the AdSense line item.
  6. Enter the other details such as email address, contact details, etc, and save the information.

Also, you need to enable the linking of AdSense in the AdSense account. 

  1. Go to the AdSense account. Go to Account > Access and authorization > Third-party access. Find the request for Ad Manager and click Authorize.

When you’re done with linking AdSense to the Ad Manager, you need to make a few changes in the Ad Manager to serve ads via AdSense. Here’s an article to help you with the same.

Organizing your Ad Partners in Google Ad Manager

If you already have an ad partner with you, it’s quite simple to organize them in Google Ad Manager. Some best practices to Organize your Ad partners are as follows:

  1. Each advertiser should be created under a separate order number. This will simplify your reporting.
  2. Maintain a considerate hierarchy of orders and campaigns.
  3. Always use passbacks so that your unfilled inventories get filled by the house line items or any other passback network by GAM. Thus, there is no impression left unattended. (Hint: You can also use ‘Header Bidding‘ which increases your revenue and eliminates the need for any passbacks).

Final thoughts

Google Ad Manager is the leading platform in the advertising industry. As a unified solution, it has the advantage of easier setup, maintenance, and administration process. Though some publishers may find it overwhelming at first, investment in Google Ad Manager is worthwhile. Did we miss anything to include in this guide? Let us know in the comments and we will add the answers.

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