Hello and welcome to an exhaustive tour of hell on earth. It’s time for ad ops! This document is for anyone who wants to make money on the web. Specifically, we take an in-depth look at the technical aspects of ad operations, but we’ll touch on some other areas too. My goal is to teach you everything you need from the ground up. To that end, questions and comments are welcome! Please email visit hashtag-labs.com/contact-us and I will do my best to reply. Any questions I receive may be added to this site (identifying information such as your name or company will be removed).

My background is in Computer Science and I’ve worked for 10 years as a web developer. In the last few years, I’ve been deeply involved in ad operations for independent publishers.

Is It Worth It?
—————

Ultimately this is one you’ll have to answer for yourself. Ad operations can be fun and interesting. It can also be miserable. Personally, I feel that 100,000 monthly pageviews is a good place to start thinking more about ad operations. If you have less than 100,000/mo pageviews, install AdSense and call it a day. Your time will be better spent by growing your site: so add more content, build your community, increase your social presence, and improve your SEO.

Think about it this way: there are 2 ways to double your revenue; you can double the number of visitors, or your can double the value of each visitor.

How Much Money Can You Make With Ads?
————————————-

The answer to this question varies WILDLY, but there are basically three factors in play:

1. What is your niche?
2. What percentage of visitors are mobile vs desktop?
3. What percentage of your inventory is direct sold vs remnant?

With no context, it’s probably safe to estimate $1.00 – $5.00 per thousand pageviews. It’s possible to make A LOT more if you’re lucky and good.

#### Why does the niche matter so much?

Advertisers are willing to pay more money to show their ads to the right audience. The more specific your content is, the more likely you will attract a specific audience. News-blogging is not a strong niche because there’s nothing unique about the audience.

#### Why does the percentage of mobile visitors matter?

Mobile ads pay less. So assuming everything else is the same, a website with 60% mobile usage is going to make less money than a website with 20% mobile usage. That’s extremely tough for website owners because the whole world is rapidly going mobile. Anywhere between 40% – 60$ is quite typical and some sites are even higher.

Why do mobile ads pay less? Well for a couple of reasons: first, they are less likely to be seen. Second, they have fewer pixels. Less real estate is perceived as less valuable. Third, people browsing on their phone are very likely to be performing a task and looking for specific information. They’re less likely to click.

#### Why does the percentage of direct sold inventory matter?

This is a simple one that we cover more below. Direct-sold inventory means you’ve made a specific deal with one advertiser to show their ads. These deals invariably pay more. However, many publishers find it difficult to sell all (or indeed, any) of their inventory directory to advertisers. We’ll talk much more about this later.

## How to get ads on your site

* Signup for AdSense
* Plan your ad units
* Create your ad units
* Put them on the site
* Verify

### Signup for AdSense

Just go to [http://www.google.com/adsense] and follow the instructions to setup a new account

* [Best Practices, create an @adops email address](#best-practices-adops-email)

### Plan Your Ad Units

Ad units come in many different sizes. However, a few sizes are standard. Unless there is an extraordinary reason, you should stick to the following sizes when starting out:

* 320×50
* 160×600
* 300×250
* 728×90

These sizes are the most popular so nearly every ad campaign uses them.

*Is there every a reason not to use AdSense* Maybe! Google has content guidelines. If your website violates their policies, you could get banned. That’s bad news, but there’s still hope. See below where we talk about strategies to deal with NSFW content.

## The Metrics

The four metrics below are available on nearly every ad platform. However, it can be very confusing at first because the terminology between companies is HIGHLY interchangeable, for example, one company’s definition of “Impressions” will be the same as another company’s “Filled Impressions” or a third company’s “Eligible Impressions”. These are the definitions we will use on this website.

### Requests

The number of ads served, as recorded by the ad server

### Impressions

The number of ad requests received, as recorded by the ad network

### Filled Impressions (or just “Filled”)

The number of ads actually displayed, as recorded by the ad network

### Revenue

The amount of money you made, as recorded by the ad network

### Other metrics

There are plenty of other metrics other there. Some companies report on eligible impressions, or matched requests, or viewable impressions. We will talk about some of these later, but you can ignore them for now.

## Examples of using Metrics

Suppose you’ve been running ads for the last 30 days.

You run a report in DFP and the Ad Network

You get the following numbers:

Dates: 10/1 – 10/31
Requests: 1,000,000
Impressions: 900,000
Filled: 800,000
Revenue: $1200

Let’s make some observations:

First, notice that:

>
> Requests > Impressions
>

Why does this make sense? A Request is recorded by your ad server as an attempt to serve an ad. An Impression is recorded by the ad network each time they receive a request to serve an ad. The ad network can’t serve more impressions than the number of requests you send.

Debugging Common Problems
————————-

### My numbers are weird

#### Impressions > Requests

The ad network cannot possibly record more impressions than the number of requests we send. So how can this ever happen?

##### Timezone mismatch

Make sure both your reports are using the same timezone.

Best Practices
————–


### Create a dedicated adops email address

As a best practice, I recommend that you create a new email account specifically for ads. Something like adops@example.com or example_ads@gmail.com. Why is it a bad idea to sign up with your personal email? Because you’re not psychic. Maybe you work for a company and someone else will need access to the account one day. Maybe your site is very popular and you decide to hire someone to run your ad operations. You don’t want ads tied to your main email account.

An impression

Key Metrics of Optimization
What is RPM
Metrics
Requests
Impressions
Filled
Revenue
Other metrics (eligible requests, viewable impressions)
How can you use this information to decide between networks

## The Equations

### Calculate RPM

RPM is Revenue per 1000 Pageviews. You will occasionally see RPM used to mean something different, but this is what we’re going to use.

>
> RPM = 1000 * Revenue / Pageviews
>

### Calculate CPM

CPM is Revenue per 1000 Impressions.

>
> CPM = 1000 * Revenue / Impressions
>

* This is technically known as eCPM. Some people get very bothered when you call it CPM, but in reality, everybody knows what you mean.

### Calculate Discrepancy

CPM is Revenue per 1000 Impressions.

>
> CPM = 1000 * Revenue / Impressions
>

* This is technically known as eCPM. Some people get very bothered when you call it CPM, but in reality, everybody knows what you mean.

Recommended Stack
Prebid
Display
Video
Native
Affiliate
Widget
Mobile-optimized

Do you need an ad server?
yes
geo targeting
device targeting
custom targeting
page roadblocking
creative rotation
delivery tracking
delivery pacing
reporting

Business Models on the Web
Ads
Affiliate Marketing
Sponsored Content
Subscription Content
Syndicated Content
Writing Content
Selling Services
Selling Products
Ebay / Amazon / Craigslist Arbitrage
Spam
Selling Apps
Reselling Web Hosting
Selling Virtual Goods

SEO
Google Webmaster Tools
Facebook OGP Tags
Mobile optimized
Fast

SEO Checklist

SEO Resources

Reporting Delays and Reconciliation
What is a reporting delay
Why does it happen
Why is that a problem
How can I tell if I have a problem
What can you do

Setup
create an @adops email address
why
information management, keep personal info and company info separate
in a large company, several people or teams may be involved in ad ops

How to evaluate an advertiser
Payment Terms
Editable Block List
Good Reporting
accuracy
speed
good UI
Ad Quality
CPM
Discrepancy
Fill
Ability to create tags
Fixed CPM and 100% fill
Offers header bidding

Overdeliver
What is a buffer
Why is it needed
What is it good
What’s the downside
some lost impressions
tough if you’re already be oversold

Orthogonal Partnerships
What? each advertiser should serve a different market, don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Why?
A lot can go wrong, advertisers go out of business
Minimal benefit to using 2 similar advertisers
Downside
more work to manage tags, more invoices to process
Recommended setup

Optimization Balancing Act
Time
Money
User Experience
Take an 80-20 approach, do the gains justify the effort?

Creative Preview
Duplicate Creatives

Backfill Strategy
what is backfill?
what are the options?
adsense dynamic allocation (inventory level)
100% fill network (as House)
true house ads

Geo segmenting
is it useful? maybe depending on your situation

How to execute special targeting scenarios
using separate ad units
what are custom criteria
article roadblock
homepage takeover
tag/category/section takeover
test/staging site
nsfw negative targeting
no ads targeting
caveats with multiple sites

Why don’t my numbers match
DFP and Google Analytics
ads per page (may vary per page)
script loading order
ad blocking

DFP Change History

Site Tagging Strategies

What is a make-good campaign

Creating a dedicated test page

Why Can’t I see the ad?
domain targeting
geo targeting
campaign not started yet
date targeting
insufficient cookies

Steps to fix a misbehaving ad

Cranking Cash
how to cheat
multiplexing on time

How does arbitrage work?

Timezone alignment

Why you can’t audit a tag

Do you have dynamic allocation?

How to detect ad blocking

How to see what scripts are running on your site (Ghostery)

How to debug iPhone ads on Chrome

How to debug with Charles

Should it be hardcoded?

Drop Us a Line

We’re dedicated to working with the hungriest minds in our field. If you’re involved with digital content production or digital advertising and marketing, we’d love to hear from you. Big, small, experienced or beginner, please feel free to get in contact if you think we can be of service.

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