It’s definitely possible to run a website without an ad server. You can get some AdSense tags and put them directly on the page. However, if you’re doing anything complicated, it’s a great idea to sign up for DFP Small Business (there are other ad servers out there, but DFP Small Business is good an it’s free). In this article, we will list some reasons it might be time to get serious.
A common requirement from US-based advertisers is to only serve ads to website visitors from the United States, or perhaps the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Could you do this in your CMS? Maybe! But it would definitely require some custom programming and a geo-IP database. DFP handles this beautifully.
Another common requirement for particular ads is to serve only Desktop devices or Mobile devices. Could you do device detection user browser user-agent strings? Sure. Would it be tougher if you needed aggressive page caching? Yup. Can DFP do this for you easily? Of course!
In fact, you can even target on custom criteria. Suppose each of your users has a list of interests. You can provide this information to DFP as well. For example, you might show car ads to the car lovers, but not the cat lovers. The restriction here is that you cannot send personally-identifiable information, but generic information such as “likes-sports” is fine for targeting.
You can serve particular ads on a single page of your website, offering a “Sponsored Post” feature to potential advertisers. DFP makes this easy through the use of custom criteria (hint, just use the page ID or URL as the criteria value)
You might have multiple ad campaigns running at the same time. Having an ad server makes it easy to service all these deals simultaneously.
Ad servers allow the ability to track campaign progress. Suppose you agree to deliver 100,000 impressions over the course of a week. DFP can tell you how many you have served so far and whether you are on target to complete the campaign on time. Could you fake it using Google Analytics? Probably, but why? This is exactly what ad servers are for!
Here’s something Google Analytics can’t do! DFP can pace the delivery of your ads. Suppose you’ve got a website that averages 100,000 pageviews per day. You’ve accepted a campaign that requires 200,000 impressions over the course of a week. Using your CMS, could roadblock a few pages and guess and check using Google Analytics each day. Or you could use DFP to automatically show the right number of ads to hit the target on time. What if you get a traffic spike? DFP will adjust accordingly.
Good reporting is crucial to successful publisher ad operations. DFP has excellent reporting. Once you learn the nuances, you may discover mistakes in your setup or uncover potential optimizations.