AdSense is a Google service that most publishers have encountered before — for many publishers, it is the fastest way for their website to start earning money. All users have to do is create an account, set up ads, and start earning.
This method may be ideal for beginners, but for seasoned pros, it can be limiting. In order to increase their profits, publishers need access to several important features that simply aren’t available in AdSense.
For many publishers, the next step is to search out another tool that offers them the ad management features missing from AdSense. Google has a robust set of tools built just for this purpose: Google Ad Manager (GAM), or DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP). So what is this tool? How does it work, and how can we get started using GAM to bring your ads to the next level?
What is Google Ad Manager (GAM)?
Google Ad Manager makes it possible for publishers to sell, schedule, deliver, and manage ad inventory. While the tool was its own separate entity for years as DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP), the company rebranded several years ago into the Google Ad Manager (GAM) platform.
This intuitive platform uses a sleek, intuitive user interface and partners it with the best features of Google Analytics and AdSense. The result is something that is robust enough for professionals, but easy enough for amateurs to grasp.
How does GAM work?
GAM (or DFP to those who’ve been in the industry for a while) acts as a hosted ad server, an intermediary between a publisher’s ad inventory, and the ad networks that house any advertisers looking to purchase ad space.
The advanced features of GAM allow the user to do ad service and delivery, inventory management, revenue optimization, inventory forecasting, and reporting on a granular level. The tools provided by GAM allow the publisher to acquire ad inventory across a variety of channels, including web, mobile, and video.
Using GAM, publishers can sell ads directly, and use any other third-party network they desire.
Do I need Google Ad Manager?
GAM isn’t required for publishers to start earning money through programmatic advertising, and it may be too complex for the needs of publishers who are small and just starting out. These publishers would probably do better to simply use AdSense and focus on growing their platform before diving too deep into GAM.
For publishers that already have significant amounts of traffic, GAM is a helpful tool to get started with complex auctions like open or header bidding, or selling inventory directly to advertisers. The advanced features of GAM also allow users to manage multiple networks, offering them much more control over when, where, and to whom the ads get delivered.
The reason to hold off on adopting the service is GAM’s much steeper learning curve. It takes time to learn how to use all of these tools effectively, but thankfully Google offers free training through its skill shop. Publishers can also use a Google Certified Publishing Partner to help manage their GAM account.
How is GAM different from AdSense and AdX?
The Google Display Network (GDN) includes AdSense, which serves contextual ads. The Google Ad Exchange (AdX) is a focused ad exchange that lets publishers sell inventory directly, in addition to ads that are displayed with the GDN. Users who have a Google Ad Manager account have the chance to apply for AdX. Once accepted, the exchange is managed on the GAM dashboard.
GAM is a platform that facilitates the serving of ads, but it needs a source to work. Without a source of ads, the GAM tool doesn’t work.
Can I use other ad networks in parallel with GAM?
Yes, you are free to use third-party ad networks while using GAM. The service doesn’t demand exclusivity. So publishers who are experimenting with other ad options can still use GAM to optimize their revenue.
GAM is a solid option for publishers looking for more control and the ability to customize the ads that they display. It’s free, self-managed, and if you are ever unhappy with the platform, you can switch to another service without any penalties.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need an AdSense account to get started with GAM?
Yes. A publisher doesn’t need to use AdSense to run ads on their website, but they need to have a free account to use GAM.
Can you use AdSense ads with GAM?
Yes. The Google Ad Manager platform is able to use both AdSense and AdX to serve ads for the publisher. Using the exchange allows users to assign line items to an auction to get a better price for the ads served.
If the publisher is using GAM and AdSense together, then whenever there is ad inventory that is going unsold, GAM will automatically fill the remainder with AdSense ads.
Is GAM free to use?
Google offers both a free and a paid tier.
Google Ad Manager for Small Business is self-managed and free to use. It is there for smaller businesses to manage their inventory.
Larger publishers can apply to use Google Ad Manager 360, which is a charged service that comes with advanced customization tools, consulting services, and a dedicated account manager. These premium services require that your site(s) have at least 90 million monthly impressions to qualify.
Are there any policies I have to adhere to?
Publishers have to follow the policies and guidelines laid out by Google’s policy enforcement team. These rules are meant to keep publishers honest and prevent them from artificially inflating metrics like impressions, conversion, and clicks.
Do I have to manage it myself?
As a publisher, you can work with an Ad Ops partners to help you manage your advertising operations. This is great for a publisher who may lack experience in scaling their Ad Ops, or for a large team who wants an external resource for expertise and analytics.