10 Questions Every Publisher Should Ask Online Ad Networks

by: Elizabeth Harrington, on Apr 18, 2012 in Publisher Tips & Tricks

There are many online advertising networks for digital publishers to pick from these days.  An online advertising network is a resource for online publishers to monetize (sell) their advertising inventory.  The key function of an ad network is aggregation of ad space supply from publishers and matching it with advertiser demand.  Many large online publishers use ad networks to sell their unsold inventory, and many small online publishers use them to sell some (or all) of their ad inventory.

There are three main types of ad networks —Vertical Networks, Blind Networks, and Targeted Networks.  Local Yokel Media falls into the Targeted Network category.

We specifically created Local Yokel Media to help hyperlocal and local online publishers attract premium local, regional, and national advertisers who are targeting an online audience within a defined service area.

When it comes to selecting an ad network partner, the options are many and information plenty.  So, we thought you may appreciate a few of the questions we believe will help you make the right decision for your site.

1) Is there a term and contract requirement?

    • Typically ad networks do have a contract, so it’s important to be sure to understand what you are getting into.  Some ad networks like Google AdSense and Local Yokel Media simply request you accept their terms and conditions.

2) Do they require exclusivity?

    • This is an important question.  It is key to understand why there is exclusivity required, i.e. guaranteed revenues?  Higher rates?  Once you understand the rationale, you can decide whether or not it’s financially beneficial to your site to agree to exclusivity.  The good news is that fewer networks require exclusivity today versus five years ago.

3) Do they have a monthly minimum inventory (impressions) guarantee?

    • Some ad networks request a certain amount (or a minimum guarantee) of your impressions be made available to them on a monthly basis to help them sell and manage their advertising sales effort.  If you have consistent and healthy traffic, this is easier to manage.  If you are new and just building your audience, it may be wise to look for options that don’t have a minimum guarantee.

4) What is the ad networks fill rate? (What is the average percentage of ads they have available to “fill” your unsold inventory on a monthly basis?)

    • Fill rates vary.  It can range from 10-50%+.  It is important to know that CPM (cost per 1,000 ad impressions) and fill rate are inversely related.  Higher fill rates typically mean lower CPM’s, lower fill rates typically translate to higher CPM’s.

5) What type of ad creative do they allow/serve?  (i.e. Pop-Up’s, Pop-Unders, Expandables, Takeovers, or Flash Ads)

    • This is an important detail to cover. Be sure you are comfortable with all the creative they serve, and ask for clarification if you do not know the meaning. Some networks will pay the publisher more to allow forms of disruptive creative (i.e. takeovers) to run on their sites.  But, some of these ad executions can be very intrusive.  So, be careful here and understand what the network serves and ask them not to serve ad executions you are not comfortable with.

6) Do they have a “Black List” option or advertiser filter option?

    • It is always a good idea to verify the ad network will not serve ads that are unfavorable i.e. tobacco, alcohol, firearms, and pornography.  You can also ask if they have the ability to block or restrict certain brands or advertisers from appearing on your website based on your guiding principles or existing relationships with advertisers.  If an ad network cannot apply a block list or filter, then it is important to ask if and how fast they can remove an undesirable advertiser should one appear.

7) What is their payment model/structure? CPM vs. CPC  vs. Flat Rate?

    • CPM: Cost Per Thousand impressions
    • CPC: Cost Per Click (Or PPC Pay Per Click)
    • Flat rates (monthly/yearly).  A set flat rate for an ad space on a page or run of site (ROS).  This is the most common approach used with local advertisers and many think the easiest to understand.  However, we recommend you calculate the back end CPM you will earn for this ad unit if priced on a flat rate.  This is an important step and it will allow you to compare the CPM of flat rate pricing versus a CPM pricing model.

8) (Follow up to #7) What are their average rates?

9) What is their payment policy?

    • Often ad networks will pay publishers 60-90 days after the month the ads appear, giving themselves time to collect from the ad agencies placing the advertising.  Some networks pay sooner.  Local Yokel Media pays its publishers 45 days after the end of the month that the ads run.

10) How do I track my site’s earnings?

    • Most ad networks provide you with a dashboard that posts daily metrics (some have a 24 hr. delay).  This allows you to see your revenue and performance results by website, ad flow type, campaign, ad size, ad placement, and date ranges.

BONUS QUESTION: If I have questions, do I have a contact person at your company who will help me?  Or am I expected to research forums and online FAQs?

Always remember that the reason to enroll with an ad network is to earn more revenue.  In general, working with a partner network that specializes in your market (as Local Yokel Media does in the hyperlocal market) will outperform a more “horizontal” network.

We will be following up with more insights like this in future blog posts.  Let us know any specific questions you may have that were not covered in this post and we will be happy to answer them.

Happy selling!

Local Yokel Media delivers relevant, higher paying ads to our local and community publishing partners. If you have a hyperlocal website and would be interested in joining our supplemental ad revenue program, we’d love to have you!

Signing up is contract-free and easy as 1-2-3. To get started, click below.



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