There are different approaches and opinions on how to start an ad network and what it actually is. But this article will introduce you to the Adserver.Online team's vision. Further, we will explain how to start an ad network using Adserver.Online platform, what to consider and how to set everything up.
What is an ad network?
Ad networks are an essential part of the ad tech ecosystem. In simple terms, they act as brokers buying traffic from publishers and selling it to advertisers. And though advertising, in general, may include TV, print or radio ads, when we hear the term 'ad network' we mean online advertising. Therefore, an ad network is an online business in which profit comes from a margin between advertisers' payments and publishers' payouts.
Since ad networks aggregate numerous publishers and sell their traffic to advertisers, they need some technology to make it happen. Moreover, with the growing demand for specific targeting and in-depth stats, ad networks need to be able to tackle that as well. Advertisers may want to track conversions, to show their ads depending on the country the visitor comes from, the device/OS they use, etc. Publishers may want to maximise their fill rate, benefit from different ad formats or restrict certain content on their website. That's where the ad serving technology (like Adserver.Online) comes into play.
Basically, ad networks are using ad serving technology to manage their business. Ad servers make ad campaigns run according to the settings (targeting, limits, etc.), help publishers sell their ad inventory with the least effort and provide you with all kinds of stats you need. Further, we will go into more detail on how to use Adserver.Online platform to start and run your ad network.
How to start an ad network – step by step manual
Now that we know what an ad network is, we can continue with a step-by-step manual on how to start an ad network using Adserver.Online platform. We will cover the most essential parts starting from creating and setting up an account to financial management and moderation.
How to create an Adserver.Online account
Creating an account is the first step you need to make. The registration process is transparent, easy and rewarding – you will get a free trial period after your registration is complete. First, you need to go to cloud.adsrv.org, type in the subdomain you wish to have (will be used as an address to access your account) and a valid email address.
Since Adsever.Online is a cloud-based service, you won't have to install our software on your servers or deal with servers maintenance. This way you can concentrate on running your business rather than solving tech problems. So after you receive a confirmation email, you can log into your account and start using it.
The user who registered an account on Adserver.Online platform is considered the owner of that account. Owners have the maximum access and can add and manage other users.
Two more essential user roles in an ad network we would like to point out include:
- Advertiser – the demand side – someone who wants to promote their goods or services. Advertisers pay the ad network for promotion. They have access to advertiser options only.
- Publisher – the supply side – a party that owns websites, mobile apps, etc. Publishers place snippets of special code on their websites/apps that allow ads display. Ad network pays its publishers for their inventory. They have access to publisher options only.
At first, we would recommend creating publisher and advertiser accounts by yourself. This way you will be able to see how the platform looks from their perspective.
Advertiser options setup
In the Settings / Common / Advertiser menu you can set the following:
- Allow advertisers to register (when disabled, you can add them manually)
- Enable self-service (when disabled, you can manage their campaigns/ads by yourself)
- Enable payments
- Balance control (more on that here)
If you would like to automate advertisers' payments, please follow the instructions from this article.
For more details on advertiser/DSP options, please read this article.
The pricing model defines your relations with advertisers in terms of what exactly they pay you for. The price advertisers pay you is often called a rate. The rate can act as a bid in an auction when the ad server needs to pick one campaign/ad to display from many candidates with similar targeting.
Each ad campaign needs to have a rate and a pricing model set (should be done while creating a campaign). Advertisers can do that themselves if the owner allows self-service. Otherwise, the owner has to submit campaigns himself.
Available pricing models include:
- CPM – cost per 1000 impressions
- CPC – cost per click
- CPA – cost per action (involves conversions tracking; more details here)
Since the campaign's rate is the price advertisers pay for their ads, it has a direct impact on the owner's revenue and profit. To keep rates under control we recommend that you set minimum rates.
Publisher options setup
In the Settings / Common / Publisher menu you can apply the following settings:
- Allow publishers to register (when disabled, you can add them manually)
- Self-service (when disabled, you can manage them by yourself)
- Enable payouts (publishers will be able to request payouts)
Please note, there's only one payment option for publisher payout requests by default (PayPal). We can add more options upon request.
One of the most important things in these settings is a default prioritisation mode. You can read our article on ads prioritisation for more details. It affects ads display directly, therefore we suggest that you read the article first and then choose the prioritisation model that suits you better.
For a more detailed description of the publisher/SSP options, please read this article.
Publisher's Revenue model
The revenue model defines your relations with publishers in terms of what your ad network pays them for displaying ads.
Available revenue models are:
- Flat rate CPM – cost per 1000 impressions
- Flat rate CPC – cost per click
- Revenue share – the percent of the campaign's rate your advertisers pay you
Default values can be defined in Settings / Common / Publisher. Please be aware that default values apply to new zones only. If you'd like to update your existing zones, please do it manually.
Usually, publishers expect to get paid differently depending on the county their traffic comes from. To manage that, Adserver.Online allows you to set country-specific rates as explained here. You can do it for each zone separately or set default values and the ad server will apply them to all the new zones on your network.
Where does the profit come from
Running an ad network you (as the owner) expect to make some profit. And our platform can help you manage and calculate it. Adserver.Online doesn't take anything but the numbers from the platform into account and calculates the owner's profit as the difference between advertisers' spend and publishers' revenue. Here you will find some examples.
How to increase your profit
No matter how big your ad network is and how many ad campaigns you have running, situations happen when there are no ads to display due to targeting, budget limits or frequency capping. Every ad network owner knows that every unfilled space on a website is a missed revenue. So if you feel that increasing the fill rate may be crucial to your business, you may find this article useful.
It is vital to be sure your advertisers are not involved in any suspicious activities and won't be submitting anything you wouldn't want in your network (e.g. malware). Also, you may want to be sure publishers submit websites that meet your ad network standards.
Whether you need more or less control over the moderation process, Adserver.Online offers pre- and post- moderation options for you to choose from. You can go to Settings / Common and apply the settings you find appropriate.
We recommend using pre-moderation at the start. You will be able to change that later after you build some trust with your advertisers and publishers.
Ad network options setup
The most important things you need to need to specify in the Settings / Common / Network menu are as follows:
- the main page URL
- the Terms and conditions URL
Please remember, both of the URLs should lead to your ad network's landing page (website).
Besides, you may want to enable users auto-activation. When disabled, new users will be inactive by default.
System components setup
You can set up the following things via the Settings menu:
- Settings / Formats. This menu allows you to enable/disable ad formats on your panel. We would recommend starting with simple ad formats like Image Banner, Direct Link or VAST linear.
- Settings / Dimensions. This menu allows you to create a list of banner dimensions you allow on your network. Keeping only a few popular dimensions might be a good idea for a start (e.g. 300×250, 728×90, 160×600).
- Settings / Pricing model. You can enable/disable pricing models available for your advertisers. We would recommend starting with CPM and CPC as CPA might be a bit more difficult to set up.
You can leave other options untouched at the beginning.
First of all, we'd like to stress that Adserver.Onine doesn't mediate the financial relations between you and your publishers/advertisers. We're not a financial institution, therefore, don't process incoming or outgoing payments, don't store or accumulate your funds, etc.
What our platform does is calculation. For example, the most important option in Settings / Common / Finance is Automatic billing. It creates transactions for both advertisers and publishers based on stats.
Apart from that, you can integrate certain payment systems for your advertisers to top up their accounts from their panels automatically. Once integrated, your advertisers' payments will go straight to your account and you won't have to process everything manually.
Different publisher payout options can be added to the panel for your convenience. Please note, publishers can request payouts using our platform, but the payouts themselves need to be handled manually.
NB: Transactions are the core element of the financial system of the platform. Account owners have full control over this section. At the same time, ad serving stats are read-only and cannot be changed, updated or somehow interfered with.
You may also want to check out our main article on financial management.
White-label options setup
There are several things Adserver.Online users can customise to give their ad network a unique look and feel. Customisation options include a custom domain, CSS styles, ads branding, a custom mail domain and are accessible via the Settings / White-label menu. You will find more on that in these articles from our Knowledge base.
Please note, customisation options are limited to the dashboard/panel itself. We don't have a CMS or a page builder or a framework for you to build your website. Meaning you need to handle the design and contents of your network's website yourself.
How to start an ad network – conclusion
Following the steps from this manual, you'll be able to set up a fully functional ad network with publishers and advertisers. Whether you prefer to manage everything yourself or let your publishers and advertisers enjoy the self-service feature, our platform is capable to handle it all.
Campaigns will run according to the targeting settings, stats will be recorded, advertisers' spend and publishers' revenue calculated. Moreover, you, as the owner of the account, will receive all important notifications regarding your users' activity and your own account.
We deliberately omitted some features available on our platform but can be regarded as more advanced to keep the emphasis on a classic way of managing an ad network. Surely, using more sophisticated targeting and programmatic features can give you an edge, but it's easier to start with more basic things. Anyway, you're welcome to browse our knowledge base and, should you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.