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How to Select the Best Ad Serving Platform

The right ad serving platform can make all the difference for independent publishers searching for sustainable sources of revenue. Digital advertising is expected to increase 13.5% from 2016 to 2017, reaching $50.2 billion this year. Much of those gains will go toward publishers running a consistent volume of campaigns on their sites.

So why are some digital publishers capturing such a large share of the online advertising market, even while others are struggling?

The answer has to do with the ad serving platforms they’re using. The right ad serving platform is the secret to scaling for local publishers, making it possible for independent digital news outlets to sell products that advertisers can’t get anywhere else.

Here are four steps publishers should take when evaluating and selecting ad serving platforms, along with insights into what makes certain platforms better suited for local online publishers than others.

1. Find an ad serving platform that works frequently with local publishers

Most experts recommend starting the search for an ad serving platform by identifying your unique needs. This is one area where specialization really matters. Local publishers have considerations that other online businesses do not. For example, more and more independent online publishers are selling their own ads and they typically require a variety of placements to give their advertisers options.

Platforms like AdRotate and OpenX offer ways to sell ads or sponsored content on a CPM basis, thereby competing with the rest of the internet for page views. For independent publishers, this is often the wrong route to take.

More specialized ad serving platforms, like Broadstreet Ads, AdButler, and Google DFP, tend to be better options for publishers with their own sales teams. Selling ads directly to advertisers typically generates more value and improve the performance of online campaigns.

2. Look for a platform that’s easy to use

Ad serving platforms come with a steep learning curve. Having a support team that’s easy to contact is important when evaluating any platform, but overall ease-of-use will likely play an even larger role in a publisher’s success with a given ad server.

Ad serving platforms that don’t directly cater to publishers usually have more complicated interfaces. Publishers using platforms like DFP and OpenX often require support, and ad serving platforms that are focused on serving the publishing market tend to have an interface that is more intuitive.

Publishers have the most success when they use platforms with on-page help instructions that allow them to create and run orders without waiting for the help of an ad operations expert. One-on-one trainings and webinars are also popular options among top publishers.

3. Consider which ad formats are supported

The most successful independent publishers offer their advertisers a variety of ad formats. In order to make that possible, those publishers need to work with ad serving platforms that support multiple ad formats, ad types, and ad templates.

In addition to placements in standard IAB sizes, most independent publishers want the freedom to sell exit intent pop ups, slideshows, split reveals, instant videos, galleries, and directory listings to advertisers. The key to making this happen is working with an ad serving platform like Broadstreet, which doesn’t restrict what publishers can sell.

Ad serving platforms like OpenX tend to be less stable and offer fewer ad formats than niche ad servers. Also, although Google DFP has standard and expandable banners, the company may require users to have those ads designed by professionals, placing unnecessary limitations on publishers.

4. Take a look at the migration process

The final step in selecting the best ad serving platform is actually the first step that a publisher takes when making the leap to a new service—the migration. Some platforms make the migration process simpler than others.

Publishers that are unhappy with their current ad servers should take a close look at the migration process with any platforms they’re considering using. For example, Broadstreet has created a migration process that involves a set of scripts that pull and re-format a publisher’s existing data as it’s imported to the company’s adserver.

Hosted platforms, like the platform offered by Broadstreet, are preferable in a number of ways. They also provide the latest security updates, making these platforms a more suitable option for professional organizations such as news publishers.

With so many ad serving options to choose from, there’s no reason for publishers to settle. The top ad serving platforms all have very different features. By looking closely at their own needs, and following the steps to select an ad serving platform laid out in this article, publishers should be able to pinpoint the solution best suited to help monetize their sites.