Google Ad Exchange: What It Is and How to Join

Google Ad Exchange: What It Is and How to Join


Google Ad Exchange (also called Google AdX or just AdX) is a marketplace where digital advertising space is bought and sold in real time.

To join AdX, you can either set up and manage an account yourself or work with a Google AdX partner who will manage the account for you. Most companies choose to work with an AdX partner because they don’t meet the minimum requirements to join or because they don’t have the resources to optimize their ad setup for maximum ad revenue in-house.

In this guide, we cover how to qualify for and set up a Google AdX account, what it takes to manage your ad setup in house, and what to look for in a Google AdX partner. But first, we take a closer look at what AdX is and the pros and cons of joining.

Snigel is a Google Certified Publishing Partner with advanced AI-powered ad tech and dedicated ad ops specialists. To see how we can help you take full advantage of Google Ad Exchange and get the most out of your ad revenue, get in touch

What Is Google AdX and How Does It Work?

Google AdX (previously called DoubleClick Ad Exchange) is a programmatic advertising platform where publishers can sell ad inventory directly to advertisers. This is different from an ad network, like AdSense, that aggregates the ad inventory of many publishers before selling it on to advertisers in bulk.

With Google AdX, there are three ways to sell ad inventory:

  • Open auction: You request bids for ad space you want to fill, and any advertiser can place a bid. The advertiser with the highest bid wins, and their ad creative is displayed on your website. This type of auction is also known as open exchange, real-time bidding (RTB), or open marketplace.
  • Private auction: You invite select advertisers to bid on your ad inventory. You also set a  floor price, and all advertisers must exceed that floor price to be eligible to participate in the auction. After that, the highest bidder wins.
  • Preferred deals: You offer your ad inventory to a specific advertiser before sending it to an open or private auction. Typically, these deals result in a higher cost-per-mille (CPM) because they offer the opportunity for more targeted impressions.

With Google AdX, publishers get more control over which ads are displayed on their websites, how much their ad inventory sells for, and more. There are many ad exchanges that work in the same way, however, AdX is one of the most well known.

Google AdX also benefits advertisers because they have access to more ad space, control over how much they pay, and details about who their ads will reach.

The Pros and Cons of Google AdX

The main benefits of joining Google AdX for publishers include:

  • You’re able to reach a large number of high-quality advertisers (AdX is known for their strict criteria for entry), which creates more competition, thus generating more revenue per ad impression.
  • Publishers are able to fill more ad space in less time by reaching more advertisers.
  • Ad inventory is bought and sold per impression rather than per click, which often results in higher CPMs.
  • You can set a minimum price for bids, which ensures your ad inventory won’t be sold for less than makes sense for your business.
  • There’s more transparency between publishers and advertisers, which creates the opportunity for highly targeted ads. This benefits publishers because advertisers are often willing to pay more for highly targeted ads, and the user’s experience tends to be more positive.
  • Publishers have more control over which ads appear on their site. With this level of control, publishers can improve ad quality, which, again helps improve the user experience.

Note: When considering the benefits of Google AdX, it’s often compared to AdSense. In general, AdX can help publishers boost ad revenue by 20-50% for Tier 1 GEOs. On the other hand, AdSense usually outperforms AdX for Tier 3 GEOs. For more details, read our comparison guide on Google AdX vs. Google AdSense

The main disadvantage of Google AdX is that it can be difficult to join and manage the account on your own. In the next section, we provide more details about entry requirements and what it takes to manage your account. However, it’s worth noting that typically only large publishers, such as ESPN and Forbes, have the resources in house to join and manage a Google Ad Exchange account effectively. Most small to medium-sized publishers partner with an AdX reseller who manages the account for them.

What It Takes to Qualify & Gain Access to AdX

Google AdX can be accessed through your Google Ad Manager account, however, it’s an ‘invite-only’ ad platform. If you haven’t received an invitation, you can reach out to your Google account manager and ask them to review your site.

In general, the minimum eligibility criteria to join AdX are: 

  • A Google Ad Manager (GAM) account
  • No history of policy violations, unsafe content, or invalid traffic
  • An updated ads.txt file with details of all buyers
  • At least 5 million pageviews per month
  • A minimum of 10 million ad impressions per month for at least 6 months

However, these requirements are just a starting point — an invitation is never guaranteed. There are often further requirements regarding content type, ad viewability, and more.

If you’d like a free assessment of your website to see if it meets the minimum requirements, get in touch.

Receiving an invitation and setting up the account are only the first steps. You’ll also need a development team and an ad operations expert to manage your ad setup and strategy.

In the next sections, we cover what it takes to manage your account and ad setup in house.

What It Takes to Manage Your Ad Tech

In order to take full advantage of everything Google AdX has to offer, you’ll need to perform regular A/B and quality assurance tests and make adjustments to accommodate new features, pricing rules, technology, and ad formats.

You’ll also want to consider adding additional ad tech to truly maximize your ad revenue. 

For example, AdX lets you set floor prices. However, you have to manually change the floor prices from your account dashboard. In our experience, the floor price for each ad unit, user GEO, and device needs to be updated every hour in order to effectively combat bid shading (i.e., technology that advertisers use to predict the lowest bid needed to win an auction, which then causes publishers to lose out on revenue).

If you don’t switch up the floor price every hour, you could lose up to 20% in ad revenue. But, that becomes a tedious (and almost impossible) task when you have to manually set the floor price each time. Instead, many publishers use third-party software (such as Snigel’s AI Price Floors) that automatically adjust the floor price at regular intervals.

And that’s just one piece of the puzzle. There are many different types of third-party software that can help you significantly increase your ad revenue from automatic ad placement to audience creation and contextual ad targeting.

For each solution, you’ll need to set up and manage separate accounts, integrate and maintain new software, and much more. All of this ends up being a huge task. (You can also try to create these solutions yourself, but that’s an even bigger task that requires years of development.)

Managing Your Ad Strategy

Even with access to the right technology, there are many more considerations that will make or break your ad strategy. For example:

  • Should you place ads at the top of your content or wait until the reader gets past the intro?
  • How many ads is the right balance between maximizing revenue from sessions vs. causing a negative user experience that lowers traffic?
  • Which ad formats are most appropriate for your audience?
  • When is it best to refresh ad space based on what your users will tolerate?
  • How can you increase your CPM without adding more ads to each page?
  • Do you need a different ad layout and strategy for mobile vs. desktop users?
  • Do you need a different ad strategy for users in different countries?
  • Will ads placed above or below the fold produce better results?

It takes years of experience testing different setups in different situations to be able to effectively answer these questions. That’s why every publisher needs a dedicated ad expert to manage their strategy — otherwise you’re leaving money on the table.

You can either add a full-time ad ops specialist to your team, or you can work with an ad monetization partner.

How to Choose a Google AdX Reseller

Publishers that work with a Google AdX partner or reseller don’t have to qualify for or set up their own AdX account. Instead, the AdX reseller creates an account with AdX and, using Google’s Multiple Customer Management (MCM) program, is able to buy and sell ad inventory on behalf of the publisher.

However, not all AdX partners are the same. Not only will the quality of support differ between providers, but they’ll also offer a variety of additional ad tech.

Below, we cover eight ways that AdX partners differ from each other to help you choose the best solution for your website. You can also read our detailed guide on how to choose a Google AdX partner or watch this short video.

1. Are They a Google Certified Publishing Partner?

Companies using MCM don’t necessarily have to be a Google Certified Publishing Partner (GCPP). However, you’ll get better support and results if you choose a GCPP.

GCPPs have been thoroughly vetted by Google to provide high-quality support for Ad Manager (including AdX), AdSense, and/or AdMob. Beyond just demonstrating proficiency using these products, they also have to stay up to date with the newest features through yearly certification exams.

Snigel is a Google certified publishing partner with an established track record of helping publishers get the most out of their ad revenue.

Visit our case studies page to see how we’ve helped publishers increase ad revenue by up to 180% year over year

Google Certified Publishing Partner

2. What Ad Tech Do They Offer?

By connecting to AdX, you’ll automatically have access to features that let you control ad inventory prices, utilize different types of ad formats, show targeted ads, control ad quality, and more. Plus, most AdX partners have built additional ad tech to improve the functionality of these features and optimize your ad setup for higher revenue.

For example, AdX lets you display banner ads of various sizes throughout your content. To increase your ad revenue from these banner ads, Snigel has a feature called super adhesive which lets you display larger ads in a smaller space (the ad moves down as the user scrolls). Since larger ads typically give higher CPMs, this is a great way to boost ad revenue.

Each AdX partner offers different features, so you’ll want to compare the ad stacks carefully.

Snigel’s ad stack includes: 

  • Header bidding (which can increase revenue by 30+%): Snigel simultaneously sends bid requests to multiple ad exchanges. Whichever ad exchange is able to produce the highest bid wins. This ensures you’re getting the highest quality ads for the best price.
  • AI bidder optimization (which can increase revenue by 7+%): To improve load speed and earn more revenue, Snigel lets you take advantage of both client- and server-side header bidding. AI bidder optimization also matches users with the best bidders on the client side and server side for their country, device, and browser.
  • Adaptive ads (which can increase revenue by 10-30%): Snigel automatically fills ad inventory with whatever combination of ad sizes will produce the highest revenue (e.g., one ad for $1.60 vs. two smaller ads for $0.90 each).
  • Dynamic floor pricing (which can increase revenue by 5+%):  Snigel’s AI takes care of the manual work of setting floor prices for you. Every hour, Snigel’s AI adjusts the floor prices to combat bid shading — resulting in higher CPMs and less unfilled ad inventory.
  • Interactive ad units (which can increase revenue by 3+%): These ads engage the user by inviting them to participate in a poll, take a short quiz, or click through the ad to learn facts, tips, etc. Because users tend to spend more time viewing interactive ads, advertisers are typically willing to pay higher CPMs for these ad units.
  • Smart Refresh (which can increase revenue by 6+%): This technology allows you to display multiple ads, one after the other, in a single ad spot. Smart Refresh uses various user events (e.g., scrolling, timeouts, switching between pages) to determine when to refresh the ad spots, which lets you (and our team) determine the best method for refreshing ads that will result in the highest revenue and best user experience.
  • Adblock recovery (which can increase revenue by 10+%): When users have an ad blocker enabled, Snigel’s adblock recovery tool automatically switches from the typical ad formats to adblock compliant ads so that you always get some revenue from your traffic.
  • AdConsent (which can increase revenue by 1-2%): Our Google-certified and IAB-registered consent platform allows the user to decide what level of ad targeting they’re comfortable with. Not only does this let you easily comply with GDPR and CCPA regulations, but it also makes your ad inventory more attractive to ad networks and advertisers (resulting in higher CPMs).
  • AdStream (which can increase revenue by 23%): Snigel’s AdStream lets you display high-quality video ads on your website in a variety of formats, which is a great way to increase ad revenue.
  • And much more.

3. Is It a Self-Serve Platform or a Full-Service Solution?

Some AdX partners simply connect you to AdX and provide you with a self-serve platform where you can turn various features on or off. While self-serve platforms are often less expensive than full-service solutions and they let you directly control your ad setup, there are a few downsides.

If you need any customizations, you’ll have to figure out how to change the underlying code of the ad tech on your own because most self-serve platforms come with limited technical support. They may help you implement existing functionalities or fix a bug, for example, but few of them will make modifications or write new code for you. Regardless of the ad stack you’re using, most publishers need some customizations because the ad tech platform is built for a general audience rather than your specific website.

However, few have the necessary technical expertise to make those customizations. That’s why publishers using a self-serve platform are likely earning less ad revenue than they could with another solution.

Plus, most self-serve platforms have limited technology and don’t provide solutions such as dynamic floor pricing, next gen ad formats, and preferential rates from demand partners like SSPs, DSPs and ad exchanges.

Snigel provides a full-service solution which means you’ll have a designated ad management expert who creates, implements, and manages your entire ad stack and ad strategy for you. You can be as involved or uninvolved with the process as you want. Either way, our team will handle the heavy lifting of customizing your ad stack, running A/B tests, and more so that you don’t have to.

4. What Other SSPs and Ad Exchanges Do They Connect You To?

Most AdX partners will also help you connect to additional supply-side platforms (SSPs) and ad exchanges besides AdX. By connecting to multiple demand sources, you’re able to take advantage of header bidding, which creates more competition for your ad inventory resulting in higher CPMs.

Additionally, some SSPs cater to specific verticals, which lets you display more targeted, relevant ads. This, again, results in higher CPMs and a better user experience.

In addition to AdX, Snigel’s data-driven header bidding solution, AdEngine, connects you to top SSPs including: 

  • Magnite (Microsoft)
  • Amazon
  • OpenX
  • Index Exchange
  • ConnectAd
  • Magnite
  • District M
  • And many more
Snigel advertising partners: Transparent Ad Marketplace, AppNexus, Verizon Media, TripleLift, Rubicon Project, PubMatic, OpenX, Index Exchange, Amazon Publisher Services, Google Ad Manager 360

5. How Are the Fees Structured and What’s Included?

Most ad monetization partners use a revenue share model where they take 15%-20% of your ad revenue. While it’s tempting to choose the partner with the lowest revenue share, that’s not necessarily the best way to determine which one will give you the most revenue.

More often than not, the partners that charge a higher revenue percentage also offer a better service and better technology, thus they’re able to help you earn more ad revenue overall. In this case, even though they charge a higher fee, you’ll be earning more revenue.

For example:

  • Partner 1: You earn $2K in ad revenue. They charge a 15% fee. So, you get to keep $1,700.
  • Partner 2: You earn $2.5K in ad revenue. They charge a 20% fee. So, you get to keep $2,000.

Despite charging a higher fee, Partner 2 would leave you with more ad revenue overall.

Additionally, many partners will have tiered pricing structures, which means you won’t necessarily have access to all features and services when you pay a lower fee.

Snigel uses a 20% revenue share model for all publishers. And, we consistently earn high CPMs for our publishers. For example, you can read about: 

6. When Will You Be Paid?

Ad monetization partners typically use NET 30, 60, or 90 day payment terms (i.e., completed month of activity + 30, 60, or 90 days). Because we want to provide the best service possible, Snigel pays all publishers on a NET 30 basis.  

You’ll also want to consider minimum payout requirements. Snigel has a minimum payout amount of $150 USD.

7. What Are the Requirements for Working with Them?

When choosing the websites they’ll work with, each AdX partner will have different requirements regarding monthly pageviews, monthly revenue, type of content, etc. If possible, it’s better to partner with a provider who is selective about who they work with.

Snigel only works with publishers who have unique, high quality content and traffic from reputable sources (i.e., no fraudulent or bot-driven traffic). Publishers also need to be earning at least $50 USD per day. 

8. Do They Offer Flexible Contracts?

Some AdX partners will lock you into a monthly or yearly contract. If you have issues with the services they provide or find another partner who is able to help you earn more revenue, you won’t be able to switch without hefty penalties.

On the other hand, Snigel lets you switch at any time without any fines. You can easily test out Snigel’s AdEngine on 5–10% of your traffic with no strings attached.

Get in touch for a free assessment.

Conclusion

Publishers who are serious about ad monetization typically take advantage of Google Ad Exchange. Joining AdX on your own will give you the most control over your ad setup; however, there are steep requirements to join, and it takes a full-time developer and ad ops specialist (at minimum) to get the most out of your ad setup.

Most publishers partner with an AdX reseller like Snigel to take advantage of Google AdX sooner and to get the most out of their ad inventory.

Snigel provides a full-service approach to ad monetization that includes access to Google AdX (plus many more SSPs), an advanced AI-powered ad tech, and a dedicated ad management expert. To see how we can help you increase your revenue potential while maintaining fast page load speeds and a great user experience, get in touch.

About the Author

Ira is Snigel's Head Of Marketing. She supports our team and publishers by creating awesome guides on the latest adtech trends. Ira's background is in software development, communications, and media.

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