What is an Ad Server?

An ad server is a complex system that can be used in the management and optimization of the ad spaces on a single website or several websites. Contrary to common perception, this is not just a tool exclusively for online publishers or website owners as it can also be an important tool for companies and organizations that are operating their independent ad network. In fact, even advertisers can find this system useful when managing and measuring the adverts that are displayed within the site distribution system or ad network.

What are the uses of an Ad Server?

Maintaining advertisement space can be a tedious process especially when the task involves entering or integrating the advertisement directly to the coding of the site. The task can be overwhelming when you have to manage the ad spaces of multiple websites and the situation will impact significantly on your flexibility and productivity as you will be spending a lot of time placing and removing ads on several websites. Under such scenarios, an advertising server can be utilized to overcome these challenges that are normally faced by publishers and website owners.

An ad server can be used for ad networks in creating and managing an assortment of ad campaigns of clients, and these include services for direct advertisers, house advertisements, affiliate networks and ad agencies. At the other end of the spectrum, the ad server can also be used by publishers and owners of websites for the performance measurement and evaluation of all the advertisements as well as the clicks and the conversions.

It is extremely important for advertisers to manage and optimize the ad campaigns that are displayed by the ad networks and publishers. It is through an ad server that they are able to determine which banner ad is delivering the goods when it comes to the click-through rates and conversions. It also provides a great opportunity for advertisers to do a more advanced A/B split testing.

How does an Ad Server operate?

Zones and Websites

Aside from being able to define the websites, one can also use an ad server to define or identify one or more zones for a particular website. A zone is the space on a web page where the ads can be placed or displayed. And for each of these zones in the webpage, there is a small clip of the HTML code, which must be incorporated in the website and at the exact location where the zone is supposed to go. This constitutes the integration between the website and the ad server. It is a one-time process, although the task may take some time even for the more experienced developer or webmaster. The zone is also referred to as the position, placement, spot or location in other systems.

Advertisements, Ad Campaigns and Advertisers

You can also use the system in creating advertisement materials, ad campaigns and advertisers. These may involve internal ad campaigns or campaigns emanating from direct advertisers as well as those that come from external advertising networks such as Google Adsense or from affiliate networks such as Commission Junction or even from agencies and ad companies such as DoubleClick.

Process of Targeting – Putting the Right Advertisement at the Right Zone

The last stage of the process is the linking of the right ad campaigns to the right spots on the web pages, and this task should effectively determine which of the ads will appear in specific spots or zones. The process can be combined or integrated with the other forms of targeting and find the ads to be displayed that will match specific conditions. An ad server should be able to handle fairly well the targeting based on the time, day and date as well as based on geographical location, the web browser and language set of the visitors to the website.

The system is also equipped with advanced targeting options, and uses relevant information and data about customers or members such as age range, gender, education, etc., or from specific detail that relate directly to the content and structure of the site, such as displaying of ads in the sports pages or placing them anywhere but the news section.

Managing Ads - Tracking and Measuring Performance

The ad server can track down and measure how many times an ad is displayed and how often it is clicked. The system generates a report for this data in addition to the ad revenue for the webmaster, advertiser and publisher. In addition to these, it is also capable of measuring leads, transactions and conversions on the website of the advertiser as a result of a click on the banner ad displayed on the website of the publisher.

Hosting and Scalability of the Ad Server

The ad server is an application which can be installed on the server of the publisher. It was developed using PHP programming language and uses MySQL database for data storage. Save for the initial equity for the software and time, there are no other costs and license fees that will be incurred, although you also have the option of hiring a hosting company to manage the technical aspects.

The ad server can be used either by large or small websites as the system has been specially designed to allow installation on multiple web servers. This allows the system to be in step with the growth of the websites. There are now companies using this ad server that display over 1 billion ads each month, although such level of ad campaign and volume of ads would entail a certain amount of hardware resources.