How To Evaluate Ad Networks?


I think the concept of Long Tail has taken off rather well. Every month I happen to meet at least one new Ad Network.  Every time I have only one question for every ad network: What makes you different from existing ad networks.  Every time I get the same answer: We have more no of sites than the competition, better quality of sites, we can do Retargeting, Behavioural Targeting (which probably every ad network can do) etc. But the sad part is they don’t have the data to substantiate this claim. I have been asked many a times as to how to evaluate ad network. With my experience, I have tried to answer this question.

But before we answer the question, let’s understand how ad networks work on various Online Buying Models.

Ad Networks, by definition, are aggregator of thousands of sites which otherwise are very difficult to get hold of. They put sites according to their content. So, a site with financial and business content will be put under Business & Finance genre and so on. They are important from a digital media planning perspective. Ad networks help us reach out to these sites at much cheaper cost. Usually, ad networks are used for performance (ROI) reasons.

CPM Model:  Advertisers have the option of doing Impression buy on ad networks.  

Evaluation Point: Generally used when Premium Sites (let’s say CNBC, Wall Street Journal etc) are to be taken at rather cheaper cost. These sites are otherwise very expensive. Make sure the sites you are selecting under any genre are not available with any other ad network.  Never use two ad networks with same genres. Possibility is that you are wasting your money because chances of duplication are very high. Sites tend to sell ad space to different networks (depending on no of ad spots available on the page) on the same page. Bottom-line is: FOCUSED SITES @ MINIMUM COST.

Here is the one example of what can happen if you do CPM buy. Two banners on the same page.







Networks Using Ad Placements

Networks Using Ad Placements



CPC Model: Advertisers have the option of doing ROI buys on Ad Networks by paying for per click. It’s the most commonly used buying model.

Evaluation Point: To test the true potential of a network viz-a-viz other network, check how many clicks a network within a particular genre can deliver within a stipulated time frame and at what cost.  Don’t test network with, let’s say, 10000 clicks a week. Am sure every network can achieve it.  Test a network like 100000 clicks within a week @ lowest imaginable cost. Then you will get the true worth of a network. Bottom-line is: MAXIMUM CLICKS @ MINIMUM COST.

CPA Model: Another popular model to do ROI buy is to pay for per action (Lead, Registration, Acquisition etc).

Evaluation Point: Almost everything that applies to CPC Model evaluation, applies to CPA model too. Couple of additional important things that one can look at are Click To Lead (CTL) Ratio and the quality of leads. Bottom-line: MAXIMUM LEADS @ MINIMUM COST.

I hope this would a useful read for anyone looking to read about ad networks. Do comment for more discussion on the topic.







9 thoughts on “How To Evaluate Ad Networks?

  1. What of the mid-tail? Quality sites of passionate content clusters. Through exclusive representation and long term planning, you can deliver high impact messages to very specific audiences – eg. film lovers, 16-24 male. You will get a very high comscore indexing on say 20 sites. Everything possible via site specific buying is available through the midtail, through ad served units….

  2. Thanks Tom for the comment. Exclusive representation of cluster sites will differ from ad networks provided these sites are not being treated as sites under Ad Networks. It would largely depend on the brief you have and the planner working on the brief.

  3. Hi, Request you to kindly elaborate the Evaluation done for CPA Model. My Question is if we are not getting not-so-quality leads at a High CPL, what optimizations we need to make to lower it?

  4. I totally understand your point of view. Usually, we dont have full control over CPA deals. But still, you could look at the following options:
    1. Check for relevancy of site selection. Does it match TG’s interest? Is it a CPL deal or a CPM deal? In case of a CPL deal, publishers tend to do carpet bombing. You can play around with genres.
    2. If it is on CPM, avoid duplicacy of audience. Use capping effectively.
    3. Try using SEM & Mobile in your plan.
    4. If users are coming to site and spending time on your site but not converting, it may not be a media issue. It could be just that users are not finding your product interesting enough.
    Bringing CPL down would also depend on the stage of the brand(is it a new brand or old, wheather people trust it or not).
    Hope this would help

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