Maintain Your ‘Edge’ in Ad Operations

It starts with an open-ended question: “What is your advertising doing to the site?” or “Why are users complaining about bad ads?” Next, you are off to go on a hunt for what ads could have lead to these questions and solutions. It can be both a time-consuming and frustrating task to react to these questions.

With the evolving demands placed on ad ops, it’s easy to lose touch with the operational components, which influence advertiser and user satisfaction once a campaign has been launched. Advertising creative and content come together in audience browsers, the “edge,” resulting in potentially very different experiences, especially as third-party creative and third-party-delivered elements change over time. Many parties have a direct influence over how your brand is perceived.

Typically the “edge” only gets visibility when someone reports a slow loading or inappropriate ad affecting the user experience. Even if closely inspected in the trafficking process, third-party creative and other calls within change over time, impacting site visitors and advertiser metrics. Rather than always being reactive after the campaign launch, I recommend taking a proactive posture in addressing the operational components of ad delivery. By monitoring the “edge,” you maintain your edge by knowing what is happening to your campaigns and developing a stronger position in advocacy of the user experience, advertiser interests, and, in general, revenue.

You do not need expensive or sophisticated tools to get closer to the edge. Start simple by using tools likely in place today and manually survey the site periodically. Next, advance to tools that monitor pages automatically from various geographic locations and browsers. Integrating actual client browser events to monitoring tools and analytics offers the greatest visibility and ability to correlate to site analytics.

Manual

Do a periodic tour of the site and a “manual” review of what you witness. You can use the same tools in testing ad tag and ad creative integration to survey the site and review what active campaigns are doing. Delete and review new cookies set by creative, etc. Contemplate the cookies and calls being made in relation to your site’s terms and conditions. Look for slow-loading creative or calls that are slow to respond. Also, look for excessively nested calls – fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-party references from within ad creative.

  • Tools
    • Firebug
    • Fiddler Web Debugger
    • HttpWatch
    • Charles Web Debugging Proxy

Routine systematic monitoring – Employ a service to inspect and monitor pages automatically. Leverage a monitoring service to routinely view your site/key pages collecting information and metrics on load times. This is incredibly useful in understanding the general impact ads are having on the experience and serve as an early warning when a delivery ad, related or otherwise, occurs. While not full proof, they serve as a routine inspection and can be configured to actively notify you on certain events or thresholds.

Catchpoint, Compuware’s Gomez, and Keynote are examples of services available in this area. They load your site from various geographic locations worldwide using various browsers and, in some cases, mobile devices. They provide a perspective both geographic and platform oriented that is difficult to replicate. Your technology or operations groups may already use these services.

Hybrid – Integrate page events to analytics and monitoring. Tie in page performance and events related to key objects like ads and related scripts to your web analytics and to your monitoring solutions above. Doing so provides deep information regarding which elements are poorly performing and correlating them to business metrics such as page views and ad impressions. An example of this is here. GhostWriter technology uses in-page to pass information from actual user experiences into Google Analytics.

By adopting such practices, ad operations becomes more proactive in understanding user experiences in closer to real time; finding issues before they are reported, identifying sources of discrepancy, enforcing terms and conditions, and correlating in-page activity to significant site events. You will be actively maintaining your “edge.”

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