7 Ad Operations Challenges Faced by Independent Publishers

Publishing businesses must generate revenue from multiple sources for long-term sustainability. After consistently creating content that has attracted a loyal audience, monetizing these visitors into revenue-generating streams is the next step. But this can be challenging due to the complexity of running ad operations in a programmatic advertising world.

As a publisher, these operations must run effectively to ensure a high yield without compromising the user experience. This article will explore publishers’ operational challenges and how they affect revenue potential. 

Let’s first define ad operations.

A Quick Introduction to Ad Operations

Advertising operations (aka ad ops) describe the activities associated with setting up, running, and optimizing digital ads and revenue. This includes managing everything from campaigns to demand to user experience. It also means foundational work such as setting up the ad server, managing demand partners, complying with new privacy laws, etc. At the heart of this are multiple pieces of software working together in an advertising network to facilitate the delivery of ads to users on the website.

Ad operations are required on the advertising industry’s supply and demand sides. Advertisers want to maximize their return on investment by choosing websites that will reach the most relevant consumers. In contrast, publishers want to maximize their revenue by selling advertising space to premium advertisers.

The ad ops team must set up an infrastructure for delivering ads, monitor it closely to ensure that it meets industry standards, establish appropriate consent mechanisms, troubleshoot issues at the 11th hour, and test different methods of maximizing revenue.  

For publishers, it will be challenging to have the time or know-how to manage every aspect of advertising on a website. Publishers often have teams dedicated to driving content creation, website development, and advertising. Even with such dedicated teams, the scope of ad operations is so vast that it becomes difficult to tackle all the obstacles that come while properly maximizing revenue.

Challenges in Ad Operations

Suppose it’s an independent publisher currently handling the website’s monetization on their own. In that case, the following problems might arise:

Finding Sufficient Time to Run Ad Ops Efficiently

One of the primary responsibilities of publishers is to create and publish engaging content consistently. Publishers must also manage audiences’ growth by ensuring a great user experience. In addition to this, there’s one more priority that needs to be taken care of: generating revenue. However, to do so requires a thorough understanding of website monetization and ad operations.

As ad ops is such a vast field, most independent publishers cannot find the time needed to discover what works for them. Independent publishing companies are often so busy with their content operations that they do not have the time to learn about and run ad ops from scratch.

Publishers are thus faced with a dilemma between generating revenue and maintaining engagement from their audiences. The trouble is that declining revenue, either from poor engagement or inadequate ad operations efforts, makes it difficult for publishers to focus on both simultaneously.

Running an Ad Ops Team In-house with Limited Resources

When handling ad ops independently is out of the picture, the next possible solution would be to build an internal ad ops team. An internal ad ops team would be dedicated to running and optimizing an ad setup and generating revenue while ensuring a great user experience.

But here’s the catch, building a dedicated internal ad ops team that can take care of all monetization needs will require a lot of time and resources, which most independent publishers cannot afford. Finding the talent, building the infrastructure, and getting the team on board will require many resources, even for a small team of two or three people. This is why most publishers look towards outsourcing their ad ops to a dedicated partner.

Delivering Engaging User Experiences

Publishers must often decide between maximizing the number of ads displayed on their website and maintaining a good user experience. Inappropriate and intrusive ads can turn away and frustrate users. This will negatively affect traffic, bounce rate, engagement—and ultimately, revenue.

To optimize the ads to draw the most attention from the audience, the ad ops team needs to improve the content of the ads, optimize search rankings, and modify ads as per the changing trends. Adjusting these elements can significantly impact the cost-per-click factor and the user experience of a website.

Ensuring Consistent Demand for Ad Units

Managing demand is one of the critical challenges faced in ad ops. The ad ops team ensures that ad units do not go unfilled whenever a user visits a website. Thus, to serve ads to users every time, many interested demand partners are needed to buy inventory at desired bid prices.

Large-scale and enterprise publishers often employ dedicated sales teams whose sole responsibility is to generate advertising demand for their websites. Independent publishers don’t have this luxury. They often rely on programmatic demand, which can provide quick access and efficiency but still requires proper management to get advertiser interest at reasonable rates.

Demand management duties include but are not limited to dealing with contracts, negotiating on behalf of the publisher, following up with clients, and ensuring agreements are fulfilled. Therefore, it becomes more difficult for an independent publisher to focus on content creation and demand optimization.

Expertise in Ad Optimization

Ad ops require constant monitoring and reporting to ensure maximum efficiency. Publishers need to understand all the different metrics, identify the reasons behind unfilled ad units, low CPMs and CTRs for their ad inventories, keep up with the latest industry trends and privacy norms, and so much more. Doing all this and still focusing on publishing content and other core tasks can become exhausting.

Since the online programmatic advertising ecosystem has become so complex, multiple layers of technologies and intermediaries are involved through whom ad requests must go through before they are served to the users. This is where the risk of fraud and malvertising arises. 

Malvertising can push users off the website, slow down page load speeds, steal personal user data, and even infect user devices, which can damage the website’s reputation. Therefore, ensuring appropriate security measures and monitoring each aspect of the ad operations is crucial to providing the best user experience and maximum revenue.

Ensuring Higher Ad CPMs and CTRs

The goal of any publisher is to generate more revenue. There are two ways to do this: increase the amount of money the publisher charges per ad impression or increase the amount of money charged per click. Both approaches carry their own set of challenges.

If a publisher wants to increase their website’s CPMs, it will not be easy. Only so many advertisers are willing to pay high CPMs for the inventory. In today’s market, there’s much competition for those advertisers. It takes time and effort to build relationships with these advertisers and convince them that the website’s users are worth their investment.

In contrast, boosting CTRs is much easier — all it takes is better targeting or ad creative execution. However, suppose a publisher is not careful about how to do it. In that case, the publisher could end up hurting the bottom line by making the site less attractive to higher-paying advertisers. This makes it more challenging for publishers to manage their ad operations while improving the CPMs and CTRs.

Keeping Up with Cutting-edge AdTech

Though it is possible for an independent publisher to learn about the various nuances of ad ops, the current digital advertising ecosystem requires both skills and tools. Since it operates in such a fast-paced environment, where the ads are loaded on the user screens within a few hundred milliseconds, a publisher needs to implement advanced ad tech tools and solutions. 

Gaining access to advanced ad tech solutions for their ad operations is a considerable challenge for most independent publishers because of their complicated and confusing UI and high costs. In addition, gaining adtech expertise can be challenging. 

What’s Next?

We get that ad ops can be quite confusing and challenging. However, at the same time, it is an essential element of the core competencies of the website. When left unchecked, the abovementioned challenges can seriously affect the website’s revenue, traffic, ranking, and reputation. Suppose publishers are facing issues with any of these challenges. In that case, they can look for a suitable solution or a partner for their website to ensure smooth ad operations and overcome all these issues while maintaining high yield and user experience.

However, before looking for such partners, they must learn about some of the challenges publishers face when working with monetization partners. Any publisher following the way can avoid similar pitfalls and make a more informed choice. 

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