DFP: Learning the basics (and discovering ready resources)

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The Christmas/New Years period traditionally in our family has been a quiet time, and this year is no exception. There are lazy hours and relaxing moments, and I find this the perfect time to catch up on learning/improving processes that don’t require meetings, organized classes or lots of direct interaction and communication. In other words, this is a good time for website/computer maintenance work.

This year’s focus: Delving into the mysteries of DoubleClick for Publishers, a Google-owned ad serving program for independent publishers like my business. The system allows publishers to allocate our website space for different advertising sizes and formats, and from our own resources and third-party services. Within this framework, we can then fulfill advertising contract commitments and maximize revenue, by running the  most profitable advertising in the most suitable places.

Indeed, on the surface, this is both comprehensive and complex. The program is free to most publishers (except truly large media organizations, and for them, it is a minor operating cost). The catch is its complexity. You have various forms, drop down menus, and rules to handle the variety of circumstances that publishers must resolve, including determining which ads should not appear near competitive ads, or when you want several ads in different places on the same page to be coordinated so they run together.

While in fact Google has deemed me to be an expert in its own ad serving program (AdSense), DFP is another story, even though it is part of the AdSense process, and reflects the ideal integration of AdSense with publishing businesses who sell most of their ads directly. Simply put, DFP will (given the right information) compare the revenue from an advertising space sold directly to the best available ad that could run with AdSense, and serve the most profitable ad.  Space that would go unsold (remnant space) receives the most profitable AdSense advertisements available — otherwise, directly sold ads get priority. Clearly, then, it is helpful to understand this program.

However, while I patched together various iterations of ad serving capacity with DFP before, I realized that I really didn’t know what I was doing. I sought expert advice, and consultants said they could do the work for upwards of $100 an hour. This isn’t a task that can be sent offshore cheaply; well maybe, less expensive — one guy in India suggested he could do the work for $25 an hour. If your billing rate is more than that, I suppose it makes sense to pay for the support; and if the revenue yield from the extra work doesn’t justify even $25 an hour (at least at the outset), then the project would be one to put on hold. Finally, of course, there is the challenge of dependency — if a task, once learned, can be managed simply and economically in-house, why should we pay ongoing service/consulting fees?

However, just before the holidays, I discovered the Google Publisher University — a multi-section, video-based course designed to explain the various processes and systems behind DFP. I realized it would take several hours to complete, but heck, this is the time of year for this sort of thing. And so I started through the modules, practicing on our newest site, Indianaconstructionnews.com.

I’ve completed the first round of the course. There are still plenty of gaps in my knowledge, and some of the more advanced tools/techniques will require plenty of practice before I get to the expert level. But I expect now that I can use the program for its fundamental purpose, I’ll learn the details soon enough, and eventually become an expert just like I have become for AdSense, and thus able to help out others on the DFP Help forum.

These details presumably will be more interesting/useful to you if you are in the media/publishing rather than architectural, engineering and construction business, but I think the learning and research process applied here can also serve you well in adapting technology and tools to your business and practices. Sometimes it takes a bit of effort and time to complete the process, but when you do, you’ll have a competitive advantage and reduce your ongoing operating costs. And who can complain about that use of quiet holiday season time.

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