Will Ads.txt Help Or Hurt Website Ad Earnings?
Ads.txt is an increasingly popular file that publishers are adding to their websites. It is a means of preventing domain-spoofing and eliminating ad inventory fraud across the online ad ecosystem. Adding an Ads.txt file has the theoretical ability to both harm and improve your website’s ad earnings. However, it could be more likely that it simply provides a neutral effect.
So, what gives?
Is adding an ads.txt file worth your time? What should be considered before doing it? Can it increase ad rates?
Below, I’ll provide some updates on an FAQ I did a while back on ads.txt files. I’ll show you why it could both hurt or improve website ad earnings and I’ll highlight why Google wants you to add it to your site soon.
What is an ads.txt file and who needs one?
Ads.txt is an ecosystem creation that is sponsored by the IAB.
It is a file that allows digital publishers to authorize who has the ability to sell their ad inventory (ad space).
This means that someone like The New York Times can ensure that only select parties can sell the ad space of their website. This allows advertisers to bid for that inventory safely knowing that the ad space they are buying on The New York Times is authentic.
Any digital publisher interested in controlling who is authorized to resell their ad inventory should implement an ads.txt file.
As I have discussed before, larger digital publishers are far more likely to be the target of domain-spoofing fraud — which is the primary behavior that is presented with an ads.txt file — than smaller publishers.
However, there are some incoming industry trends that will likely make it more beneficial — or at least common — to have an ads.txt file on any website that displays ads programmatically (display ads, native ads, etc.).
Is there a downside to adding an ads.txt file to your site?
If you have a correctly implemented file — and it is updated with all partners and resellers — there is absolutely no downside.
Before we talk more about the upside, let’s highlight the aspects of the downside that exists.
Ads.txt is a means of telling the ecosystem who can sell your ad inventory. If this file isn’t properly set up you may end up blocking ad partners from being able to display ads on your site.
For example, if you use something simple like AdSense to display ads, and then accidentally enter your Google Account ID incorrectly on a line of the file, you will accidentally be blocking Google AdSense from showing ads on your site.
If you’re a site that uses multiple sources of demand, this can hurt competition if even one of the partner files is wrong.
Additionally, sellers update their list of verified partners on their ads.txt files all the time. This means that if you have an out-of-date partner file that you could be missing out on the advertising partners that one of your authorized sellers had made available.
In both of these instances, competition is potentially harmed by improper ads.txt management. Using a good free ads.txt management tool can help a lot with this.
What is the benefit of adding an ads.txt file?
The downside that you may experience from of adding an ads.txt file is easily preventable.
On the flipside, the upside is that you can prevent revenue loss as more and more platforms make ads.txt inventory the default setting for advertisers.
There are really two reasons to add an ads.txt file to their website.
1.) The potential for avoiding lost ad revenue as platforms change default buyer settings
2.) Altruistically helping to do your part in stopping industry domain-spoofing
I’ll assume that you are far more interested in #1.
The real potential for increased ad earnings comes in two distinct forms.
1.) If you have been the victim of domain-spoofing, ads.txt will prevent this in the future and could result in your brand seeing more ad dollars as a result of reduced marketplace supply for your inventory.
2.) Google has is now opened up an option for advertisers to buy ONLY from publishers with an ads.txt file. Additionally, Google has stated that this will be the default setting for all of their advertiser platforms in Q4 of 2018.
Unless you’re a large brand or major web property, the chances of you being affected much by #1 are slim; although some believe that there is a bit of a trickle-down effect that occurs. The chances of your business being negatively impacted in a big way by domain-spoofing are low, so it is unlikely that average sites would see much benefit for this measure alone.
As for Google’s mechanism for selling ads.txt certified inventory, the chances of any publisher missing out on revenue without an ads.txt file is high.
Having an ads.txt file means you will be eligible for all ad platform ad campaigns (more buyer demand). Without an ads.txt file, it is likely that less and less ad demand will be available when the major ad platforms change their default settings to favor verified ads.txt inventory.
Now, is a good time to consider adding the file to your site if you haven’t already.
…just make sure you do it right!
What’s the best way to manage your ads.txt file?
Understanding the best way to manage your ads.txt file probably starts with knowing the most common ways to mitigate all the associated risks listed above.
Here are 4 THINGS YOU MUST DO when implementing ads.txt
1.) Make sure you include all existing demand/ad partners on your ads.txt file.
2.) Make sure the Account Network IDs are correct for every authorized seller
3.) Ensure that you have the most up-to-date file from every partner
4.) Maintain this file. You cannot set it and forget it. Your authorized sellers will be constantly updating their records and you need to update yours at the same time.
Failing to do any of these steps will lead to potential ad earnings losses.
There are some free tools that actually make managing your ads.txt file really simple. This one is free and the easiest to use.
Why Google wants you to have an ads.txt file
As I mentioned when discussing the benefits of adding an ads.txt file to your website, Google is starting to sell advertisers access to publishers that have ads.txt on their site.
This means that Google needs a large enough pool of these publishers to complete advertiser campaigns aimed at ads.txt-only inventory.
Since this is still fairly new to the entire ecosystem, Google plans to push this hard and will likely make communications about this effort very loud and strongly worded.
For example, Google has been sending all AdSense publishers e-mails like the one above for practically 9 months.
Google would prefer all of their publishers to implement this practice. It would take fraud out of advertising and make their entire platform more valuable for everyone.
While the e-mails and efforts to sell ads.txt-only inventory are their first steps toward this, they have been very clear that this will soon become a must-have for all publishers that don’t want to miss out on ad demand.
Will I make more money with an ads.txt file or not?
Kind of. It will keep you from losing money as more platforms make their default buying configurations verified inventory-only.
I recommend that you implement it and implement it with care.
There are no guarantees it can increase website revenue, but everyone agrees that it will likely prevent revenue loss in the future. On the flipside, if you implement it incorrectly it could cost you ad earnings.
Ultimately, ads.txt is a shift in the entire ecosystem. It is here to stay and backed by all the industries largest parties. At some point, as a digital publisher, you will likely need to implement an ads.txt file.
… and since there is no downside to implementing it correctly, it may be worth it to add it sooner rather than later.
Questions, thoughts? leave them below and I’ll chime in.
Tyler is an award-winning digital marketer, SEO veteran, successful start-up founder, and well-known publishing industry speaker. Tyler also serves as the host of Pubtelligence, a publishers-only event hosted at Google offices around the globe. Tyler describes his core competency as learning. He has composed content for some of the world’s top publications and has over a decade of experience building businesses in the digital space. Tyler is currently the Head of Marketing at Ezoic and serves as an SEO and marketing expert for start-up competitions across the U.S.