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? Is it risky? Will it improve 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. There is also potentially an upside.
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 isn’t overly predictable. However, I’ll share a little info that could help you better understand just how much your site could potentially benefit from adding the file over time.
There are really two reasons why someone may want to add an ads.txt file to their website.
1.) The potential for earning more ad revenue
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. This means that we could see more brand advertisers putting their dollars strictly into campaigns that just target publishers with ads.txt files. Long-term, this could mean lower rates for non-ads.txt publishers.
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 benefiting are much higher. It may not be significant or immediate, but having an ads.txt file does open you up to these campaigns which can only help your chances of securing more competition for your ad inventory.
This typically results in higher ad earnings. Read about how all that works here.
In the meantime, it isn’t a bad time to add the ads.txt file to try to take advantage of the new wealth of advertisers that may be seeking to invest in these types of campaigns.
…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, there is the possibility that they could be even more aggressive in the future.
Will I make more money with an ads.txt file or not?
If this is the sole deciding factor in adding an ads.txt file, I strongly recommend that you implement it with care.
There are no guarantees it can increase website revenue. On the flipside, if you implement it incorrectly it could cost you ad earnings.
However, it is possible that you could see your ad rates increases as Google continues to roll-out their ads.txt-certified inventory buying abilities to advertisers. It is also possible that long-term it offers better ad competition and higher rates.
Ultimately, ads.txt is a shift for 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.