Google Ad Manager | How to Get Started

Google Ad Manager | How to Get Started

Trapica Content Team

Marketing Guides
5 min read
April 29, 2021

As a platform with a lot of capabilities, it's important to get a full understanding of Google Ad Manager to ensure you're integrating it into your marketing strategy effectively. Read more to find out everything you need to know about Google Ad Manager.

What’s Google Ad Manager? 

As a publisher, you may have ad space you wish to sell to advertisers and others online. To aid this process, Google developed the Ad Manager as an ad server. Essentially, this means that all publishers can create an account with Google Ad Manager and manage their ad inventories with one simple dashboard rather than keeping tabs with everything manually. 

Due to the nature of the platform, it’s the ideal place for multiple parties to congregate. This includes: 

  • Ad networks 
  • Direct advertisers 
  • Ad exchanges 
  • Indirect advertisers 

If you have ad space to sell, Google Ad Manager will welcome you with open arms. Firstly, you will display all ads - whether this is space on your own website, direct-sold ads, or even programmatic ads. Then, you’ll lay out the location of these ads. Finally you’ll track performance over time and ensure you’re getting the most from your ad space. 

The Evolution of Google Ad Manager 

Originally, Google Ad Manager launched in 2008, but the truth is that you don’t really need to know anything that happened before 2018 (hooray!). Why is this? Because, in this year, the whole platform was rebranded and reworked for all advertisers and publishers. Shortly after, Google revealed that the final price of each ad would now be determined by the highest bid. 

The modern Google Ad Manager also differs from the original product because of the way technology has progressed. Now, publishers can use the platform for a host of different ad opportunities whether this is through smart TVs, mobile, desktop, video, or another source. 

Two Versions of Google Ad Manager 

If you’re planning to use Google Ad Manager, there are actually two different versions. 

Google Ad Manager for Small Businesses 

This free version is designed for publishers who consider themselves small to medium in size. Don’t worry if you’re unsure whether this is the right version for you, Google has made it easy by setting criteria guidelines. For example, you can have video ad impressions of up to 800,000 each month with this version. Although it depends on the country, you’re also allowed to have between 90 million and 200 million display ad impressions per month. 

If you do end up using Google Ad Manager for Small Businesses, you’ll need to keep in mind that features are limited because it’s the free version. You will have access to API, reporting, and several other features, but they’re restricted somewhat. If your numbers exceed those laid out above, or you want access to more features, you should choose the next version. 

Google Ad Manager 360 

With the paid version of Google Ad Manager, you’ll open up several advanced features including video solutions, stronger segmentation, advanced reporting, and lots more. For us, the value for money comes with the Data Studio as this helps to get more accurate and detailed reporting; something that has the potential to sway the experience and generate better results. This being said, we also think the increased access to Google support is worth mentioning. 

Google Ad Manager - Behind the Scenes 

We explained how Google Ad Manager is an ad server, but what does this mean? How does the platform work? To start, the publisher will define the ad units or ad inventories. During this stage, the user will generate ad tags for the source code (these are essentially small sections of JavaScript or HTML code). From here, the publisher generates line items to help the algorithm find the right advertiser. 

This is as far as it goes for the publisher because the next stage occurs when a user clicks onto a website. As the page loads, the ad tag contacts Google and, in basic terms, asks for an ad to fill the ad space. Based on the ad request, Google searches for the right ad to display to the user in question.

Key Features and Benefits 

To get a better understanding of Google Ad Manager, let’s look at the main features and benefits for publishers. 

1. Advanced Targeting Capabilities 

This won’t come as a surprise, but the success of Google Ad Manager relies on ads reaching a relevant audience. If ads appear in front of people with little interest in the brand/product/industry, they will simply ignore it, and nobody wins. The advertiser won’t want to appear on the website again and the publisher has a dissatisfied customer. Thankfully, Google has implemented granular ad targeting controls. 

Publishers have full control over the ads that appear on their platform, and this is just as critical as the right audience seeing the ad. Targeting options include: 

  • Language 
  • Browser
  • Device (smart TV, phone, tablet, etc.)  
  • Operating system 
  • Location 
  • Manufacturer of the device 
  • Mobile carrier 

2. Simple Interface 

This is a Google product, what else should we expect? You aren’t alone if you’ve ever signed up to an online platform only to then be overwhelmed at the sheer number of buttons, numbers, and other functions. Fortunately, Google seems to understand what it’s like to be a beginner and the interface reflects this. As far as appearance and navigation go, Google Ad Manager is basic and therefore accessible to professionals of all skill levels. 

3. Advanced Reporting 

There’s detailed reporting, and then there’s Google’s level of reporting with Ad Manager. All users can create advanced reports, and this includes the following: 

  • Ad Speed Reports 
  • Future Sell-Through Reports 
  • Reach Reports 
  • Troubleshoot Viewability Reports 
  • Troubleshoot Ad Manager Placement Reports 
  • Compare Future Sell-Through Reports 
  • Line Item Forecasts 

If you’ve used this service in the past, you’ll notice the similarities between these reports and the Queries section; this is because the Queries section was renamed in one of the recent overhauls. 

4. Testing 

Often, we see publishers completely ignore testing when it actually has the potential to save lots of time and hassle. Without testing, the user experience suffers and the whole ad experience crumbles. Google Ad Manager has a testing feature where all publishers gain a better understanding of how ads appear. This allows publishers to accommodate advertisers in the right way (and ensure they want to return!). 

Google AdSense vs Google Ad Manager 

For many years, some advertisers will have relied on Google AdSense to sell ad space and earn money through a website or another platform. Are they the same? Though there are similarities, Google Ad Manager is different as it’s an ad server rather than an ad network. As a publisher, this means we can sell to non-Google advertisers in addition to Google advertisers. AdSense is actually an ad network in itself, so this automatically closes users off to other ad networks. On Google Ad Manager, we access multiple ad networks and more selling opportunities. 

This doesn’t mean you need to throw years of hard work down the drain. Instead, Google recommends using Google Ad Manager in conjunction with Google AdSense. If you struggle to sell ad inventories on Google Ad Manager, revert to Google AdSense since this is more reliable (even if it means selling for a lower price). Using both in tandem, you maximize potential revenue with all ad inventories. 

Types of Ad Format

When using Google Ad Manager, what types of ad format can you expect to sell? Well, this is actually where we find another difference with Google AdSense. While AdSense focuses on text and image ads, Ad Manager expands to include responsive ads, native ads, video ads, and more. One reason why publishers are rushing to create an Ad Manager account is that it opens channels to new advertisers. The ad formats support applications, videos, websites, and a whole lot more. 


If your website is now achieving over 500,000 visitors per month, we highly recommend upgrading to Google Ad Manager as a publisher. Sometimes, Google Ad Manager won’t find an advertiser for ad space and this is where AdSense acts as a solid backup option. Google says that Ad Manager is an SSP as well as an ad server, and it’s this multi-faceted approach that has publishers smiling. 

For those interested in getting started, you’ll need an active AdSense account so bear this in mind. If you’re starting from scratch, get some experience on AdSense first, and then head over to the Ad Manager home page to begin!

Marketing Guides
5 min read
April 29, 2021