What are ad tags

What Are Ad Tags And How Do They Work?

Ashwin Krishnakumar
Ashwin Krishnakumar

Chief Technology Officer, Airtory

Published on: 20 Dec 2021

Reading time: 5 minutes

Whenever a visitor lands on a website, multiple banners and video pre-rolls start to pop up. Surprisingly, most of them are relevant to the visitor's interest and online behavior. This is only possible with the help of ad tags or advertising tags. They are a crucial component of display advertising efforts. Ad tags help both advertisers as well as publishers optimize their advertising strategy. For publishers, ad tags help ensure that the ads being displayed on their platform are relevant and also allow them to sell inventory to multiple advertisers, serving different ads at a single placement, based on the advertisers’ targeting preferences. On the other hand, ad tags sent by publishers provide advertisers with basic information about the publisher’s users, which can be used for audience segmentation. Apart from this, ad tags allow advertisers to track engagement and visibility, which allows them to make changes to optimize the campaign, which can be done in real-time directly from the ad server instead of them having to contact every publisher. Ad tags are also used by third-party services for extracting user data for user profile creation for creating ad campaigns in the future.

But what are ad tags? Let us delve into the details. 

What Are Ad Tags? 

The word ad tag or advertising tag is used a lot in the advertising industry. It is usually referred to as a piece of code (HTML or Javascript) that is placed on the publisher’s website to be able to display ads. These tags contain details of the format, size and other requirements of the ad unit and serve different purposes for different stakeholders, including ad networks, advertisers, and publishers. 

Types of Ad Tags

There are two types of ad tags, which are explained below. 

  1. Synchronous

Synchronous ad tags load together with the web content and sometimes even before it. Additionally, they also wait for the tag content to load before moving on to the next content. With synchronous ad tags, the page starts by loading the first tag and then gradually moves to the second. This process is repeated several times until the final tag loads. 

It may be noted that running synchronous ad tags requires installing an additional ad space on the target website or mobile application.

  1. Asynchronous

Asynchronous ad tags load independently on the web browser. However, they do not affect the page loading time of a website. With asynchronous tags, a browser can load all tags at the same time without having to wait for a certain tag to completely load. 

That being said, asynchronous ad tags load faster than synchronous tags and hence are considered a better option to deliver great ad experiences. 

Uses of Ad Tags

Advertising tags are utilized by various stakeholders in a different manner, which has been explained below:

For Publishers: A publisher can generate ad tags using ad serving tools and place them on their website to ensure that only relevant ads are displayed on their page. The ad tag acts as a placeholder for ad creatives and contains information and parameters regarding the ad format, size, and other requirements that advertisers must meet for that placement. Publishers use ad tags to generate bid requests, which inform advertisers about the availability of inventory. This helps publishers lay the foundation for website monetization.

For Advertisers: Ad tags are utilized by advertisers to display ad creatives on a webpage. They further help analyse the number of impressions and performance of the ad units, thereby assisting in creative optimization. 

How Do Ad Tags Work?

The process begins with a publisher adding an ad tag to their website to specify the kind of ad placements that are up for sale. When the website is visited by a user, the tag is activated, which sends a call to the ad server even as the page is being loaded.

If the publisher so requires, when the ad server receives information about available ad placements, it sends the tag to a third-party provider for targeting details or any other additional information.

The ad request is then used to accrue bids from interested advertisers whose ads meet the parameters of the publisher.

After the bidding, the advertiser sends their creative to the ad server, which then returns the ad tag with the URL of the creative, which is finally served onto the user’s browser.

Importance of Ad Tags

By now, we are clear about the basics of an ad tag, including what ad tags are and how they work. The next step is to understand why ad tags are important in ad networks.

  1. Retrieving user metrics to optimize campaigns

Ad tags contain important information and metrics about the users (barring any Personally identifiable Information) that the ads are displayed to. In regard to marketing, the user information, like user ID, orders placed by them, revenue for the transaction, source from where the customer reached the website, that is collected by ad tags can help understand the browsing patterns of the users, which can be analyzed to optimize the ad campaign further.

That being said, ad tags can help keep a track of the user’s online behavior, browsing pattern, searched information, etc. Advertisers can retrieve this data to understand the target audience and accordingly optimize their ad campaigns for better results.

  1. Proper layout and placement of ad

Some types of ad tags (like the iframe) can also be used to represent the inline frame of the web page, to ensure that the ad placement does not affect the layout, and is still visible. The frame is allotted to ad units based on the request that is generated by the browser and the ad unit is rendered accordingly.

  1. Measuring ad performance

From early performance indicators like impressions and clicks to more advanced metrics like dwell time, engagement, and visibility, ad tags track a number of KPIs that can be used to calculate click-through rates of the campaign to understand how it is performing.

  1. Optimizing page load time

Lastly, ad tags help improve the page load time. The page load time is potential enough to make or break the entire ad experience. That being said, ad tags ensure that the ad gets displayed to the user along with the age content for maximum impressions or engagement. 

Working with ad tags can be a little overwhelming but practice makes a man perfect. 

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