In digital advertising, publishers don't sell advertising space as you might have thought. In fact, website owners sell audiences, and they do this through programmatic media buying.
Demand partners such as ad networks, demand-side platforms (DSPs), and ad exchanges are looking for the audience that matches their targeting settings and are ready to pay large sums to publishers for an ad display in front of those potential customers. So, if publishers want to sell their digital ad inventory to sources of demand, they must learn how to use supply-side platforms (SSPs).
Just as advertisers use DSPs, publishers are actively exploring the unlimited capabilities of SSPs. What was initially a software to manage digital ad space evolved into a full-stack yield optimization solution. It is impossible to imagine real-time auctions without the contribution from SSPs; this piece of technology is an important part of programmatic media buying.
Let's clarify what SSP is, have a look at its features and explore its benefits. At the end of the article, there is a reader bonus: a glimpse into the future of supply-side platforms.
What is an SSP?
SSP stands for Supply-Side Platform or Sell-Side Platform. A supply-side platform is used by digital publishers to manage and optimize the advertising space. SSP is plugged into multiple sources of demand, but the publisher can control every transaction and interaction via a single user interface. Connected to ad exchanges, SSPs send available impressions to as many potential buyers as possible. In a competitive environment where advertisers bid on the impression in real time, publishers can increase yield and monetize remnant ads. Much more information about the participants of programmatic ecosystem, you can find here.
SSPs grant publishers full control over their inventory. Publishers may set up price floors, which specify the minimum price for which inventory is sold through specific channels or to specific buyers. The advertisement is displayed to website visitors. If the ad is inappropriate, has suspicious content or is simply spam, a publisher is likely to lose its audience. As a solution to this issue, publishers may choose which advertisers can bid on the inventory and which advertisers are blocked or added to the blacklist. Publishers may also choose what type of advertisement appears on their web page and what type of content it features.
You may refer to SSP as a publisher's equivalent of the DSP. While DSP serves the buyer side, a supply-side platform serves the seller side. Supply platforms help publishers get the most out of their advertising space by filling it with creatives, finding ads that fit the publisher's requirements and selling the space for the maximum price. Therefore, SSPs not only help publishers generate revenues but also deliver highly targeted ads.
What Features Should You Look for When Choosing an SSP?
- Access to Multiple Sources of Demand
It is important that an SSP is connected to as many DSP, ad exchanges and ad networks as possible, allowing the publisher to offer the same impression across multiple channels and get the maximum price for it. However, quantity is not everything. It is important to know what kind of demand partners with which the SSP will integrate. For example, premium advertisers are willing to pay more money for quality impressions. At the end of the day, publishers want to sell out the entire inventory for competitive prices, thus the SSP must serve these goals (read on a guide to website and blog traffic monetization).
- A Single Platform with a Friendly Interface
Because the SSP will be plugged into multiple exchanges and demand sources, a publisher needs to make sure that the supply platform has an easy-to-navigate user interface, which lets a publisher see the metrics that matter most: click-thru rate (CTR) and the total number of clicks generated on display inventory. Big Data Analysis and Machine-learning Algorithms Advertisers aren’t the only ones that make use of machine-learning algorithms. Today, SSPs use big data for analyzing, comparing and retrieving statistics that provide macro and micro insights into what works and what doesn’t work. Publishers can choose which ad sizes and formats bring the most value and optimize their inventory in real time for a more effective sales strategy.
- Dynamic Price Floors
With SSPs, publishers must be able to set price floors to ensure a steady revenue stream. Ideally, SSPs must allow setting “hard” and “soft” price floors and a minimum acceptable cost per thousand impressions (CPM), allowing a publisher to be flexible in a pricing strategy and sell out remnant inventory completely. In some cases, if a publisher wants to sell available inventory at a higher price to a certain advertiser, the platform must contain such features to adjust the setting.
- Transparent Service and Ultimate Control
Usually, publishers worry about the type of advertisement that appears on their websites. Nobody wants to display alcohol, tobacco or adult content, right? Such ads would scare off readers who would perceive the website as disruptive or even distasteful. Not a single publisher wants to discourage audiences by irrelevant, offensive ads. As a solution, the SSP must allow a publisher to choose which advertisers have a right to bid on inventory and which media buyers are added to the blacklist.
- Granular Reporting
To know how much was earned, publishers need detailed reports. Reporting helps publishers understand the value of their digital inventory and what it is worth on the open market. As a publisher, you want to know who bought your advertising space, when, what time of the day and what was displayed. Transparent granular reports uncover this information and help to optimize the sales strategy in the long run.
- 24/7 Tech Support
We all understand that SSP is not a toy, so it is not always easy to operate it. That is why you should always ask your platform vendor about available tech support and, in some cases, account representatives. Tech support will help you to deal with programming, coding and ads delivery while account managers provide advice on how to approach the market and where to start.
- Now Embrace Programmatic
Almost anyone can become a digital publisher: a website owner, a blogger or an online shop manager. Capabilities are unlimited. If your website has a solid flow of visitors per month and appropriate content, you may become a digital publisher and be surprised how quickly your web space will bring you tangible results. Although it is state-of-the-art technology, there is nothing too sophisticated about SSP. Everybody can learn how to use it. To begin with, publishers can choose a managed SSP service, which allows account managers from the vendor company to lead sales. With time, publishers may switch to self-serve SSP and manage their own inventory. If you want to monetize your website traffic, there is no way you can skip the SmartyAds supply-side platform.