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Introduction to Google DFP: Placing an Order

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
This post is part of a series called Introduction to Google DFP.
Introduction to Google DFP: Using Placements
Introduction to Google DFP: Debugging Ad Delivery
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

This is the fourth tutorial in a series about Google DoubleClick for Publishers. DFP is a service that can seem incredibly complicated to the uninitiated, so this series aims to simplify it.

If you have a website or two that gets moderate amounts of web traffic and you want to know how best to generate revenue, sell ads directly to businesses and optimize your income, then this series is for you. I'll continue walking you through the process I go through with my own sites, keeping the jargon simple and sticking to the basics. 

If you're new to this series, please review the first few episodes: Introduction to Google DFP Small Business, Beginning Ad Integration With Your Website and Using Placements.

In this tutorial, I'll guide you through placing an order for a paid advertiser.

Before we get started, please remember, I do try to participate in the discussions below. If you have a question or topic suggestion, please post a comment below or contact me on Twitter @reifman. You can also email me directly. 

Working With Advertisers

As your site grows, companies may approach you to advertise on your site. Earlier this week, I finished a tutorial for Envato Tuts+ about my experience with ManageWP (coming soon). Since the example site I've been using for this series, ProTools.io, provides category listings for useful developer services, let's imagine ManageWP has approached me (they haven't) and asked to buy advertising on my site. I'll call them "the client".

Here's what the current ProTools website looks like:

ProToolsio Home Page

Currently, I'm running a standard AdSense advertisement from Google. The Client would like to run their ad in rotation in that location.

The Ad Buy

After reviewing our ad rates with the client, we've worked out a deal as described below.

Placing the Order

Returning to our Google DFP dashboard, I'll begin to place a new order. We'll begin by registering the client as a company within our Google DFP account.

Adding a Company

Visit the Admin > Companies area and click New company > Advertiser:

Google DFP New Company

Then, we'll fill out the form for a new advertiser:

Google DFP New Advertiser Form

Once saved, you'll see all of your companies in the list:

Google DFP Company LIst

Creating the Order

Each Order is then an agreement by the company to purchase advertising from you on your website(s). You can think of a company's order informally as an Advertising Campaign.

Orders consist of one or more Line Items which specify which placements and ad units are being purchased, for how much, for how long, and any custom targeting, e.g. mobile-only, by gender or age, etc. Let's begin.

Click Delivery > New Order (no relation to New Order):

Google DFP Creating a New Order

As I've said throughout this series, the user experience for Google DFP is pretty difficult to learn. Once you're a power user, you'll find placing an order to be easy and effective. But, in the beginning, you may feel overwhelmed. 

In this tutorial, we'll stick to the basics. Here's the three major parts involved with placing the first order:

Google FP New line item for an order

There's naming and choosing the unit sizes. Then, there's start and end times, order size (in impressions or clicks), rates and more, much more. Again, let's keep it simple.

Google FP Order Settings and Delivery

Finally, there's targeting. For my example, I'll pretend my client asked for the Placement we created in the last tutorial, ProTools.io Top Sidebar, but that they also asked to restrict the advertisement to the U.S. and Canada:

Google FP Add Targeting

Even small things about Google DFP annoy me—like the way they use the term "Add targeting" when you're trying to place an order for an ad. It's not ad targeting, you're adding targeting to an ad. It would just be better if they said, "Targeting" and we'd know what they meant.

As you try to save the order, you may get indecipherable error messages. I repeatedly saw error messages in red at the top of the screen. Things like this:

Google DFP Sample Error Message

It took me a while to realize that I had to scan the forms for small red textual error details. I repeatedly either left out the ad size or the end date or chose the wrong placement. Once I noticed the small error text, I was able to resolve the limitations. 

Once you succeed, you'll see the order in the listings:

Google DFP Order listings

Next, I had to click the checkbox and Approve the ad. Then, I saw that the ad still needs creatives:

Google DFP Ad needs creatives

If you remember from part one, a creative is actually the graphic or video for the advertisement. And, you can have more than one which rotates through.

I'm going to take different 250 x 250 creatives from the ManageWP affiliate program I referred to in my tutorial. More typically, your advertiser would provide you with graphic files to upload. Here are a few from our client:

Google DFP Sample Client Ads

To upload the files, I just drag and drop them from my finder:

Google DFP Load Creatives via Drag and Drop

The result is a long scrolling list of ads that need to be configured uniquely, including image files, target URL for click-throughs, and more:

Google DFP Result of Drag and Drop

To connect the creatives to the line items in the order, I returned to Line items > Needs creatives:

Google DFP Add Creatives

Then, I added my three creative images to the line item:

Google DFP Use Existing Creatives

Finally, my order is what Google calls "Ready":

Google DFP Ready  Maybe

If you're normal, you might begin browsing your website and refreshing it to see if the ads are appearing... and refreshing... and refreshing... and refreshing. Stop refreshing. The ad may be ready, but Google DFP isn't.

The Status helper offers to let you learn more about what Ready means to Google DFP:

Google DFP Status Ready or Not Ready

It's really quite simple:

Google DFP Help - Its simple right

Here's what it means:

Ready: Line items marked as "Ready" have been activated, but haven't started delivering. Learn why a line item might not be delivering.

Ready actually means NOT DELIVERING and indicates that you may have debugging to do.

The Ad Finally Appeared

After a few hours, my ads finally began appearing:

Google DFP Client Ads Appearing

It even began rotating my creatives properly:

Google DFP Client Ads Rotating

However, it wasn't actually that simple. I ran into a ton of problems trying to get my order's line items to move from Ready to Delivering. This apparently is a common problem with DFP users.

I ran into ridiculous problems where I'd see AdSense ads continue even after I'd turned them off. Finally, I created a new line item that set the advertisement to appear as a sponsorship. These are the highest priority ads and rotate more reliably. And, I waited. That's how I got it to work. But that's really not acceptable.

During my struggle above, I explored the Google DFP publishers console for debugging ad delivery. I'll explore how to do this in the next tutorial. It helped me track down what wasn't working. 

Ultimately, a big part of the problem was the lag time between when you make changes in your orders to the time they are reflected through the DFP system onto your site. With DFP, it's incredibly difficult to know whether the changes you made are working because you never know when they are activated. Testing your settings is incredibly difficult with the service.

In Closing

DFP is a powerful system, but I lost a tremendous amount of respect for Google in seeing how terribly and inexplicably this system operates. It needs a serious overhaul of UX review unless they prefer to keep it isolated to experts.

Please feel free to post your questions and comments below. You can also contact me on Twitter @reifman or email me directly. Or browse my Envato Tuts+ instructor page to see other tutorials I've written.

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