At its core, ads.txt is a relatively simple idea. It’s a text file publishers place on their websites to authorize certain sellers to sell their inventory. Buyers use tools that scan ads.txt files to make sure they’re getting the real thing and not fraudulent inventory. 

Simple. It’s designed to be that way, but in some cases, publishers run into advanced ads.txt situations that don’t feel all that simple. These more complex scenarios are relatively rare, but when they do occur, the risk is great — any problem with your ads.txt setup can interrupt the flow of revenue to your website. 

Turning off the programmatic revenue is simply not acceptable, so the Playwire team has put together a list of three of the more common advanced ads.txt use cases and how to resolve them. Read on to learn more.

Ads.txt problems? Playwire has ads.txt solutions, as well as solutions for dozens of other publisher revenue issues. Contact us to learn how we can maximize your revenue today.

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How Does Ads.txt Work? An Ads.txt Guide

Ads.txt: An On-Off Switch, Not an Optimization Tactic

There’s a common misconception about ads.txt: many publishers who are new to the concept approach it like various other digital advertising issues. They treat it like a yield optimization tactic — one in which small changes can increase cost per mille (CPM) rates and have profound effects on your revenue.

That’s not quite right. Ads.txt is like a light switch. It’s either on, lighting up the room and bringing programmatic ad revenue to your wallet, or it’s off, and your revenue is lost in the darkness as it goes to competitors and fraudsters.

So, it’s true that ads.txt can have profound effects on your revenue, but you don’t really tweak it to make it better. It’s either working or it’s not working. That’s true even in highly advanced ads.txt use cases, such as the three we describe below.

Advanced Ads.txt Use Cases

While most ads.txt setups are fairly straightforward, there are a few common situations that may fall into the more advanced category.

1. Cleaning Up an Inherited Ads.txt File

Whether you are a publisher who has just purchased a website or app or you’re simply the new person in charge of ads.txt for the publisher you work for, you might find yourself dealing with someone else’s work on an ads.txt file. When you inherit an ads.txt file, you’re already starting from behind because you didn’t see it all come together in the first place.

That means that, when there are potential issues or when you simply want to understand the file in its entirety, you may not know where to begin.

Fortunately, some handy tools can help you get a grip on this inherited ads.txt file. First, run it through an ads.txt validator. Free validators will quickly identify any errors or issues in the existing file that may be disrupting revenue from certain sellers. 

Caution: Beware that a validator will not be able to catch everything for you. For example, a validator will not be able to find out whether each line is properly classified as a direct seller (DIRECT) or reseller (RESELLER). This can make a big impact on your revenue, and mistakes here may pass through a validator. 

As you go into the file to find and fix the issues the validator identified, you will start to get a feel for how the original author constructed it.

The second approach is to find an ads.txt manager tool that you like and upload the existing file to it. In many cases, these tools will break authorized sellers out into individual categories or sections within an easy-to-use dashboard. That’s a lot easier to understand and work with than a huge text file filled with code you didn’t write.

2. Ads.txt on a Subdomain

If you’re working with websites that have one or more subdomains, you may encounter some advanced ads.txt questions. For example, should an ads.txt file go on each subdomain at the top level or just at the top level of the central root domain?

The answer: it depends. More specifically, it depends on whether you are authorizing different sellers for the various subdomains and your root domain. If you are allowing the same sellers to sell your inventory across your root domain and all subdomains, you only need to upload your ads.txt file to the root domain.

However, if you want to authorize different sellers for particular subdomains, you will need to create different ads.txt files for each subdomain. And in the ads.txt file for your root domain, you will need to identify each of the subdomains using the "subdomain=" variable.

3. Managing Dozens of Ads.txt Files

Ads.txt is a pretty simple endeavor if you’re a single publisher working with a single site. But what if you publish content to dozens of websites? Then, you’re starting to cross over into advanced ads.txt territory.

The issue isn’t so much that you have to do anything fancy with your ads.txt files — it’s really about the sheer number of files you have to manage. When you need to authorize or deauthorize a seller network-wide, you may find yourself making changes to dozens of ads.txt files. The more changes you make, the more opportunities there are for you to make mistakes.

Also, you may run into the issue of managing sites in different verticals. You may not be approved by all the same demand sources for your finance site as you would for your gaming site, which means their ads.txt files will be different. Keeping this all clean and organized is a monumental challenge, and that means there’s plenty of room for even more mistakes that could hurt your revenue.

So, what’s the solution? Outside of being really careful, you really have to turn to paid tools or paying an ads.txt professional to manage the thing for you. Some of the better ads.txt manager tools will allow you to make updates to authorized sellers across multiple ads.txt files at once, which will cut down on time and the likelihood that you’ll make a mistake.

If you want to get really advanced and you’re working with a skilled developer, one alternative to having all those ads.txt files is to create a web application that delivers your ads.txt file to the appropriate URL on each of the sites you manage. However, this can be really tricky to implement, especially if you have different sellers authorized for different sites.

Advanced Ads.txt Needs? You Need an Advanced Revenue Partner

Whether your ads.txt needs are “advanced” because you have a complicated setup or just because you don’t even know where to start with ads.txt, there’s a simple solution: work with Playwire.

Playwire can handle even the most advanced ads.txt use cases with the utmost precision. It’s all a part of how we take your revenue from stagnant to smashing past records. Ads.txt doesn’t have to be complicated. Neither does anything involved in digital advertising — not if you work with Playwire, that is.

We’re ready to help. Just contact us online to learn how we’ll take your revenue to new heights.

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