Key Points

  • Ad yield management is a simple practice to define, but how it is executed is anything but simple.
  • Yield ops teams have a variety of different responsibilities, but are ultimately responsible for increasing top-line ad revenue.
  • True ad yield management requires a lot of time, effort, and resources that most publishers simply don’t have.

Definition of Ad Yield Management

Ad yield management is, simply stated, the process of making small optimizations to your ad monetization setup in order to maximize revenue.

Now, in practice, this is anything but simple and “ad yield management” doesn’t fit neatly in a box. The practice crosses different tools in the ad tech stack, and potentially different teams in your organization.

What Ad Yield Management Might Include

This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it does include the primary activities that generally fall under the purview of “yield management”.

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Ad Yield Management Guide

Read the Guide: How to Build Your Target CPM and Price Floor Strategy

Header Bidder Optimization

A yield ops team will be responsible for managing the myriad settings that exist on each header bidding partner integrated into your header bidding auction.

Each individual supply-side platform (SSP) has tons of different settings that allow you to control the demand that comes from that source into your auctions. Yield’s primary function is to manage the settings across all of the demand sources that are participating in the header bidding auction to ultimately drive the most revenue.

If you are a large enough publisher, it falls to this team to manage relationships directly with SSPs should you have them. Most standalone publishers will simply not have the size and scale for this level of attention from SSPs.

If you work with a header bidding wrapper or an ad management partner, they should have a yield ops team that manages these relationships and fights for your best interests as the publisher.

Price Flooring

One of the most common settings yield ops teams will change or manage are individual price floors, or custom price floor rules on the header bidding auction. The goal of this practice is to manage supply and demand to maximize top-line revenue.

Essentially, yield ops professionals seek to find the right balance of fill rate and RPMs to drive the highest total ad revenue. Metering access to your inventory (by setting a price floor) drives up its value and ultimately increases RPMs. However, reducing the available supply too much will limit the volume of ads you serve, thus requiring that you don’t increase your price floors too high.

Ad Unit Placements and Settings

This item is a fuzzy one. Does it sit squarely in ad ops? Does it sit with yield management teams? Unfortunately, the answer is a little bit of both.

How your ads are placed, the number of units on page, how visible they are, and how frequently they refresh all have a huge impact on your ad revenue. While ad unit strategy traditionally sits in the ownership of “ad operations”, the yield team will need to be a part of setting the strategy, and they’ll want to frequently run tests to see what ad unit settings or placements drive the highest RPMs.

In addition, your ad unit placements also impact things that happen further up the ad tech pipes. SSPs may block you due to ad clutter. You may end up with issues that significantly affect yield, like getting hit with confirmed click, as a result of your ad units. 

Ultimately, your ad units, and how users interact with them, have a huge effect on yield, so yield ops teams will have a part in determining strategies or changes.

Ad Quality and Blocking

Another item in the “fuzzy” ownership column is ad quality. Like ad unit placements, ad quality as a category typically falls under the more general ownership of “ad operations”.

However, the reason yield teams are often involved in the process of setting category and URL blocks to manage ad quality is because the settings for each are managed at the individual SSP or programmatic demand partner level. Because yield is responsible for maintaining those integrations, settings, and relationships, they usually end up owning the settings for category and URL blocklists as well.

Luckily there are plenty of partners who can help with this process.

Supply Path Optimization

Beyond just managing the direct header bidding integrations, sophisticated yield teams may also have responsibilities to manage optimizations across the entire ad supply chain.

Yield teams that manage relationships or settings all the way back to the Demand Side Platform (DSP) level are usually found only at very large publishers, header bidding wrapper providers, or ad management providers. In order to have the relationships with SSPs that allow visibility further up the ad supply chain, you must have a size and scale that standalone publishers rarely have.

The types of activities that fall into this bucket might include reviewing reports from SSPs to understand which advertisers or DSPs are bidding on inventory to look for potential optimizations that can be made at the SSP level to optimize the mix of bidders operating at the demand level.

In addition to optimization, the yield team will also determine which buyers get access to inventory at a given price point and buying channel. The goal is to sell as much inventory as possible at the highest price, and they should be looking for the ideal way to do that. 

Because the ad tech supply chain is so complex, a single buyer can ultimately end up with many different pathways to buy inventory from a single publisher. Thus, yield should be reviewing the different pathways available for purchasing inventory and looking to funnel requests through the most lucrative pathways.

For instance: if DSP A can buy inventory through Open Bidding, TAM, and your Header Bidding stack, yield will find the pathway that DSP A should take to earn the most revenue.

Across the incredibly complex landscape of DSPs, SSPs, Ad Networks, and other ad tech tools, this is no small undertaking.

Ad Yield Management Workflow

Despite the complexity of all the different activities ad yield management teams are involved in, there is typically a pretty consistent workflow that they can organize their efforts into:

Strategy and Hypothesis Building

The first step in optimization of any kind is putting together a hypothesis for a strategy that might increase revenue. This might look like:

If I try “strategy X” it will increase my total ad revenue.

In this case “strategy X” could be any number of things, including, but not remotely limited to:

  • Changing the position of an ad unit
  • Increasing the price floor for Monday nights at 9PM on this ad unit
  • Refreshing an ad unit every 30 seconds
  • Adding a sticky ad unit to this page
  • And so on…


Once a hypothesis has been formulated, it's time to test. This is where other teams get involved. Depending on the hypothesis, a yield ops team member may need support from the ad ops team or the engineering and development team to execute their desired test.

They’ll run the test for a set period of time, review the results, and draw insights and conclusions on what permanent changes to settings they should make as a result of the experiment.

Depending on the success of the test, the settings tested may make their way into the new “default” state.

Continuous Monitoring and Management

Yield operations teams are also responsible for keeping an eye on yield (typically measured as page view RPM) at all times to be on the lookout for dips or drops. Because of the complexity of the ad tech ecosystem, there are constant changes going into effect that can negatively affect your yield, meaning you have to be watching 24/7.

It is up to the yield ops team to work to identify issues that are causing any drops in yield and troubleshoot those issues. Issues affecting yield can pop up at any point across the ad tech supply chain, so troubleshooting often involves pulling in other team members to solve. Yield ops ultimately is responsible for being the team that surfaces the issue and tries to isolate the cause.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Ad Ops vs. Ad Yield Management

We won’t pretend to be able to give you a clear answer to this one. Generally, ad yield management is a subset of ad operations. It is most commonly thought of as one of the practices that sits in the ad operations bucket as a whole.

Ad operations and ad yield management are inexorably intertwined because anything one does affects the other, making the line between them especially blurry.

What are best practices?

While ad yield management is an ever-changing field, there are a lot of best practices that create a good foundation for starting from. Some important best practices for yield operations professionals to know include:

Ad Yield Experts in Your Corner

If you’re looking for the most experienced yield ops experts in the game, you need to look no further. The amount of time it takes to invest in and build your own yield operations team is usually cost and resource prohibitive for most publishers.

You can get instant access to an entire team of ad yield management experts who are all focused on increasing your ad revenue by joining Playwire.

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