Why ads.txt is important for your website

You might have heard about ads.txt without really understanding what it is. Don’t worry, we’ll explain it all in a simple and fun way. And that’s not all! We’ll also give you some concrete examples and handy tips to help you manage it successfully.

There’s no denying that this little file is of crucial importance at Adrenalead, which has embarked on a continuous improvement process by optimising its ads.txt to boost sales of its publishers’ inventory.

But what exactly is ads.txt? How does it work? And above all, why is it so crucial for your website? In this article, we’ll answer all these questions and many more!

So fasten your seatbelts, we’re taking a little trip to the world of ads.txt!

Let’s go!

What is ads.txt?

First of all, what’s does this strange word “ads.txt” mean? It’s short for “Authorised Digital Sellers”. Simply put, it’s a magic little file created in 2017 by the IAB to combat advertising fraud and make the advertising ecosystem more transparent.

Pretty cool, eh? The aim is to help buyers, publishers and service providers find their way around the vast world of programmatic advertising. If you’re not familiar with the term “programmatic”, we explain it all in our article: The programmatic digital advertising market.

To give you a concrete example: ads.txt is like an ultra-exclusive VIP list that you display at the entrance to your party. Only guests whose names appear on this list are allowed to come inside and party with you. The others, the ill-intentioned gatecrashers, are kindly asked to turn back.

So you see! It’s simple, your party (website) is under control!

How does ads.txt work?

Now we’re going into geek mode but we’ll try and explain things simply, we promise! Your ads.txt file contains a list of all ad sellers who are allowed on your site.

So the ads.txt is a simple text file that follows a specific format. Each line in the file contains information about an authorised ad seller. Each entry must include four fields.

✅The seller’s domain name;
✅Their account ID;
✅Their account type (direct or reseller);
✅And the seller’s certification.

An example of an entry in an ads.txt file would be the following:

example.com, 12345, DIRECT, abcdef12345

In this example:

  • “example.com” is the seller’s domain name;
  • “12345” is the seller’s account ID;
  • “DIRECT” indicates that the seller is a direct partner of the publisher;
  • “abcdef12345” is the seller’s certification, which can be obtained from the IAB Tech Lab.

Basically, ads.txt tells ad buyers: “Hey, here are the trusted ad sellers on this website. If you want to buy advertising, go through them!”

 How do you create your ads.txt file?

Don’t panic, it’s much easier than it looks! Creating your ads.txt file is a bit like writing a VIP guest list. You’re just going to list the ad sellers who are allowed to publish on your website. Here’s how to do it, step by step:

  • Open a text file: you can use Notepad in Windows or TextEdit on a Mac. That’s where you’re going to write your super special list!
  •  List your authorised sellers: imagine you’ve invited your best buddies to your party. You’re going to write their names (or rather their domains) in your file. For example:

These are examples of authorised ad sellers’ domains.

  • Add identifiers: you can even add little details to help identify domains. For example:
google.com, 12345, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0
appnexus.com, 56789, RESELLER, 5jy2hj8768kj

Here, the numbers are optional identifiers. They’re not compulsory but can be useful to help you find your way around!

  • Save your file: when your list is ready, save your file under the name “ads.txt”. Make sure you save it at the root of your website, where everyone can find it (for example: www.company.com/ads.txt).
  • Publish it on your website: there, you’ve created your ads.txt file. Now you just need to publish it on your website. That way, ad buyers will know exactly who they can do business with online. There you go, it’s that simple!

Remember, ads.txt is a secure solution to tell everyone who are your genuine ad sellers and who are the undesirable squatters to avoid. So, don’t hesitate to update it if you add new authorised sellers or if any are no longer welcome. There, you’re ready for the greatest advertising party of all time! 🎉

What does the IAB Tech Lab do?

Now, you might be wondering who is behind all this. Well, the IAB Tech Lab is a branch of the IAB, the Interactive Advertising Bureau. A real champion of innovation in advertising, it makes sure that best practice is adopted so everyone can make the most of the advantages of online advertising.

The IAB Tech Lab concentrates on developing standards and technical solutions for the digital advertising industry. The IAB ad standard includes specifications for ads.txt, which provides a list of the publisher’s authorised ad sellers. This enables ad buyers like the DSPs – Demand Side Platforms – to check the ad inventories they buy are authentic and to make sure they come from genuine sources.

It’s a bit like the IAB Tech Lab giving you a treasure map so you know exactly who are the real advertisers who deserve to be on your website!

What’s the IAB ad standard?

The IAB ad standard is a kind of ultimate guide to online advertising developed by the IAB Tech Lab. It includes, amongst others, ads.txt but also sellers.json and app-ads.txt. All this is so that publishers and ad buyers can understand each other and collaborate better.

If you’re a publisher or an advertiser, it’s essential to familiarise yourself with the IAB ad standard to make it easier to interact with other industry players. By using this common language, you’ll avoid misunderstandings and potential errors, which can save you time and money.

💡Tip: check for updates to the IAB ad standard regularly. As the digital advertising industry is changing fast, new specifications and formats may be added to meet the ever-changing needs of advertisers and publishers. Staying up to date will enable you to make the most of the opportunities offered by the IAB ad standard and remain competitive on the market.

Why should I update your ads.txt?

For a long time, the online advertising market as a whole overlooked the importance of keeping a tidy ads.txt file. However, this trend is changing, and more and more publishers and DSPs are pushing to rationalise this file, which can often get overloaded. Major publishers such as Les Echos and Le Parisien have already taken this step, which doesn’t mean separating from their partners, but rather deleting any unused lines from their ads.txt file. In fact, you can check the list of French publishers who have established relationships with advertising service providers on the Mind media website.

There are several advantages to updating your ads.txt file regularly:

  • Transparency and the fight against fraud: by listing authorised ad sellers, you limit the risk of including fraudulent sellers and unauthorised traffic to your site.
  • Improved buyer confidence: ad buyers have more confidence in sites that use an up-to-date ads.txt, as this guarantees the legitimacy of the ad inventory.
  • Optimisation of advertising revenues: a tidy, well-managed ads.txt file makes it easier to collaborate with programmatic partners, which can lead to better monetisation opportunities for your publisher sites.

📝For example :

You are the owner of a well-established news website. You work with several DSPs to display ads on your website. However, you’ve recently noticed a drop in your advertising revenue and can’t figure out why. When you check your ads.txt file, you realise that some lines are obsolete as there are some partners you no longer work with. By updating your ads.txt and deleting unnecessary entries, you can ensure that ad buyers will find authorised sellers and give yourself the best chance of generating maximum advertising revenue.

This concrete example shows how ads.txt can play a crucial role in protecting your site and your audience from advertising fraud, while improving the relevance of the ads displayed.

Major publishers acknowledge the importance of ads.txt. By adopting this standard, they are demonstrating their commitment to the fight against advertising fraud and to a better online advertising experience.

How to update your ads.txt?

Updating your ads.txt isn’t hard at all, it’s like making a quick update to your LinkedIn profile. Here are the easy steps to follow:

  • Identify your advertising partners: start by looking at your current advertising partners. They’re the ones who help you monetise your website by displaying ads. Make a note of their domain names.
  • Check the information: make sure you have the right information for each of these partners. You need the domain name (like friendlyads.com) and their seller ID (it looks like “pub-1234567890”).
  • Open your ads.txt file: you can open your website’s ads.txt file with a simple text editor. It’s like opening a Word file or a Google Doc.
  • Add the new lines: for each partner, add a new line to your ads.txt file. It looks like this:
partner-domain.com, partenaire-id, DIRECT, reseller
  • Delete old lines: if you no longer do business with certain partners, it’s time to remove them from the list. You can delete them completely to keep things tidy and organised.

📝Examples :

Case no. 1 – You have a new partner: let’s suppose you have a new partner, “NewAds”. Their domain is “newads.com” and their ID is “pub-new1234”. You just need to add this line to your ads.txt file:

newads.com, pub-new1234, DIRECT, reseller

Case no. 2 – You’re no longer friends with “OldAds”: if you’re no longer doing business with “OldAds”, you can say farewell to them and delete their line from your ads.txt file.

💡Tips from the #PushTeam

Tip no. 1 – Make regular checks: life changes and so do your partners. Get into the habit of checking your ads.txt file from time to time to make sure it’s up to date. It’s like a little check-up to keep things up to date and functional.

💡Tip no. 2 – Don’t change the format: the ads.txt file follows a specific structure, so be careful when adding or deleting lines. Keep the format as it is so everything runs smoothly.

There, that’s it! Now you’ve got an up-to-date ads.txt. This shows buyers and sellers you’re a serious publisher that takes care of its partners. So, make sure you keep this little list up to date to keep the ad party going strong on your website! 

There, well done, now you’re an expert in ads.txt! Thank to this file, your website is protected against the bad guys of online advertising and you’re helping to make the advertising world clearer and more transparent!

Set off on your advertising adventure with total confidence. Your partners will thank you, you’ll boost your ad revenue and your website will be a star of the net!

So, are you ready to shine in the world of online advertising? Grab your ads.txt files and you’re good to go! 🚀

Did you like this article?