written by
Landon Bennett

What are ad tags?

Ad Ops Account Management Ad Tech 3 min read
In this post we’ll talk about what ad tags are, how they work, what a 3rd-party ad tag is, how to test them, and how they’re different than click tags.
Photographer: Markus Spiske | Source: Unsplash

An ad tag is html code that loads a digital advertising on an website. Ad tags enable you to track the performance of an ad or campaign, which is the most important step to optimizing campaigns. In this post we’ll talk about what ad tags are, how they work, what a 3rd-party ad tag is, how to test them with free tools, and how they’re different than click tags.

What Is an ad tag?

An ad tag is HTML code that will load an ad in a web browser. It consists of a url and HTML or Javascript, which tells the browser how, where and when to load the ad. Here’s an example:

<ins class='dcmads' style='display:inline-block;width:300px;height:250px' data-dcm-placement='N4031.197864ADREADY/B26252916.317973820' data-dcm-rendering-mode='iframe' data-dcm-https-only data-dcm-ltd='false' data-dcm-resettable-device-id='' data-dcm-app-id='' data-dcm-click-tracker='${CLICK_URL}'> <script src='https://www.googletagservices.com/dcm/dcmads.js'></script> </ins>

How do ad tags work?

When a user goes to a site, the user’s browser sends info to the ad server. This info typically contains info on the user visiting the site and the ad’s placement info. Then the ad server sends the ad tag to a third-party data provider so that it has the correct targeting info. It may also pass the tag to a number of other third parties for things like brand safety or geo-targeting.

Then, the ad server sends the tag back to the advertisers and loads the ad in the user’s browser which returns the ad tag with a creative URL that is likely hosted somewhere else as well.

What are the benefits of ad tags?

Ad tags help your team:

  • Collect info about the users
  • Make changes from the ad server, instead of going direct to each publisher like things used to be done before programmatic advertising took hold
  • Block bot traffic or traffic from specific users
  • Track engagement and viewability.

What’s a third-party ad tag?

A third-party ad tag is a piece of JavaScript that is generated by a third-party ad server. It is then placed into an ad inventory space on a website to display the ad creative. Third-party tags can be loaded on any site.

What is a click tag and how is it different from an ad tag?

A click tag allows third-party ad servers used by a publisher to give a URL used to track the ad clicks to the landing page. Its important that these are set up correctly, otherwise users may click through to the wrong landing page (you can test this with Ad Reform’s landing page QA) Click tags allow you to view and optimize your click-through metrics and conversions which can help you improve the impact of the campaign. Click tags do not have a creative URL so which is how you can tell they’re different than an ad tag.

Here are the most important recommendations from Google when using the click tags.

Helpful tools for creating and testing ad tags

To wrap, here are some helpful tools and resources for creating and testing ad tags:

Preview HTML5 ads, test tags, and preview VAST tags

We hope this helps you understand the differences between ad tags and click tags and why they’re both important.

Ad Ops QA