Google Ad Manager: Everything You Need To Know

As a brand or publisher, you want to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to PPC advertising. Why pay more for ads when  Ad can help you earn more from ads, and grow your business too?

Buying and selling ads and ad space can be complex. Your business might work directly with some advertisers and use ad networks like Google Ads and Amazon Advertising for others.

Managing all these moving parts can be a huge undertaking. That is where Google Ad Manager (GAM) comes in to play.


Google Ad Manager allows advertisers to cast a wider net and increase competition for ads by managing ads and ad space across multiple ad networks.

It also provides incredibly detailed targeting and reporting options.

This article will give you a complete breakdown of Google Ad Manager and how it can help your business get the most out of your ad budget and increase ad revenue.

What is Google Ad Manager? 

Google Ad Manager is a complete ad exchange platform that facilitates both the buying and selling of ads across multiple ad networks and locations, including AdSense and (the former) AdExchange.

If you have used Google's advertising tools in the past, you might notice that Google Ad Manager combines the features offered by DoubleClick for Publishers and DoubleClick AdExchange, (which were purchased by Google back in 2007).

The first version of Google Ad Manager launched in August of 2008, but it works very differently today. In fact, the entire digital advertising line was rebranded in 2018.

Then, in 2019, Google Ad Manager switched to a first-price auction process, where the highest bid sets the final price of each ad.

Today, Google Ad Manager supports a wide range of distribution channels, including mobile, desktop, smart televisions, and video.

The tool is designed to help both advertisers and publishers streamline the ad serving process by allowing brands to manage and deliver ads to multiple audience location from one platform.

Can small businesses use Google Ad Manager?


Google Ad Manager functions as a demand-side platform (DSP, a platform that allows digital advertising buyers to manage multiple ad exchanges in one place), but it offers many other features as well.

There are actually two types of Google Ad Manager accounts: Ad Manager for Small Businesses (free) and Ad Manager 360 (paid version). The small business offering has limited features but works well for small to medium-sized businesses.

Here are a few of the main differences between the two versions of Google Ad Manager.

Google Ad Manager for Small Businesses 

Designed for small to medium-sized businesses, the free version of Google Ad Manager allows up to 150 million monthly impressions to non-video ad units in most countries, this number goes down to 90 million monthly impressions in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and grows up to 200 million monthly impressions for selected countries (mainly eastern Europe and Arab countries).

It also provides access to a decent number of features, including access to the API, and to a limited number of reports including active view impressions, historical, reach, and standard or vast delivery.

Google Ad Manager 360 

The paid version of Ad Manager offers several additional features over the free version, including advanced video options, detailed audience targeting, and auto-suggested ad units.

It also provides more reports, including future sell-through, invoiced impressions, and invoiced impressions. 360 also allows for team network settings, ads.txt. management, and links to Google Data Studio, a reporting tool dashboard.

You also gain direct access to Google Support if you need help getting set up or have any other issues.

Pricing for Ad Manger 360 varies; to gain access, you will need to work with a Google Sales Rep to negotiate a contract.

Google Ad Manager Features 

With so many similar product names — Google Ads, Google AdSense, Google Ad Manager, just to name a few — it can be a challenge to keep what each tool does straight.

Google Ad Manager has a lot to offer when it comes to managing your online advertising. There are several features most businesses will find useful.

The most helpful features will vary based on the type of business you have, whether you are trying to sell a product or ad space, and how many impressions your business gets per month.

Here's a quick look into the features and advantages of using Google Ad Manager.

Like most other Google web services, Ad Manager has a simple and easy to understand interface.

Features are clearly labeled in the left sidebar, and a detailed knowledge base offers guidance as you learn to navigate the interface.


Data insights are presented in large graphics that are easy to understand, and you can click to learn more about specific data sets.

Granular Ad Targeting

Google Ad Manager also provides more granular control over who gets to see ads or what types of ads you want to show on your site. You are likely used to being able to target mobile users. With Google Ad Manager, you can target really small subsets, such as Firefox users using versions 40.0 and up.

Other targeting options include:

  • User device, including phone, tablet, smartphone, and connected TV
  • Browers, including versions and “unknown”
  • Device manufacturer, including Apple, BlackBerry, Ericsson, HTC, and others
  • Language
  • Operation system
  • Internet connection or mobile carrier
  • Geographical location

Custom targeting is also available, which can be used to target based on custom key-values, audience, and content metadata plus system-defined criteria such as bandwidth, geographical location, or OS.

Google Ad Manager Supports Teams

Teams are groups of users with similar authorization and access within Google Ad Manager. For example, you might create a Spanish team for your Spanish site, and give them access to advertisers and units that apply to that site.

Everything is documented and recorded neatly inside Google Ad Manager, which makes it far easier for complex companies to keep their ad management organized and makes it easier to track, audit, and create reports for each line of business.

We go over how to create a team in Google Ad Manager in the FAQ section below.

Extremely Detailed Reporting Tools

Understanding the data you have is crucial to creating highly engaging ads that drive profits.

Previously called “queries,” Google Ad Manager provides access to a wide range of report types, including templates to make it easier to create reports based on common data.

Here are just a few of the reports you can access through Google Ad Manager.


Google Ad Manager Testing Environment

To help ensure a smooth campaign or site launch, Google Ad Manager offers a testing environment. If you are new to Ad Manager on want to see how a certain campaign will look, this is a fantastic tool to help you learn how to set up advertisers, create test objects, and even generate test data.

Google even provides testing recommendations to walk you through the process.

Coming Soon 

As with all Google tools, you can expect regular updates to Google Ad Manager.

In November of 2019, Google released notes about upcoming changes users should be aware of.

Here are two changes users should take note of:

  • In January of 2020, Google Ad Manager will make updates to the Demand Channel reporting feature. Exchange bidding will be renamed to Open Bidding, both retroactively and moving forward.
  • There will also be changes to mobile app impression counting with the introduction of “Ad server provisional impressions” metric; a very helpful “Ad server SDK status” dimension will be added too.

What is the Difference Between Google Ad Manager and Google AdSense? 

If you have any experience with buying or selling advertising space through Google, you have likely heard of Google's AdSense (which is now simply called Google Ads). The names are very similar, which might cause some confusion.

Google Ad Manager and Google Ads are not the same product. However, Google Ad Manager does allow advertisers to bid on ads within Google Ads.

Google Ads is designed to help small to medium publishers monetize their websites in an easy to use format.

Google Ad Manager allows brands to monetize multiple platforms, including their website, mobile ads, videos, and games, and manage ads across multiple ad networks and even direct deals.

This chart from Google outlines a few of the key differences between the two platforms:

google ad manager vs. google ads: differences


Essentially, the Ad Manager allows you to make Google Ads compete with other ad networks, including Ad Exchange, which helps brands maximize revenue.

So, Google Ads can be part of Google Ad Manager, but they serve different purposes.

How to Set Up Google Ad Manager

Formerly called “DoubleClick for Publishers,” Google Ad Manager allows advertisers to easily manage the buying and selling of ads across various exchanges and third-party networks. If you run ads across multiple platforms and want to get a better value, Google Ad Manager may be a fantastic solution for your business.

Keep in mind, to access Google Ad Manager you will need a Google account and a Google AdSense account.

google ad manager setup

  • Create a Google Account, if you don't already have one.
  • Create a Google Adsense account, if you don't already have one. Make sure it is active if you haven't used your Google Adsense account recently.
    (You do not need to actively use Google Adsense, but you must have an account.)
  • Head to
  • Click Create an Account and answer a few questions about your business.

  • Verify your network settings, once you create an order you will be unable to change your time zone and currency.
    To do this, head to Admin, Global Settings, Network Settings. 
  • Now you can create an inventory structure and start serving ads.

Again, there are two versions of Google Ad Manager. To gain access to Google Ad 360, use this guide from Google support.

google ad manager paid version


What Reports Can I Access in Google Ad Manager? 

Google Ad Manager provides access to a staggering amount of data.

Users can create reports to view performance by week, quarter, month, or a specific date range.

You may also sort based on a large variety of report dimensions, including Activity, Activity Group, Ad Location, Ad Sources, Advertiser, verticles, Agencies, Salespeople, bid ranges and much, much more.

google ad manager report setup


This guide on Google covers the full list of report dimensions.

How do I Create Teams in Google Ad Manager? 

On Google Ad Manager, teams are groups of users who need access to the same advertisers, ad units, and agencies.

Teams allow you to give and restrict access to users on a granular level.

For example, if you run a Food Blog and a Sports Blog, you can set it so your Food Blog employees only have access to that site's data, advertisers, and ads.

Here is how to create a team in Google Ad Manager:

  1. Login to Google Ad Manager
  2. Select New Team
  3. Name the team and add a description
  4. Add users to your team
  5. Set restrictions, such as whether certain team members can edit or view line items or creatives.

Can I Manage Direct Advertisers with Google Ad Manager? 

Yes, Google Ad Manager supports advertising with companies you work directly with. For example, a local news site comes to your brand directly asking to advertise on your website.

Using Programmatic Direct, you can negotiate the terms of your contract right in Google Ad Manager, then automatically sets up the campaign for you.


more about setting up Programmatic Direct here.

What Types of Targeting Can I Use With Google Ad Manager? 

Google Ad Manager allows users to target specific audiences based on a wide range of factors, including custom options.

For example, you can target based on language, geographical location, browser, browser version, device type, device manufacturer, operating system, and internet connection type.


Learn more about targeting options, including custom targeting, here.

Final Thoughts

Using Google Ad Manager might a bit overwhelming. There are a variety of tools and new features to understand.

However, for businesses that manage multiple ads or what better value for buying or selling ads, it is an invaluable tool.

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