What to Look for When Evaluating Publishers For Your Advertising Placements

Portrait of Matthew Kammerer
by Matthew Kammerer
Mar 19, 2019

Choosing a publisher is a bit like buying a house. While you might think it’s all about location, location, location, there are way more factors once you actually get into it.

For instance, how do you know whether a publisher is ‘good’ or not? And yes, finding a publisher that fits your budget is key, but whether your ad spend is in the hundreds or hundred-thousands, you also want to go with one that offers the best ROI.

If you want to get the most bang for your contextual advertising buck, here are some key things you should look at when evaluating potential publishers.

Questions to Ask

First things first, let’s break down what makes a good publisher. The publisher’s audience size, location, and demographics are all really important aspects to look at.

  • How many people would you be getting in front of on a monthly basis?
  • Where are they located?
  • What do they look like from a demographic perspective?

It probably goes without saying, but if you want to spend your budget efficiently, you should make sure you’re targeting people who are within your geographical target and also match your customer profile. So if you have a defined target audience based on demographic, interest, or location information, your publisher’s audience should line up with it.

Next up is the publisher’s reputation. You want to ensure that their content and overall brand image aligns with your company’s and would also be interesting to your audience. Ask yourself: what kind of content does the publisher run and what kind of content do they promote?

After all, even if their organic content fits the bill, you want to make sure the ads that will be running alongside yours are aligned with your brand, too. This is especially important if you’re running native ads. You don’t want your ads to be too disruptive to the user experience, so making sure your ad content is related to the content on the publisher page is key.

Some other big questions: what kind of ads can you run and how often can you update them?

From native to sponsored content to display to email marketing, there are so many channels available to get your brand’s message across… meaning you never have to be limited by format. Additionally, if you’re split testing ads, you’ll want to update your ads often to test different versions to find out what resonates best with your audience. Having the ability to update your design and messaging could do wonders for the success of your campaign.

The last question you should ask yourself: where are your competitors? While it might seem a bit counter-intuitive, doing some competitive research can help speed up the process of choosing a publisher. Your competitors have likely done their homework and have already found publishers that get in front of your target audience so you should try to get in on that action. In short, if your competitors are there, you might want to be, too.

Where to Find Publishers

So now that you’ve got your shovel, where should you start digging? There are a few competitive intelligence tools out there that can help you source the information you need. can help you find competitor sites and run a competitive analysis. Another tool is, which lets users instantly see the top ads from across the web, with the ability to segment between large brands and affiliate campaigns.

For a more DIY approach, websites like Hacker News and Designer News are great resources if you’re looking to find publishers that engage tech professionals, as they often link to websites that are popular with this audience. However, if you’re not into DIY sleuthing or managing IOs from several different publishers, BuySellAds can help simplify this process by curating the right mix of placements for you and managing the campaign from start to finish.

Main Takeaways

There’s no money-back guarantee on marketing campaigns, so doing research up front can save you a lot of awkward conversations down the road. A publisher's goal should be to help you achieve your goals.

Make sure you run the numbers on a potential publisher, and also get some intel on what your competitors are doing. With that research in hand, you’re well on your way to realizing the benefits of contextual advertising.