Google Ad Manager Basics: Line Items

If you’ve ever used Google Ad Manager (GAM), you’ve probably heard the term “line item.” But do you actually grasp what line items are used for? Do you know which type to choose when creating a campaign? This post will assist you with both.

What is a Line Item?

First things first – let’s look at the definition. According to Google, “Line items contain information about how specific ad creatives are intended to serve to your website or app along with pricing and other delivery details.” 

Simply put, a line item represents the advertiser’s commitment to buy a number of impressions or clicks on specific dates at a defined price. It holds information about the requirements for an ad to be selected in order to be displayed. 

Specifically, when creating a new line item, you get to define the ad units where the ad may show, the volume of impressions/clicks for the ad, start and end times for the campaign, the cost of the campaign, targeting criteria for the user who will see the ad, etc. A line item is always linked to a single order in Google Ad Manager, while orders can have more than one line item.

Line Items Types

When creating a line item, you get to select its type and priority. Different types correspond to a different priorities. Within Google Ad Manager you will see a number after each type of line item. The lower the number, the higher the priority. 

  • Sponsorship (4)
  • Standard: low priority (6), normal priority (8), or high priority (10)
  • AdSense (12)
  • AdExchange (12)
  • Network (12)
  • Bulk (12)
  • Price Priority (12)
  • House (16) 

Let’s look at each type in more detail.

Sponsorship Line Items

Sponsorship line items have the highest priority and are guaranteed, meaning you’ve signed a contract to deliver a requested impression volume within a set timeframe. Usually, sponsorship line items are used for direct campaigns where the buyer might want to “takeover” a page. Another possible use, defined by Google, is when you want to evenly rotate line items regardless of impression volume. 

Sponsorship line items will serve the ads based on an impression percentage goal. They are used when the buyer wants to get a certain “share of voice”, meaning their ad should reach a predefined percentage of the viewers of the site. Sometimes, there may be multiple sponsors with overlapping targeting, in which case Google Ad Manager will redistribute the impressions. Let’s look at an example to understand how that happens:

Sponsor A is looking for an 80% share.

Sponsor B – 40%

Sponsor C – 65%

The total percentages are higher than 100%: 80+40+65=185%, so GAM will redistribute them. Each sponsor will get the respective share:

Sponsor A: 80/185=43%

Sponsor B: 40/185=22%

Sponsor C: 65/185=35%

Standard Line Items

Standard line items are also guaranteed and can be further divided into high, normal, or low priority.

The main difference with sponsorship line items is that standard line items are served based on a quantity goal for impressions, and not on percentage share. Again, this line item type is used for direct deals with specific start and end times, fixed price, and guaranteed volume. 

With standard line items, Google Ad Manager will adjust the CPM to pace the delivery according to the defined goal for impressions and within the set timeframe. Thus, this line item can compete against remnant (non-guaranteed) line items based on price. If GAM detects that it struggles to reach the goal, it may lower the CPM, so that the agreed volumes are reached within the set dates.  

AdSense Line Items

This type of line item will let you add an AdSense account (one or more) to use dynamic allocation and target specific inventory available to AdSense buyers. This can boost the real-time competition with your other demand partners in GAM. 

Ad Exchange Line Items

Similar to AdSense line items, Ad Exchange line items allow you to add one or more Ad Exchange accounts for various segments of your inventory. Thus, you can specify which impressions are available to GAM’s programmatic demand to allow for greater competition. 

Both AdSense and Ad Exchange line items allow you to add preferred deals to GAM, which will have a fixed priority higher than the remnant (non-guaranteed) line items. Sponsorships and standard line items will usually serve before preferred deals except for the case when dynamic allocation is activated and there is real-time competition between guaranteed and non-guaranteed line items. 

Network Line Items

Network line items are non-guaranteed and like sponsorship line items are served based on a defined percentage of impressions. This gives network line items a priority over other non-guaranteed line items as in case of an overlap GAM would first serve to percentage-based line items. One setting you could use to determine how often network line items would compete against other non-guaranteed line items is ‘weight’.  For example, with 100% weight, the line item would always compete against other non-guaranteed line items based on its rate, while with 33% weight, it competes against other remnant line items about a third of the time.

Bulk Line Items

Another non-guaranteed type of line item is Bulk. Similar to standard line items, they would deliver ads based on a specific quantity goal for impressions. This goal will limit the number of impressions that can be served, acting as an impression cap. It is often used by advertisers to get them larger exposure for a lower price.

Price Priority Line Items

Like network and bulk, price priority line items are also non-guaranteed and sold to third-party ad networks. They deliver mainly based on price, with the option for daily or lifetime capping. Their main purpose is to fill one’s unsold impressions for the best price.

House Line Items

Finally, we have the lowest priority type of line items – house line items. These are non-paying, non-guaranteed, percentage-based, and are used to promote the publisher’s own products and services, other pages on the site, basically serving as a fall-back ad. House line items will only deliver an ad if no other remnant line items are available.

To sum it up

Now, when you are familiar with the basics. Furthermore, Google Ad Manager makes it simple to create a line item without any technical knowledge. However, keep in mind that monitoring and optimizing these line items necessitate (effective) ad operation skills. If you require assistance don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.