What are Key-values in GAM (Google Ad Manager)

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Last updated on April 28th, 2023 at 06:57 pm

DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) has come to be the most reliable ad server for millions of publishers across the world, chiefly due to its powerful targeting and optimization tools. DFP provides largely customizable features that publishers can utilize to streamline sales and maximize revenue. Key-values are such customizable targeting tools that enable publishers to custom target parts of their audience that will be most receptive to the content.  Key values are particularly targeting items in the ad tag of an ad unit and also in a line item or creative. If a key value of a line item or creative matches the key value of an ad unit’s ad tag, the line item or creative will serve to the ad unit as long as all other specifications are satisfied.

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  • Key-value pairs are created in DFP and added to Google Publisher Tags (GPT), and are then targeted with line items to have the best possible results(To know how to set up key values in DFP, click here.). A key-value pair is a set of two linked data identifiers. If a line item targets a key-value, the ad server will only serve ads to the areas on your website that include that key-value in the source code.

    How to Define Key-values

    In creating a key-value pair, a publisher has to define the name, display name and the value type for a key. The name of the key is the actual name of the parameter that will be passed in from a DFP ad tag. Key names can only be 20 characters or less and must not contain spaces or any invalid characters. DFP Small Business supports a maximum of 20 custom targeting key names. The display name is the one that can be viewed in DFP and so, it should be indicative of what the key is.

    Values can be of two types – predefined and freeform.

    • Predefined: With this type of value, the qualifying values are defined in advance before targeting. In such cases, there is a finite list of values from which to choose. For example, if the key is ISVEGETARIAN, the values should be a predefined YES and NO. Predefined key-values are used when publishers know all possible values of a targeting key. When targeting a line item to a predefined key-value, there is a list of values that are defined in DFP Inventory. A publisher can only choose from that list of values. Once a value is removed from the Inventory section, it is no more seen as an option when targeting that key.
    • Freeform: In this type of key-value, qualifying values are not defined in advance and are specified at the time of creation of the line item or creative. The values are dynamically passed to the ad tag based on information regarding the user(not personally identifiable information). If there are many or innumerable possible values to a targeting key and a publisher doesn’t want to define all the values in advance, freeform key-values are used. For example, if the key is hobby, there can be countless values to that key. A publisher can just add the hobbies he wants to add in the line item or creative, without having to add every possible hobby a user can have. Publishers can use free-form key-values to target ads based on a user’s search terms on their sites. To do this, the publisher’s webmaster should add JavaScript code to his site that translates search terms entered by the site’s visitors into key-values and passes those key-values into the ad tags.
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    Values can contain up to 40 characters. Each key name can contain up to 200 values and multiple values can be passed per page.

    A key-value pair does not become fully functional until it is added to at least one ad tag and at least one line item or creative. Newly-defined key values must be on the page for at least 28 days for the forecasts to be correct.

    How to Target Key-values in DFP

    Key-values are targeted with line items the same way all other criteria are targeted. To learn how to target key-values with line items, click here.

    Predefined and freeform targeting keys can be used in the same line item, but an individual targeting key can be set to either one of the two.

    There are different match types that that can be used to broadly target line items to key-values.  Those are-

    • Exact match: Without the addition of any special modifier to a targeted value, the term searched by the user must match exactly with the value. For example, if a user searches for  blog, blog and blogger won’t match.
    • Begins with” match: An asterisk(*) is used at the end of a value to match items that may have additional characters at the end. For example, blog* would match values like blogger, blogging, as well as blog to earn money. But it would not match a term like how to start a blog.
    • Include” match: A tilde(~) is used before a value to match items that have the entire word in them. If the value is ~blog, it would match an item like travel blog but not something like travel blogger.
    • Begins with” and “Include” match: If both an asterisk(*) and a tilde(~) are used at the end and beginning of a value respectively, the value will match any item that has the word at any position. For example, ~blog* would match blogger, food blogger, blogging sites but not re-blog.
    • Values with spaces: In match types, a space is treated as a character within that value. For example, travel blog* would match travel blog and photography but not travelling blog.
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    The match types are also applicable to key-values that are not search terms.

    Target Line Items to Demographic Groups

    Publishers can acquire demographics-related information such as gender, race, age, location, interests from their users and define key-values on the basis of the data obtained. A publisher can create a custom key gender with predefined values male, female and others. Then the publisher can specifically target user types like “Women in India who use DFP Premium”, using a combination of the DFP criteria and the custom key Gender.

    Target Line Items to Specific Areas of Site

    Publishers can use key values to target ads to specific pages on their sites or to specific ad slot positions. For example, a publisher creates an ID for any page and then creates a key-value like articleID=123. The publisher now has to add the key-value to the ad tags of that page and target a line item to that key-value.

    How to Report on Key-value Targeting

    • Publishers can report on key-values in the Query tool using the key-value dimension.  
    • Users of query tool functionality can report on both targeted and non-targeted pre-defined key-values. They include non-targeted data by default. To include targeted data, select the “Targeted impressions” and “Targeted clicks” metrics.
    • If you’re using free-form targeting values, you must do one of the following to report on them:
      • Add the value to the key in the “Key-values” section of the Inventory tab.
      • Target the entire key-value (not only the key) in at least one line item. The line item doesn’t need to deliver impressions.
      • Additionally, free-form key-value pairs that match targeting values using the “begins with” (*) or “includes” (~) match don’t appear in reports. To report on free-form key-values, a line item must target the entire key-value pair. For example, the targeting value articleID=example* doesn’t enable key-value pairs such as articleID=example-one or articleID=example12345 to appear in reports.
    • If you’re using pre-defined targeting values, you can report on key-values regardless of whether you target line items to them.
    • Query Tool reports only include key-values where both the key and the value are defined in DFP.
    • Data Transfer reports(not available in DFP Small Business) include key-values where only the key is defined.
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    How to Deactivate Key Values

    To deactivate keys or values, enable the checkbox next to the key or value name and click Deactivate.

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    Key-values let publishers enable custom targeting which is a very useful way for publishers to customize their audience reach for a certain type of content. It is important for publishers to have a complete understanding of key-values as these let them control a large part of ad targeting. We hope this article has been helpful and will ably assist you in your understanding of key-values in DFP.

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