Programmatic Campaign Optimization Tips and Tricks

With so many buttons and levers available to you within your programmatic platform, the number of optimizations you can make to improve your campaign performance can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s crucial to come up with a game plan beforehand so you don’t make too many optimizations which, in turn, limit the insights into your campaigns.

Before we go into some tips and tricks for these optimizations, let’s start with how to get the most from your campaigns before you launch. However, if you already have programmatic campaigns live, you can skip ahead to some best practices for optimization.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Programmatic Campaigns

Before launching your programmatic campaigns, there are various factors to help ensure you’re getting the most out of the platform, your creative, and your landing page, as well as the audiences you’re targeting.

Choosing the Right DSP

When evaluating what demand-side platform (DSP) is right for your business, there are several factors to consider. Those factors include cost, inventory, transparency, reporting, technology, brand-safe capabilities, and chemistry with the platform team. If you’re paying a considerable amount to reach a limited audience, your ads may not be as impactful as they could be. Lack of reporting and transparency will make it difficult to accurately analyze and make decisions to improve performance. Having up-to-date technology and brand-safe capabilities allows your business to capitalize on safe inventory with the newest bidding, targeting, and reporting technology available to you.

Lastly, it’s essential to partner with a DSP you work well with who provides meaningful recommendations. Working with people that understand your business goals while being transparent allows you to trust in the guidance they provide. This trust enables each party to hold the other accountable while working together to improve campaign performance. Hiring a digital agency to manage these relationships and campaigns will save your business time and money.

Targeting the Right Audience

After you evaluate and find the right DSP, it’s time to build out the audiences you intend to target. These audiences can be determined based on a variety of factors, and can even include your current customers. Regardless of how you build your audiences, it’s essential to include new users in addition to returning users in your targeting strategy. Having new users helps increase your brand awareness and consideration. They also help grow your website remarketing lists, which become crucial since the majority of users don’t convert on their first site visit.

When building your brand awareness, it’s about creating broader audiences that fit within your target demographics. You can make these audiences based on relevant content they’re viewing, custom site or app lists you wish to target, third-party data based on demographics and behaviors, or similar audiences based on site traffic.

Once the user is aware of your business, other targeting tactics become available to you. These tactics are deployed when the user has shown intent or consideration for you or your competitors. For example, including what your audience is actively searching for or researching allows you to bid on inventory with an ad relevant to them.

Lastly, as users visit your landing page, they’re not likely to convert on their first visit, especially if they’re in the awareness phase. That’s why remarketing audiences are a crucial part of programmatic advertising. These audiences allow you to follow the user as they browse other websites. This tactic helps keep your business top-of-mind and encourages the user to come back to your site to convert.

Strong Creative and Landing Page

Once you have the right targeting in place, you will need convincing creative and landing pages to drive users to your site and convert. Knowing what resonates with your audience and where they are in the buyer’s journey is essential to creating the right message for your users at the right time.

When putting together your creative scope, your content must include the following:

  • Brand logo
  • Clear call-to-action
  • Eye-catching design and copy

Your ads should fit within the ad size limit without the copy or design being overwhelming for the user. The ad should have simple messaging that lets the user know more about what your brand has to offer and what action you want them to take.

When the user clicks on your ad, it needs to direct them to a strong landing page that gets them to convert. Depending on where the user is in the purchasing process, the page should reflect information that matches their intent. If they’re in the awareness phase, having more copy-heavy content outlining your products or services works best. If the user is in the consideration phase, provide offers, value propositions, and personalization based on their needs or browsing behaviors. Remarketing to users that previously visited your site but didn’t make a purchase requires more direct copy to drive conversions. It’s recommended you show this audience the benefits of your product or services with several call-to-actions on the page that match the messaging found in the ads.

Best Practices for Optimizing Programmatic Campaigns

After you’ve selected a DSP, determined the audience you want to target, and created your ads and landing page, it’s time to launch your campaigns. Once your campaigns are live, data will begin to flow in, and you’ll want to start optimizing to drive better performance. However, there are various factors to consider before you begin this process.


You have to collect enough data to make precise optimizations within your campaigns. The amount of data you receive depends on your budget and timeframe for each campaign. Optimizing too quickly before enough data is collected will limit your performance and cause your campaigns to underperform and underdeliver. When making any optimization to the creative or placement, we recommend having at least 2,000 impressions served to that specific placement or creative before considering any changes.


You’ll need to keep in mind how often you make optimizations within your campaigns. Making too many optimizations at once will make it near impossible to determine what drove better performance. Conversely, you won’t know which optimization caused the decrease in performance either. The best practice here is to make only one optimization to a campaign per week. This cadence will allow the platform to adjust to the changes and give you enough significant insights to consider for future optimizations.


There are several metrics to review to determine where the optimization is needed. These metrics are CTR, CPC, CPA, reach, frequency, viewability, and conversion rate. The primary metric you focus your optimizations on will depend on what your campaign goals are. A great place to start once your campaigns have enough data but are still relatively new is CTR and CPC. These metrics will allow you to remove lower-performing sites, creative, and ad exchanges from your campaigns and let more budget go towards better performing tactics.

Three Techniques for Programmatic Optimization

With so many different optimization options available to you in a programmatic platform, it may be hard to know where to start. Below are three recommended techniques to consider when optimizing.

Creative Optimizations

When looking at performance based on ad creative, it’s important to monitor the ad frequency. Showing the same ad to the same user will often result in ad fatigue and make your campaigns less impactful. Setting frequency caps within your ad groups will limit the number of times your audience sees your ads. The default cap is typically set at three times per day but can be adjusted depending on the type of audience you’re targeting. For instance, remarketing audiences are more likely to convert if the user sees the ad more frequently, versus an audience who is being introduced to your product or service for the first time. Because of this, you would want to set a higher frequency cap on a remarketing audience than you would a prospecting audience.

Another approach is to do a split test to determine what part of your ad resonates most with your audience. You can test this based on the message, imagery, CTA, or color within the ad. It’s crucial to change only one of these components during each test to determine what drives higher engagement. These tests can assist you in what creative refreshes to make to your ads to keep them new and engaging for your audience.

Placement Optimizations

The next type of optimization is based on your ad placements. Determining what site or app is driving high engagements at low costs is essential to your overall success within the platform. It’s important to take a step back and evaluate placements based on data and performance and not based on the type of website or app the ad appeared on. When you’re serving ads within a programmatic platform, your goal is to reach the user where they’re browsing online. Unless the placement is on your blacklist or the content is questionable from a brand safety standpoint, you should only evaluate it based on its overall performance.

When determining what placements to remove, focus on cost and engagement. If your CPC or CPA is high and your CTR is low, removing the site or app will allow the budget to go towards cheaper, more effective options.

Ad Exchange Optimizations

The last technique is optimizing ad exchanges. After you have enough data in the platform, you can pull reports based on ad exchange performance. Evaluating what type of ad exchanges are working helps drive better results to your overall campaigns. You can create ad groups targeting specific exchanges and to bid higher on their inventory. Building out ad groups with top-performing exchanges will elevate your campaign performance and provide more insights into targeting.

To Sum it Up

To get the most out of your DSP, you need to partner with the right platform, target the right audience, and create strong ads and landing pages for your campaigns. Before you start optimizing your campaigns, you must have enough data, set up a cadence for optimizations, and determine what metrics you want to optimize. Once you have enough data, you can begin optimizing your campaigns based on creative, placements, and ad exchanges. Using the three techniques outlined above is a great place to start to drive better performance and make your programmatic campaigns more successful.

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