Optimizing Ad Performance: Programmatic vs. Online Traffic

Did you know that the global digital advertising and marketing market is expected to reach $1.5 trillion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 13.9% over the analysis period 2022-2030? (Research and Markets.) This is more than the combined GDP of Canada, Australia, and South Korea. With such a huge potential, advertisers need to find the best ways to reach their target audience and achieve their marketing goals. However, not all online advertising methods are equally effective and efficient. In fact, there are different ways to show ads to users, and they have their advantages and disadvantages.

In this article, we will: compare the programmatic ad buying and the online ad trafficking; learn what they are, how they work, and which one is more effective in meeting advertisers’ goals and users’ needs. If you want to learn more about the latest trends and technologies in online advertising, keep reading!

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Two Types of Automated Advertising: Programmatic Ad Buying and Online Traffic — Which Works Better?

Programmatic Ad Buying: What is It and How Does It Work?

Programmatic ad is the process of automatically buying and selling advertising space on websites and applications using specialized platforms and algorithms. This means that the advertiser does not contact the owner of the website or application directly, but uses a service that finds suitable advertising platforms and displays ads there.

Figuratively speaking, programmatic is like a robotic stockbroker, only for advertising. It automatically buys advertising platforms, just like you used to buy fruit in a store not individually, merely in sets. But instead of oranges and apples, you can choose banners, videos and text ads. In practice, the advertiser sets the parameters of his campaign: how much he is willing to pay for the display, to whom he wants to show his ads, in what format he wants to present them, etc. The programmatic ad-buying platform analyzes the advertiser’s bid and matches it with data about the audience and context of the ad. For example, if you sell dog food, your ad will be shown to people searching for dog information or visiting pet-related websites.

Advantages of programmatic ad buying:

  • Efficiency: Algorithms optimize bids for maximum conversion.
  • Speed: Ads are served instantly, like a quick fast-food meal.
  • Accuracy: Ads are shown only to those who are truly interested.
  • Machine Learning: Algorithms learn from data and make bidding decisions.
  • Automated decisions: Systems change bids in real time based on user behavior.


Among the more quickly adapting companies, SmartyAds is an example of programmatic advertising, because it offers different programmatic solutions for different ad-formats, channels, and devices.

Online Trafficked Advertising: What is It and How does It Work?

Online trafficked advertising is when an advertiser agrees in advance with the owner of a website or app to place an advertisement. He pays a fixed amount for a certain number of impressions or conversions. This allows you to reserve advertising space on popular sites and guarantee audience coverage.

Ad trafficking resembles the game of chess: you manipulate the flow of users, directing them to web resources, as a chess master arranges the pieces on the board. Only instead of castling and attacking, you have a choice of different online marketing channels, audience engagement strategies, and user behavior data analysis. All with one ultimate goal — to achieve business objectives — increasing conversions, loyalty or revenue. For example, a trafficker uses Google Analytics to track the behavior and interests of the users who visit its online store; then uses email marketing to send them personalized offers and discounts based on their browsing history and preferences.

How it works

A trafficker analyzes the behavior and the interests of users, as well as competitors, and chooses the most effective channels to attract traffic. These can be different sources, such as advertising, search engine optimization, social media, email marketing, etc. A trafficker also deals with optimizing your website or app to improve its usability, design, content, etc. Examples of online traffic tools are Google Analytics, Yandex.Metrica, SimilarWeb, SEMrush, etc. While these are mainly focused on providing online traffic analysis and optimization tools, which help traffickers collect and analyze data about their traffic, its sources, quality and behavior, SmartyAds is mainly focused on providing a programmatic advertising solution.

Advantages of online traffickers:

  • Targeted Audience: Precise targeting of ads to the audience of interest.
  • Dynamic optimization: Quick response to changes in market conditions.
  • Multi-format advertising: Utilize multiple ad formats.
  • Measurably and analytics: Accurate of results.

The choice of types of automated advertising depends on your goals, budget and audience. Programmatic is suitable for a broad audience, while online traffic is for precise targeting and dynamic optimization. As an example of online traffic advertising, you can use already familiar SmartyAds, as it also helps publishers monetize their traffic and advertisers reach their target audience. Adbutler explains in more detail the differences between programmatic advertising and direct media buying. However, the bottom line is that online traffic advertising provides more flexible and effective tools to achieve your advertising goals.

Comparing Two Types of Automated Advertising: Which Works Better?

Understanding what programmatic ad buying and online traffic one allows you to compare them based on the following criteria: goals, strategy, tactics, metrics, risks. The goal is to identify the similarities and differences between the two types of automated advertising in order to competently answer the question: Which works more effectively?

Criterion Programmatic ad buying Online traffic
Objectives Aims to attract users to advertiser’s platform for desired actions. Focuses on retaining users on the trafficker’s platform to encourage loyalty and repeat actions.
Strategy Automates buying and selling ad space using platforms and algorithms. Analyzes user and competitor behavior using tools and data.
Tactics Utilizes advertising across various sites and apps. Employs multiple channels like SEO, social media, and email marketing to attract traffic.
Metrics Measures traffic quantity and quality. Measures user engagement and actions on the platform.
Risks Risk of losing traffic due to mismatched ads or ad blocking. Risk of traffic degradation due to user dissatisfaction or technical issues with the platform.


So, we have compared two types of automated advertising: programmatic ad buying and online ad traffic. We found that they are endowed with advantages and burdened with disadvantages, and their effectiveness depends on the advertiser’s goals and objectives. But which of them works more effectively?

There is no unambiguous answer to this question because everything depends on the specific situation and the specifics of the business. Still, we can extract some recommendations that will help you make an informed choice in favor of one of the types of automated advertising:

  • If you want to attract new users to your website or app, programmatic ad buying will suit you: it allows you to show your ads on different resources where your target audience is.
  • If you want to retain existing users on your site or application, then online trafficked advertising will be suitable for you: it allows you to optimize your resource to make it as convenient, useful and interesting for users as possible.
  • If you want to combine both types of automated advertising, you need to take into account that they can compete or complement each other. For example, you can use programmatic ad buying to attract users to a website or app and then use web traffic for ads to retain them. Or conversely, you can use online traffic to attract users to your site or app and then use programmatic ad buying to show them additional shopping offers.

By lucija

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