Getting the most out of APIs

OCT 10


API stands for Application Programming Interface and unless you are a software developer or have in-depth knowledge relating to software development, you might not be aware of its true potential and the opportunities of leveraging your business by adopting the usage of APIs.

It’s hardly possible to imagine today’s technological landscape without thinking about the relevance of APIs and how they have sparked a new evolution in the modern approach to communication and integration of applications and devices. When you post a photo on Instagram and choose to upload it to Facebook at the same time, Instagram will use a Facebook API to post the same picture to both platforms. This is just one simple example of the day-to-day use of APIs that you might not be aware of.

Big players like Google, Twitter, Pinterest, and Skyscanner (to name a few) have based a significant part of their business in the usage of APIs. In some cases, they charge for using a specific service like Google Maps and in other cases, the API usage is free as with Facebook Marketing, Skyscanner travel, Pinterest.

At its core, an API defines how a specific service must be consumed through a set of rules in which you can integrate services, get data, perform an action, or communicate with third-party systems.

Let’s look at a useful example to understand the purpose and benefits of this.

Let’s say, you own a worldwide financial website with information related to the stock market, investments, banking, etc, and you want to offer a currency conversion service for your visitors in a way that prevents the need to go to an external website to perform this conversion. It is much more valuable to both parties to offer this solution on your website.

In the old days, there were a few websites offering client-side widgets to be included on your website. These widgets were a script to be placed in your HTML website code.

The code:

<div id="xecurrencywidget"></div>
<script>var xeCurrencyWidget = {"domain":"","language":"en","size":"compact"};</script>
<script src=""></script>

Looks like a pretty easy implementation, right? In fact, it was because you didn’t need to be a developer to make this implementation work. On the other hand, you didn’t have much control over the widget as it was almost impossible to change its look and feel or its functionality given that the widget assets were hosted on the servers of the website that provided it.

Technically the user was accessing this widget over your website but it was executing code from the website that offered the widget.

With the increasing use of APIs, it has become much easier to accomplish a great currency conversion feature with a look and feel according to your website design while being totally under your control.

Nowadays, Currency Exchange services offer paid APIs in which you can access all currencies’ conversion rates. With this approach, you are able to make the conversion through server-to-server API connection and then on your website, you can just customize the conversion form as you please, remaining in total control of aesthetics and functionality.

It‘s pretty obvious the value and potential of working with APIs but...

How do APIs work?

Every API should provide its own documentation so everyone willing to consume it can have access to all the information, methods, capabilities, and restrictions in order to build a consistent and reliable connection with the API.

Like in a restaurant, the documentation (menu) outlines permitted operations (order food & drinks) and describes the confirmed outcome (service). The API offers specific services, which have been previously established, much in the way a menu at a restaurant does. As the user, you can request and receive your desired asset or outcome through this interface, provided it is one of the preexisting options. All of this occurs behind the scenes, allowing for an efficient exchange of information, resulting in much more fluid usage of the software. APIs effectively cut out the need to manually search for information - in the example of arranging travel plans, assuming APIs didn’t exist, a person looking to travel would have to do everything themselves. There would be no way of knowing the details of all the available hotels in a certain destination, or what airline offers the cheapest flights, without emailing directly to each company that is offering these services.

Nowadays it is almost too easy to arrange travel plans. A few clicks of a button and you can book a 12 day round trip to Hawaii, including accommodation. But what makes all this data so easily accessible? That would be APIs at work - they allow access to information and data from airline information to hotel amenities. The APIs pass information to applications - such as travel services, compiling it into a much more efficient format, this makes it possible for us to view flight or hotel availability.

Additionally, APIs also process the requests, or manual inputs, from our end, sending our information to the server and in this example, securing our travel plans.

A company will want to develop an API when they are offering a service that could be consumed through an API. To name some examples: Auth0: Authenticate users. Facebook Marketing API: Collection of endpoints that can be used to help you advertise on Facebook. PokeApi: public free consumption-only API with all the Pokemon Data Skyscanner Flight Search: Metasearch engine that provides travel data for flights, hotels, car rentals, and more.

As you can see, there are many different APIs functioning as businesses in the world.

Importance of API

Humankind has always pursued workload optimization, from the invention of the wheel by our archaic predecessors, to robot automation in recent years, we have always been trying to make our work faster, easier, and more efficient. APIs are designed with this purpose in mind, removing mandatory human interaction to connect to one or more systems.

It’s common knowledge that machines are faster than humans; therefore from a business perspective, integrating APIs into your day-to-day operations makes sense to increase productivity. By allowing systems to perform tasks in milliseconds instead of minutes or hours that it would take to complete manually, or by repeating the same task indefinitely without decreasing its performance, (unlike humans who are susceptible to slow down), a business can cut out many hours of tedious manual labor save money on workers, and increase its overall productivity output by a landslide!

The source of company income doesn’t matter, you can create a new business unit by productizing your data and offer it through an API, making money from it. If you are considering making all your software development in-house, you might benefit from using external APIs and significantly reducing your infrastructure costs.

Hiring third-party services for specific tasks that are not part of your core business, or become too expensive to produce it within the company, could be not only cost-saving but time-saving as well.

Let’s say that you are a Digital Agency or Ad Network making a dashboard for your clients and you will need their registration as users of your dashboard. You are a technological company related but software development is not part of your core. With this in mind, I would strongly recommend the usage of an external service for user authentication such as Auth0.

Its core business is to deal with user authentication and they do it amazingly well, so why should you spend time and resources for an in-house solution when you could use a worldwide service that is used and tested every day for thousands of users around the world at a free cost up to 7000 users.

How Does an API relate to Digital Marketing?

APIs offer a huge range of possibilities that have been unprecedented in the marketing world. Perhaps it would surprise you to know that the majority of ad-tech companies actually make certain bits of their coding information available. This relates to the aforementioned collaboration that APIs can offer, as it allows other companies to connect their services and create more user-friendly shortcuts. Some would say that APIs are the backbone of digital marketing, they are, as we know, excellent for automating tasks and cutting out manual work. They are huge time savers, as previously mentioned, and this can clearly work in the best interest of digital marketers.

Aside from this, another major advantage that APIs can provide is stacking different services to create a unified dashboard.

ReportMyAds manages marketing data by connecting several data sources through API endpoints such as Ad Exchanges, DSP (Demand Side Platform), SSP (Supply Side Platform), Ad Networks, Marketplaces, etc. Gathering data from different APIs, each with its own documentation, operations and restrictions was a huge challenge, therefore ReportMyAds has developed an API plug and play engine allowing new API integration in just a few hours. Agencies and Ad Networks are able to integrate really fast new data sources in ReportMyAds providing the fastest data solutions to their clients.