One of the main ways a lot of websites earn income is through showing ads, and a lot of websites get traffic through ads. Today, I’m going to run through a few of the different website advertising networks that I’ve used or am familiar with and give some opinions on each.
Perhaps this list could be useful to someone who is brand new to running a website and is looking for advertising networks to place ads on their own website. This post could even be useful to people who have been around for awhile but perhaps don’t know about the different ad networks available.
Display Ad Networks
Display ads are the ones that are just boxes of various sizes that can be located throughout a webpage, and are really what most people think of when they think of ads on the web. They can be images or just text, sometimes they are videos or have animation.
Let’s get the big G out of the way right away. Most people know about Google AdSense. It is one of the biggest advertising networks in the world, and most web publishers have at least dabbled with it.
In the early glory days of the web, people were earning several dollars per click from AdSense, and people like ShoeMoney were posting pictures of checks they received for over $100k. Sadly, those days are over. Most people (in my experience) seem to now be making somewhere between $3-9 per 1,000 website visitors from AdSense now.
That’s really not a terrible number, but it would be really difficult to make a large chunk of money from AdSense unless you are bringing in hundreds of thousands of users each month (100,000 users x $9 CPM = $900) or if you for some reason get a lot more per click. Instead, I usually just consider it (AdSense) as a bonus or extra way to earn income from a blog that uses something else as its main income stream.
The good thing about AdSense is that Google is showing targetted ads based on what they know about users. So someone that perhaps is considering buying something might come to your website and be shown an ad for that specific thing. If they happen to click on it on your website, you get paid. I think this is better than having random ads shown like some networks do. For instance, some sites seem to constantly be showing really sketchy ads that are poorly done or aimed at something I would never click on.
If users aren’t being targeted, they’ll likely be shown ads related to your content. This can work in your favor if your site is about something that advertisers pay a ton of money for ads about (insurance, health care, legal services). Some people build entire sites around specific niches where AdSense ads payout higher just to try to be able to show those ads and get clicks worth big bucks. That seems to not really work well anymore as advertisers using AdSense have gotten really smart about running their ads. You can’t just throw up a site about Mesothelioma and be able to show ads for Mesothelioma lawyers (which was formerly the highest paying ad click).
While Google doesn’t pay out that great, one thing they do well is allow just about anyone to join their program and show their ads (which are usually targeted). That makes them a great option for new or smaller blogs or websites that don’t have tons of traffic.
I wouldn’t recommend building a site around AdSense anymore (though some people are successful with this), but you should consider showing their ads for additional income. They are my first choice display ad network for showing ads on your new or starter website.
Other display ad networks include:
It’s tough to become a publisher with them, as you have to have at least 10,000 visitors per month and be approved, but once you do you can set your own ad spaces and asking prices and then people bid on those spaces. You typically then end up with ads related to your niche, and you earn higher ad revenues per impression. If you can, this is probably the way to go, but it really isn’t a great option for people with new or low traffic websites.
This is essentially the Yahoo/Bing network and is very comparable to Google AdSense. There is no traffic requirement and there are 15 possible ad sizes.
They have no traffic requirement and it is easy to put their ads on your site. However, the ads aren’t all that related to your content and aren’t targeted either. I think they really suffer from just not being that big yet, and they just can’t compete with Google, Bing, or Yahoo.
Sponsored Content Ad Networks
You’ve likely seen these ad networks on a lot of websites you browse that have high traffic and regularly post content. These are the ad networks that show boxes with sponsored content in a box at the end of a post or page. That content is sponsored and clicking it takes you to another website, while the original site gets paid for your click.
If you’re a website that has great traffic (10m+ page views per month) and authority, and you can get accepted into Outbrain as a publisher, their related content boxes (they call it promoted discovery) are a great way to bring in additional revenue.
They supposedly show content related to your topic and it appears at the end of the page, so your readers have already read your content and are then shown related content they can read, which you get paid for. I think the content is sometimes not all that related, and often the ads shown aren’t that well done (images that are cut off or unrelated, poor wording).
With Outbrain and other sponsored content networks, the cost per click paid to publishers is said to range from $0.15 to $0.30 while click rates are in the neighborhood of 0.50% to 0.75% (source: monitizepros). That amounts to just $1,000 per 1 million page views, which is quite a bit worse than AdSense typically pays.
However, if you are in the region where you can qualify for this program, there is no reason not to add it. I think it potentially enhances the user experience (if they actually see related content) and they have already read your content at the point that they see these ads.
Other sponsored content networks include:
Very similar to Outbrain, just not as big yet. I think they seem to be slightly cheaper, but it may depend on the campaign or site.
They seem to be a little more focused on specific topics, so you really need to fit those topics.
In-Text Ad Networks
These are the ads that appear as just links in your text. Some work by turning words into links, others make you add a link and they turn it into an affiliate link, others are just boxes in text. These tend to do better than display ads in terms of clicks, as they are related to your content and your user should already be interacting with your content.
Turns links into affiliate links. Some have popups with price comparisons. You get paid at lower than affiliate rates overall, but also get into affiliate networks that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to and they pay per view rather than per purchase. If you have an affiliate link in place, they don’t override it. Works well with WordPress. A potential issue is that it slows the webpage load time, which can hurt your Google rankings.
They are basically Skim Links biggest competitor. Again, you just put links and they turn them into affiliate links. They also add links to areas where they think they should go. Links are targeted, not random. You also get access to affiliate networks that you otherwise wouldn’t, and it saves you time in figuring out each affiliate link (you just link to the product, and it might get turned into an affiliate link). They pay out per purchase rather than per view, and a lot of people seem to think you get paid less with VigLink versus InfoLinks or SkimLinks. I think that depends on your site. My complaint would be that you’d be better off putting in your own affiliate links as you’d get paid more. However, you wouldn’t have as many affiliate options and it takes longer to make the links, so that is the trade off.
They have both in text and display ads. There is no traffic requirement. As mentioned in the display ads section, I think they suffer a bit from having ads not related to your content. They are getting bigger though and perhaps that will change. I think this network is of note, but I wouldn’t choose it over their competitors just yet. It would be an option for people that can’t use AdSense, or one of these other in text ad networks.
They have both in text and display ads. The in text ads are just links that you get paid for clicks of, they aren’t affiliate links. It’s a bit like AdSense but in text only. They link words in your content automatically and those links then have popups that lead to related sites.
There is no traffic requirement to join. The payout minimum is just $50 instead of the usual $100. InfoLinks started in 2011 and already is a major player in the advertising world. A lot of people believe they are the best alternative to AdSense. They are getting bigger and bigger, and their ads seem to be getting better and better and are more relevant now then just a few years ago.
Pop Under Ads
Pop under ads are those ones that don’t display on a webpage until you do something (click) and then they popup. They work with CPA (cost per action) and you get paid for every single ad shown.
Propeller is really the only pop under ad network which I am familiar with, and boy are they intriguing. Started in 2011, they are now inside the top 60 websites according to Alexa. They get 650 million page views per month (those are basically their ads being displayed on other websites).
They claim to pay out 200% higher than anywhere else according to their homepage. I’ve heard of people that have 30-40% click through rates with these ads.
The big negative with them is that it really is not great for users. They are probably looking for some specific info or want to read something which is why they ended up on your site in the first place, and instead of showing them that you display some huge ad that is likely unrelated to your topic (a lot of them seem to be for video games or apps).
If your only goal is ad revenue, or if you actually are in the app or video game niche, then perhaps you could consider running these ads. They also have display ads which wouldn’t be as bad for the user experience, but I prefer other networks for those.