Last updated on February 10th, 2018 at 01:52 am
I’ve applied to about a dozen ad networks and was surprised by hard it was to find one that I actually liked working with. There were issues with getting accepted into the network, finding types of ads that weren’t annoying, and filtering out networks that allowed spam. It took some time, but I compiled a list of some that I can continue to work with here and with my other site, and others that I won’t touch with a ten-foot pole.
What are ad networks?
An ad network connects advertisers to publishers. It has a whole bunch of ads that it can give to a whole bunch of publishers. Each ad network has different policies, levels of strictness, sets of models (CPM, CPC, CPA, etc), requirements, and types of ads.
Advertiser vs. Publisher
When you’re signing up for an ad network, it’ll ask you what you are. Are you an advertiser or a publisher?
If you create content and want advertisements on your site to monetize it, you’re a publisher. You will receive money when people view, click, buy, or install something. If you have ads that you want people to put on their site, you’re an advertiser. You will be paying to have your ads distributed on the ad network. Be sure to sign up for the correct account!
Should I display ads on my site?
That’s totally up to you. Some believe that ads are unprofessional and make sites look messy. My personal opinion is that as long as they’re not annoying or dangerous, ads are a solid way to make some extra money from your site.
However, if you’re an affiliate marketer, an important factor to consider is how distracting ads could be. For example, let’s say your niche is board games and your post is about Settlers of Catan. You spent a lot of time on the post and filled it with little anecdotes about how frustrating it was when your so-called “friend” broke the alliance and how much you laughed at the traitor when you won the game anyways by collecting Victory Points and using a Road Builder to win Longest Road. You post the post, but you forget that there’s an ad there. The ad network is smart and shows your visitors an image of a really fun board game called Settlers of Catan. As it should, because it thinks it’s helping you out. It doesn’t know you’re an affiliate marketer. But what happens if they click on the ad instead of your link? You lose a sale.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t put ads on your site. If you want to, though, you’ll have to be careful. I’ve noticed that some networks will have you insert code into the body of your site instead of into individual posts in order to keep an ad at a certain location, like at the top of a post, no matter what page you’re on. You’ll likely want to put them only in posts or pages where you’re not promoting anything (like a post warning your visitors about recalled board game).
How much can I earn from advertising on my website?
Honestly? Not much for now. New publishers don’t have access to all the networks, and they don’t have the traffic either. But this is the perfect opportunity to try different types of ads and networks to see what works for you and your visitors on a smaller scale. Also, the extra cash you’d get from the traffic you already have won’t hurt. By the time you do have enough visitors to move into other networks (if you’re interested), you’ll have a better idea of what you need to optimize your ad revenue. You may even decide you don’t want ads at all!
Types of Models
CPM: Cost per Mille
You get a certain amount every thousand impressions, or every thousand times an ad loads. If you have high traffic, this is likely a great option to choose. If you’re really new though, you’ll want to experiment a bit. Do enough of your visitors click on your ads? Or are they really just there to look at your content?
CPV: Cost per View
CPV ads will be videos. Your site visitors will have to actually pay attention to an ad for you to get money. For example, finishing the video, watching it for at least a certain amount of time, or interacting with it. If the ad matches well with your site’s content, this could be a great model for you.
CPC: Cost per Click
Exactly how it sounds. The advertiser pays you a certain amount every time someone clicks on the ad. There are generally rules in place against clicking on your own ads, so be sure not to get banned!
CPL: Cost per Lead
You get paid every time the advertiser gets a lead. This generally means someone would have to click on the ad and sign up for something, like another website. You should look into these if you can see yourself signing up for whatever you would be asking your visitors to sign up for.
CPI: Cost per Install
With CPI, you’ll get a certain amount every time someone installs an app from the advertiser. Again, this just depends on the app/what they’re selling. Also, this would likely only apply to your mobile visitors. If someone on a laptop is interested in the ad, they’re probably going to reach for their phone instead of clicking on your link.
CPA: Cost per Acquisition
This is similar to affiliate marketing in that you essentially get a commission. If someone clicks on the ad but he or she doesn’t buy anything, you don’t get anything.
Super Awesome Plugin: AdSense Integration WP QUADS
WP QUADS is a free plugin that makes ad integration super quick and easy. Instead of going to the ad network’s site, logging in, finding the ad, and copy pasting, you just set it up once and then click a button whenever you want it. I know it says AdSense in the name, but it works for other ads, too.
- You can assign certain ads (or random ads) to a location. As you can see here, I’ve turned default ads off because I like to micromanage and customize everything.
- When you create a post or page, you now have a little button you can click on to insert your ad. Click on the highlighted part and the circled part will be inserted for you. Alternatively, you can type it in, but who wants to do that?
My Recommendations for New Publishers
Model: CPM, CPC, CPA
+ You can earn 10% for your first three months.
+ Trusted because they’re the Yahoo! Bing Network.
+ You’re allowed to put them anywhere
+ Dedicated Account Manager that runs tests to optimize your revenue and answers your questions.
– Ads aren’t visual or relevant at first. However, it hasn’t been long and I will continue giving them the time they asked for (21-30 days).
+ Very easy to integrate ads.
+ Banner, popup, and video ads.
+ Very low minimum payout ($10).
– There are 2-3 “supported” banner ad sizes.
– It’s taking some time to show an ad other than one for UberCPM. That should change over time.
+ Instead of showing blank space when you have no bids, they display PSAs, which is pretty cool. When it sees “low-value” impressions, it won’t even show the ad.
+ They have a nice checklist for optimization and tell you your bid rate and active view viewable, along with the usual stats.
+ VERY simple. They have a WordPress Plugin as well.
+ Ad filters. I had a few problems in the beginning with random popups with Chitika as well, but once I filtered out the keyword “java,” I haven’t had a problem. See something you don’t like? Filter it out.
– Limited options because it’s so simple. I only see graphic ads in six different sizes.
Model: CPM, CPC, CPA
+ You can pick and choose what ads to show manually and put them on a rotator. This means you can research the products by reading reviews and if they’re bad, you don’t have to show them to your viewers.
+ You can also choose automatic zones if you’d prefer that. This means the ad will always be a certain location or appear in a specific way, like a slide in.
+ Great customer service. I asked them something and they responded in five minutes, which is kind of insane.
– I *really* want to like them more because the features and options are just so cool, and their customer support responses are not only solid but quick. Unfortunately, I just don’t see many ads I’m willing to show. More than half of these (for the US, at least) are things a regular Internet user would never click, or things I would not want to subject my less experienced users to. The few ads I would be willing to show seem to only be available for one country. You can go ahead and check to see how good the ads are for your country and niche, but I have to comb through to find what I need.
Don’t ever click these!!
* Side note: I had to contact them because there’s a minimum character requirement for their account registration and my last name is really short lol. I did get an email immediately with additional instructions, though. Even with the extra steps that I had to take, this was a very quick process.
I Don’t Recommend:
Why: Low quality ads and locked ad locations.
+ Cool ad types (shadow box, slider, top box, mobile banner).
+ Control of ad content.
– Ad locations are locked for many of their ad types, like top boxes or footers.
– I was disappointed yet again by the low quality of ads.
Why: Spam ads.
+ Some control over types of ads. I’ve disabled pop-under, slider, and popup ads.
+ Choose a category and sub-category to only show specific content.
– Before disabling the pop-under, slider, and popup ads, clicking anywhere on the page would open an ad. Not sure which type caused this issue.
– Too many spam ads. I have noticed that it seems to get better over time and after disabling slider ads, but I’m still not happy that I can’t control them.
Why: Only three types of ads, none of which I approve of.
Model: CPM, CPC, CPA
+ Customer support is accessible and efficient. They also automatically send you chat logs, which is nice.
– They have three types of ads: direct dialog, native direct ads, and popunders. I’m not a fan of any of these. Direct dialog is essentially a popup dialog, native direct ads are when you trick users to click on the ad, and popunders are like less annoying popups.
Why: Low quality ads w/ not enough control.
Model: CPM, CPC, CPV, CPI
+ Really easy to pick and choose types and sizes and little details.
+ Many options that aren’t overwhelming and easy-to-find explanations of what the different layout types are on Google.
– Some of the graphical ads don’t fit in their containers, which makes it look really unprofessional.
– Signing in is annoying. Instead of a username or email, they send you a username in this format: XXX-X-XXXXXX. I don’t see any way to change this in the settings.
– Low quality ads like this somehow get through
What Ad Network Should I Choose?
First, determine the model you think would best suit your site. Will you be relying more on impressions or on clicks? Do you have more desktop or mobile users? With WP QUADS, changing your mind later as you get to know your audience better isn’t a big deal. Still, knowing whether you want CPM, CPC, both, or neither is a good place to start.
I’ve listed the ad networks in the order that I would recommend them. If you see enough AdCash ads you like, I would actually move it up a lot, possibly up to 1st. There are also dozens more out there, so I would look for those if the ones on this list just don’t cut it. But if it’s not here, it could mean that there’s a minimum traffic requirement or I didn’t get approved.
You can also choose more than one network! In fact, it may be better to do so. There have been cases where sites have been banned for seemingly arbitrary reasons. When that happens, you’ll be glad you don’t have all your eggs in one basket. Feel free to experiment, but remember that it could take time for a network to learn which ads are best for your site. Before applying, you should also have some content. Reason one is for approval, reason two is so that you’re not getting ads about a new phone when your site is about board games. For a frame of reference, Whatever the Hell I Want was approved for Media.net after its 14th post, but my new site with four posts was declined. (In hindsight, I should’ve waited until I submitted it to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster.)
Why isn’t _________ on this list?
- I don’t know about it! Are you a new publisher using an ad network not listed here? Is there an ad network you used when you were starting out? Let me know!
- It’s not for beginners and/or I didn’t get approved. This list is for new affiliate marketers who aren’t currently receiving many impressions. Most, if not all, ad networks have certain criteria for publisher, including things like minimum traffic requirements and quality content. They don’t always tell you the reason, so it’s kind of hard to tell why I got rejected from which networks.
Disclaimer: I signed up to be an affiliate for Chitika after I finished writing this and plan on applying for Media.net’s and UberCPM’s. Many of the networks on this list have affiliate programs, but I chose the three ad networks I liked the most as of this post.
Where’s Google Adsense?
Good question! I am currently having issues applying to them. My application keeps getting rejected because I have another account already approved by AdSense. So I have email A and email B and applied first with email A. Google told me that my application was denied because I have an existing account with email B and that I should log into B to apply. Unfortunately, I get the same message with email B, except that they tell me my account with email A is currently approved. They only allow one AdSense account per person, there is no customer support, and no one in the forums was able to help me.
However, I have only heard good things. It seems that Google AdSense is *the* ad network to compare to and join, so I definitely recommend trying! Again, be sure to have some quality content and impressions before applying!
Good luck, have fun finding the best ad network for you and your site! For more information on affiliate marketing, subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates on my discoveries and progress.