Ad Network Reviews - Metrics That Matter

Amateurs talk about strategy, Professionals talk about logistics. The advertising equivalent of this should read: Amateurs talk about rates (eCPM), Professionals talk about policies & process.

Keep this in mind as you read through our assessment of the advertising networks we've worked with over the past year. These are in addition to Google AdSense, which continues to be an excellent partner. There are, however, certain types of content, ad formats, and page layouts that don't fit into Google's view of "good advertiser experience" and these other networks fill that gap. Or in other cases (Ezoic), their offering significantly enhances Google's program.

A good example of this is mobile traffic. Google limits mobile advertising to one visible ad on screen (at any point in time) and shoves the (well paying) 300x250 unit below the fold. For those who haven't run a lot of mobile traffic, this is paricularly painful because:

  • 300x250 rates are (much) better than 300x100 rates
  • A good designer can get more than one ad on a screen
And there are entire types of ads or ad placements which cannot be run alongside AdSense on mobile. So using a permissive network can let you run more aggressive layouts (if that fits your strategy). In essence - more ads, more aggressive ads - more revenue. Or maybe not - but worth an A/B test...

It is best to think holistically when trying to optimize your advertising program. Aim to maximize the total revenue per session, not just CPM per page. This means not just looking at your earnings per page but thinking about how well you can extend their session (hint: promote related content). It also means learning to spot the different types of advertising real estate on your web pages:

  • Highly Visible Above the Fold Space (display ads)
  • Low visibility yet click-heavy areas below the fold (cpc)
  • Areas with accidentaly clicks (affiliate offers)
  • Links embedded in your article (infolinks, affiliate)
  • Remnant space at the end of the article (native units)
  • Banner anchored to the bottom of the screen (mobile)
  • Various forms of popups and alerts (mobile, javascript)
  • And anything else that tickles your imagination
You don't need to use all of these (shudder), but each has its place in the world. That being said, here are some advertising networks to take a look at....

Adversal - CPM Banners

Strengths:

  • More Liberal TOS than AdSense
  • Decent CPM (after warmup period)
  • Most Responsive Ad Network (in terms of support)
  • Ads Look Decent (Brand Banners vs. Link Units)
  • Pop-under / Ministitial Ads
  • Easy Setup

Challenges:

  • Minimum Traffic Requirement (50K)
  • Reporting - Daily Statistics
  • English Required

Ezoic:

Strengths:

  • Simplified access to advanced ad network features
  • Automated optimization of ad placement (on page)
  • Optimizes ad bidding / ad exchange management
  • Site Scorecard (scroll down) claims 115% average revenue lift
  • Also tends to improve User experience (less impact from ads, design issues)
  • Moves a lot of content onto a CDN for faster page load speeds
  • Google Publishing Partner

Challenges:

  • Minor Integration Required
  • Preferred page layout templates
  • Works Easiest with Blogs

Chitika - Managed Advertising Program

Strengths:

  • Easier to get Approved than AdSense
  • Tiered Ad Model - Volume / Results Driven
  • Can be run alongside AdSense
  • Easy Setup

Challenges:

  • Relatively Low RPM
  • Occaisonal Relevance Issues

Click Viper:

Strengths:

  • Performance Marketing Network
  • CPC Ads with Conversion Bonus
  • Machine Learning Optimized
  • Direct Response Offers
  • Easiest Approval
  • Low Placement Restrictions

Challenges:

  • Relatively Low RPM
  • Aggressive Creatives

Infolinks - PPC Link Ads

Strengths:

  • Well Suited to Blogs & Reference Sites
  • Solid Revenue Share
  • Doesn't Slow Down Your Site
  • Can be run alongside AdSense
  • Easy Setup

Challenges:

  • Relatively Low RPM
  • Occaisonal Relevance Issues

Affiliate Offer Networks - Pay for Performance Offers

Affiliate marketing networks serve as an aggregator for "pay-for-performance" offers. You promote a product or specific offer that merchant on that network is running, guiding visitors to the offer and doing some pre-selling. You will receive a payout when the visitor completes a specific action, either a purchase or submitting their personal information (known as a lead) to the merchant. This requires more effort than traditional advertising and involves more risk (if they don't buy), but also can generate a much higher share of the proceeds of the transaction than a regular banner ad. If you want to pursue affiliate marketing, we recommend joining multiple networks (its free) so you can test all of the merchants active in that niche to find the most profitable combinations. Our typical approach is to identify a specific type of offer that is of interest and ransack all of our affiliate networks to find relevant merchants so we can identify the best converting offer.

  • ShareASale: Well established network that is very supportive of new marketers. Lots of Major brands on this network.
  • Peerfly: Another network very friendly to new marketers; their offers skew towards direct response vs. major brands (with a few exceptions)
  • FlexOffers: A third large network - mix of brands and direct response offers.
If you're interested in running affiliate offers, my suggestion is you sign up for each of the three - read through their sites and newsletters to spot ideas which work for you, then test all of the relevant offers in that niche for all three networks. Affiliate is a much more competitive space than digital advertising, so I recommend positioning yourself to gather as much information as possible about your preferred niches. Offers and customers... will sometimes surprise you... And as we noted on the website revenue calculator analytics, a well promoted affiliate offer can deliver impressive financial benefits to your site.
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