Do you have you a blog, website, or online platform that you want to monetize with ads? If so, I’m sure you’ve been overwhelmed and unsure of which ad network to use. There are hundreds of ad networks out there but many of them aren’t worth your time, are catered towards huge sites that receive millions of unique monthly visits, or they allow shady advertisements which can damage your credibility.
When I first set out to build an online platform, I struggled with picking an ad network that would balance earnings without compromising on the quality (or frequency) of ads that are shown to readers of my site. So I decided to to create this in-depth guide that explores 10 different ad networks for small to medium sized publishers. Just in case you’re unfamiliar with that term, a publisher is simply your blog, website, or online platform that displays (or publishes) ads from an ad networks.
So without further fanfare, I present The Lazy Webmaster’s Guide to 10 Popular Ad Networks: Part 1.
AdSense has been around since 2003, after Google acquired Applied Semantics. AdSense made waves in its early years by serving ads based off keywords contained in a publisher’s content. Eventually, Google added contextually driven ads based off a users search history in addition to the keywords found in a publisher’s content.
Google AdSense is among the most recognizable, popular, and largest ad network out there, with over 1,000,000 publishers ranging from small bloggers to some of the largest web properties on the internet (like Drudge Report, New York Times, etc), AdSense is a big deal.
Publishers of all sizes are invited to join Google AdSense free of charge. To get started, you’ll need to create or use an existing Google account to sign up. AdSense does review all applications and won’t accept sites in certain niches (porn/hate groups/firearms/tobacco/drugs).
You can check the full set of official content guidelines by clicking here.
AdSense currently offers 5 different ad products :
- Content – Content ads are served as banners or text links and are driven by a user’s search history or keywords found in the content featured on every page of your site.
- Search – Google offers their widely used search feature for you to place on your site(s). You can control whether search results feature content from around the web or limit result to just your site. Ads are displayed next to search results just like a typical Google search results page. Whenever a visitor clicks one of these ads, you earn a cut.
- Games – For online platforms that offer games to their visitors, Google offers in-stream and overlay ad options. If you already have an AdSense account, you’ll need to apply specifically to get accepted in to the Games ad type program.
- Videos – If you’ve ever watched a YouTube video you’ve probably seen the video ads that play before the content you want to watch. These video ads are served by AdSense. Similar to game ads, you’ll need to apply specifically for the Videos ad product if you’re interested in using it.
- Mobile – With mobile ads, you can generate revenue by displaying targeted ads from Google on your mobile website. If you’re interested in this ad product, you’ll need to apply specifically for it.
Earnings & Payment Details
The amount you can earn varies widely based off the keyword that’s being targeted. On average, the CPC (cost per click – the amount you earn when a visitor clicks on an AdSense ad) ranges from a few cents to a few dollars. You can maximize earnings by researching keywords in your niche and then targeting the ones with the highest CPC.
Google’s Keyword Planner is a great tool for this, but you’ll need to sign up for a free AdWords account before you can use it.
For payments, you can choose to have a check mailed or have earnings wired directly to your bank accounts. The minimum threshold for receiving a payment is $100 and payments are sent a few days after the last day of each month. If you want, you can also choose to suspend payments from being sent after you reach the $100 threshold.
Infolinks offers primarily text based link ads.
It’s a large network spanning 128 different countries with over 100,000 publishers who generate over 1 trillion impressions per month. Although you might think of text links as boring, they do have their advantage.
Banner blindness (where visitors are so inundated with ads that they completely skip over them) is a real phenomenon. Infolinks’ angle is that visitor’s are less likely to ignore text based interactive link ads.
The logic that drives which ad should display works similarly to AdSense. The Infolinks algorithm was developed to look at context, determine the intent while constantly learning and then sell ad space to relevant advertisers in real time. It studies websites and learns how to match the best advertisement to each specific page on a site, based not on just keywords, but the intent of the content.
Infolinks has virtually no eligibility requirements. As long as your site isn’t an adult website or is promoting something that’s considered offensive, you’ll be able to use their ads to monetize your site.
There are 4 ad types to pick from.
- InSearch – This ad type only appears when needed, introducing visitors who’ve arrived via search to an unobtrusive overlay ad. After displaying for a 10-30 seconds, the overlay ad shrinks back down into a small headline near the bottom of the visitor’s screen.
- InText - InText ads scan your content in real-time and double underline your most valuable keywords. You’ve probably visited many sites that have used this ad type. Personally, I find these ads to be frustrating because unless the site owner makes an effort to distinguish between Infolinks hyperlinks and normal links on site.
- InTag - InTag draws on Infolinks’ proprietary algorithm to recognize the highest valuable keywords relevant to the publisher’s content and display them in a cool tag cloud format.
- InFrame – This ad types monetizes unused screen margins and frames on a publisher’s site with display vertical banner ad relevant to their content on the sides of a site.
Earnings & Payment Details
With Infolinks, you make money every time a visitor clicks an ad. Like AdSense, the amount you earn will vary based on keyword.
Infolinks offers multiple methods including PayPal, Bank Wire, eCheck, Western Union, ACH (only for U.S. bank accounts) or MasterCard’s Payoneer. Minimum payouts begin at $50 for all payment options except ACH transfer or Western Union in which case payouts begin at $100. You can also choose to set their payment thresholds higher if they desire.
Payments are issued no later than 45 days from the end of the month that you reach the minimum payment threshold for your preferred payment option (either $50 or $100).
Apply to the Infolinks network
The Kontera Network is pretty similar to Infolinks. They network has over 15,000 publishers and features exclusive ads from companies like Microsoft, CBS, Bank of America and more. There’s not too much of a difference between the ad types featured between Kontera and Infolinks.
One aspect of either text link ad providers is the potential for sites using them to be negatively impacted in search engine results.
Although not made public, Google’s search engine ranking algorithm is thought by some (including myself) to penalize sites with link based advertisements. The logic behind this is that links are a way for Google to determine the relevance and success of a page by understanding the inbound links.
With link based ads, advertisers are essentially buying links from publishers through a middleman (Kontera, Infolinks, etc). This artificially manipulates the number of inbound links to the advertiser’s landing page. Keep in mind this is just theoretical, since Google doesn’t release specifics about their algorithm, it’s only one viewpoint about link based ads.
Kontera accepts publishers of all sizes and uses similar criteria as Infolinks (no adult sites or niches that are generally considered offensive). The application process takes less than 5 minutes and ads can be used on all different types of online platforms including those powered by Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, etc.
Link based ads are the bread and butter of the Kontera Network. Kontera scans the content of your site and serves up link based ads based off targeted keywords. When a user rolls over a link ad, a pop up displays with more details about the ad. The user can then click through to the advertiser’s landing page.
Earnings & Payment Details
With Kontera, publishers earn revenue anytime a visitor engages with an ad. The Kontera network uses a Net40 $50 minimum payout. This means that Kontera will issue a payment 40 days after you reach the $50 payout threshold. Payment channels are PayPal, check, wire, or international wire transfer.
Based out of Canada, Clicksor is another alternative to AdSense. Founded in 2004, Clicksor has over 150,000 sites in its publisher network and is owned by Yesup, who is a major player in the ecommerce niche.
Clicksor doesn’t specify any traffic volume requirements but does require at least 50% of traffic should be coming from the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom. In addition to the traffic source requirements, Clicksor has the same basic standards as other ad networks (no illegal or offensive content).
There are a total of 5 ad types you can choose from with Clicksor:
- Inline Text Links - Inline text links ads appear as a brief text description in boxes with clear call-to-actions, prompting your visitors to learn more information from partners’ websites. These ads only appear when a user’s mouse pointer is moved over certain words and is relevant to the on page content.
- Text Banners – Similar to inline text links except these text ads appear in a variety of sizes and colors. Generally these banners are featured above the fold and in prominent areas like sidebars, or in a post.
- Graphic Banners – Graphic banners display images to convey an advertisement. They can be static or dynamic images. Similar to text based ads, graphic banners are served based off relevant on page keywords.
- Pop Unders - Pop unders are a form of online advertising on the Internet which emerged from the concept of pop ups. When a user visits a website with pop under advertisements, the pop under will open up in a new browser window hidden under the user’s current browser. When the user closes their current browser then they will noticed the pop under advertisement making them less intrusive, more acceptable to users and will not take visitors away from the publisher’s website.
- Interstitial - An interstitial ad (inter-ad) is an advertising page that is inserted in the normal flow of editorial content structure on a website for the purpose of advertising or promotion. Interstitial messages, like TV commercials, make viewers a captive of the message.
Earnings & Payment Details
Clicksor offers payments every 15 days with a $50 minimum payout. You can choose to get paid with PayPal, check or wire transfer. Earnings vary by keyword.
A relatively new ad network, Dynamic Oxygen is another option to use when monetizing your online platform. Based out of New York and founded in 2007, Dynamic Oxygen is one of the few ad networks who accepts international publishers.
What makes this network stand out from the others is that ads are shown based off the search term used before a visitor lands on a publisher’s site.
For example, if I searched for “gardening supplies” and clicked through a search result to a website showing ads from the Dynamic Oxygen network, I would see an ad related to gardening supplies (a rake, spade, etc).
One of the main advantages to Dynamic Oxygen are the many ad types they offer including:
- Anchor ads
- Cursor ads
- Floating ads
- Interstitial ads
- Layer ads
- Pop up/under ads
- Sky ads
They also provide demos of each ad type which may be helpful if you’re not sure what it looks like.
Earnings & Payment Details
There’s a big difference between how publishers earn money with Dynamic Oxygen and the other ad networks listed in this guide…
You will only earn revenue from traffic that came from search engines.
This means that if a visitor visits a site directly, or another site links in, ads will not be shown and you will not earn any revenue.
While great from a user experience (with regular visitors less likely to visit a publisher’s site by using a search engine) this method clearly limits the potential for earning revenue.
If you’re a publisher with tons of search engine traffic, this ad network may be worth considering on top of a contextually driven network (like AdSense).
Earnings will vary based on on the the country, search terms, and content category the ad falls under.
Apply to DynamicOxygen
Part 1 Summary
There are hundreds of ad networks that website owners (publishers) can choose from to monetize their online platforms. Many of these networks are a waste of your time with low quality ads, and even lower earnings.
When considering which ad network to choose, you should consider your goals and audience.
Here a few questions to get your started:
- Who is the primary audience for my site and what kind of ads would they get the most value out of? For example, would they prefer to see ads in an text or image format? Intrusive pop ups that demand their attention, or more subtle ads that display to the side of featured content.
- Where is your traffic coming from? Is your traffic coming primarily from search engines, social media platforms, or some combination of the two?
- How aggressive do you plan on being with your monetization goals? There’s no right or wrong answer to this one and as an online platform owner, only you can answer this question. Yes, greater ad profits can be found by filling pages with many ads from multiple ad networks and include more aggressive ad types like pop unders or cursor ads, but in the long run, will it damage your credibility?
Now it’s your turn! What’s your favorite ad network(s), if you choose to display ads? As a consumer, what ad types do you like/dislike the most? Drop me a comment below to let me know!