Nowadays, if you want to run ads on your website, that usually means signing up for Google’s Adsense service and running their banners on your site. It’s the default option and one that works well enough: it is open for anyone to join and pays out regularly. There are a handful of complaints, though, that people have with Adsense (some more justified than others):
- Click revenue is low and getting lower
- The ads aren’t always very attractive
- You don’t have much control over what is published
But are there any other options out there that can break Adsense’s dominance? Is there another service, or services, that you could use that can offer more revenue, more attractive ads, and more control?
I’ve put together a list here of alternative advertising networks that can help you to meet those needs. This is not necessarily a comprehensive list (Have a suggestion? Put it in the comments!), but instead is intended to point you towards great networks that not only meet the above criteria, but are also easy-to-join and WordPress-friendly.
By easy-to-join, I mean ad networks that are open to applications (not invite-only) and available to users without a huge number of unique daily visitors or a well-known brand name. By WordPress-friendly, I mean ad networks that either provide a WordPress plugin or whose ads can be easily integrated without any knowledge of coding or special integrations. Take a look below to see 7 good options for those of you who are fed-up with Adsense.
No stranger to superlatives, Project Wonderful’s service is defined by what they call the Infinite Auction. Here’s how it works:
- Advertisers find a Publisher’s site whose visitor profile matches that of their preferred customer base and whose traffic volume ensures the number of onwards visits they are looking for.
- The Advertiser then bids for the opportunity to run their ads on the Publisher’s site for a day (bids are made for Cost Per Day)
- If the bid wins, the Advertiser’s ads run on the site. This applies even if the bid is for USD$0.00.
The Infinite Auction is designed to provide an optimal solutino for both parties. Advertisers can pick out those sites that send them the right kinds of customers and pay exactly as much as that traffic is worth to them. Publishers always get the highest possible price for their site’s advertising space and can build up a base of repeat customers for their ad inventory.
The process that decides how and when an advertiser’s bid succeeds is kind of complicated, so check out this page if you have more questions about that (this demo auction also does a reasonably good job of laying out how it works in practice). For the publisher, it is simpler and more direct, but they answer any questions publishers might still have here. To install Project Wonderful ads on your site, these guys have provided a WordPress plugin.
BuySellAds provides a clear and easily-navigable marketplace which matches advertisers and publishers. BSA brokers publishers’ ad inventory to advertisers with an eye to “creat[ing] long-lasting, reliable, recurring revenue streams”. There are a few advantages to working with their marketplace that helps it to stand out from the competition (both Adsense and other ad networks):
- It’s incredibly transparent. You can see what advertisers are paying for each ad space and what your cut is as a publisher.
- You have the ability to approve an ad, deny an ad, or request changes to an ad based on your own preferences.
- It is made by and for bloggers and is a particular favorite of some prominent tech and design bloggers.
They also make a particular point of having it be extremely easy to use, install, navigate and serve. To get BuySellAds working on your WordPress website, there is an official plugin that you can use to insert ads in your site’s sidebar, RSS feed, and posts (there is also an option for mobile ads in posts).
(this video isn’t all that informative, but it is worth watching for the rap about their corporate values)
Chitika takes a slightly different approach to some of the other ad networks in the market. Rather than running contextual ads (ads that reflect the content of the site on which they are placed), Chitika instead runs search-targeted ads. These ads are intended to reflect what your users were searching for, instead of what they might have found.
The idea behind it is that people, generally, click on ads when they see that the displayed page does not meet their needs and they would like to find a page that does. Contextual ads tend to do the opposite and assume that people have found what they want. “But,” Chitika asks, “if they have found what they want, why would they click on an ad to leave?”
In addition to that basic functionality, they have also created a number of different tools to aid the publisher. Chitika allows you to display (after installing their plugin):
- List Units, a customizable bank of Text Ads that can fit any size widget area and which are designed to minimize white space.
- Hover Ads, an ad space that appears in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and scrolls with the user.
- Highlight Ads, an adspace that only appears when the user starts to copy and paste your content (I thought that was especially clever).
There are two issues that pretty much all publishers nowadays share: (1) you are tired of basically showing the same ads for the same advertisers as everyone else and (2) since more and more people are looking at your blog on their mobile devices, they are looking at fewer ads and clicking on them less. The people at youAPPi might have a solution.
Rather than displaying a banner that links to another website, youAPPi instead allows you to display ads for mobile apps that run on iPhone, iPad, Android, and Windows devices. Colorful and attractive, their widgets are more appealing than a lot of other ads that might be served by an advertising network. Also, since a fair number of the apps are actually free or commonly available and used, users are far more likely to click on them than your run-of-the-mill Adsense-served ad.
There is only one way to (1) ensure total control over the ads you show, (2) maximize revenue, and (3) only display attractive ads: take out the middlemen and manage the sales and serving of your ad spaces yourself. Using OIO Publisher you can do just that by directly selling your own ad spaces to advertisers (they also provide a marketplace where you can advertise your ad spaces to potential advertisers – did you follow that?). Easily installed as a WordPress plugin, OIO Publisher creates the following in your site’s backend:
- Ad zones, inserted by php code snippet, that can be used for image or text ads. You can adjust the price, size, rotation, and queuing of the ads.
- Default ad zones for when your zones have not been purchased. These can also be rotated and customized, as well as geo-targeted.
- Purchasing forms that you can link to for banner, text, and inline ads as well as paid reviews.
- A Stats panel that allows you to monitor ad clicks, impressions, CTR, eCPM, and eCPC.
- A panel that helps you to recruit and manage affiliates.
To learn more about how it all works, and see it for yourself, check out their excellent demo; it really does a good job of showing you how the ad plugin works and what it can do. Also, check out the video below (with a weirdly narrow frame) to get an overview of what a live install looks like:
Epom is an all-around excellent advertising network which offers all of the range of services that you would hope for from a major publisher, including great campaign management/optimization/targeting tools, support for different media formats (Display, Rich Media, Video), real-time statistics, and a web-based control panel. Keeping all that in mind, Epom makes a particular point of being both:
- Very cheap. They are free for websites with fewer than 250k impressions and “twice cheaper” than any other ad server in the market.
- Very reliable. It offers “99.99 % platform stability and protection against system crash”.
Simply install their WordPress plugin (they provide an installation guide here) and you can begin displaying their ads in either (1) your posts and pages or (2) in your site’s sidebar with their Epom widget. To see some demo videos that will give you a better idea of how it works, check out their Youtube channel. We have included one of their videos below which features a particularly unusual combination of Country & Western music and a strong Polish accent:
A unique and really exciting new service, Skyscraper tries to make placing ads on your site as simple, smooth, and painless as possible while also helping you to make profitable use of your site’s white space and available ad spaces. How does it do that? After creating an account, you are sent to an interface which displays the front page of your site and where you can:
- Create an ad space, choosing its size, preferred advertiser category, and monetization method (you can either sell a percentage of your page views or bundle of impressions).
- Include the ad in your theme with a simple drag and drop interface that automatically identifies usable white spaces/ad spaces on your site. That’s right, you can just drag and drop the ads. No more fooling around with your theme’s code or hoping that your existing widgets play nice.