There are literally hundreds of ad networks and ad serving platforms that you can use to put ad content on your websites. This article is entitled “Best Ad Networks” not because I’ve exhaustively tested all the ad networks but because I’ve used quite a few and these are the ones that have been most productive for me.
When you display ads on your website you are looking for the maximum revenue per square inch and that is driven by:
- fill rate – the percentage of time that the ad network actually fills your ad space with an ad
- click through rate – the percentage of time a visitor clicks on the ad
- cost per click – this is actually revenue per click from the publisher’s perspective; the amount the network pays you for each click
- speed – how fast the ads are displayed on the page
- quality – the attractiveness of the ad content
- applicability – the extent that ads are targeted toward the content on your pages and/or the visitors of your pages
So keeping in mind the characteristics above, here are my favorite ad networks.
I have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars through Adsense ads on my content websites. Adsense is the best paying and simplest to use ad network for publishers bar none. Because Adsense is the market leader they attract the largest number of advertisers which means higher paying clicks because more companies are competing for your ad space.
I consider Tribal Fusion to be number 2 behind Adsense in the world of ad networks. Most publishers will never see the insides of Tribal Fusion because they require a minimum of 600,000 unique visitors per month before they will accept a website into their network. The payouts in my experience are 20 to 30% less than Adsense but still higher and more consistent than other networks I’ve used.
Infolinks is an “in text” advertising network meaning much of its advertising is accessed by linked text that already exists in your article content as opposed to ad blocks on the page.
For a long time I used Infolinks on my news sites in parallel with Adsense. Infolinks presents the annoying little underlined ads that pop up when you hover over them. Over the years I used Infolinks I found that it provided an additional 8 to 10% revenue beyond Adsense and in testing I could not discern that display ad revenue was negatively affected by the presence of Infolinks. I still get payments from Infolinks every month but I use it much less because readers don’t like the links. Kontera is a competitive product which I used for a while but found that it slowed down my sites significantly so I switched to Infolinks.
Amazon isn’t an ad network per se. It has an affiliate program and provides ad content that sends your visitors to Amazon product pages where they are invited to make purchases. You get a commission on those purchases that ranges from 4 to 17% but usually averages 5 to 6%.
The Amazon affiliate program can be very effective for the right website. If your site focusses on a narrow product offering then it may pay to have Amazon affiliate links on those pages. In fact I’ve had large sites that were monetized exclusively with Amazon links. In fact, in fact, I once owned a network of hundreds of Amazon affiliate sites that generated a half million dollars in sales for Amazon over a period of four months. Amazon and I had a falling out and although I admire their business I am not always impressed by their ethics.
Other Non-Ad networks
Quinstreet is a dominant player in the area of paid leads. I’ve placed Quinnstreet ads on my sites to collect leads in the education and financial services verticals. Educational leads pay an average of $20 or so. Financial services leads vary considerably by category but range from $3 to $60 for the kinds I’m familiar with. In any case Quinn is able to pay much more for qualified leads than is paid by typical ad networks for a click. This makes sense because when you collect contact information from an interested party you are delivering a qualified customer, not simply a visitor to a website. I highly recommend Quinnstreet if you have a website in a niche that they service.
I received an email from Newstex one day that said “We like your content and we would like to pay you for it.” Nice huh? So I signed an agreement and they started reading my RSS feed and making my articles available on their private network to their private subscriber list. They never re-publish my articles on the public internet. Small checks have come in every month since. I have reached out to them to see if they are interested in my other websites but they haven’t responded. Alas.
I’ve experimented with other ad networks including: Altitude, Media.net (Bing/Yahoo), Chitika and others. Although there may be situations where they make sense, in my experience none of them paid well enough to justify taking ad space away from Adsense or the others above.