What Are the Best Ad Networks for Bloggers to Make Money?
As a blogger, you no doubt want to make money from your blog in some fashion.
There are a bunch of different ways to monetize a blog. Affiliate links, digital products, SaaS products, sponsored content, dropshipping; you have a ton of options.
Advertising Options for Bloggers
One of the most common advertising methods is simple display advertising. As a blogger – a publisher, in the parlance of the ad networks – all you need to do is put advertising spaces on your site, with code from the ad network that fills it up with relevant and related ads, usually according to either site-wide keywords or content-relevant keywords.
- Display ads have some benefits. Most notably, they’re largely set-and-forget; all of the actual management of the ads is done by the ad network, and all you need to do is periodically review them to make sure no one is advertising on your site that you wouldn’t want to be shown there. Meanwhile, you passively get paid from either (or both) views and/or clicks.
- On the other hand, there are some drawbacks. The biggest, arguably, is that an ever-increasing number of people are blocking ads. Various sites have responded to this in various ways, from YouTube deliberately hurting the playback of users with ad blockers to the massive ad density on Fandom Wikia pages, making it virtually unusable, especially on mobile devices. Others simply use pop-ups to ask a user to turn off their ad blockers, often making an emotional plea about the livelihood of the site. That method rings very differently when it’s on the Washington Post as opposed to a smaller, individually-owned blog.
The two biggest drawbacks to display ads are these:
- They’re among the lowest-paying ways to monetize a site, primarily because saturation has long since reached a point where even people who don’t block ads have banner blindness for them.
- Using ads means you’re joining the ongoing battle between ad proponents and ad blockers, and you may even lose some visitors who happen to take a larger stance against them than average.
The third major drawback is one you hopefully won’t encounter, which is that display ads are a major vector for malware and require overview to make sure the ads being served on your site aren’t going to tangibly harm your users.
Now, all of this is a huge discussion, and it’s one I’m more than willing to dig into if you’re interested (just let me know in the comments.) But that’s not why you’re here today. You don’t want the rundown of whether or not you should use display ads; you want to know what display ad networks are best for you and your site.
Truthfully, it’s hard to label any one network the “best” for a few reasons.
- The networks that pay the most tend to have very high standards to be approved to publish their ads, and once your site is that large, you probably have other means of monetizing it.
- The most accessible ad networks tend to pay very little, so you need a lot of volume to make up for it.
- Some ad networks work better in specific formats or niches than others. Some might be best with native ad boxes, some with banners, some on DIY sites, some on food blogs, and so on.
All of this means there’s a lot of variability in ad networks. So, rather than try to tell you which ad network is the best, I’m going to list a series of ad networks that are all generally pretty good. From there, you can scope out their requirements, determine if their usual niches match yours and if you want to run their formats of ads, and give them a try.
So, let’s dig in!
Mediavine has a moderately high barrier to entry at 50,000 monthly pageviews, which puts it out of the range of a lot of small sites. It’s also fairly focused, with an emphasis on beauty, fashion, travel, lifestyle, and other similar kinds of sites.
You can try to use them for other niches, but the content mismatch might be a source of aggravation, and you won’t get as much out of it as you would from another network.
Overall, they’re a very solid network to join. A 25% commission is lower than many other industry competitors, and they actually put some emphasis on site speed and faster load times for ads, so they don’t slow down your site as much as some other ad networks might. If they fit your niche and you have the views, this can be one of the best options for you.
Raptive is simultaneously a very good ad network for publishers and also a very selective ad network that makes it quite difficult to get in. That’s usually the trade-off; the easiest-to-join networks pay the least because of the saturation of poor-quality publishers and advertisers, while the sites with the highest barriers to entry have both excellent advertisers and high standards.
In this case, we’re talking a minimum of 100,000 pageviews per month to be considered.
That said, many bloggers who have used them (both now and before their rebrand when they were AdThrive) say they have one of the highest revenue potential baselines of any ad network out there.
Exclusivity breeds value, after all, so by being very selective, they can keep rates high. If you can qualify and get into their network, they’re excellent, but otherwise, you’ve got some work to do to get there.
Taboola is one of a pair of ad networks that compete directly with one another (the other being next on this list, Outbrain) in the field of native advertising. Rather than the typical banner ads and sidebar ads, they’ve primarily taken the form of “related post” ads, things that look like additional posts on your site but are actually ads.
Now, a lot of those ads are kind of terrible clickbait, but with some good filtering and monitoring, you can keep the worst to a minimum.
The biggest benefit of Taboola is that native advertising works, and works a lot better than most other forms of display advertising.
The downside is that Taboola has a very high minimum of half a million monthly pageviews to get in as a publisher, which is out of reach for a lot of bloggers.
Take everything I said about Taboola and paste it here. The two are direct competitors, working in the same ways and with pretty much the same pros, cons, and standards.
The biggest difference is scale; Outbrain claims they work with “any publisher with high-quality content,” but in practice, people report that you need a whopping three million monthly pageviews to even get special consideration and ten million for more general, fast-tracked acceptance. They also specify USA pageviews to make it even more exclusive.
Media.net is broadly recommended as a great alternative for publishers who don’t want to use Google Ads for one reason or another (and I’m covering them later, so stay tuned for that.) The main reason is that they’re basically Google Ads’ big competitor.
They have a minimum requirement for traffic to monetize, but since they’re owned by Microsoft (or, more specifically, Bing/Yahoo), they still have some of the benefits of size going for them.
Unfortunately, as a huge and old network, there’s a lot of cruft built up over the years. Their ad units tend to look a little outdated and need some CSS work to fit in with your site, among other things. Still, with the low barrier to entry, it’s hard to go too wrong.
Ezoic is widely recommended as a very beginner-friendly ad network for publishers. The biggest reason is their low commission, which is smaller than that of every other ad network on this list. This is, unfortunately, offset by generally low rates for most of their advertisers.
The biggest reason for both of those factors is that Ezoic is a global ad network and primarily works with a lot of publishers and advertisers outside of the USA. The USA market is usually more expensive on both sides of the equation, while non-USA advertising tends to be both cheaper/less valuable and more riddled with scams and spam. Many USA-centric ad networks refuse to work with foreign publishers and advertisers for that reason.
Ezoic is excellent if you’re a bilingual blog or if you’re primarily non-USA, but for USA natives, it might fall a little flat. That said, many people use it as a low-barrier-to-entry stepping stone to get to some of the higher-requirement ad networks with some monetization along the way.
Monumetric is broadly recommended as a great ad network for a few reasons. For one thing, they take a smaller commission than most other ad networks, so more of the money from the ads you display ends up in your pocket.
They also started life as a blogger support company and marketing firm before pivoting into managed ads, so they put more attention into the publisher side than many networks.
They have four “monetization programs” that scale up based on the number of views your site gets, with the introductory level beginning at 10,000 per month. On the plus side, they put a lot of individual, one-on-one attention into you to help you grow your site since, after all, the better their publisher network, the better the results their advertisers get and the more they can grow, too, right?
The biggest downside – and the reason I put them at the bottom of this list – is they have a $99 setup fee to get started for any site under 80,000 views per month. If you’re trying to use them as soon as you’re eligible, that can be a significant drain.
Other Networks Worth Mentioning
I’ve also included a couple here that don’t fit with the rest of the ad networks for one reason or another but are still worth a little discussion.
If you’re surprised that Google isn’t up there with the others, well, there’s a pretty good reason for that. Google Ads is immensely popular, with some estimates saying their ads reach 90% of the internet-using population. The main reason for that is that, unlike many other ad networks, they have no minimums for traffic or sessions.
Consequently, millions of sites with very few monthly views run Google ads, which means advertisers pay very little (since most of the display they get is valueless.) That means that while any blog can set up and run Google Ads, they pay you very little as a publisher. They’re a good way to get started with something instead of running a site with zero monetization, but that’s about it. Very few sites can thrive off just Google Ads.
InfoLinks is arguably a pretty good ad network for publishers because their ads are heavily contextual. They are so contextual, in fact, that they’re more like affiliate links. InfoLinks scans your content, looks for keywords, and injects links into the content using those keywords as anchor text. This helps avoid things like banner blindness.
There are two problems here. The first is that it can disrupt the balance of links you have in your content and even get in the way of the things you might want to use those keywords as anchors for. The second is that this is also a semi-common site hacking attack, and users are often skeptical of unusual links in content.
Personally, I don’t care for InfoLinks, but I know many bloggers who make very good use of them, so a lot of it comes down to how much you’re willing to “compromise” your content itself versus the space around your content.
I’m putting Adversal down here in the honorable mentions because they don’t actually stand out for most reasons except for one. That one can be pretty important if you’re operating in or have a significant audience in Europe, though, and that’s complete GDPR compliance.
Disclosure of and control over tracking, right to be forgotten, and other GDPR regulations can be pretty difficult if an ad network isn’t built for it, and the last thing you need is an aggrieved citizen making it your problem as a publisher. Adversal takes care of that for you.
Your Favorite Ad Network Here
This is my choice for the best selection of ad networks for publishers to use to make money. Some of them are near-unattainable for most, while others have such a low barrier to entry that you can get started the moment you set up your blog.
That said, I know there are a bunch of other ad networks out there, many of which I haven’t poked at myself. If you have a recommendation, let me know in the comments!
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