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As a web publisher, you’re likely thinking about how to maximize revenue to pay for all the time and effort you’re putting into creating a highly trafficked, content-rich site. While creating engaging content and making sure your site is maintained properly is important, those tactics don’t give you an immediate return on the investment of your time and money.
One way web publishers can use their websites to create income involves allowing advertisers to place ads on their site and pay them every time that ad is clicked. These ads can be placed on some or all of the pages on your website. This pay-per-click (PPC) model has quickly grown into an industry that’s advantageous to both web publishers and advertisers alike. Before we jump into our review, let’s learn more about PPC and why it’s proven itself a great revenue generator for websites like yours.
A Brief History of PPC
It all began in 1994, when human-edited directories such as Yahoo and DMOZ arose to help people more easily find things on the internet. However, as more and more websites appeared each day, it became clear that the manual process for indexing websites was becoming defunct. As a result, search engines were created, and in the late 1990s, an even better solution was founded: Google.
Google was the first search engine to monetize the search engine results pages (SERPs), which were key in determining the next steps a user would take after typing in a search query to Google. In the mid-90s, Google took these SERPs – previously noted as being irrelevant and ‘spammy’ to users – and began to advertise with a flat-fee directory listing, much like the way the Yellow Pages worked. Since then, search engines have become vital to a user’s web-searching experience, and paid search is now the biggest driver of revenue for most search engines.
Paid Search for Web Publishers
Today, web publishers have the option of getting into paid search and the PPC industry by selling ad space on their site to advertisers that want to get clicks on ads they’ve created. These ads are typically relevant to the content on the publisher’s site. It works for advertisers because the fee they pay to serve up their ad on the publisher’s site can be trivial to what they gain – like paying $5 for a click that converts into a $500 sale. Paid media works best for web publishers when the ads that serve up on their sites have relevant context for the user, and therefore better chances of getting clicked, like advertising running shoes in an article about summer exercise.
Even if the PPC and the paid media industry are new to you, it’s easy to get involved and to start seeing quick results from ads on your website. Multiple PPC marketing platforms exist for you, as a web publisher, to help you get up and running with PPC campaigns, all the way from the code you need to place on your website for the ad space, to organizing payment on what you’ve earned that month with pay-per-click ads. Platforms make money not by charging publishers for accounts, but by taking a percentage of their earnings from the ads on their site. Web publishers make money by taking a percentage too.
While advertisers have a lot of leg work to do when getting into paid media, there are really only a few key features web publishers need to review when choosing the best PPC platform for them.
Here’s a little more information about online ads and how they work.
What Do You Need in a PPC Platform?
When evaluating PPC platforms, web publishers want to look for three key statistics:
- Cost-per-click rates
- Traffic volume expected to be generated via this new channel
- Number of advertisers using the platform
Cost-Per-Click (CPC) Rates Vary Among PPC Platforms
The bottom line is this: the lower the CPC is on the ads you serve on your site, the less you’re getting paid. Some platforms, like Adsense, are known for having a high CPC rate, which is what you should be looking for as a web publisher. Some platforms have a lower CPC rate, but you might be trading up for features or functionality that make that work. For example, you might serve up more ads using another platform, and even though those ads have a lower CPC, you’re serving up a lot of them which should mean more visibility and likely, traffic to your site. In this example, the payout would be similar if you served fewer ads on a high CPC network. It takes some trial and error, as well as research, to determine what’s best for your website. So be sure to consider multiple platforms before you finalize your plans so you make sure your payout aligns with your campaign objectives (more traffic, more revenue, more customized support, better reporting, etc.)
Understand How Much Traffic to Expect
Pay-per-click advertising can generate traffic right away. If the advertiser has a well-written ad that resonates with your audience, it can start getting clicks the moment the ad appears on your site, and you’ll start getting paid immediately. Some platforms give you the option to choose the ads served up on your site yourself, or have the platform choose it for you. While there’s no true ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way for this to work, it has to work for you, your business and your needs. If you’re a small business owner strapped for time, you may want to explore platforms that automatically place the ads on your site but you should expect a lower CPC for this value-add service. Are you a blogger looking to really learn the ins and outs of the PPC industry? Maybe you’ll want to have the option to accept or deny ad requests to learn the ropes and to control who advertises on your site. Either way, make sure you understand clearly what you are paying for an what to expect for that price to manage your expectations of traffic ad earnings.
A Strong Advertising Marketplace Is Key
In order for paid media to be successful, both sides have to work: you as the publisher have to have a site that receives relevant traffic (demographics, sociographic, etc,) , and the advertisers must have ads that relate to the type of content on your site. Most PPC platforms have a network of advertisers they work with on a regular basis to fill up the ad space on websites like yours. It’s important to check out this marketplace of advertisers before committing to a PPC platform so you understand the quality of partners and whether you will be a priority with the advertiser (or whether that matters to you). You may also need strong graphic designers on the platform’s team to design your ads. Why? Because, as the publisher, you won’t make money without an actual ad to display and there’s no ad if there’s no one to create it. Publishers, platforms and advertisers need each other in order to be successful but the level and scope of the need will depend on your capabilities and how they complement your partner’s strengths and/or weaknesses.
It goes without saying that Google Adsense is number one. But since this article is about alternatives to Adsense, we aren’t going to clutter the rankings by putting Adsense in there as well. That being said, we felt it deserved coverage for comparison purposes, so here it is.
Google Adsense is one of the best PPC-based networks today. After all, Google has seen many successes over the years, including becoming king of the search engines. However, it’s also the home to a competitive advertising market that’s better than most in the business, since it’s Google’s main source of income. As a web publisher you can control the types of ads that appear (or don’t appear) on your site and get access to reports and metrics to show just how well your PPC advertising is performing. Adsense’s contextual advertisements perform better than any other types of ads (direct ads), and this is one reason why AdSense is so popular.
BidVertiser is one of the oldest PPC networks. It launched in 2003, the same year as Adsense, as one of many Adsense alternatives. It’s one of the best options if you can’t get approved with Google Adsense (or you want an alternative). It’s one of the oldest and most well-respected PPC platforms around. However, it seems to have grown a little dated over the years, lacking the website design and reporting functionality that modern web professionals need to achieve success with paid media. Still, it boasts one of the highest cost-per-click rates for publishers compared to other smaller PPC networks. Also, getting up and running on the network is quick and easy.
Chitika is used by about 350,000 publishers around the world to monetize their content. Founded in 2003, Chitika created some of the newer ad formats such as in-text ads, list unit ads and more. They are constantly reinventing their databases and systems to offer their customers the best service and return on investment for such a competitive field. Chitika accomplishes what it does so well by using a real-time bidding platform. With this technology, advertisers can maximize their efforts by use of “precision targeting.” Precision targeting connects just the right advertiser to just the right publisher, which is that needed relevancy aspect to paid media that can make it extremely successful for publishers.
Media.net is a contextual ad network brought to you by Yahoo! and Bing together. It’s rising in ranks to meet Adsense at the top, and the company says that it’s determined to become the provider of choice for publishers worldwide. Earnings from Media.net tend to outperform networks like Chitika, particularly when the published content is tied to a high value topic where PPC prices are significant. Media.net targets small and large publishers who produce quality content. So, even if you have a small blog with targeted and quality content, your chance of getting approved to use the platform is high.
Other PPC Platforms
Below you’ll find an alphabetical listing other PPC companies we’ve reviewed.
Like the more-popular Infolinks, Amobee offers in-text advertising using semantic analysis technology that doesn’t play into the “banner blindness” problem most publishers start to see after using PPC ads for some time on their site. Amobee, formerly Kontera, was founded in 2003. It boasts big companies like Microsoft and Kraft as advertisers, making it a very appealing option for web publishers looking to make incremental income on their content. And like Infolinks, the in-text advertising offered usually yields lower revenue due to ad relevancy. Because Amobee only requires the publisher to paste code onto your site, you have little control over the in-text ads that appear on your site and therefore little control over the quality and relevancy of ads that you’re hoping will make you some money.
BuySellAds is a popular PPC platform for bloggers and is a great option for smaller blogs that don’t get a lot of traffic yet. BuySellAds puts your blog in front of a larger audience of advertisers than you are likely to reach on your own, giving you a leg up on monetizing your site. The approval process is fairly straightforward and, once approved, BuySellAds puts you in a directory where publishers and advertisers can work together with no middleman. However, publishers must review and approve ads that appear on their site, which can be a manual step that some publishers dislike.
Infolinks is one of the leading companies in in-text advertising for PPC campaigns. Here’s how it works: unlike Google Adsense, Infolinks doesn’t take up any space on your website to display ads. Instead, it converts some keywords from your content into a link. When a visitor hovers over the link, an advertisement is displayed and you make money. One unique differentiator of Infolinks is that they direct publishers to place their integration code at the end of their website. This means that when a website loads, the content loads first and the ads second, so it doesn’t affect website loading speed. This becomes an important factor when 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. Since Infolinks has a niche feature set, comparable functionalities include set-up time, ease-of-use, revenue generated and ad relevancy.
What is the Best PPC Platform?
Finding the best PPC platform isn’t a one-size-fits-all exercise. First, you’ll want to evaluate just how much income you’re looking to generate with PPC ads and how much help you’ll need to achieve those goals. Then, you’ll need to gather some important information about your site (available in Google Analytics), like primary language and monthly traffic. At that point, you can decide whether you want to sell ad space on your site or take an Infolinks-like approach with in-text advertising. Once you’ve made those decisions, you can come back here to evaluate the pros and cons of the most popular PPC platforms for web publishers to get started.
What PPC advertising platforms do you use and why?