When publishers that use AdSense hit a bump in the road, they often think that the grass is greener on the other side, but it can be hard to find a genuinely competitive alternative to AdSense. AdSense is a Google product and Google is a hugely dominant player in online advertising. Any AdSense alternative that doesn’t include that demand is going to struggle to perform as well for most publishers.
Despite the claims of hundreds of articles online (with their sneaky affiliate links), most AdSense alternatives are only an alternative when you have no choice. Google’s dominance in this space is a result of its accessibility and performance, so they are hard to beat. However, AdSense isn’t the only way to have Google bid on your inventory and there are viable alternatives if you know exactly what you are looking for.
Why are you looking for an alternative to AdSense?
The best AdSense alternative for you will depend on why you are looking for other options. Most reasons can be summarised in one of the following ways:
- Program policy concerns: AdSense programme policies are strict and inflexible and all publishers are required to adhere to them. You cannot monetize through AdSense without agreeing to these terms and conditions. Because of this, many publishers are either rejected or removed from AdSense. Publishers are responsible for all content on-site, including user-generated content. As such, particular attention should be paid to content policies. If your site includes content that violates policy, then the chances of you being kicked off or rejected are extremely high.
- Not earning enough from AdSense: There are usually two reasons why publishers aren’t earning enough from AdSense. The first is the most common; traffic is too low to earn a decent amount of ad revenue. The second reason is that you may have outgrown AdSense and may benefit from a more complex ad setup.
- You want to diversify your income: One of the drawbacks of AdSense is that publishers are relying on a single stream of income. This is risky because Google can disable ad serving on your account at any time. As such, many publishers want to mitigate that risk by spreading their monetization across multiple demand sources.
What AdSense alternatives are available to publishers?
There are a few different AdSense alternatives available to publishers that want to replace AdSense. Which alternative is best for you depends on a variety of factors such as website traffic profile, the type of content on-site and the level of quality.
Ad networks act as an intermediary and aggregate ad inventory from publishers that want to sell ad space to advertisers that want to serve ads. They usually earn money by taking a percentage of ad revenue or marking up the value of inventory prior to selling. Many are confused by the similarities of ad servers and ad networks, however, ad networks transact the media buying, whilst ad servers manage ad campaigns and store ad creatives.
Ad networks work by serving ads to publishers sites via code on-site that requests the ad. Within ad units are tracking pixels that enable ad performance to be tracked, this functionality is powered by an ad server.
Some examples of popular ad networks that are used as an alternative to AdSense include Media.net and Advertising.com.
Like AdSense, ad networks tend to have low barriers to entry which means that they are best suited to those with lower traffic. This is usually the option taken by those that are having policy or content issues and would like to look elsewhere, but rarely bring gains for those looking to move from AdSense in search of stronger performance.
The best known Ad Exchange is the Google Ad Exchange. As this includes every bit of demand that AdSense has (plus more) it is a truly viable AdSense alternative. Google isn’t the only player in the Ad Exchange space though, and exchanges such as Rubicon Project, App Nexus and OpenX are not only viable alternatives to AdSense, but better ones for many publishers.
The biggest drawback of Ad Exchanges over AdSense for many publishers is the minimum requirements. Ad Exchanges are built with larger publishers and inventor owners in mind. If you don’t have tens of millions of pageviews per month you might struggle to even get noticed by an exchange, let alone get results from working directly with one.
The other drawback is the technical/admin overhead. Most publishers will run with several exchanges at once, having them compete against one another for impressions through Header Bidding or server-to-server bidding. That works well, but is an overhead that requires very strong inventory numbers to justify.
Managed website monetization services
There usually comes a point in a publishers’ website monetization journey when its time to move beyond a simple ad setup, like AdSense, and build up your ad stack which will enable you to earn more revenue. Publishers that want to earn more from their ad setup or want to diversify their income should consider managed website monetization services, like OKO.
Advertising operations, or adops, can be very complex and time-consuming. By outsourcing, publishers can free up time and grow revenue without having to spend valuable time and resources.
Publishers that outsource adops also find that ad monetization is more effective and efficient than managing in-house, as adops companies tend to be more knowledgeable and experienced. Working with an expert partner also removes the aforementioned technical/admin overhead of working with an ad exchange, as this is managed externally.
These companies usually work on a simple revenue-share basis and the incremental gains can easily outperform the revenue share, effectively increasing revenue at no additional cost. Alongside OKO, other examples of managed website monetization services include companies like Mediavine and AdThrive.
Would you benefit from having an external team to help you manage your website monetization? OKO are Google Certified experts in website monetization and we help a wide range of publishers worldwide to get the most out of their ad monetization. Find out more about our solutions and how OKO could help you grow your advertising revenue.
Other non-IAB alternatives
The alternatives above serve into banner ads in a similar way to AdSense, but there are other types of alternative to consider.
Content recommendation platforms
Content recommendation platforms, like Taboola and Revcontent, enable marketers to pay to place links on other websites in an effort to drive traffic to their website. This payment is then shared with publishers who allow links to appear on their website.
Complex algorithms enable content recommendation platforms to suggest content that may be relevant to users, meaning that they do not rely on cookies to track and target users. Content-recommendation platforms provide native ad formats that blend with the content on site. The drawback is that algorithms are not always correct in suggesting relevant content to users and can recommend content that perhaps is not brand-safe.
Content-recommendation is usually seen as a supplement to diversify income as opposed to an alternative to AdSense. This is because they need a significant amount of space on-site in order to generate comparable revenue. Barriers to entry are relatively low and are usually dependent on the level of traffic.
Affiliate programmes allow digital publishers (affiliates) to earn a commission on sales which are a result of your endorsement for an advertiser’s product. Sales are tracked via affiliate links which record traffic sent to advertisers’ websites.
Some examples of popular affiliate programmes include Amazon Associates and eBay Partner Network. This alternative is particularly effective if you have products and services that you genuinely endorse. However, earnings are dependent on how much traffic you receive and how influenced your audience is to buy something that you suggest.
For most affiliate programmes, barriers to entry are extremely low meaning that anyone can earn an income through affiliate linking.
Dolly joined the OKO team in early 2019 and certified to Google Certified Publishing Partner status. Dolly manages publisher communication and learning at OKO.