Once your website begins to get traffic, you can sign up with an advertising platform to start monetizing your visitors.
Initially, this won’t generate large amounts of revenue but as your traffic increases, it will easily become a significant source of passive income for your online business.
There are two main ways ad platforms operate. While they'll all compensate you on an ad revenue share basis, some will pay you based on people clicking on ads while others will pay you based on ad impressions (i.e. people seeing the ads, whether they click on them or not).
Networks that pay based on clicks (e.g. Google AdSense and Infolinks) can afford to play the “long-tail game,” that is, signing millions of low traffic websites because they charge advertisers for clicks so it doesn’t really matter to them where the click comes from.
Because these cost-per-click networks handle such a large volume of websites, they cannot afford the cost and complexity of providing live support, so you’ll basically be on your own when it comes to optimizing the ads for conversions.
But those networks that pay on the basis of cost per thousands of impressions (e.g. Monumetric, Mediavine and AdThrive) require a lot of specialized conversion expertise to generate good results, so they need a large staff of account managers to set up each website individually.
Therefore they can't really afford to sign up millions of low-traffic websites and need to focus instead on fewer high-traffic sites for their business model to work.
To better illustrate the two different ad sharing models (cost-per-click and cost-per-thousand-impressions), here are the traffic criteria you’ll need to meet in order to be accepted into the ad networks in this article:
- Google AdSense (pays per click): No traffic requirements
- Infolinks (pays per click): No traffic requirements
- Monumetric (pays per impression): 10,000 monthly pageviews min
- Mediavine (pays per impression): 50,000 monthly sessions min
- AdThrive (pays per impression): 100,000 monthly sessions min
Now, having ad revenue is clearly tempting for a website owner because it becomes passive income you don't need to work to get (obviously you need to work on generating traffic, but you have to do this anyway whether you display ads or not).
But here's an important caveat: if you run a highly profitable affiliate website, every time visitors click on your ads they're taken away from your site and many don't return, potentially impacting your affiliate revenue.
Here's an example. Say, your affiliate commissions generate $3,000/month and your ad network ads $1,500 to your bank account, but makes you lose $1,000 in affiliate commissions, then you're up $500 net compared to not running ads.
But, if serving ads reduces your monthly affiliate commissions by $2,000, then you'll be down $500 and be better off without showing ads. So, make sure you take this into account before signing up with an ad network.
Alright, let's begin! I’ve written this article to provide an ad revenue path of growth from beginner websites with little traffic to established websites with a large following.
All five networks that I recommend below are at the top of their field, they are highly reliable, and most importantly, they pay on time.
Disclosure: Although I receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no additional cost to you that compensation in no way influences my recommendations, which are strictly informed by my years of digital marketing experience working with clients large and small. My aim is to always recommend tools that will offer you the best return on investment.
While Google AdSense does not require a traffic minimum, they do have requirements that you need to fulfill in order to be approved:
- You'll need an Informational website with over 30 pages of unique content that's already generating traffic (so if your site is under construction, don’t apply until it's been live for a couple of months to generate some initial statistics)
- Your website must be 100% mobile friendly since a significant portion of AdSense ad revenue originates from mobile devices
- Content must not be offensive or violate in any way Google AdSense's terms and conditions
Other than that you’re good to go. Now, acceptance into the program is not automatic. In fact, if you have a brand new website, it may take you several tries to get in. My opinion is that Google first wants to confirm that you’re making a concerted effort to promote your website.
If every time you apply your traffic goes up, there’s a good change that at one point you’ll pass that filter and get accepted.
Google AdSense is one of the biggest, if not the biggest cost per click ad network in the world and as a result it’s a very popular destination for websites that want to monetize their visitors through advertising.
But not everything is peaches and cream. They are known for being one of the lowest paying ad networks and also they have one of the smallest revenue share percentages at 65%. Larger networks like Mediavine and AdThrive share upwards of 75% of their ad revenue.
Having said that, the last two are not an option for new websites because of their high traffic requirements for entry.
So, the question is then, is it worth it to join Google AdSense if they’ll only pay pennies on the dollar? The short answer is yes, because you’ll be able to use them as a stepping stone to better paying networks later on.
For example, Monumetric, Mediavine and AdThrive are all Google Certified Partners, which means that if you’re already a member of Google AdSense and you fulfill their traffic criteria, you’ll be accepted much faster than if you have no prior history with advertising networks.
Like all ad networks, Google AdSense has its pros and cons, here they are listed below so that you can make an informed decision:
Google AdSense Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- Highly reputable ad network with a massive number if advertisers (in fact, the largest number of ad accounts in the world for a single firm)
- You get to decide where the ad slots are placed on your site
- It's free to join
- You can place their ads on multiple websites from a single account
- You can customize the look of the ads to match the style of your site
- Pays out monthly
- You can block up to 200 advertisers if you wish to exclude ads from vendors that either compete with your own offers or that have ads that you think will be offensive to your audience
- Can coexist with other ad networks on your site (e.g. not exclusive)
- Pays net 21-26. So, all the earnings you accrue throughout the month will be paid out to you between the 21st and 26th of the following month.
- Payments can be made through direct deposit where available, check, Western Union cash, wire transfer or Rapida.
Now the Cons...
- Minimum payout threshold is $100 USD
- Payouts are very low compared to other networks, but has no monthly traffic minimum
- Advertisers are limited strictly to Google AdSense clients
- If at any point Google AdSense determines that fraudulent activity has taken place on your site, they’ll immediately shut down your account and stop all payouts without any advance warning. This could include you clicking on your own ads (even by accident!), having low-quality traffic from suspect sources (private link networks or other black-hat sources) or any other type of policy violation or click fraud.
Find Out More About Google AdSense Here.
The main difference between the two networks, and the claim to fame for Infolinks, is that as its name suggests, they pioneered the “link-driven ad.”
Although they support standard banner display ads, their primary ad mode is to place a link with a double underline on certain keywords on your pages which click through to an ad that’s contextual with those keywords.
In fact, this network can work in conjunction with Google AdSense (i.e. through a combination of banner ads and link ads) thus allowing you to monetize visitors through both platforms concurrently.
Infolink Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- Quick approval process (72 hours)
- Can work together with Google AdSense
- No minimum traffic requirements
- Pays net 45
- Payment methods: PayPal, eCheck, direct deposit, wire transfer, Payoneer
- Since ads are link based and don’t need to be loaded with your page, Infolinks doesn’t slow down your website
- No setup fees
Now the Cons...
- Payments are lower than cost-per-impression networks like Mediavine, Monumetric, etc.
- 65% of ad-revenue share (10 points lower than cost-per-impression ad networks)
- Minimum payment threshold: $50
Find Out More About Infolinks Here.
Once your traffic reaches 10,000 pageviews per month, you'll begin to gain access to cost-per-impression ad networks. These companies take a much different approach to ad revenue generation.
They show their ads through websites that already have a consistently large following, so by working with a much smaller client base of publishers, they can budget dedicated resources to optimize your site to maximize revenue.
So, as soon as you’re approved, Monumetric will assign an account manager for your website who will talk to you to learn about your niche and business model and discuss your revenue goals.
Once the interview phase is complete, they'll access your website to lay out their code where it’s needed in order to display ads that convert.
This personalized approach makes a huge difference in the final results, as website owners consistently attest that their revenue increases five or six fold when they switch from Google AdSense to Monumetric all things being equal.
They also take a slightly different approach to serving ads. While Google AdSense serves static ads, Monumetric has the ability to rotate their ads in the same spot while the visitor is still on the page, increasing the number of impressions and therefore your payout.
In terms of requirements, in addition to a traffic floor of 10,000 pageviews per month, over 50% of this traffic must originate in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia/New Zealand. Also, in some cases your website needs to be approved by individual merchants before their ads can be shown.
Finally, compared to cost-per-click networks that tend to operate a self-serve mode for customer support, Monumetric’s personalized support gets rave reviews from website owners.
Monumetric Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- Dramatically higher payouts than cost-per-click-networks
- Net 60 payments
- Excellent analytics reporting that shows the individual performance of each ad
- Excellent customer support
- Excellent ad-planning support—they place the ads on your website so you don't have to
- You get paid in the first 10 days of each month
- Ad revenue share: 70%+ (much higher than cost-per-click ad networks)
- If you refer a new client, they even pay you 2% of their ad rev-share for the first 12 months!
- Payment methods: direct deposit in the U.S. and PayPal internationally
Now the Cons...
- High traffic minimum of 10,000 pageviews per month
- They charge a $99 nonrefundable setup fee. If your traffic is higher than 80,000 monthly pageviews, this fee is waived
- Analytics reporting is next day (Google AdSense, for example, offers same day reporting)
- Since they are growing faster than they can keep up with, their initial response time when applying is extremely slow. It can take 4-6 weeks to get enrolled and have your ads serving.
- Must give a 30-day advance notice to leave the network without incurring in cancellartion fees
Find Out More About Monumetric Here.
Once you’ve achieved entry into the world of cost-per-impression ad networks with Monumetric, you’ll start finding a lot of reviews from website owners stating that after about two years they traded up to Mediavine and they're now making even more money per impression.
At these elevated traffic levels, two things happen: 1- you get an even more dedicated team working with you to constantly optimize your website to maximize ad revenue and 2- Mediavine can leverage their massive aggregated traffic to attract merchants with much deeper pockets.
The end result is that Mediavine has become the de-facto upgrade path of website owners as they grow their traffic over time.
However, Mediavine does not have a referral program and if you get approved to their network you’ll need to commit to a minimum stay of three months.
Mediavine Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- On average, monthly income is higher than Monumetric (and light years ahead of Google AdSense and Infolinks!)
- Payment options: direct deposit, wire transfer, check and PayPal.
- Net 65 payments
- 75% revenue share (one of the highest rev-share rates in the industry)
- They serve high-speed asynchronous ads that begin displaying while your page is loading
- Google certified partner
Now the Cons...
- Require a minimum of 50,000 monthly sessions for acceptance into the ad network
- Analytics reporting is not as complete as competitors'
- Mediavine branding appears at the bottom of each ad
- 3-month minimum commitment before you switch to another network
- They don’t accept anyone who's been previously banned by Google AdSense
- Minimum payment threshold between $25 and $200 depending on payment method
- No referral program
Find Out More About Mediavine Here.
The final best player in the ad network industry (and one of the highest paying) is AdThrive, one of the largest programmatic ad networks in the world.
The challenge for newer online solopreneurs is that it’s very difficult to get accepted into AdThrive because of their massive barrier to entry: 100,000 monthly sessions—that's twice Mediavine's already sky-high requirements!
Their secret sauce is their use of proprietary software algorithms that match the ideal viewer with the ideal ad at the ideal time of day on the ideal site to get the best possible results for their merchants (and you by extension!).
Before serving ads on your site, they'll use advanced tools to analyze your traffic patterns to find the ideal candidates from their gigantic pool of ad inventory. This is one of the main reasons they require websites with huge traffic, because the bigger the dataset the more accurate the results.
AdTrive Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- One of the largest programmatic ad networks in the world
- Full service ad management including dedicated account reps to maximize results for your website
- Minimum payment threshold: $25
- Payment methods: Direct deposit, PayPal, check, wire transfer, eCheck/local bank transfer
- Google certified partner
- 75% revenue share
- Net 45 payments
- Real-time reporting (unlike Monumetric)
Now the Cons...
- 100,000 monthly sessions minimum to be accepted
- Applications from websites that have been blacklisted by Google AdSense are automatically rejected
Find Out More About AdThrive Here.
What to Do Next
Once you establish that hosting ads on your site will be a net positive for your visitor monetization strategy, just follow the hierarchy presented in this article based on your traffic.
If you have a new website, begin with Google AdSense, followed by Infolinks (you can run ads from both platforms simultaneously). Then, when your traffic reaches 10,000 pageviews per month, upgrade to Monumetric.
After that it's just a matter of working on increasing your traffic until you qualify for Mediavine (50,000 monthly sessions) and finally AdThrive (100,000 monthly sessions) as you watch your ad revenue skyrocket!