Google Adsense is a service that allows any blogger to possibly make money by hosting advertisements on their blog. The operative word there, though, is “possibly.” While many bloggers do earn respectable sums through Adsense, many others quickly find themselves on the hunt for additional revenue streams — while others aren’t able to get approved, and still others find their accounts banned despite strong traffic.
On the one hand, bans are an important tool for Adsense as they cut down on “adverse activity” like site owners clicking their own ads, or aggressively pushing monetization to the detriment of content.
On the other hand, the chance of bans, lack of potential for approval or reapproval, and the general risk of staking your entire online life on a single revenue stream have all rendered Adsense into a less-than-reliable moneymaker.
Maybe you’re here because your Adsense account just got banned, or you’re looking for additional sources of income in case you’re next on the chopping block. Don’t despair! There are plenty of other blog monetization options for you, and today, we’re running through some of the best.
Let’s start out with the closest competitor. Media.net is a contextual advertising platform operated by two of Google’s biggest rivals, Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Bing. It’s focused on contextual advertising, i.e. ads that target the user by relating to the content they came to see.
Here's a useful primer on the concept, but if you don’t have time for links, imagine you’re writing a blog about golf. Your site visitors will get ads for golf clubs. It seems boneheadedly simple, but it’s actually one of the best ways to guarantee strong advertising performance, and Media.net helps you tap into that power.
Like Adsense, it’s an invitation-based network you have to apply for, but many users have found it easier to get approved for Media.net. Once you’re in, you’ll be able to use your account for an unlimited number of websites, and you’ll even get access to a dedicated account manager who will help you fine-tune your ad campaign. When you’ve got things up and running, the payment minimum is $100 — you won’t get paid until your clicks make at least that much.
There’s one other important word of caution about Media.net. Their ads are frequently displayed as simple text-based keyword menus, and it’s these that tend to get by far the most clicks. However, clicking one of these takes the user to a more detailed list of ads, and it is only clicks on this second page that generate revenue.
Who is it for? Any blogger with a dedicated following and targeted content. Numbers aren’t as important as engagement. If you have people coming back post after post for content only you can provide, you’re likely to make money off Media.net, whether you’re a corporation or one person with a keyboard.
2. Amazon Native Shopping Ads
Lots of people know about Amazon’s affiliate links program — it’s easily one of the most popular ways to monetize a blog. What’s lesser known is that Amazon also has a contextual ad service that puts links to shopping pages directly on your blog. You’ve almost certainly seen one of their “shop related products” spreads.
You can get started with this through your Amazon affiliate account if you’ve already got one. No worries if you don’t: everybody who applied is immediately granted approval. However, you’ve got to make at least one sale in the first six months, or your account will be closed. It may seem like a low bar, but it still doesn’t reward slouching.
Unlike some of the other entries on this list (but like Amazon’s affiliate links), here you’re getting paid by the sale, not the click. Commissions run between 4 and 8 percent, but with the amount of money flowing through Amazon every day, that has the potential to get quite large.
Amazon determines what sort of ads to display on your blog based on one of three options: targeting ads based on your content, based on search keywords used to reach your blog, or based on custom requests for what you want to advertise.
Who is it for? Creators with content that’s likely to sell a lot of products, such as hobby or sports blogs. If you’re not writing about a topic that can be expressed in terms of things purchased, you might find this harder going.
Affiliate links are a simple but powerful monetization method. Simply embed links to relevant products in your content like you would anyway, and if people click the links and then spend money, you earn a commission.
Amazon may have the best-known affiliate program online, but they’re far from the only option. Viglink (technically now called Sovrn//Commerce but better known under the old name) converts any link to an e-commerce product page into a revenue-generating affiliate link.
And that’s only one of their products. Viglink’s commerce insert feature allows even unlinked mentions to generate revenue, by auctioning the right to own the link to the highest bidder. Another flagship feature makes it easy to create affiliate links on any major social media platform.
If you’re planning to use Viglink, make sure that you understand how to moderate the risks of giving outside service access to your content. Unaware users can sometimes mention product or merchant names too many times and find their entire page turned into an off-putting morass of links. Any automated service should be approached with a trust-but-verify attitude.
Who is it for? Blogs that discuss a lot of purchasable products and are seeking to expand commissions beyond Amazon. If many of the items or services you discuss are better sold on more focused e-commerce sites, Viglink might be for you.
Skimlinks is another affiliate-link automator and a direct competitor with Viglinks. Their service works in a very similar manner, by detecting product mentions in your content and automatically updating them as revenue-generating affiliate links.
What sets Skimlinks apart is its suite of services focused on creating commercial content that actually enhances user experience. Nobody likes ads, but people do like thoughtful product guides that help them make difficult selections in a crowded market.
Skimlinks offers content creators a user-friendly toolbar to help them create links directly from participating merchant websites and goes even further with a library of freely-accessible native content any Skimlinks publisher can use. They’ve also got a huge network of affiliate merchants — nearly 50,000 by some counts — that greatly increases the flexibility of who you can work with.
It’s not all perfect: payouts are only once a month, which can play hell with self-employed schedules, and Skimlinks takes a 25 percent cut of every commission. But it’s an excellent starting point for monetizing your blog.
Who is it for? Bloggers discussing topics that fit closely with the offerings of affiliated merchants, who range from small-time to huge; anybody looking to get started in the affiliate monetization game, especially if you have a cushion for the slower payouts.
Moving on from the world of affiliate linking, Adsterra is another alternative that’s competing directly on Adsense’s own turf. With their combination of traditional banner ads with modern formats like pre-loaded video, Adsterra claims to serve up 25 billion ads every month, part of 100,000 total campaigns with high-budget clients.
The enormous size and rapid growth rate of Adsterra (they were only founded in 2013, and started out specializing in popunder ads) might seem intimidating to a starting publisher, but they’re actually very friendly to the content-creator side.
Our favorite feature right now is the freedom to choose exactly how you want to monetize your website, selecting to get paid based on ad views, ad clicks, or ad actions. If you write, say, a news blog, large numbers of viewers scrolling past ads will make you more money, but if you run a hobby site, you’ll earn more based on clicks and commissions.
Adsterra combines user-friendliness with a lack of hand-holding on the publisher side: it’s up to you to decide where ads go, and starting requirements are pretty minimal. However, you are required to hit 5,000 pageviews before you can start using their best-performing ad styles.
Who is it for? Publishers who are looking to open a non-Google advertising revenue channel, who already have a significant amount of traffic, and who love a lot of options for control.
6. OIO Publisher
Speaking of a lot of control: welcome to OIO Publisher, the tool that starts the automation process after you’ve already built relationships with advertisers the old-fashioned way.
OIO Publisher is a plugin for WordPress-powered sites, but it’s based on a PHP script that can be hacked into any site provided you’ve got experience tinkering with source code.
OIO is an extraordinary tool for savvy publishers who want to cut out the middleman. The appeal of platforms like Adsense is that they build relationships on your behalf — that’s how they earn their commission. Publishers up for building those relationships themselves not only end up having more control over exactly what kinds of ads appear on their blogs, they also make more money.
Currently, OIO costs $47. For that one-time fee, you get full automation of any ad campaign whose owner has agreed to advertise on your site. The license also works on multiple sites for a single registration.
Who is it for? Publishers comfortable enough with business negotiation to find their own advertising partners and build ongoing relationships, who want to increase their revenue by cutting out middleman commissions.
7. SHE Media
SHE Media is a digital media company that owns several well-known lifestyle and news sites, including SheKnows, HollywoodLife, and BlogHer. They work to empower the voices of women, not just through their content, but also through a robust partner network that helps women monetize their blogs.
What does this mean for you? If you’re writing content that fits into one of SHE Media’s (very broad) niches, you can join their network and post ads from the same advertisers as their high-traffic flagship sites. You can monetize your blog using banner ads or native ads, participate in network-wide campaigns to write sponsored content, or even make money as an event speaker.
If you “triple down,” it can all add up very quickly, but advertising through SHE Media does come with trade-offs. They want exclusive rights to “above-the-fold” ad space — the first space that appears when your page loads. They also prevent certain sponsored content from appearing in ways that would conflict with their own.
Who is it for? Women (they also accept some men) writing blogs with content that would appeal to readers of SheKnows and HollywoodLife, or anybody who’d be likely to attend a BlogHer conference.
Here’s a very interesting one. AdRecover carves out its own niche by recognizing that a huge number of online content consumers now browse using ad blockers. According to some measures, an average of 30% of visitors to every website have some kind of software to block ads. Ads can still be shown to these users, but they have to be even more rigorously context-compliant than most.
The upside is that if you can reach users who are using adblockers, they tend to be a more engaged and discerning audience than most. That’s where AdRecover comes in. Any ad you host through their network is guaranteed to conform to an extremely high standard (they frequently ban noncompliant merchants). Post-approval, they run analytics on how their ads are affecting user experiences on publishers’ sites, so you can make sure you’re keeping your selective audience even as you subvert their ad blocker.
The approval process is more rigorous than most, as befits their need to reach pickier users. You’ll need to run their code on your website for a week or two so they can analyze how much-adblocked traffic you’re getting. They look for at least 50,000 pageviews per day, at least 10,000 of which should be from users with ad blockers.
Who is it for? Publishers who want to access a largely untapped market of people generally hostile to online ads.
Bidvertiser is a long-running pay-per-click ad network that’s been competing with Adsense for as long as the PPC game has existed on the internet. Bidvertiser builds their strategy around having a long tail and loose regulations — their ideal publishing partner is a small-to-mid-sized blog with a passionate audience and a few ad spaces. Approval is automatic as long as you aren’t a site for adult content or piracy, and $10 is the minimum payout.
Bidvertiser compensates publishers based on a unique 2-step revenue system that pays out for both clicks and conversions. If a user clicks your ad, you get paid; if that click leads to a sale, you get paid again.
Ad space goes to the advertiser who makes the highest bid based on both the cost-per-click and cost-per-conversion model (what counts as a conversion varies between advertisers).
As usual, there’s a tradeoff: your ads will be paid out by the highest bidder, but that bidder might not have anything at all to do with your content. There’s no context optimization at all with Bidvertiser, which results in less brand engagement than you might like. Short of that, though, they’re built well for their stated mission of helping smaller writers monetize.
Who is it for? Bloggers with a small but dedicated audience looking to open a second revenue stream fast.
Since rebranding from The Blogger Network, Monumetric has grown into one of the farthest-reaching full-service monetization networks. They tout two main reasons you should choose them over Adsense: their data-driven approach, and the fact that as former content publishers themselves, they know what dirty tricks to avoid.
They demonstrate their commitment to data through an eye-popping array of analytics that covers every single user action taken on your site. By tracking every single metric, they’re able to make more comprehensive decisions about what to put where, increasing the amount of eyes on ads. And did we mention they pay based on views, not just clicks?
The benefits of Monumetric’s owners being former publishers are most evident in their commission rates, which hover between 15 and 30%. They also allow publishers a huge level of control over what sort of ad campaigns get launched on their blogs, and control how those ads affect UX. Be warned, though, that there’s a flat $99 fee to get started.
Who is it for? Bloggers who want to monetize but care about preserving user experience on their blogs; publishers who love data.
Conclusion: Which Adsense Alternative Should I Choose?
Hopefully, we’ve given you an idea of the huge variety of options out there for moving away from Adsense. To close out, we’d like to break down who should choose which entry on our list, and start on the path to a lucrative blogging career.
- People looking to make commissions from affiliate links without too much hassle should go for Viglink or Skimlinks.
- If you want to make your commissions from traditional ads instead, set up Amazon Native Shopping Ads.
- If total control is important to you and you have a WordPress site, pick OIO Publisher. If you don’t have WordPress, use Monumetric instead.
- If you want a major ads network of a comparable size to Adsense, pick Adsterra, Bidvertiser, or Media.net.
- If you’re looking to reach an audience specifically concerned with women’s issues, SHE Media is the choice for you.
- If you want to reach an audience that’s discerning about everything they read online, pick AdRecover.
And of course, don’t forget: you can almost always diversify your revenue stream using more than one of these.