Editor’s note: Mushfiq has been buying, growing, and selling website assets since 2008. His first exit was in 2010. Since then, he has done 175 website flips with multiple 6-figure exits. His free newsletter, The Website Flip, covers case studies on his portfolio of sites and data-driven guides. Take it away Mushfiq!
Often, affiliate website builders tend to monetize purely with affiliate links and forego a significant revenue stream: display advertisements.
This is also true for the opposite situation: those that monetize with display ads tend to forego affiliate links.
In reality, both affiliate links and display ads can coexist on a website to ultimately increase the bottom line.
As a pure affiliate marketer for over 12 years, display ads were always a second thought for me. Over the past year, I’ve added display ads through Ezoic, Mediavine, and Google Adsense to my portfolio of websites.
I’ve methodically tracked the impact of display ads on user experience, and affiliate revenues through detailed case studies you can check out on The Website Flip.
For this write-up, I will be focusing on how to squeeze out additional upside with display ads. These tactics can be applied to any site that is receiving traffic; either organic or social.
Before getting into the tactics, let’s do a primer on display ad providers.
Available Display Ad Providers
Not every display ad provider is the same. Some are hands-off automated networks, whereas others do manual placements within the site.
The automated networks place ads on the website where the highest revenues will be generated; of course, you can disable certain placements if they do not fit your site’s design or impact user experience.
The caveat is that the more you customize within the automated networks the less your revenues will be.
What are the best-automated display ad providers? In no particular order:
- Mediavine: 50,000 pageview requirement
- AdThrive: 100,000 pageview requirement
- Ezoic: 10,000 pageview requirement
- Monumetric: 10,000 pageview requirement
- Google Adsense: no minimum requirement
What are the ad providers where you have to do manual placements? In no particular order:
- Newor Media: 30,000 pageview requirement
- Locker Dome: no pageview requirement but they do not accept all sites; only specific verticals
The ad revenue per thousand impressions (RPM), which is essentially how much money you will make per 1,000 pageviews from your ads, differs between the networks based on niche, time of year, placements, site structure, among a plethora of other factors.
An apples-to-apples comparison cannot be done on which ad network is the best. However, sticking with the “safe” ones of Mediavine, AdThrive, and Ezoic if you meet minimum requirements is recommended for most content sites in typical niches (e.g., home, kitchen, lifestyle, general, outdoors).
Now that you have an understanding of the ad networks available to you, let’s get into the tactics.
Editor’s note: I implemented AdSense ads in two articles on Money Nomad per Mushfiq’s advice, and in the screenshot below you can see the earnings. While the earnings are not much, it took 5 minutes of work and will passively run in the background generating money each day.
3 Tactics To Quickly Increase Display Ad RPMs
Improve Paragraph Spacing Within Content
The more placement “locations” you can provide to the display ad providers, the higher your revenue will be in general.
Think about it. If you have large blocks of text together, where will the ads be placed?
However, if you break up your paragraphs in small chunks of 2-4 sentences max, your ad revenues will increase.
This works for two main reasons:
- You are providing the ad network with opportunities to place ads in multiple locations throughout the content, and
- You are opening up ad placements above the fold, and towards the top of the content. These are the most prime locations.
I implemented this tactic on the top 10 pages of one of the sites monetized by Mediavine. I like to follow the 80/20 principle on everything I do such that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your high-traffic pages. Therefore, focusing on the top 10 pages will yield the most results and validate the theory.
Here is the Mediavine RPM chart for this site:
It can be seen from the figure that as soon as the articles were reformatted, MediaVine’s system increased ad RPMs because of better placement opportunities.
- Break out your paragraphs into 2-4 sentences. This also provides a better UX; no one likes to see blocks of text!
- Test on the top 10 pages first, then apply throughout the site
Add Sticky Sidebar with Display Ad
The sidebar is prime real estate for display ads. Even better is if an ad can track the user as they scroll down the page on the sidebar. This is a non-intrusive way to significantly increase ad RPMs.
I have a site in the outdoor niche where I use Newor Media. I implemented a sidebar sticky ad block-sized 300×250 pixels. This is what it looks like on the site:
The payments per 1,000 impressions for all of my manual placements can be seen below.
The Sidebar Sticky at $2.91 outperforms one of my content placements. That’s a win!
- Ask your display ad network to enable sticky sidebar ads
- If you have to manually place it, you can use a fixed widget plugin
Implement Video Advertisements
Many display ad networks have video ad opportunities in-house. For example, with Mediavine, their team will create a unique video taking your content topics into consideration, and then the ads will show while the video is running.
These ads are usually placed within the content and also scroll with the user. They are usually muted by default to improve user experience.
My outdoor site uses a dedicated video ad provider, Ex.co. They have the largest inventory of video ad opportunities resulting in high RPMs.
To ensure a better user experience, I’ve disabled video ads on mobile. Ex.co allows you to customize all these factors. This does decrease my revenue capabilities but there is always a balance one has to make between experience vs revenues.
This is an example of a video ad on this outdoor site:
The results are as follows:
The RPMs are around $3 but the viewability is around 50% because I am only showing the ad on desktop, not mobile.
- On the desktop, video ads stay off to the side of the page thus resulting in a better experience for visitors
- Make sure video ads are auto-muted by default
Implement These Tactics To Increase Ad Revenues
Applying the covered tactics will improve your site’s revenues. Make sure to track your revenue and RPMs as you make the changes.
The methodical way to implement is to do one tactic at once, monitor for 1-4 weeks, and then another. During this time, you can check in on the revenues, RPMs, site speed, time on page, among other factors to see if there are improvements.
For further reading, I did a data-driven look at three ad networks: Newor Media, Lockerdome, and Ex.co. These networks were simultaneously placed on a high-traffic site. Check out the case study.