Finding Alternatives to Google Adsense
December 18th, 2018. The time was 18:00 PST when my Google Adsense account was shut down due to invalid traffic..
Earlier that day, my blog had an unnaturally large increase in traffic. I went from my average request rate of 100/hour to 2000/hour in the span of just 3 minutes time. The traffic was completely inorganic (0:00 spent on site), 99.99% bounce rate, and none of my articles had increased user view counts, according to Google Analytics. Google Adsense flagged my website for fraudulent activity and, within a few hours time, suspended my Adsense account altogether.
Despite contacting Google several times and providing service logs from my Cloudfront distribution (I use AWS for my hosting) proving the fraudulent traffic, they continued to respond with the same copy paste message:
After thoroughly reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into consideration, our specialists have confirmed that we're unable to reinstate your AdSense account.
I was left with no monetization model (I had not yet implemented affiliate marketing) and a mysterious source of invalid traffic that could strike again at any moment. The first thing I did was take precautionary steps like setting up service alarms and request throttles to flag/stunt future inorganic traffic spikes. I eventually identified a surprising culprit for the cause of this spam-bot attack, which I wrote about in a separate article.
Despite the shocking setback of losing an advertising partner, I knew I had to find another solution to sustain my blogs profitable business model. I had heard of alternatives to Google Adsense only in passing, and typically wrote them off as lesser alternatives to the browser giant. When I began exploring the available options however, I was pleasantly surprised.
It was difficult at first to replicate the highly scalable, diverse ad unit options that came with Google Adsense. Many of the ad services I experimented with had rigid dimensions, which made for a horrible user experience on both desktop and mobile interfaces. Many other platforms had unbearable UIs and poor customer service, which is a huge detriment to first time users. The first platform that I did have success with and still use to this day, was Infolinks.
Infolinks works in a very similar way to Google Adsense. It gives users JS code which they can add anywhere on their site, just like Adsense units. If you run a website through Wordpress or another hosting platform, Infolinks has easy integrations and solid documentation to walk you through the process. Once you get the ad units loaded on your site, all updates are made from the Infolink console and pushed to the ad units with minimal delay, which makes updates easy to implement. Infolink offers various ad unit types:
- In-text: Infolink picks various words throughout the webpage and adds hyperlinks to them, which can be customized in color, style (dotted or underlined) as well as how many should appear per page.
- In-fold: Ads will appear in the fold of whichever pages have the Infolink JS code. These ad units are not terribly intrusive and can be customized to appear on the left, middle, right or all three sides of the webpage.
- In-tag: Ads will appear anywhere the webpage uses the tag class, which makes for a surprisingly non-intrusive user experience.
- In-frame: Ad units will slide in from the left and right sides of users screens. In my opinion this ad unit is more intrusive than the rest, so I do not use these. If used in addition to In-fold ad units, much of the users screen could be covered.
- In-article: Ad units will open in a section of the webpage that Infolinks deems most likely to receive clicks, which tends to be anywhere above the fold. You can also use an HTML identifier to specify where the ad should appear every time.
Compared to other advertising services I’ve tried, Infolinks offers the easiest to implement and most user friendly ad units. On top of that, the ad unit loading speed is impressively faster than Google Adsense, which means a better experience for your website traffic. Website speed is a huge deal, as 53% of users will abandon a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. If you want to give Infolinks a try, here is my referral link.
Being that it’s the contextual ads program for both Yahoo and Bing, Media.net has steez in the online advertising community. As much as I dislike the Yahoo and (moreso) Bing browsers personally, their international usage does indicate that people use them, and where people go, advertisers flow. Many of the other advertising platforms I found have very few ad options, due to the low amount of advertisers that they work with.
Media.net also has a great support team. As soon as my account was up and running, I received an email from a member of their Publishing Partners team, who helped me finish my account set up and optimize my ad appearance. It does appear that their native ad units do not scale properly, but my representative was able to make an adjustment on his end that fixed the issue. When in doubt, ask!
In combination with Infolinks, Media.net offers a different ad experience that makes my webpages appear more organic and less spammy. There’s no penalty for having both ad services being used, as long as your UI remains user friendly. Like most advertising platforms, Infolinks and Media.net require application approval. In my case, these got approved in 1-2 business days. Applications will require you to submit your address, website URLs, and SSN/Tax IDs. They are required by law to gather this information from you.
The third and final advertising solution I found was Awin.com, and their ads are the ones I use most. Much like Infolinks and Media.net, Awin gives you simple code to enter on your site wherever you want the ads to appear. What's great about Awin is that you get to choose exactly which ads are being presented on your site- so no risk of random ads showing up to your visitors. Awin does require membership to join, followed by applications to partner with the various advertisers it works with. These barriers of entry mitigate low quality advertisers/publishers, making it a valuble affiliate network. Check out Awin.com.
While the hunt for the best advertising platform continues, Infolinks, Media.net, and Awin.com have my business for now. If you found this article useful, please consider sharing using the social media icons below. Are there any other advertising platforms you would recommend? Please let me know on Twitter!