Today on the BrandBuilders blog, we take a deep dive into the world of display advertising and compare two juggernauts in the space: Mediavine vs AdSense.
For experienced website owners who see consistent traffic, display advertising networks can be an additional source of passive income that requires very little work. Compared to creating and selling an online course, or other examples from our recent blog post about passive income, display ads are pretty easy to run.
Once you apply to an ad network and get it all set up on your site, all you need to do is press “play” and your ads will run to infinity and keep the cash flow coming.
But if you want to make sure your earnings don’t tail off, we recommend exploring all of the opportunities available to you! Display ad networks are continuously developing their offerings, using artificial intelligence to place the right ads in front of the right people.
If you stick with a network without seeing what else is out there, you could be leaving money on the table. Remember, the same exact traffic could yield very different monetary values depending on how effective your ads are!
So, let’s walk through the top advertising networks in the game right now, as well as some of their fast-rising competitors.
So, what exactly are these display networks?
Display advertising networks were created to make advertising on the internet easier for everyone!
Without these networks, a website owner would need to work directly with advertisers to get ads running on their site. This would mean having to request or produce the right ad creatives, negotiating how much you get paid, and managing the complexities of ad placement.
Advertising networks completely remove the need for this process. Instead of having to choose an advertiser yourself, the network finds the ideal one for you out of millions of options, and constantly refines your program to make sure you are seeing the best results.
Google AdSense is the world’s largest ad network, with 2 million advertisers and billions of customers. Since being launched in 2003, they have grown along with GoogleAds to become an unstoppable force online.
You probably recognize AdSense ads from your daily browsing, and these ads are becoming increasingly better at blending into the content on every unique website.
Ads created by display advertising networks are also of higher quality. The days of ugly popup ads are long gone, as website owners and advertisers realize that a stronger user experience leads to a user who is more engaged and has a better chance of clicking on ads that they stumble upon.
Networks now have robust application processes to make sure that only high-quality sites are used, which can include smaller blogs and affiliate marketing sites.
Using display advertising to earn passive income on a website can be a controversial decision for many affiliate marketers, content creators, and other online money makers. Display ads can have a direct effect on user experience and site speed.
But many people will say it is a monetization opportunity that’s too good to pass up. Once you go through the process of setting up a network on your site, your work is basically done!
As long as you keep creating content and bringing in more traffic to your site, you can grow your ad revenues over time and achieve that ever-fleeting goal of passive income.
If you are considering experimenting with display ads, there are a few things you should keep in mind. It is important to manage your expectations when working with this medium, especially because they are considered “top of the funnel advertising.”
As shown in the graphic above, display ads are meant to cast a wide net and be seen by a large group of consumers who might be interested in a product.
For the owner of a website, this means it is common for click-through rates (the number of clicks divided by the total number of times that the ad is viewed) to be very low, often between 0.05% and 0.10%.
Although this may seem like an incredibly small number of users who are clicking on content, it is more than enough to drive the display ad industry and provide plenty of website owners with sustainable passive income.
One of the great things about display ads is that they allow you to earn income from pages that have no other method of earning money over time.
As an example, let’s say that I have a blog about chess, specifically with resources about how to be a better player and places to find cool merchandise like customizable boards and accessories.
I can earn affiliate income from blog posts on my site where I talk about new and interesting chess boards that are released by a company that recently added me as an affiliate partner.
But what if I realize that my educational blog posts typically perform the best out of all of the content I create? And what if I am rightly hesitant to start loading these helpful informational posts with affiliate links?
If I find the right advertising network, display ads can be a great way to earn money, especially from old posts that continue to perform highly.
For content that is optimized for SEO and/or user experience, display ads that are vetted to match the branding of the site and are optimized for site visitors can bring in a lot of revenue down the road.
Now, let’s talk about the largest and most popular display ad networks out there, Mediavine and AdSense, and which one might be right for your website!
Mediavine and Google AdSense are meant to be compared head-to-head.
On the one hand, you have AdSense, part of Google’s advertising empire and the clear first choice of many first-time display advertising publishers.
Mediavine, on the other hand, is one of many upstart networks that have capitalized on areas that Google doesn’t do as well.
Where AdSense represents an “advertise in bulk” system meant to give more people access to their services, Mediavine offers higher quality (and higher-paying) ads, but to an increasingly exclusive list of websites.
As we pit AdSense vs. Mediavine and some other key competitors, we will be referencing some concepts that you might be seeing for the first time.
Each ad network has a different way of determining how much money gets paid to publishers when visitors click on ads.
RPM, or Revenue per mille (thousand impressions), is a standard metric for online advertising. It represents the cost paid by the advertiser for every thousand impressions served on a publisher’s website.
Most online reviews will include both their RPM and total earnings per month when they compare Mediavine to AdSense. RPM is a good way to benchmark performance, although it doesn’t always tell the full story.
EPMV is a much better statistic for evaluating overall performance. It is the estimated earnings per thousand site visitors, which does a better job of showing the revenues from a user’s session, instead of each individual pageview.
The reasoning behind this is quite complex, so we won’t go into it in-depth in this article. Just remember total revenues per month and/or EPMV are more important than RPM.
We also evaluate other factors that are related to the publisher’s ability to make money. Minimum pageviews is an essential metric to know when determining whether your site is right for the network.
Longevity and customer service are the “softer” elements that keep customers around for longer periods of time. Publishers want to feel heard, so a network that has been around longer with a great track record produces loyal brand ambassadors.
Here is our side-by-side comparison of the top ad networks in the online game.
Ad networks are complex concepts to learn about for the first time, so we haven’t spared any important details in this article. Now its time to go pit Mediavine vs AdSense, and find out which is the right choice for your blog or website.
Google AdSense is arguably the original ad network. Since 2003, it has been Google’s way of taking advantage of the vast amount of data that they own from user search habits, and monetizing it by feeding well-suited ads across a huge portion of the internet.
Google AdSense has Mediavine beat when it comes to inclusivity. There is no minimum traffic requirement to apply for AdSense, and you can even run ads from other networks at the same time.
This is a big deal for smaller-scale bloggers or publishers who are operating in niches that see less traffic.
Getting into the display advertising game is important, even if a site doesn’t have the kind of traffic to be able to apply for many networks. It is useful to be educated on how display ads work.
In fact, the value of learning that happens with AdSense is probably more than the ad revenues you will earn. Unless you are receiving tens of thousands of page views monthly, you will probably earn less than a hundred dollars with AdSense.
The AdSense network is also meant to be explored, with plenty of resources available that can help you optimize your ads. For self-learning types, this is a good thing.
However, this is also one of AdSense’s greatest weaknesses. With AdSense, you are truly on your own. Other networks have account managers whose job is to help you optimize your AdSense earnings.
Without this option, most AdSense users are likely missing out on some cash. Most publishers don’t have much time to pore over their campaigns, and this means that they don’t know what they don’t know.
The end result of this is low RPM’s, and even low-quality ads being run on their websites.
Thankfully, this is where Mediavine steps in and does a much better job.
If you read a Mediavine review online that compares it to AdSense, the author usually won’t split hairs about why they prefer using the network. In most cases, compared to AdSense revenues, switching to Mediavine allows them to make more money!
Mediavine requires 50,000 monthly sessions, so it makes sense that this exclusive network pays out its publishers handsomely. However, the real benefits of Mediavine go beyond the initial bump in earnings.
Mediavine does a great job of ensuring that ad revenues continue to grow over time, which they accomplish thanks to strong customer service.
Customers have access to Account Managers who can advise them on how to tweak their campaigns to increase earnings. Another huge benefit is their publishers’ Facebook group, where they have built an incredibly active community of bloggers who share ideas and help each other with any problems – no matter how small.
The Mediavine dashboard is much easier to use than Monumetric (and AdSense), allowing for full control without the need to be walked through each step by an account manager.
This dashboard was updated in May of 2020, and this Mediavine review by the This Online World blog goes into detail about what makes the interface so much better than the competitors, and its previous iteration.
The only disadvantage of Mediavine is that they have a high level of exclusivity.
Aside from their minimum traffic requirements, they also have high standards for content and the type of traffic that your site is receiving. If there is evidence of bot traffic or traffic from “non-premium countries”, Mediavine will deny your request.
The Mediavine website states that their service has seen incredible growth, which led to their recent increase from 25,000 sessions per month to 50,000. They currently have over 7,000 publishers, and 72% of applicants are denied.
Plus, after you join Mediavine, you must complete at least three months before you are able to cancel their services. You also will not be able to run ads from any other network while you are a Mediavine member.
So far, we have talked a lot about how vastly different AdSense and Mediavine are in their own unique way.
Now, we will see how they compare head-to-head. This isn’t to make them seem like true rivals, but rather to show the key differences in how they behave as ad networks.
Although most sites aren’t in a position to join Mediavine today, it is still important to understand how they (and other AdSense alternatives) consistently make publishers more money.
Also, even though we are going unto depth about plenty of different elements of what makes a better ad network in this review, remember that the key difference maker is the ads themselves.
When you switch away from AdSense ads, the increased price floor will result in higher-quality Mediavine ads.
Mediavine ads are better looking, have a lower impact on your site speed, and are better tailored to your users that AdSense ads could ever be – even if you figured out how to optimize them all on your own.
One of the major negatives of Google AdSense is that it faces the limitation of being a closed-off network – it can only show ads from companies that advertise within the Google Ad network.
You may be wondering why this is such a big problem. After all, Google is the largest ad network in the world, right? This should mean access to millions of possible advertisers to choose from for your site.
The fact is, if Google AdSense competitors don’t restrict themselves to advertising within one network, it gives them a large advantage.
Mediavine draws from many ad networks to guarantee that the highest-paying advertisers end up serving advertisements on your site. Google AdSense often has lower cost-per-clicks, so even if you might get served more ads, earnings are generally much lower.
The number of ads that get served on your site is important to consider when finding the right ad network. This is another area where Mediavine does a much better job than Google AdSense.
The fill rate is the best way to express this. The fill rate is a percentage that shows the number of ad requests answered divided by the number of ad requests sent.
This essentially shows whether the network can find ads to show to visitors on your site.
While AdSense’s fill rate typically hovers close to 100%, Mediavine is in the 70% to 99% range, and this is something that they are very happy about. This is because Mediavine has higher price floors for ads, meaning they won’t fill vacant ad space with low-paying ads, which are often lower quality and receive fewer clicks.
A lower fill rate is often correlated to a higher RPM, and better user experience, so Mediavine is the clear winner here.
Friend of BrandBuilders and excellent affiliate marketing resource Spencer Haws from Niche Pursuits uses a great example to show the benefits that switching from Google AdSense to Mediavine can have for online entrepreneurs who make money from buying websites.
In Spencer’s own words:
If you are just now discovering that there are a couple of ways to increase the earnings of your site that has just Google Adsense, you are not alone. Many website owners out there monetize with Google Adsense and have never tried Mediavine, AdThrive, or Ezoic. They are likely leaving money on the table.
Let’s take a look at a potential website purchase. For example, if you found a site making $1,000 a month with Google Adsense, you might be able to buy it for $30,000 (30 times monthly earnings).
If you did nothing more than just switched Google Adsense to Mediavine, the site could increase by 80% to $1,800 per month.
At 30 times earnings of $1,800 a month, the site is now worth $54,000. A $24,000 bump in value…not bad!
This is a great example of how Mediavine can benefit those looking to buy and “flip” existing authority sites, but also how the raw potential earnings that can be made by a simple switch – an option that many site owners don’t pursue.
AdThrive is like the final boss at the end of the display advertising video game. It works similarly to Mediavine, but has the distinction of having more high-paying advertisers.
This means that AdThrive’s minimum requirement is the highest out of all the networks on this list.
You will need to show at least 100,000 monthly pageviews to apply for AdThrive, and this traffic must come primarily from the United States.
This network has a similar level of customer care to others on this list, which should be expected for a network with such a high barrier to entry.
Because its ad offerings are at such a premium level, it’s hard to find any reasons to avoid going with AdThrive. At the end of the day, AdThrive is a no-brainer for publishers with sites that are large and successful enough.
Those who switch to AdThrive will likely be rewarded with a boost in their earnings.
Ezoic is the darling of the mid-range ad network world. Many publishers (including Spencer Haws from Niche Pursuits) have published rave reviews for the service.
Ezoic marries accessibility with effectiveness. Their entry-level program has a 10,000-page view requirement, which gives members access to features like their Ad Tester platform, which runs continuous split tests on their site using AI to optimize layout, delivery, and ad revenue.
Ezoic’s user interface is on par with the Mediavine dashboard, with ample resources available to learn how to use it effectively.
This platform allows Ezoic an advantage over AdSense and Monumetric. It even punches above its weight by being a legitimate Mediavine competitor.
Ezoic users report a strong feeling of control over their campaigns, as well as fast and informative responses from their customer management team.
The main downside of Ezoic is that it takes more time than Mediavine or Monumetric to show results out of the gate. This is something to be aware of, especially considering the number of reviews online that show immediate success switching to other networks.
We like to think of affiliate marketing as a long game, so Ezoic is a great option despite this.
Founded in 2012 as “The Blogger Network,” Monumetric later pivoted its branding to focus on not only bloggers but for any online business owners who were looking to have greater control over their display advertising earnings.
Since then, Monumetric has established a track record of strong customer service and fits in well alongside Ezoic as a competitor with a lower barrier to entry than Mediavine and AdThrive. They require 10,000 monthly page views to apply to be accepted into their introductory “Propel” program.
They also have three other programs for sites with up to 10 million monthly page views.
They are also one of the few ad networks that require a setup fee. You will be charged $99 to get started with their program, which can be a deterrent considering most other ad networks do not charge setup fees.
However, in the grand scheme of online money making, a one-time charge is a small price to pay, especially considering the kinds of gains that most users see when switching from other providers, specifically AdSense.
Based on anecdotal reports and reviews published online, most online bloggers report strong results out of the gate when switching to Monumetric from AdSense.
Many consider it as a “bridge” between AdSense and Mediavine, where a publisher can enjoy the benefits of ads from a variety of networks, and a strong customer support team.
The only negative that gets brought up about Monumetric is their net 60 terms for payment. This means that after revenue is earned, it can take up to 60 days for that money to end up in your bank account.
Some publishers also experience lengthy delays in their onboarding process, which could be a symptom of Monumetric’s growth.
Hopefully, they will be able to make this process easier in the future and make themselves a stronger competitor to Ezoic. Currently, we rank them very closely for overall ad management experience, with a slight edge given to Ezoic’s Ad Tester system and customer service.
Reviewing online advertising networks online can seem like a contest of incredible ad revenue gains.
That is not what this AdSense vs Mediavine review is meant to be about.
These five ad networks have been profiled on equal ground, and we have found that they all provide most of the benefits that they advertise, and each will likely result in improvements to your monthly ad dollars (with the exception of AdSense).
Ready to Take the Next Step?
When it comes to finding the perfect network for your website, the best thing might for you might be finding a way to cut through the noise. BrandBuilders has a team of online marketing experts who are experienced in all aspects of growing a website, including finding the right ad network.
If you have burning questions on choosing an ad network, try out our FREE Coaching Calls service to get them all answered!
And be sure to keep an eye on the BrandBuilders blog for more reviews and how-to guides all about the world of affiliate marketing!