Every year Google increases its share of the digital advertising market by adding billions over the previous year, and a publisher using AdSense taps into this stream in the easiest way possible.
But what’s beyond AdSense? Why should you consider using an AdNetwork? How do you choose the right Ad Network and when is the right time to change?
Let’s try to answer that here:
- Why some AdNetworks make sense and others don’t
- When is it right to consider an AdNetwork
- Pros and cons of using only AdSense
- Pros and cons of using an AdNetwork
- Differences between Adsense and AdEx
- Using Adsense and an AdNetwork together: does it make sense?
- The future of AdNetworks: Pubtech
Why some AdNetworks make sense and others don’t
The answer is: Technology.
AdSense is not (no, really is not) the best solution to monetise, but it certainly has the best simplicity/quality ratio.
Outside AdSense there are endless better possibilities: direct sales, impactful formats, header bidding etc, with enormous possibilities to improve a publisher’s revenue, but all this comes at a cost called complexity.
This is the point of the (best) ad networks.
Enabling Publishers to use the most advanced and profitable forms of monetisation compared to AdSense, while managing the technical complexity for them.
How can you tell if an AdNetwork can make a difference in your case?
Look at the technologies they use, if they are developed in-house it’s a good sign, if they only use third party technologies, no.
See if they have a direct sales force in your country – deals and direct sales can make a huge difference at the best times of the year.
See if they provide detailed insights into revenues, sources, formats, possible improvements, anticipation of the future etc.
See if they can give you any hints to improve your site technically, make it faster, remove some unnecessary code, increase security…
Look at the contractual conditions. If they offer you contracts that are too long, run away as far as possible. An AdNetwork is chosen every day on the basis of performance, not because you are bound by a multi-year contract.
When is it right to think about an AdNetwork
Well, it depends.
Generally speaking, a solution like AdSense is the best solution until your site reaches a few hundred thousand unique users per month.
The reason for this is purely technical: Ad Networks (the good ones at least) use more complex technologies than AdSense which, in order to perform at their best, need to be able to carefully select the right users for each single impression to be shown.
The larger the pool of users (and page views) available, the more technologies like header bidding can work properly and make a difference in economic terms.
In some specific cases it may make sense to switch to an AdNetwork much sooner: for example, very niche sites in sectors such as technology, finance, automotive etc.
In these cases relying on the direct campaigns of a (good) AdNetwork can make the difference even when the numbers are still small.
Pros and cons of using only AdSense
There is no point in hiding it, using only AdSense on page has objective advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s see which ones:
- You have a single interlocutor: Google. It is probably the most reliable of all, and the most accurate (and quickest) in payments.
- Your site is very fast. Ad networks can tell you whatever they want, and it is true that some (ahem…) have developed very fast settings with a minimum impact on loading times. But, by its nature, using an adserver and header bidding involves a few milliseconds of latency. Even the most advanced setting in the world (ahem…) can’t compete with AdSense tags hard inserted directly into the page.
- Direct control: you have everything in your hands, you can decide directly what to turn on, what to turn off, where to put the tags, clients to block etc.
- No fees to pay to anyone (apart from Google, of course).
- You have only one interlocutor: Google. If you have a problem it will answer after days, or weeks in some cases. Only by email. If it decides to block your site for any reason, or even to penalise it, you are at the mercy of events and your only source of revenues is blocked.
- Invalid traffic. Every publisher knows that in some months 5, 10, sometimes 15% of traffic may be considered invalid at the end of the month and therefore not paid by AdSense. A (good) AdNetwork solves this problem and pays for every single impression delivered.
- No chance of direct campaigns
- No video ads
Pros and cons of using an Adnetwork
The AdNetwork’s scenario is more difficult to analyse because it’s very heterogeneous: it ranges from extemporary companies that only want to speculate on inexperienced publishers, to very serious ones, with a decade of experience, which represent a real plus for publishers.
I take it for granted that you are able to find a partner of great quality but…even in this case there are advantages and disadvantages to be analysed:
- You only have one partner, but he will aggregate many others for you. A good ad network works with several SSPs in a balanced way. If even one of them has problems with your site, there are still many others.
- Google AdEx: reserved only for the most important sites and networks, AdEx is the ‘advanced’ version of AdSense. More control possibilities, more formats, more customers, more options and much less ‘invalid traffic’ at the end of the month.
- Support: If you have a technical or administrative issues a good AdNetwork is there for you. They will not always be able to give you the solution, but they will do their best. Also in case of problems with an SSP or Google itself, a larger structure will (well, should) have direct contact with someone inside who can give detailed explanations of the problem.
- More revenues: if the traffic is sustained, a good AdNetwork can bring you from 20% to 200% more revenues than with AdSense alone (or at least this is what our historical data tells us). Of course, this is net of the fee that it retains for its work.
- Constant optimisation: a good AdNetowk has an analytics team that scan your site every month looking for the best optimisation opportunities. In some cases they will implement them themselves, in other cases your intervention will be needed.
- You have less direct control over what happens on the page. You can operate directly on the tags of the Ad Network (only if you know what you are doing!) but you cannot operate on what is happening below.
- Payment times are generally longer. A good balance is 60 days but there are still networks that pay at 90 days…
Differences between Adsense and AdEx
In the previous paragraph I included AdEx (sometimes shortened to ADX, or lengthened to AdExchange) among the pluses of using an AdNetwork.
The difference between Adsense and Adex is a fairly recurring theme for publishers and the situation is not always clearly described.
I try to shed some light.
Of course they are both Google products, but Google does not explicitly give any indication as to which one is better, it just points out that they are two ‘structurally’ different products, and indeed they are.
AdSense (which you probably know better than your own house) is the ‘entry level’ product for monetising a site and is perfectly effective at that: it is relatively simple and very fast.
You just enter a line of code where you want an advert to appear and that’s it.
For many smaller publishers this is perfectly sufficient and is even the solution we recommend.
So why does AdEx exist?
For more sophisticated publishers, of course 🙂
First of all, Adex has not been an independent product for a few years now, but has been merged with Google’s own adserver: AdManager.
This choice gives you a perfect idea of the direction that Google wanted to give to its technology: if you are a “basic” publisher, AdSense has everything you need, but if you are a more evolved publisher, with direct advertising or able to communicate with different revenue streams at the same time… you certainly need an adserver (AdManager), and the more advanced monetisation functions of Adex are hooked up to it.
So is AdEx better than AdSense?
In my opinion, yes, it gives you access to more sources of supply, it also allows you to manage direct advertising, it offers you much better reporting, it offers you exclusive formats, it offers you truly capillary control over every impression made on your site.
But… it is terribly complicated to use compared to AdSense.
This is why Google only offers it to very large publishers or structured AdNetworks.
Using Adsense and an AdNetwork together: does it make sense?
In an absolute sense no, in a relative sense it could.
It is technically possible to make your Adsense compete with the rest of the monetization channels of an AdNetwork.
For every single impression there will be an auction that will be won by the highest bidder…almost always the AdNetwork.
The advantage of this would be to maintain a direct relationship with Google and therefore a double channel of payments (even if the receipts from Google will drop considerably in favour of those from the AdNetwork).
On the other hand, it forces the AdNetwork not to use its full potential and technical complexities may arise.
A good alternative would be to dedicate 1-2 positions on the page to AdSense alone and keep the other positions completely in the service of AdNetwork. In this way, by managing things correctly and always monitoring the weight of the page, it is possible to make the two sources of revenue coexist.
The future of Adnetworks: Pubtech
I founded my first AdNetwork, Talks Media, in 2009 and it’s still going strong.
In 2021, however, I felt the need to create a new company that represents the future of AdNetworks, so I founded Pubtech with a great team.
We did it because we believe that the technological complexity that publishers face has grown exponentially in the last 10 years: new devices, technical SEO, server performance, GDPR, advanced monetisation, CDNs, Core Web Vitals and all the rest are too heavy for the shoulders of many average publishers.
The AdNetwork of the future is no longer an Ad Network, it is much more: it is a reality that studies in a scientific way the needs of publishers (even beyond monetization) and develops solutions, processes, tools, software to meet these needs.
Publishers increasingly need someone they can rely on to provide them with customised solutions, to automate certain processes, to provide intelligence tools to make better decisions, and obviously to make them earn more money without crowding the site with banners.
This is why Pubtech was born.