Blogging for money is a popular side hustle. That’s because a blog can be up and running, with ads, is under an hour. And because the barrier to entry is so low, there’s a lot of competition for traffic, and traffic is what you need if you’re blogging for money. So if you’re going to start blogging as a side hustle, at least make sure you get the money part right.
It seems like Google’s Adsense advertising platform is the default mechanism that bloggers use to make money from their sites. It’s an easy system to get into, but that is also a huge part of the problem. It’s too easy. Today, we’re going to talk about some Adsense alternatives.
Blogging for Money
The barrier to entry in Adsense is so low that the ads are not customizable and, frankly, bloggers have very little control over what they’re showing their audience. This can be an unpredictable way to website monetization. Worse, Google’s cost per click payout has shown signs of a decline.
That is a huge problem for bloggers who want their sites monetized and earn extra income. Google Adsense provides a lot of flexibility, but unless you’re exceptionally experienced with ad serving psychology like ad placement for banner ads, you might be shooting yourself in the foot. Google won’t optimize the ad placement on your site. That’s your job. They won’t test the best images, locations or types of ads on your site. Again, that’s all on you.
And, that’s one of the biggest drawbacks of Adsense. Most bloggers simply aren’t experienced marketers, and understanding how people make buying decisions, based on the placement of ads, is well beyond the scope of most bloggers. Most just want to write and earn some cash.
- Fill rate impacts earnings (fill rate = # of ads answered vs. # of ad requests made)
- Website content influences how effective a banner ad will perform
- How many ads are you okay display as a way to earn money?
- Do you prefer CPM ads, PPC ads or something different? More on this below!
And for a lot of bloggers, Adsense revenue (earnings) is hit or miss.
I started with Google Adsense too, but as I soon discovered, I was leaving money on the table. There are a variety of other ways to monetize blogs that pay better, offer more flexibility and more control over the ads that bloggers show their audience, and that’s a huge component of building a positive reputation as a blogger.
If you’re blogging about saving money and personal finance, ads about new cars or expensive electronics run contrary to your entire message. The inability to control advertisements kills the credibility and authenticity of too many bloggers.
But luckily, there are a ton of alternatives to Google Adsense that bloggers need to be aware of.
Top Five Alternatives to Google Adsense
Google Adsense isn’t the only game in town. Here are the best Adsense alternatives.
#1: Interactive Offers
One of the best providers of ads is a service called Interactive Offers. Strictly, Interactive Offers isn’t necessarily an Adsense alternative because they can be used together. The goal of Interactive Offers (and other ad networks like it) isn’t to just display a bunch of untargeted, meaningless advertisements to wide audiences – almost like casting a wide net in a sea of fish.
When you’re fishing for a particular type of fish (your target audience), it’s wise to target where those fish are. Connecting your ads to the right audience, in the right place and the right time is how bloggers get the biggest bang for their buck. Targeted traffic. This is what separates average ads from GOOD ones. Ads that pay dividends.
This is text advertising at its best, and its potential is huge.
And, here’s my favorite part: They fully support email-based advertisements.
Listen, bloggers: Your email list is probably the most underutilized source of revenue that you’ll ever experience as a blogger. Email lists are ripe for monetization, and you simply cannot do that with Google Adsense (and it’s against the terms of service of other monetization services such as Amazon.com). If you’re blogging for money and if you’ve gone to the trouble of building a huge email list, advertise to them.
Don’t waste a prime opportunity to generate revenue, especially with your email list.
Interactive Offers has highly competitive payouts, which means you earn more money per click than many other services out there. Their cost per click system means you’re generating revenue even if the person on the other end doesn’t buy a product or sign up. They click. You get paid.
In fact, the average CPC (cost per click) is $2 – one of the best in the business.
They also support SMS, Push and Display ads, offering a full service, one-stop-shop for virtually any kind of blog monetization. And, you can pick the individual ads that you want your readers to see. That’s a huge draw that most bloggers love to have.
We highly recommend checking out Interactive Offers if you’re looking to monetize your blog – the smart way. If you think they might be a good fit, signup and give it a try.
Mediavine is a display ad network that’s gaining traction among many bloggers – especially food and personal finance bloggers. They provide in-content and “sticky”-type sidebar advertisements meant to drive revenue through display ads on your website. Unfortunately, they don’t cleanly support email-based ads like Interactive Offers.
But, they are one of the top display-ad providers in the business if your only (or primary) focus is on monetizing your blog’s front end pages. As of the time of this writing, they require at least 25,000 sessions per month before you can apply for the program (note that sessions are different than pageviews).
All Mediavine customers get access to a simple dashboard to view your income and payouts, RPMs and other numbers that you might care about. It is relatively easy to use.
And, bloggers can opt out of ads by topic (ie: alcohol, dating, fast food, etc). Though Mediavine does not support the ability to pick and choose specific ads to display, the ability to opt out is definitely flexibility that most bloggers need to have.
Mediavine’s customer support is on-point and highly engaged, definitely a huge step up from Google Adsense.
And, if you’ve been banned from using Google Adsense, you’re still okay to use Mediavine if you meet the company’s other requirements.
#3: Amazon.com affiliate marketing
Among the different affiliate networks, Amazon is probably the most well-used. A lot of bloggers are a part of the Amazon.com affiliate program. As a part of this program, Amazon pays referring blogs a percentage of the sale from every click from a blogger’s website. With a lot of traffic, Amazon affiliate marketing can generate a lot of revenue.
But, you need to have web traffic first. Otherwise, marketing affiliate products don’t work.
And, you’ll need to be a clever enough affiliate marketer to get people to actually click on those product links. Some bloggers do this very well, but it very often requires a lot of experience and trial and error before bloggers begin pulling in serious money from Amazon.
On one of my blogs, we might pull in $80 to $100 a month – hardly anything to write home about. Most months, we’re generating $20 to $25 bucks.
Affiliate marketing is labor intensive and it takes a lot of time to get right. It’s not something that bloggers set up in a weekend and then retire a month later.
It’s fairly easy to advertise with the Amazon platform, but you cannot advertise with affiliate links within email. In fact, it is strictly against their policies, which means you’re once again underutilizing one of the biggest potential money-makers that you have at your disposal. Your email list.
“Ad management done right”, according to their website, Monumetric (formerly known as ‘The Blogger Network’,) is another ad management service that monetizes blogs through the use of display ads. They break up their services by the number of pageviews of the blog:
Monumetric is a step up from Google Adsense for several reasons:
- Up to six advertisements per page (Google Adsense limits bloggers to only three)
But, there are several disadvantages of Monumetric too.
- It’s $99 bucks if you have less than 80,000 pageviews a month
And, if you’ve been banned from using Google Adsense, you’re still okay to use Monumetric if you meet the company’s other requirements.
#5: Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing, in general, is an avenue that many who are blogging for money use to monetize their web sites with specific niche products or services (inside and outside of Amazon).
In short, affiliate marketing is where bloggers receive a commission for advertising for specific products or services. Generally, this is tracked through a “referral link”, or “affiliate link”. The link contains a code that uniquely identifies the blogger and, if the user clicks the link and performs some sort of an action (like signing up for service!), the blogger gets a commission.
Some examples of what bloggers market with affiliate links:
- Credit cards
- Learning courses
- Free online services
- Bonus upsells
- Coupons, spreadsheets, and calculators
Really, the possibilities are endless. Believe it or not, affiliate marketing happens all over the place. And through services like Teachable and Send Owl, setting up affiliate services for products and services that you’ve designed is simple and effective for almost everybody.
But, affiliate marketing isn’t easy. It takes a lot of experience and trial and error to get it right. Bloggers can’t slap up a product and expect people to flock toward it through their affiliate link. And, affiliate relationships need to be disclosed in most cases, too.
And, most affiliate programs require a sign-up – not just a click. Meaning, it’s not enough for a reader to click on an affiliate link for you to get credit. In most cases, they’ll actually need to buy before you get any money. It’s a CPA, or Cost Per Action set up rather than CPC (Cost Per Click or Pay Per Click).
Successful bloggers make affiliate marketing work, but it doesn’t come easy.
How to choose the best Adsense alternative
While Google Adsense might be the easiest ad platform out there to get into, it’s very rarely the highest paying. The flexibility that comes from picking and choosing your ad placement also means it’s ripe for failure unless you’re a skilled marketer.
And, you’re missing out on exploiting your email list. Services like Interactive Offers and Skimlinks helped to fill that void with text-based advertising. Viglink has emerged as another interesting option. Is it right for you and your blog?
If you’re blogging for money, here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding on an advertisement platform:
- How much money am I looking to make? Am I looking to get filthy rich or just make a few extra bucks here and there?
- How big of an email list do I have? Can I make money off of that (the answer is probably YES)?
- How many pageviews / sessions do I have? Could I even apply to services like Mediavine and Monumetric?
- Can I pick and choose individual ads? Do I even need to?
- What types of ads are supported? For example, can I display text-based, image-based as well as video-ads? And, are they all mobile-friendly?
And, pay close attention to how you’re paid.
In a cost per click (CPC) model (my favorite), bloggers are paid each and every time a reader clicks on an ad.
In a cost per mile (CPM) model, bloggers are paid a fixed amount of money for every 1,000 ad impressions (displays). This is also known as cost per thousand.
In cost per view (CPV) model, the blogger is paid every time the ad is displayed and viewed by a reader.
In a cost per action (CPA) model, the blogger is paid only after the reader performs an action, such as buying a product, installing a plug-in or signing up for an email list.
This post was written in partnership with Interactive offers and The Money Mix Influencer Network.
Michael Dinich is the founder of Your Money Geek. He often writes about Finance, Taxes, Politics, Renewable Energy and Geek Culture. Providing clients with the confidence and security to enjoy retirement is his life’s mission.