Category Archives: Advertising and Marketing

Thoughts on Bidvertiser

Bidvertiser stands alone in that it is the only Adsense alternative that never made me angry.

It just worked. Setup was easy. There was no shady business, malicious javascript, browser hijacking, popover or popunder ads, push notification nonsense, or other user-alienating tomfoolery.

It’s the only ad network that I experimented with that didn’t make me want to turn on adblock on my own site, which had pretty minimal ads in the first place.

Earnings were terrible, as shown below. My site was a general-purpose non-niche site with global traffic based mostly in India, Pakistan, Turkey, and other non-high-revenue countries for advertising. In addition, the traffic volume was not high enough to attract anyone seeking to buy ads specifically on the site. Given that, take these earnings with a grain (or a bowl) of salt. Earnings would be much higher if your traffic was entirely from the U.S. Even so, the same traffic with Adsense would likely have earned around $8 or so.

If I had another site to monetize that was not compatible with Adsense, I’d use them again. I just wouldn’t expect to buy a fancy yacht from the earnings.

RevenueHits Turned Out To Be Entirely Worthless

I’ve been running RevenueHits on one of my websites for about the last 5 months in a rotation with other ad networks. The site doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic, and it’s global, so I don’t expect massive returns. But I didn’t expect zero.

Here are my stats for May 2021.

And here are my stats for all of 2021:

For all of 2021, here are my top geographies:

A large percentage of my traffic comes rom India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, so I shouldn’t be getting $100 CPMs.

However, anything less than a tenth of a cent per click or a $0.01 CPM is unacceptable and pointless for even the most low-paying geographic locations. I know those 102 clicks earned them more than $0.00.

I’ve removed RevenueHits from my site since they couldn’t even be bothered to send me a token fraction-of-a-penny like most barely-legit ad networks would have.

Bidvertiser was also running as one of the ad networks in rotation alongside RevenueHits and did generate earnings during this same time period. It’s the only ad network that I can trust to generate earnings from global traffic and so far they’ve proven themselves as the best Adsense alternative, which is why they’re the only provider left standing. There might be somewhere that would earn more, but doing so without shady popover/popunder ads, spammy push requests, interstitials, or any of the shady scammy tactics that make the internet almost unusable would be pretty difficult.

At some point I might run the which-ad-network-do-I-use experiment again, but it might be just about as much work to create one. It probably wouldn’t earn less.

Galaksion Didn’t Work For Me

I’ve removed Galaksion from the add networks being used on my site.

It’s a shame that I had to, because I had a generally good feeling about them. I liked their website, their publisher dashboard, and how easy it was to sign up and set up my site to use them.

Their ad fill rate was not great, but I don’t expect that of a new site that hasn’t been sent much traffic yet. The ads that did fill at least had a non-zero CPM rate.

But there’s one thing that happened that I can’t live with.

While testing some updates to my site I clicked on a text box to edit some details. A new tab automatically opened to some ad-based destination. I did not click on an ad to get there. I might have inaccurately attributed an auto-navigation to AdsTerra a few days ago, but they would have been removed anyway due to their slow script and poor reputation and I don’t care to do the research to figure out which of the two was the real culprit in that particular malvertising navigation (that was probably AdsTerra, I’m just not 100% confident).

Anything that will clickjack or hinder my site’s functionality is not welcome, so they’ve been removed from the rotation. Now we’re down to just RevenueHits and Bidvertiser.

I really wish this process involved me removing providers because I didn’t earn as much with them rather than dealing with technical issues that break my site. How is above-ground malvertising and clickjacking even still a thing in 2020? I should have to scour the dark web to find ad networks that behave that way.

Adsterra Didn’t Work For Me

I noticed that pages on my site would hang for a WHILE, so I did some investigation.

It turns out that the Adsterra JavaScript code was loading https://www.gatetodisplaycontent.com/7cb8fde86d9eb121ba106553cdc48d1a/invoke.js which would take more than a minute to finish (1.1 minutes according to the browser’s developer tools). It was a blocking call, so my site would not load while this script was executing.

Since breaking my site is unacceptable, Adsterra has been kicked out of the rotation.

That extremely long load time might also explain the terrible fill rate.

Adsterra Statistics

Bidvertiser served 3 times as many impressions on the same site over the same time period and did not prevent my site from loading.

I also noticed some weird behavior and could not easily figure out which script was causing it. Once in a while when I would click in a text box, a new tab would open to product.directredirection.com with a spammy malware site that was trying to trick me into installing a Chrome extension.

The URL:

directredirection.com malware

The page:

product.direcredirection chrome extension malvertising

More investigation revealed that Adsterra has been known to serve malvertising in the past:

https://blog.malwarebytes.com/cybercrime/2016/04/magnitude-ek-activity-at-its-highest-via-adsterra-malvertising/

https://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/news/252473229/Adsterra-still-connected-to-malvertising-campaign-despite-denials

I removed their JavaScript snippet and haven’t had that malware auto-navigation happen again.

Now it’s down to Bidvertiser, Galaksion, and RevenueHits.

Adsaro Didn’t Work For Me

I’m not sure that Adsaro even works. In the past few days I’ve had zero impressions. Maybe I set up their JavaScript block wrong, but the fact that pages on their site take an eternity to load makes me think it’s them, not me.

Adsterra, Bidvertiser, Galaksion, and RevenueHits are still in the running.

Media.net Didn’t Work For Me

I received a message that my site was disapproved today, so they’re the first ones to fail out of my newest ad network comparison experiment.

Looking closer at their policies I see this (bold added by me):

“Our program has been designed for sites with premium content. Sites that promote, contain, or link directly to the following types of content shall not be approved.

  • Adult, Pornographic or any illegal content
  • Tobacco, alcohol, ammunition, hazardous substances, illegal drugs, gore, violence, gambling and racism content
  • Pages containing profanity or content that and/or discriminates or is offensive to any section of people
  • Hate, violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization
  • Sale of prescription drugs
  • Sale of counterfeit products, imitations of designer or other goods, stolen items or any products that infringe intellectual property rights of other parties
  • Contain programs which promote invalid click activity by paying users to clicking on ads, browse websites, read email etc.
  • Websites that contain forums, discussion boards, chat rooms, or any content area that is open to public updates without adequate moderation
  • Sites with content that has been generated using computer programs and hence may not be comprehendible.
  • Bulk of the content is user-generated
  • Sites with fake news
  • Any other content that we believe in our sole discretion to be illegal”

So their network is ABSOLUTELY incompatible with a search engine since it links to everything on that list.

Still in the running are Adsaro, Adsterra, Bidvertiser, Galaksion, and RevenueHits.

New Site Advertising Experiment

I’m trying another round of ad network experiments. These are the 6 companies I’m trying out:

Asdaro

Adsterra

Bidvertiser

Galaksion

Media.net

RevenueHits

I might also add Adcash to the mix if I can get their site verification to work – I signed up but was unable to verify my site because their system was unable to access the website (I’ll assume someone pushed some broken code before the new year).

I have a randomizer in my site template that picks a random ad provider on each page load. It should distribute the traffic roughly evenly among them and as I get data and experience how each company impacts my site, I’ll eliminate the ones that aren’t right for me.

Adsaro, Galaksion, and Media.net are all completely new to me.

I tried RevenueHits before and it it made the experience on my site pretty terrible and glitchy. I’m giving them another chance, but they’ll be the first to be cut out if I find anything annoying going on.

I tried Adsterra before and it worked OK, but earned effectively nothing. I’m giving them another chance since it’s been a couple years and things might work better.

I’ve used Bidvertiser and they were the ad provider that was on the last version of WbSrch the longest. I didn’t have any significant income through them, but their ads were the least intrusive and managed to not be annoying at all. I suspect this one will not be the first one to be cut.

Chitika Didn’t Work For Me. Luckily They Died.

Chitika was one of the remaining few advertisers in my WbSrch advertising experiment.

A few days ago I received an email saying that they were shutting down, effective immediately.

Since they had a fill rate that never got higher than about 10-15%, that’s hardly a problem. I was going to remove them from my site when I had a free moment anyhow.

From January 7-April 10, a span of 94 days, I had 1,318 filled impressions and $0.000 revenue. On the best day ever, the CPM was $0.0007, or seven hundredths of a cent per thousand impressions. In any case, that was not enough to add up to a penny.

Bidvertiser is still in the rotation and they’re doing about how I’d expect. I will probably report more later.

RevenueHits Didn’t Work For me

I’ve had to cut short another one of the alternative advertiser experiments that I’ve been running on WbSrch. This time it’s RevenueHits.

This one isn’t causing malware warnings, but it made my site unusable if I had ad blocking turned off. There were popup windows, auto-navigation, and tabs opening without my permission. None of this is OK.

It’s not much of a loss – I didn’t earn anything at all from them during the brief experiment. During the short test, I had 433 impressions, 5 clicks (1.155%), and $0.00 in revenue. Not even a fraction of a penny – eCPM was $0.00 across the board.

The experiment continues with Adcash, Bidvertiser, Chitika, and Adsterra remaining.

Yllix Didn’t Work For Me

I’ve been experimenting with advertising providers on WbSrch to find one (or more) that works well.

Among the half dozen or so I was testing is Yllix.

Unfortunately, they’re causing my site to get malware warnings from Chrome. I’m sure Google is especially vigilant with flagging a competing ad service as malicious, so I’m dropping them from the test.

During the (shortened) test, I had 527 impressions, 4 clicks, and $0.01 in revenue, so it’s unlikely that they’d work out anyhow.

An Experiment with Project Wonderful

This was originally posted on wbsrch.com. It is reproduced here to preserve history.

I’m always looking for new and efficient ways to let people know about WbSrch. That’s why I decided to try advertising with Project Wonderful.

Project Wonderful was built as a banner ad network for web comics.

That doesn’t mean you can only advertise web comics or that advertising can only be placed on web comic sites, but that’s its core demographic.

As a trial, I ran an ad for WbSrch on a few sites that seemed like they’d have people who would be interested in trying out a new search engine. That means other search engines, SEO sites, and literature sites. I also wanted to find out whether webcomic readers were a good target audience.

I deposited $100, and after spending about $70, I think I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

If you want really fine-grained control over your campaigns and ad spending, this is the perfect network for you. You know exactly what you’re going to spend per day on a site, and you can bid on traffic on a per-region basis. Their regions are US, Canada, Europe, and Everywhere Else.

The search functionality is amazing. You can search for gaming sites that have traffic that is at least 50% from Germany and has between 100 and 10000 page views per day, for example.

As a publisher, you can set per-region bid minimums and can auto-approve bids, or require manual approval. This means that you don’t have to worry about running ads for things that you’d be opposed to, so no bacon ads on a veganism site.

Results have been mixed, and I’ve learned more about the types of people who are interested in trying WbSrch.

Some takeaways:

  • Webcomic sites have a high number of page views, but the number of unique users tends to be a fraction of that. The same goes for SEO tools.
  • Blogs tend to have more unique users and fewer page views.
  • Literature sites are somewhere in-between.

Here are my slightly-obfuscated results:

Site Pageviews Unique Views Clicks Spend CPM CPC
A Major Webcomic 581953 11126 35 13.34 0.02 0.38
An SEO Site 233489 17881 141 50.54 0.22 0.36
A Poetry Site 60780 4876 34 5.64 0.09 0.17
A Dutch Site 15584 305 4 0.73 0.05 0.18
A Hungarian Site 3485 730 1 0.35 0.10 0.35
A Search Engine 2711 963 40 0.62 0.23 0.02
A Swedish Site 2315 621 0 0.39 0.17 INF
A Movie Blog 1424 477 0 0.25 0.17 INF
A Knowledge Blog 1285 967 1 0.42 0.33 0.42
A Web Directory 296 83 0 0.05 0.17 INF
A Science Blog 231 124 1 0.29 1.24 0.29

The efficiency varies by site, but some are unbeatable deals for targeted traffic. Others are pricey, but just the type of people that will spend some time searching for themselves and the things they control. Hopefully we’ll be good enough for them to come back again.

There are some sites that I’ll run ads on as long as they exist even though the traffic is low. It’s easy to convince people trying a new search engine to try another new search engine.

I also suspect that my Hungarian and Swedish translations aren’t very good. I know basic Swedish, but the Hungarian is robot-translated.

One of the limitations of Project Wonderful is that if you have a large budget, you may run out of places to advertise efficiently, and for those things that are efficient, they may not get enough traffic to satisfy your hunger (2-cent clicks from your site? I’ll buy at least 1000 per day!). I could easily see struggling to spend a $1000/day budget effectively. If you’re prepared to work on a smaller scale, there is probably no better place to test-run ads because their data and reporting is good and you can learn a lot from your experiments. They also have enough fine-grained control that you can iterate and learn quickly.

$70 is hardly enough to get the full measure of an ad network, but I think I was able to get some useful data out of this experiment. Try Project Wonderful, you may just find it wonderful for your project, especially if your project plays well to webcomic audiences.

AdSense Alternatives for Startups and Small Websites

This was originally posted on wbsrch.com. It is reproduced here to preserve history.

In starting WbSrch, a search competitor to Google, I knew that at some point Google would find a way to “invite us to leave” AdSense. The Terms of Service make it clear that it is incompatible with a search engine (can’t have ads on pages that link to adult content, gambling, etc.)

That day came a little over a month ago when I received a message that ads were no longer running on the site because Google discovered a violation of their TOS in one of the result pages for a particular adult-oriented search term.

Sure, I could remove the offending link from the search results page (which I did because it also didn’t fit with the WbSrch inclusion policy), but that sort of thing would be sure to happen again. Around one sixth of the URLs on the web are porn, so it’s virtually impossible to exclude it all. Be very skeptical of anyone who claims they’re able to block all porn.

The Advertising Options

From my research, these are the notable companies that do online advertising:

Bidvertiser
Qadabra
Affinity
Infolinks
Advertising.com
Adversal
PulsePoint
Conversant (formerly ValueClick)
Clicksor
AdBlade
AdSide
Vibrant Media
Yahoo/Bing Ads (formerly Media.net)
Link Worth
Tribal Fusion
Kontera

Contacting the Advertisers

I looked into all of them, eliminating those that
require massive traffic volume to get started or have a reputation for
spreading malware.

These are the ones I tried to contact (at the end of April) asking whether their service would be compatible with WbSrch:

Qadabra
Chitika
Yahoo/Bing (formerly Media.net)
Conversant Media
Kontera
Bidvertiser
Affinity.com
Infolinks

I asked the same question of every site:

Hello,

I run a small but growing search engine at http://wbsrch.com.

I would like to know whether your service would be appropriate for use as the advertising provider for this search engine.

WbSrch.com indexes and links to most of the internet. We try to
exclude adult and other “icky” sites from the index, but that’s not
possible to do with an automated crawler. This means that at any given
time there will be links to things we don’t want to index per our policy
(http://wbsrch.com/policy/),
but that will eventually be removed. None of this content is hosted on
our site, but it is linked to depending on the search phrase used.

The search engine has indexes in 25 different languages, though most traffic is for the English-language index.

Given the nature of search engines, would WbSrch.com be compatible with your advertising platform?

What follows are the responses to this message and the action I took based on the responses.

Outright Failures

Bidvertiser had a broken captcha on their contact form, so I couldn’t contact them. Their policy says that they don’t allow linking to some content types, so
they probably would have said no.

Bing did not have a contact form. They might now. I think
they are still in alpha/beta/whatever. Even so, they’re still a
competitor, so not something wise to use long-term.

Non-Responses

Chitika never responded to my inquiry.

Conversant Media never responded to my inquiry.

Affinity.com never responded to my inquiry.

Responses

Qadabra responded the fastest, saying that they were totally
compatible with search engines and that they already had some search engine
customers. The message had a friendly tone.

Kontera was the second response. They said they they are not
compatible with search engines, but they were polite about it.

Infolinks replied three days later (on a Sunday) with a
fairly rude message that said “our quality assurance team found that your site
does not meet our publisher criteria” and “We at Infolinks
have the responsibility to keep our advertising environment up to certain
standards to ensure the success of Infolinks for our
publishers, advertisers and those viewing our ads.” OK, that’s fine if you don’t
want to work with a new site, but don’t be rude about it. At least now I know they’re too special and important to ever do business with.

The Winner

Based on these responses I went with Qadabra. They also said
that they work with traffic in all languages. Great!

Setup was easy, and ads started working immediately. I had a
few glitches with some ads behaving strangely, but it was a minor thing. Every
time I contacted them they were very helpful and friendly.

You don’t really get control over the types of ads that are
shown. Most of what I saw were ads for video games and the occasional ad for Russian
brides.

I did not enable any of their rich media ads, just banners,
so I have no experience with those. I know they earn more, but I’m generally opposed to popups, popovers, flyouts, videos, and things that make noise. If I visit a site that uses them I’m less likely to return.

Qadabra revenue was significantly less than AdSense, earning about
one sixth as much per thousand impressions. Their system documentation says
that they optimize it over time, so if I gave them a longer trial period, income
would probably go up.

Now that WbSrch has switched to SSL-only (inspired by Reset the Net), I can’t use
Qadabra. They don’t have SSL support, so even if their ads
were enabled, they wouldn’t load. If they add that I’ll consider using them
again, if not for WbSrch then for other sites.

I like the people at Qadabra, and I’m happy with their tech
support, but this experiment has ended after only one month, and there don’t
appear to be any other reasonable alternatives.

Qadabra is relatively new, created in 2011, so
they are still polishing their game. If you want a reasonable AdSense
alternative for lower-traffic sites and don’t require SSL, I recommend them.

The long-term plan always was to build an ad platform
internally to use with WbSrch. Not finding a platform that is a perfect fit for
us is just another motivating factor.

For now, I’m just going to focus on improving the search engine so we’re in a better position to monetize it later on. Since traffic has been increasing by around 100% per month for the last few months, it shouldn’t be too long.