Making Money with Ads as a Content Publisher

Ads in an old comic book

Making money on your site with ads pretty much sucks nowadays. Unless you're pulling in lots of traffic and your site has a focus or product connection that advertisers can target users to, you're not going to make very much. In this article I'll give you some advice on what works and what doesn't, from my experience.

So how much traffic is a lot of traffic? If you want to make decent money (enough to pay your monthly grocery bill) you're going to need about 1 million page views per month. I've never gotten that much traffic even on zKorean, which is highly trafficked.

So what's out there for me?

Here are some that I've used personally.


Google's Adsense is pretty good, but you're not going to get rich with it. Like I said, you need a ton of traffic for whatever ad vehicle you're going to use.

People are now ignoring Adsense much like they began ignoring banner ads years ago. To keep people clicking Adsense ads involves changing color schemes over time in order to get visitors noticing again.

Adbrite, AdBites, AdEngage, AdHearus, Clicksor, IndustryBrains, Kontera, Kanoodle/BrightAds, Pulse360, WidgetBucks

Yes, I've used all of them. Some more recently, and some as many as 5 years ago. They all stink. Adbrite posted porn ads on my education site even though I told them not to. Clicksor was forcing exe downloads and causing antivirus programs to go off. Kontera underlines stuff in your content and then pops info windows when hovered. Ad quality is abyssmal (weight loss, teeth whitening, you know ‘em).

Rubicon Project

I thought Rubicon would save me. It takes multiple ad networks and funnels the best targeted stuff to your site to maximize ad performance for you. But still the ad quality was not worth putting in front of my users.


This was a good one I used for a while. Ads for items on eBay and other online retailers show up, and you get money for click-throughs and purchases. With many of the same ads showing up and not a good rotation, the money from this dried up quickly.

Keep in mind that my main content site has to do with the Korean language and culture. So the main relevant items there for ads are travel and TaeKwonDo. If you'r site has to do with gadgets or mortgages or something similar that has a lot of ad pressure behind it, you'll likely find gold.

Now for the winners…

Text Link Ads

Text Link Ads

I got a beta invitation for this site when it was still in diapers. I got the beta invite because the sister site is ShoppingAds. What TextLinkAds does is put a block of links on your page. That's it. They are served on your server using whatever programming language you use, and are generated from an XML file that they update on your server. The down and dirty is that the links are served from your site and not by JavaScript. Why all the trouble? So that the links provide "link juice" for those paying for placing the links on your site. In the SEO world, link juice is the sweet nectar of links to your site, increasing your PageRank in Google. The more influential or highly trafficked the sites are that link to you, the better your PageRank. So people are indirectly paying for PageRank. That's not a bad thing. Inorganic, but not evil.

So how much? Well it depends on your Alexa rating for one. It's one metric the TextLinkAds system uses to determine a good bid price. You tell how much you want to charge for a link for one month, and how many you want to show in a block. I think I have it set to 8 links. If your Alexa rating is low (good) then you can demand a higher price. So at an Alexa rating of 50,000 you could make maybe $150/month, and at 200,000 maybe $50/month. And since they are not banner ads or obtrusive it's not a hassle having them there.



AdMob provides ads for mobile devices, and the company was recently bought by Google. I've used AdMob on the only dedicated mobile site I run, MicroArmory. It's a mobile-friendly site for viewing character information for World of WarCraft. The nice thing about AdMob is that as a publisher you can view the ads in the pool on the AdMob website and kick out ones you don't like. I stopped doing that filter process over a year ago and it "learned" what I don't like. So it shows new ads all the time and stays current with mobile trends and I don't have to babysit it. I think revenue comes via clickthroughs and pay per impression, but I'm not sure, I just know I get some money in my PayPal account every month or so.

The Future

One service that I am looking to use next is BuySellAds. They deal with quality publishers with good traffic, and they place the square 125×125 ads you've seen on TechCrunch and similar. They have a marketplace where you sell ad space and advertisers buy placement. But I'm waiting until traffic on zKorean bumps up a little more before I apply. Once Startup Next Door's traffic is in the stratosphere you'll likely see some ads here too. But tasteful and respectful to my visitors. I put a lot of work into making this site pleasant. I'm not going to slap cheap teeth-whitening ads all over it just to make a quick buck.

Call for Comment

What have you used? I'm always up for new options! Comment below and let me know what's working for you.

Photo courtesy Thomas Duchnicki :: Location Scout CC BY-SA 2.0

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