The first time I ever heard about someone making money from a blog was an interview in the Kansas City Star. Some cool old lady was making tens of thousands of dollars per month from a recipe blog.
It was with something I’d never heard of: AdSense.
I’ve just never been able to get it to work.
Even as HerePup approached the 200,000 visitor/mo mark, I’ve only ever been able to squeeze a few hundred dollars out of my AdSense ads.
So you can understand my excitement when a good friend of mine–who also happened to be one of my main competitors–told me that Media.net was out performing AdSense for him 2:1.
I immediately signed up and gave it a go. And…
…it flopped. It earned like $7/day that first week. Not nothing, but it also wasn’t living up to its promise.
And then something magic happened.
My friend told me that I needed to get cozy with my account manager, and that–get this–they would optimize my ads for me.
So I did. And they did. And pretty soon, the Media.net ads on my site were earning 5x what AdSense ever did. They took my display ad revenue from $400/mo to around $2,000/mo. At the time, that was a 50% revenue increase.
Since then, Media.net’s been one of my favorite ad networks, and it’s one of the primary networks we recommend to Authority Hacker PRO students who want to diversify their income with ads.
Today, I want to talk about the network, its pros and cons, and how to actually implement it to add a great source of incremental revenue.
What is Media.net?
First, some essential info:
- Parent company: Bing & Yahoo!
- Network type: CPC
- Volume: 70 million paid clicks/mo
- Minimum traffic: none (technically; more below)
- Sign up: Media.net
- Key differentiators: account reps, done-for-you ROI optimization, DSP technology (more below)
- Publisher info: here
- Terms: here
- Payouts: monthly via wire transfer or PayPal
- Disallowed markets: adult, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, forums and discussion boards, user-generated content
Media.net started Bing and Yahoo’s (they run it together) answer to AdSense (it’s no longer owned by them–it was acquired by Miteno Communication Technology, a big China-based tech conglomerate).
It’s a big network that caters to big advertisers. Their advertising roster includes Forbes, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Reuters, and the like.
And their volume reflects it: according to their data, they generated about 70 million paid clicks in each month of Q1 2016. They use this to boast about their CTR, which is much higher than the industry standard of 0.08%, noting it takes the average advertising platform way more impressions (about 87.5 billion) to achieve the same results.
Where’s this CTR come from? The unique (and I think really innovative) design of their ads.
They developed something they call display-to-search (or DSP) ads: ads that use machine learning to understand the search intent of the user and serve ads with keywords relevant to that intent.
Other blogs call these highly contextual ads.
They actually serve lots of different kinds of ads–such as image, video, and rich media–but the most popular by far are the simple text-based ads, and it’s because they are the ads that best take advantage of Media.net’s DSP technology.
Here’s an example from a HerePup page on dog collars:
The text-based ads appear as buttons with keywords that are hyper-relevant to whatever article they happen to be on. They use “auto-learning algorithms” dynamically match advertisers to your content on a page-by-page level (although my account rep has tested different keywords before, so I believe they have some control keyword input somewhere on the backend).
Of course, there are a few key differences between Media.net and its primary rival: AdSense.
Perhaps the biggest is that it awards earnings on the second click. So when a user clicks an ad, they’re taken to a page like this:
And if they click on something here, you get paid.
Pros of Media.net
The ad design is genius.
In my view, this is one of the hallmark innovations of Media.net. The ad design is genius. Here are a few examples (sorry for the potato quality here; the screenshots were super small, and I wanted to give you examples from websites other than HerePup):
You can see how these are extremely keyword-focused and would feel very organic in the middle of some content, especially if the design was matched to your site.
The genius bit is that they are (1) buttons with (2) clickbait-y text. They are also mostly just text. All of this combined makes them highly, highly clickable.
I honestly haven’t tested as many ad networks as I should have at this point in my career, but, anecdotally, compared to the ones I have tested, Media.net’s click-through rates are pretty insane.
You get a personal account rep.
For their size, I really didn’t expect this, but it’s by far one of the biggest advantages of the network.
You get a personal account rep. And it’s not just someone who will answer questions or act as a customer service agent. No. I mean, they do that stuff, too, of course. But more importantly, they are trained to optimize your ads for ROI.
A major part of their job is A/B testing publisher ads for them. They handle (almost) everything: design, color, branding, keywords, etc.
The one thing they don’t handle is layout. You’re still in charge of that. But they will look at your site and give you layout suggestions; just be aware that they’ll sometimes ask you to put their ads in prime positions.
But overall, this makes a massive difference. My rep has been invaluable in the profitability of my Media.net ads (and therefore of my site as a whole). The tests he ran single-handedly took my Revenue from $7 per day to $60-$7 per day… without me doing hardly anything.
It works extremely well in some niches.
Media.net tends to be a bit more niche-dependent than other networks, but when it works in a niche, it tends to work very well.
HerePup, of course, is in the pets space, which is a highly commercial space with lots of fun products to buy. My friends who do the best wtih Media.net also tend to be in similar niches–those with lots of physical goods–although I’m sure those aren’t the only niches in which it performs well.
And this is good news. Why?
Because lots of us in this community in particular have sites monetized primarily with Amazon, and these kinds of authority sites tend to be in exactly the kinds of niches that benefit most from Media.net.
For me, the ads seemed to perform really well on affiliate pages (although this is just a general sense, since Media.net doesn’t have page-level reporting) without impacting the affiliate revenue generated by those pages.
It pairs well with AdSense.
You’ll hear more about this from Jon Dykstra below, but it’s worth mentioning here, too. Media.net and AdSense aren’t mutually exclusive, and they actually tend to work really well together.
I think this is because they tend to do well at different things. AdSense seems to have better image-based banners, and these tend to perform well above content, while Media.net excels at ads that appear in the middle of content.
They’re also highly synergistic because Media.net allows you to use ads in sticky sidebar widgets, something that’s against AdSense’s terms of service.
Mobile docked ads.
This is becoming more and more common, but Media.net does a good job here. Not only do they allow mobile ads, but your account rep will design and test them the same way they do with other ads.
They also have mobile-specific ad units, which allow you to test and optimize specifically for mobile traffic.
Disadvantages of Media.net
You need traffic and a suitable site.
There’s no official minimum traffic number. But people do seem to have trouble getting in with sites that don’t have much traffic. If I was going to guess, I’d say this is because they have limited resources.
Additionally, sites can get rejected if they have unsuitable content. One of my friends has a site that reviews a type of weapon. It’s something that’s sold on Amazon and is perfectly legal; still, he’s been rejected multiple times.
Just as a side note, we got sites in with as little as 5000 visits per month so you could start pretty early with Media.net even though obviously, you won’t make much with this little traffic.
No page-level reporting.
This is likely the biggest and most obvious drawback of Media.net.
The platform does offer (near-real time) reporting for every site you register with them and every ad you’ve created, they don’t offer any page-level data, making it very difficult for publishers to truly optimize ads in the context of their content.
This is a pretty big deal for authority site builders, since we tend to have very distinct types of content (we usually call them “affiliate content” and “info content”).
These are super different types of content that attract different people, have different structure, and perform differently. Testing different layouts on different content types is front-and-center for lots of us. Having no page-level reporting makes it a pain in the ass.
Account reps get mixed reviews.
I love my account rep.
I honestly count him among my internet friends. I always drop in to wish him a merry Christmas. If I don’t have a reason to contact him for a while, I’ll send him a note to see how he’s doing. He’s a good dude, and he’s helped me a ton with my business.
Plenty of my other friends like their reps, too…
…but it’s not the case 100% of the time.
I haven’t heard any real horror stories, but I have heard from plenty of frustrated publishers whose account reps just don’t respond. And when you’re doing heavy A/B testing or have an urgent question, that can be very frustrating
It’s also tied in with another drawback…
Yep, my account rep barely introduced himself to me when we started despite the fact we had decent traffic. Hit the support and ask to talk to your rep as soon as you register and feel free to ask to change if he’s unresponsive.
No self-split testing without third-party platforms.
This is another drawback that highlights Media.net’s emphasis on using their own reps to run tests rather than have users do it themselves.
If you’re looking to A/B test units yourself, you won’t be able to unless you’re using a third-party platform like Ezoic.
This is especially annoying when it comes to design. While Media.net does offer a few design options in their dashboard, the advanced designs will have to be created by your account rep.
Personally, I like having the optimization process be hands-off, but if you’re someone who likes to get in there and get your hands dirty, you might not be as stoked.
Performs like crap in other niches.
Some niches just aren’t as compatible with Media.net.
Basically anything without products is going to perform much worse than their product-stacked counterparts. An example might be, say, the celebrity gossip niche. There’s no product there, so the ads Media.net serves won’t be nearly as enticing.
Mo, one of our readers, in the comments, noted that he’s getting $7-$8 RPMs in a non-product-based niche, so this might not always be true. It’s only one anecdote, but I find this highly encouraging, and it makes a good case for at least testing Media.net if you’re not in a product-based niche..
Is Media.net a viable alternative to AdSense?
Alternative? Sure, especially if you can’t use AdSense for some reason. Is it a complete replacement? Maybe not.
Now, for me, Media.net did replace AdSense to a large extent. When I saw how well it was earning, I moved it to the prime real estate on my site, and AdSense got bumped to less-profitable locations.
That said, I did not remove AdSense. They work well together, so there’s no real reason to.
This is a nuanced question, though, so I wanted to bring someone in to talk about this who’s a lot more qualified than I am. Enter Jon Dykstra, our friend from FatStacks and a guy who’s tested more ad networks than any other human I know. He has a full Media.net review here if you’re interested, but I pinged him on Skype to ask this specific question. Here’s what he said:
Yes and no.
Yes in that if you don’t have an AdSense account, it’s a network that can get decent RPMs on its own; $5 to $10 RPMs are possible, but it does depend on the niche. Media.net works great in some niches and terribly in others. For example, one site I bought recently [that didn’t have many products] performed dismally.
No in that the best way to use Media.net is with AdSense. That’s been my #1 combo for years. The ads look very different, so you get a nice variety of ads on a page. Media.net works great in content. AdSense works great at the top of content, in top sidebars, and below content
Check out Jon’s Blog: Fat Stacks Blog
Jon and I feel pretty much the same way. One of the things Jon points out here that I really hadn’t though much about is that the ad design of Media.net ads adds variety to your page. I don’t have any data on this, but I imagine this helps reduce ad blindness.
What do AuthorityHacker Pro members think about Media.net?
Of course, I’m not the only one who uses Media.net. A lot of successful people in our community use it. And a few folks don’t. Here’s what some of the AH Pro veterans had to say.
I asked what people liked, what they
Here’s a quote from Authority Hacker power user and grandpa, Mark Jenner.
And here are some great thoughts from Justin Greathead:
And here, Megan Marrs brigns up some really great points I hadn’t thought about before with a reply from Amazon Terms of Service expert Mark Jenner.
Now that we know how much Mark loves Media.net, let’s talk about how to actually implement it on your own site and get the most out of it.
How to use Media.net and get the most out of it.
Prep: Have a credible site.
See above. You need to have a credible site with established traffic before you apply. If you’re not sure what qualifies as a credible site, check out our podcast here.
Step #1: Sign up.
First, navigate to Media.net, and head to their signup page.
Put in your information.
After that, there will be a review process, and Media.net will notify you shortly to tell you if you’ve gotten in or not.
If you get in, you’ll have access to the dashboard, which looks like this:
Here, you can add your payment methods and websites.
Step #2: Create an ad.
Next, you’ll want to start creating some ads. Click “Create Ad” from the dashboard to bring up the options.
You’ll be able to choose sizes…
You can choose whichever you like, but if you want to try what I use, you can give these three sizes a whirl:
- 300 x 250 (sticky sidebar)
- 300 x 250 (first paragraph, wrapped text)
- 728 x 90 (before content)
- 600 x 250 (after content)
Then, choose a skin…
Skins are just designs, and skins by themselves do not include color, so what you’re picking here is the literal graphic look of your ad units.
Below the skin carousel, you’ll find the color customization panel. It’s collapsed by default, so click it to expand the options.
Colors are probably more important than skins, although, of course, you’ll want to test various skin and color combinations to see which work best.
However, I highly recommend starting with your brand colors. Ads always convert better if they look like an organic part of your site.
Just keep in mind that the tool is going to run skin and color optimizations on its own as well.
You can tinker with the advanced options if you want…
…but I usually just leave them. First, there’s no real reason to not have mobile ads on your site, and we do want the platform to be as aggressive as possible with whatever optimization it decides to do.
Step #3: Put the ads on your site.
Now we want to put ads on our site. Of course, it’s a pain in the ass to go through all of our posts and put them in by hand.
There are also annoyingly few ad plugins that work with one of the themes a lot of us use: Thrive.
So, we recommend AdInserter. Click that link, and then click download.
Install it like you would any other plugin and then open the settings.
Here, just copy and paste the ad code into the editor. Every “block” is a different piece of code that you can put in a different spot (pro tip: you can put whatever you want here; it doesn’t have to be ads).
Below the editor, you’ll be able to choose where the code appears.
To get your code to appear in a certain place, make sure you have an automatic insertion option selected. You’ll be able to choose from these options:
If you choose “before paragraph” or “after paragraph,” the plugin will put ads will count from the top of the content and put an ad before or after that paragraph number, so you’ll have to choose a paragraph numerically.
I usually use this to put ads before or after the first paragraph, so I type “1” into the paragraph number box.
If you want to put a unit in your sidebar, just paste your ad code in a standard text widget. And remember: Media.net does allow sticky widgets, and these units make quite a bit of money, so make sure to download the Q2W3 Fixed Widget plugin.
Now, start playing with skins, colors, and layout to try to find a good, profitable combination.
Step #4: Ask your account rep to help you optimize.
After you’ve got some ads set up on your site and you’ve started to optimize a bit, it’s time to contact your rep.
Your account rep is specifically trained to help their ads generate more revenue for both you and for them. They know what they’re doing. Trust them.
Here’s the important part: ask them to customize the second page of ads.
I usually just send a quick email introducing myself, asking for their advice, and letting them know what I’ve tried.
Step #5: Check reporting.
You can view reports for your overall account, each site, or each ad unit.
As you start to optimize, this is where you’ll be able to see results and gauge performance.
Over to you…
Overall, I love Media.net.
They are the first ad network I made substantial money with, and I’ll be using them for all of my authority sites in the foreseeable future, especially since I’m in product-heavy niches, which usually do very well with this platform.
What about you?
Do you use Media.net? How’s it fare for you? What do you like? What don’t you like? Let me know in the comments!