Google AdWords is somewhat of a king amongst PPC programs online. Google simply has so much reach, so much access, so much insight that it’s impossible to compete. Others try, but none quite give the same returns as a dedicated program with Google. That said, sometimes Google just isn’t an option.
• Your Google AdWords traffic is too low, such as in a very specific, low volume niche.
• Your niche involves something that isn’t allowed in Google’s terms of service for AdWords, such as some of the pornographic and morally gray businesses.
• Your AdWords account was blocked or suspended due to past or current activity against the terms of service. If you had a history of working as a black hat SEO, even if you’ve turned your business around and are firmly white hat now, Google can still suspend your account without warning.
• Google AdWords are too expensive in your highly competitive niche. You simply can’t afford to pay the bid for each keyword you want when the returns are minimal.
So if you can’t use AdWords, who can you use?
The Yahoo-Bing network competes strongly against Google, just as the companies try to compete in the realms of search, email, cloud storage, and just about everything else. If you’re going to do anyone non-Google PPC campaign, make it through Bing. It’s not a cheap alternative – it can be just as expensive as AdWords in many niches – but it’s a powerful network with nearly as good returns as the big G.
Facebook continues to take steps every couple of months to attract new users to the platform as advertisers. The result is a surprisingly robust and powerful ad network that targets highly specified and categorized groups of people. The Facebook Audience Network further refines this process for marketers. This network won’t have the high traffic levels of Google or Bing, but then, very little else will.
AdRoll is one of the larger third-party networks available, and it makes heavy use of Facebook. Its primary focus is on retargeting, using Facebook ads, sidebars, promoted posts, and timeline remarketing. It has also expanded into Twitter remarketing as well. It’s a viable alternative, particularly if you don’t want to use the Facebook platform directly.
Bidvertiser is another network that operates in much the same way as AdWords itself. It holds the distinction of having a reasonably low average bid compared to other networks, without sacrificing the quality of its traffic. You can find some very nice returns through the network if you’re in the right niche. Otherwise, it may just be one more failed PPC experiment.
With a minimum entry fee of $25, you’re not going to be able to run a quick $5 campaign on 7Search. However, you do gain access to one of the oldest and best-established ad networks on the Internet. 7Search suffers from low-quality traffic – high views but low clickthroughs for many keywords – and from a general lack of effectiveness for most campaigns. However, with only a $25 buy-in, you’ll be able to run a quick test campaign to see if it works for you. If it works, for that matter, it really works; you’ll see surprisingly high returns for a third-party network.
AdSonar was one of the more common past names for this network, which has seen a little turmoil over the last few years as it was purchased and rebranded. Today, it serves as the primary advertising platform for a few big-name sites, such as CNN Money and the Huffington Post. You can find it under Advertising.com Sponsored Listings. It’s not cheap to start, however; be aware of the $100 starting minimum.
DNTX is the Direct Navigation Traffic Exchange. That doesn’t say much, but when you hear the phrase “parked domains” it should bring some light to the situation. If your niche is dominated by a past competitor using an exact match domain with ongoing residual traffic, but the domain has a prohibitive price tag, you may be able to siphon off the traffic through the ads on the parked domain page. That’s where DNTX comes in. It’s really best if you can find a relevant exact match domain with ongoing traffic; its utility fades if the domain isn’t generally typed in or linked to throughout the Internet.
Infolinks is an ad provider specializing in contextual text links. It doesn’t do much with sidebar ads and other common ad formats. Instead, it spends most of its time focusing on the analysis of contextual text elements. If you have a product that can be mentioned through generic terms fairly commonly used, it can be a very powerful ad network. On the other hand, if your product is too niche and there’s too little traffic for the keyword, you’re not going to see much of a return.
This network certainly isn’t for everyone. However, for the target audience, it has the potential to be bigger than Google in terms of traffic and returns. Why? It specializes in the Spanish language, rather than English, as most other ad networks focus on. If your site and product are bilingual or Spanish, Kontextua has some serious power. Like Infolinks, it’s primarily based in contextual text links, and it does have an English version if you want to run two language campaigns or try out their English database. It can be an absolute godsend for Spanish sites.
Chitika is all about volume and scale and automation. You can set up ad-buying algorithms and more or less automate a large part of your PPC campaign. It’s not for everyone, but like most other ad networks, can be very effective for a few.
Stumble has lost some of its effect over the last year, but it can still be an interesting PPC network to use, particularly because it’s not strictly PPC. It’s more of a paid presence within the Stumble database. Users don’t need to click an ad to find your site; the Stumble toolbar serves it to them. StumbleUpon traffic is notoriously fickle when it comes to conversions, so it’s best to use this more for traffic volume and brand awareness rather than ROI.
Keep in mind as you investigate all of these options that what works for one webmaster might not work for you. Success with any of these networks is largely dependent on the niche and volume you’re looking for. Also remember that many of them can be run in conjunction with one another – you’re not limited to just one ad network for the rest of your career.