How to Make Money With Display Ads: The Complete Guide for Publishers and Bloggers

Make Money Online - Last Updated on May 1, 2024 by Jussi Hyvarinen

How to Make Money with Display Ads

Jussi Hyvärinen

I'm Jussi, with over 25 years of expertise, I help entrepreneurs navigate the online business world. My services include tailored recommendations, step-by-step tutorials, and insightful reviews to help steer your business aspirations. Please reach out if you need assistance with your online business plans or have any questions.

Display ads are a type of online advertising that typically appear in the form of banners, images, or videos on websites, apps, or social media. They are typically monetized based on CPM and CPC.

Display ads are among the most common ways publishers and bloggers monetize their websites. Placing ads on your site provides a relatively easy, passive income stream that can add up over time.

But how exactly do display ads work, and how can you maximize your earnings from them?

In this comprehensive guide, I'll cover everything you need to know how to make money with display ads, from the basics of display advertising to expert tips on optimizing your ad performance.

What Are Display Ads?

Display ads are graphical ads that appear on websites. They come in a variety of formats, including:

  • Banner ads - Rectangular ads span a webpage's width, typically along the top or sides.
  • Skyscraper ads - Tall, narrow banner ads on the sides of pages.
  • Leaderboard ads - Wide banner ads across the top of pages.
  • Interstitial ads - Full-page ads that show before loading a webpage.
  • Pop-up/pop-under ads - Ads that open in new windows over or under website content.
  • Video ads - Video commercials or sponsored content.
  • Native ads - Ads designed to blend seamlessly into page layout and content.

Display ads can be images, text, HTML5, animation, or video. When clicked, they typically direct visitors off-site to an advertiser's website.

The most common pricing models for display ads are CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and CPC (cost per click). With CPM, advertisers pay for every 1,000 impressions or views their ads receive. For CPC, advertisers pay only when users click on their ads.

How Display Ads Generate Revenue?

Display ads make money through advertiser bids. Advertisers sign up with an ad network or demand-side platform (DSP) and create campaigns targeting specific demographics, interests, and contexts.

When a user visits your site, the ad server quickly auctions off the ad space on your pages in real-time. Advertisers bid on the opportunity to show their ads based on your site traffic data. The highest bidder wins the ad placement.

As the website publisher, you receive a revenue share from the money advertisers pay to place ads. How much you earn depends on several factors:

  • Bid prices - Advertisers bidding higher amounts make you more money.
  • Clickthrough rates (CTR) - More clicks lead to higher earnings.
  • Impression volume - More ad views mean more money. 

Maximizing all three metrics is key to making the most from display ads.

Why Use Display Ads?

Several benefits make display advertising a smart monetization strategy:

  • Passive income - Earnings happen automatically without extra effort once ads are placed.
  • Easy to implement - Get up and running simply by adding ad code to your site.
  • Low barrier to entry - You can start with minimal traffic and grow earnings over time.
  • Ad variety - Many different ad formats to choose from.
  • Broad reach - Display ads expose your site to new visitors.  
  • Granular targeting - Advanced targeting features help serve relevant ads.
  • Flexible placement - Ads can be positioned in sidebars, pages, posts, etc.
  • Diversified income - Ads provide an additional revenue stream beyond other options.

Display ads certainly aren't the only way or necessarily the best way to monetize a website. But they have significant advantages for earning extra income from your site traffic with minimal effort.

Types of Display Ad Networks

You'll need to join an ad network to make money with display advertising. Different types of networks cater to sites of varying sizes and models. As a publisher, you want to find an ad network that best fits your goals. The main categories of ad networks are:

Self-Serve Ad Networks

media.net

Self-serve ad networks are the easiest to join, even for small blogs and sites. They allow publishers to sign up, get approved, and immediately start placing ads. The most well-known example is Google AdSense, which I'll cover in more detail later. Other options are Media.net, Adsterra, and PropellerAds.

Benefits of self-serve networks:

  • Quick approval process
  • No minimum traffic requirements
  • Easy ad implementation
  • Wide range of ad formats

Downsides:

  • Lower ad rates (CPMs/CPCs)
  • Less optimization and targeting capabilities

Premium Ad Networks

Mediavine main page

Premium or managed ad networks provide hands-on service, advanced optimization, and access to higher-paying ads. But they have much higher requirements for joining. Some top premium networks include Mediavine, Adthrive, and Ezoic.

Benefits of premium networks:

  • Ad viewability technology
  • Higher ad rates 
  • AdOps team support and optimization
  • Custom reporting dashboards

Downsides:  

  • Harder to get approved 
  • High minimum traffic requirements (e.g. Mediavine requires > 50,000+ sessions/month)
  • The rev-share model returns lower percentages to publishers

Direct Advertising

Some large publishers bypass networks altogether and sell display ads directly to brands and advertisers. This requires developing in-house ad sales expertise and relationships with potential sponsors. Direct advertising earns publishers the highest ad rates but has high operational costs.

Benefits of direct advertising:

  • Highest ad rates and revenues
  • Build direct relationships with advertisers 
  • Complete control over ad placements and inventory

Downsides:

  • Requires ad sales staff
  • Need advanced digital advertising skills
  • Significant minimum traffic volumes needed 

As a publisher starting out, joining a self-serve or premium network is the easiest method to get your initial ad revenue flowing. Once you build a sizable audience, you can explore building your own advertising team.

How to Get Started with Google AdSense?

Google adsense

Google AdSense is the most popular self-serve ad network, making it the easiest way to start displaying ads. Let's look at how to get up and running.

Step 1: Create a Google Account

You need a Google account to access AdSense. If you don't already have one, visit the Google account page to create your free account. Use an email you check frequently, as Google will communicate with you at this address.

Step 2: Sign Up for an AdSense Account

Go to the Google AdSense page and click "Sign Up Now." Choose the account type that fits you best:

  • Website - For blogs, news sites, forums, etc. This is the most common publisher type.
  • YouTube Publisher - For monetizing YouTube channels.
  • Mobile App Developer - For publishers of Android and iOS apps. 

You may see additional screens to confirm your account country and accept policies and terms. Agree to move forward.

Step 3: Submit Your Site for Review

AdSense will ask for your website URL. Provide your main site domain. If you don't have a website yet, you must wait until your site is live to complete this step.

Google needs to review your site content to approve your account. The approval process checks that sites meet policies and quality standards.

Step 4: Get Approved

Give Google time to review your website. The approval process may take a few days or up to a week. Avoid making significant website changes during this time.

Once approved, AdSense will send you an email confirmation. You can now move forward with placing ads.

Step 5: Place the Ad Code on Your Site

Navigate to your AdSense dashboard. Under "Ad setup," you'll find the code snippet needed to display ads on your site. Simply copy and paste this ad code to site templates, widgets, or content pages where you want ads to appear.

Save changes and test that ads are live on your site. Congratulations - you're now earning revenue through Google AdSense!

How Much Money Can You Make with AdSense?

With AdSense, earnings depend on the:

  • Cost per click (CPC) - How much advertisers pay each time users click on their ads. It varies by keyword competition, industry, and other factors.
  • Clickthrough rate (CTR) - The percentage of impressions that result in clicks. Industry averages are around 2%.
  • Pageviews - Total ad impressions displayed to visitors on your site. More traffic equals more ad views.

For example, if you display 10,000 pageviews of AdSense ads per month, and your CTR is 2%, that's 200 clicks. If the average CPC is $0.10, you earn around $20 that month.

In reality, earning amounts vary wildly based on your site's niche and traffic volumes. Top-tier sites can easily clear over $1,000+ per month. However, expect to make only small amounts when starting out until you build traffic.

Tips to Increase Your AdSense Revenue

Here are some tips to improve earnings with AdSense:

  • Place ads above the fold - Ads higher on pages get more visibility.
  • Use a variety of ad units - Test different sizes and formats for best results.
  • Avoid ad saturation - Too many ads create a poor user experience.
  • Stay relevant - Content tailored to your niche attracts higher-paying advertisers.
  • Update old posts - Refreshing old content can increase CTRs and earnings.
  • Limit ad blocking - Use acceptable formats that don't encourage blocking software.
  • Analyze metrics - Use AdSense reports to refine your approach over time.

AdSense Alternatives for Higher Earnings

As you grow your site, other ad platforms may increase your earnings beyond AdSense:

  • Mediavine - A full-service ad management company that works with content creators to optimize their ad revenue.
  • AdThrive - An advertising network that specializes in working with publishers and bloggers.
  • Monumetric - Hands-on ad management for top-tier sites and blogs.

These networks provide more options, customization, and potentially higher ad rates to boost your income. Once your site reaches the required monthly sessions, a premium network like Mediavine or Monumetric is recommended.

Criteria / Ad Network

Ezoic

AdThrive

Monumetrix

Mediavine

Minimum Page Views / Month

No strict minimum, but typically 10,0000

100,000

10,000

50,000

Historical Traffic Quality

Reviewed for quality and compliance

High-quality, sustainable traffic

Consistent and sustainable traffic

High-quality, consistent traffic

Ad Policy Compliance

Must comply with Google’s Ad Policy

Strict compliance with Google AdSense policies

Compliance with general ad policies

Strict compliance with Google’s AdSense and ad quality policies

Other
Requirements

Google AdSense approval recommended

Must have a majority of traffic from the US, Canada, UK, Australia, or New Zealand

Google AdSense account preferred, not required

Google AdSense approval, site speed, and user experience considered

Content Niche

Broad range, including news, sports, etc.

Lifestyle-focused: food, home, parenting, etc.

Varied, but often lifestyle and entertainment

Lifestyle-focused: food, travel, parenting, etc

Optimizing Ad Placements for Higher Revenue

Strategically testing different ad placements is important to maximizing display ad income. Avoid a "set it and forget it" approach. Analyze what placements and formats lead to more clicks and impressions.

Here are some best practices for ad placement:

  • Above the Fold - Just below post titles and headers capture attention.
  • Between Paragraphs - Embedded mid-content avoids disrupting the reading flow. 
  • Right Sidebar - Vertical rectangle ads maximize real estate.
  • Content Bottom - A final banner ad before comment sections.
  • Interstitial Pages - Full-page ads between articles. 
  • Sticky Ads - Anchor ads stay visible when scrolling.

Aside from placement, pay attention to:

  • Ad Types - Test different formats like banners, videos, and interstitials. 
  • Ad Sizes - Bigger isn't always better. Find the optimal dimensions.
  • Frequency Capping - Limit ad repetition with smart rules per page.
  • Page Level Control - Fine-tune ads on specific pages.

Take time to experiment with placements and units. Use A/B testing and performance data to guide your optimization efforts. Refine over time as you expand site content.

Writing Content to Increase Advertising Revenue

Creating content optimized for display ads helps attract advertisers willing to pay more to reach your audience. Here are some proven strategies:

1. Research in-demand topics

Analyze keyword and trend tools to identify high-interest topics and questions people search for often. This content attracts advertisers due to search volume.

2. Target commercial terms

Brand names, product terms, and buying keywords tend to have higher ad rates. Naturally, weave these into informative posts.

3. Feature product comparisons

Content like "X vs Y" or "Best [product]" roundups do well for advertising revenue. Include pros/cons, recommendations, buying considerations, etc.

4. Review Hot Products or Trends

Stay current by quickly reviewing new products, releases, or news your audience cares about. Timeliness is valuable.

5. Craft evergreen, how-to content

Useful "how to" posts continue driving traffic long after publication. Evergreen content extends your ad earnings.

6. Optimizing existing posts

Refresh older successful posts with new data, trends, and learnings. This regains traffic and revenue.

You can maximize income by focusing your content strategy on topics aligned with advertising opportunities. Use tools like Google Trends, Semrush, and Google Keyword Planner to find ideas.

Display Ad Best Practices and Strategies

Here are some additional tips and strategies to grow your display ad earnings:

  • Join multiple ad networks to maximize fill rate and coverage. Compare earnings across networks and place their ads on different pages.
  • Keep ads AT LEAST 300 pixels away from other ad blocks to qualify for viewability metrics and increased earnings.
  • Use responsive ads that automatically adapt to desktop vs mobile for a seamless experience.
  • Limit ads on conversion-focused pages or posts, leading visitors to take desired actions like downloads or purchases. Too many ads here hampers conversions.
  • Set a maximum of 3-5 ads per page. Strike a balance between revenue and user experience.  
  • Develop direct relationships with advertisers in your industry to sell premium placements at higher CPMs.
  • Try valuable ad formats like site takeovers, Welcome Ads, transitional ads between pages or posts, and scroll-triggered units as you gain experience.
  • A/B test ad placements, types, sizes, colors, and frequencies regularly to find the optimal mix.

While display ads are rather passive, you can significantly boost earnings through ongoing testing and optimization. Mastering digital advertising capabilities takes time but pays major dividends.

Should You Use Display Ads?

Display advertising comes with pros and cons, like any monetization method. As a web publisher, you'll need to weigh the trade-offs.

Pros of Display Advertising

  • Provides revenue even for new sites with low-traffic
  • Requires less effort than affiliate sales or selling products directly
  • Adds income diversity and stabilizes revenue from fluctuations in other business channels
  • Improves brand visibility and expands reach through new visitors
  • Draws impressions and traffic through ad targeting

Cons to Consider

  • Lowers user experience on-site if overdone
  • Provides lower revenue per visitor than commissioned sales
  • Involves loss of control regarding which ads are placed
  • Requires monitoring and optimization for best returns
  • Some ad types, like pop-ups or interstitials, frustrate users
  • Revenue fluctuates based on competition, ad rates, and traffic volumes

For most publishers, using display ads in moderation on a site is recommended. Balance ads with your business goals, audience tolerance, and need for income diversification.

Display ads shouldn't be the only monetization technique, but they do provide easy revenue. As traffic grows over time, ad income scales upward with little extra effort required.

Conclusion

Display advertising is one of the simplest ways for publishers to monetize websites to earn ongoing passive revenue.

With the strategies above, you can implement ads properly to maximize income without hurting user experience. Testing and optimizing placements, formats, and content focus will boost your earnings significantly.

Ad networks like Google AdSense make it easy to get started. As your site grows, explore premium networks and direct advertising relationships.

While display ads come with trade-offs, they provide income diversification and liquidity for websites. Display advertising can provide website owners with lasting revenue when used judiciously as part of an integrated monetization strategy.

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