A Comparison of Banner Ad Networks

A features and benefits comparison of four Internet banner ad networks.

As the manager of a second- (maybe third-) tier site, I've been searching for ways to make my 40,000 page views a month generate a reasonable income. I've become a member of several banner networks, but none of them offer everything I need to maximize the value of my inventory.

I'm looking for:
1. The ability to choose exactly what ads are going to run on my site.
2. Daily and period-to-date reporting of impressions and click-thrus for each campaign I'm running.
3. Reliable delivery and counting for remotely served ads.
4. Prompt payment.
5. Reasonable rate of return (CPM or CPClick pricing).

Here's my take on how well the networks I have used measure up:

Link Exchange
1. No income, just reciprocal ad displays.
2. Fair reporting on your reciprocal banner, with day-by-day impression counts and click-thru rates as well as hourly traffic figures.
3. Minimal control over what ads are shown on your site.
4. Recent problems with delivering ads, credit buildup, maybe even counting traffic?

Safe-Audit
1. Excellent ability to choose advertisers.
2. Payouts in the $1 - $4 per thousand range (mostly CPClick campaigns)
3. Fair reporting, with cumulative month to date impressions, click- thrus, and earnings. No daily or hourly stats.
4. Good payment program - usually by the 15th for ads delivered the
previous month.
5. Recent (continuing?) problems with ad server not responding - no counting of impressions and no transfer of clicks (and recording of payment?) to advertiser host sites.

Burst
1. Good ability to choose advertisers, but comes with the baggage of having to display CPAction or In-house ads depending on the daily inventory they have to send to your site.
2. Payouts at $3 - $5 for "remnant" CPM campaigns, wider range for CPClick results.
3. Several recent low $ CPM campaigns with high click thru rates which drop effective CPClick to $.03 or less.
4. Fair reporting - Cumulative impressions and clicks by campaigns (which can stretch over weeks or across months). Daily total hits and hourly traffic for assigned CGI scripts (impressions and click-thrus), but no info on daily delivery/clicks on any specific campaign. No reporting on default "in house" ads delivered thru their system.
5. Slow payment. Many advertisers take 60-90 days to pay their bills and you don't get paid until the month after Burst collects.

Click Trade
1. Excellent ability to choose advertisers, but most are very low CPClick deals ($.05 and less). Signup system usually makes you wait for advertiser approval of requests - can take a while. Also, rates posted in listings are often much higher than advertisers will actually pay.
2. Fair tracking, with daily reports on clicks sent and payouts, with the ability to sort by campaign, dates, payout, traffic. No traffic or click-thru rate reports, you have to generate these yourself from your own logs or ad management program.
3. Vulnerable to some abuse - advertisers offer a program then don't keep enough money in their accounts to pay for all traffic. You have to check the payout section frequently to see that the campaigns you're running are still paying.
4. Payments immediately credited to account, but withdrawals are date restricted. Could wait as long as 30 days to get money out.

Sanford Carr is a Strategy Partner with Intermediacy Communications and Site Manager for http://www.artandcraftshows.net


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