5 Alternative PPC Ad Networks

In my last post I explored 5 Social Media Ad Networks that might be worth investing in. But what about conventional PPC advertising?

Well if you’re a loyal PPC advertiser and you’re looking for places beyond AdWords and adCenter/Bing to invest some extra ad dollars, here are five options to consider.

5 Alternative PPC Ad Networks

There are a number of auction-based ad networks out there that let you buy ad space on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. Some are second-tier search engines while others are networks of content publishers. Of these, some are high profiles sites that you just can’t reach through Google or Bing.

Ask Sponsored Listings: this search engine isn’t anywhere near the size of Google or Bing, however, its focus on specific verticals makes it an opportune network for certain advertisers.

In March of 2010 Ask launched PureLeads. This technology is supposed to offer better results by putting traffic “through a series of tests and filters to ensure only the most qualified visitors are delivered to your website.” Its network also includes publishers such as CNet, Match.com, Evite, Excite, Mamma, and Dogpile.

Its search network claims a reach of more than 73 million unique users while its content networks boasts over 34 million unique users. Advertisers bid on ad placements using a CPC model.

AOL Advertising: This ad network (formerly known as Quigo AdSonar) seems to have come a long way since AOL took charge of it over two years ago. Most recently, it launched something called Project Devil to help its publishers produce better content and to better integrate ads with that content.

Here, advertising is sold on a contextual basis. Advertisers can reach audiences across 68 sites and target them with a number of targeting options including a variety of demographics. Widgets and rich media placements are also available.

Marchex Adhere: Through Marchex Adhere (formerly known as IndustryBrains) you can buy advertising on either a pay-per-call or cost-per-click basis. It also offers access to niche verticals including business, finance, real estate, IT, and HR.

With Marchex you can use site-specific placements to target ads on such publisher sites as BusinessWeek, The Motley Fool, and PCWorld. And while keyword-targeted placements might seem more appealing due to its familiarity with PPC advertisers, Marchex’s real strength lies with this site-specific targeting.

Pontiflex: This is more of a Cost Per Lead (CPL) marketplace than an ad network. Branded as a “social acquisitions platform”, it helps you aggregate actual user data and then follow up with those users via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

Some of the higher profile publishers in the Pontiflex CPL network include BabyCenter, Monster, and Admob. Pontiflex advertising has been used by clients such as the Obama ‘08 campaign as well as UNICEF.

MIVA: Acquired by Adknowledge in March 2009, MIVA is a CPC network that offers placements through search, display advertising, and email marketing. Without setting up an account as an advertiser, however, it’s difficult to get much information on what verticals this network is strongest in, as well as the specific sites and publishers in the network.

Bidding on the Fringe

Search marketing is a good first step in online advertising because it can provide the volume you need to calculate your average cost per conversion. Without that baseline it can be difficult to calculate how much to invest in a given campaign or ad network.

Once you have that data, the next step is to test a few small campaigns before fully launching a campaign across a new channel. This will help you measure the value of the traffic, as well as optimize your campaigns around that traffic.

Overall, going beyond the big, mainstream ad networks should be a calculated risk. You should have an idea of what your average CPL/CPA is, and determine in advance how much it makes sense to invest in a test campaign (partly so that you don’t spend too much, but partly because you’ll want enough traffic to get enough data). So if you are considering going out into the fringe networks, just make sure you know how much traffic is worth to you and how much you expect to get back out of it.

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