4 Alternatives You Need To Consider Beyond AdWords

While there’s no arguing with the fact that Google’s Adwords program is the dominant player in the PPC industry, it’s by no means the only option when it comes to paying for website traffic.

In fact, the size of the Google Adwords program creates a number of challenges for “small-time” webmasters. The service’s immense popularity has resulted in extreme competition, driving up keyword bid prices and lowering ad placements for sites running on smaller budgets.

If you’ve been struggling to gain traction on this highly competitive network, take a look at the following PPC alternatives for generating paid traffic.

Alternative #1 – Facebook Paid Ads

Advertising on Facebook’s Paid Ads platform (whose “Sponsored Stories” typically appear in user profile sidebars) can be a mixed bag.

On the one hand, Facebook’s Paid Ads program provides much better targeting features than Google Adwords, enabling merchants to target users according to a number of different criteria, including age, gender, hobbies, geographic areas and more.

However, user engagement on the site is notoriously low. While some marketers speculate that the limited number of characters granted to advertisers account for these limitations, a much more likely explanation for the universally low clickthrough rates seen on the site is ad burnout.

Because Facebook users have been trained to gloss over advertisement sections on the site, your message must be truly captivating in order to draw clicks. Take a look at my article 3 Steps To Combat Image Fatigue In Facebook for more information on this.

If you do decide to pursue advertising opportunities on this site, remember that it’s nearly all about the image you position alongside your ad text. To stand out from the blur of other features on the site, select the most eye-catching graphic possible – even if it isn’t entirely related to your ad text.

For more information on this, take a look at my article called 3 Types of Image Ads That Work. In addition, choose your targeting options carefully to ensure that your promotions are seen only by the audience members to whom they’re most relevant.

Alternative #2 – LinkedIn DirectAds

Overall, LinkedIn’s DirectAds platform functions more like Facebook’s Paid Ads than Google’s Adwords, in that this PPC alternative also allows you to target the specific users who will see your advertisements within the LinkedIn website, based on their stated criteria.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn’s advertising program isn’t for the faint of heart – or the small of budget. Clicks through DirectAds promotions cost a minimum of $2/click, and although advertisers can set minimum daily budgets of $10/day, language contained in the site’s Terms of Service allows LinkedIn to exceed set limits by as much as 20%, depending on ad performance. Left unchecked, these overages could easily total thousands of dollars a month.

Given these financial ramifications, use caution when enrolling in the LinkedIn DirectAds program. Take the time to analyze LinkedIn’s core demographics to determine whether the site’s users are a good match for your ads.

In addition, because the DirectAds program provides very little information on how or when your promotions are displayed, you may also find it necessary to invest in a third-party bid measurement program to maintain a positive ROI in relation to the site’s high bid prices.

Alternative #3 – Kontera

In general, Kontera is best known for its in-text advertisements, which appear as linked content within Internet articles, blog posts and more. But besides these contextual link ads, the company also offers social media promotion services, editorial advertisements and mobile solutions, though few objective reviews are available on the efficacy of these newer service offerings.

When considering this PPC alternative, be aware that many users seriously dislike the way in-text Kontera ads display on their favorite websites. In fact, a Google search for the company’s brand name turns up as many results asking, “How do I get rid of Kontera ads?” as it does news articles praising the company’s traffic-generation services.

In addition, reviews of Kontera’s in-text ad service by industry figures aren’t that promising when it comes to ad relevancy. Consider the following ad placement that prominent Internet marketing blogger Chris Guthrie received while testing Kontera on one of his sites:

As an advertiser, it’s imperative that you know your promotions are being displayed to the best possible candidates. But for now, my verdict is to stay away from Kontera. Despite the site’s wide reach and generally low click charges, the quality of its placements simply isn’t high enough to justify its savings over other PPC alternatives.

Alternative #4 – StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

One final alternative PPC program that deserves mention is StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery program, which is unique from the other options discussed here in that it does not require users to click on an advertisement in order to participate.

To understand Paid Discovery, we must first understand how StumbleUpon’s traditional service works. Essentially, users who are interested in discovering new Web content install the StumbleUpon browser toolbar, which randomly serves up pages designed to match their stated interests and past preferences. Paid Discovery allows advertisers to “cut in line,” introducing their content into the StumbleUpon stream ahead of other recommended pages.

But is it worth it? In many cases, no. StumbleUpon traffic performance is often quite poor when it comes to conversions; because users are simply being served pages instead of actively clicking chosen ads, their motivation to engage further with an advertiser’s site is often limited.

On the other hand, the service does have some interesting potential when it comes to link building, brand awareness expansion and social media marketing.

If you have established metrics in these areas through which you can measure the impact of StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery service on your website’s success, the program could be worth a try.

Of course, these are only a few of the different PPC alternative sites available today. If you’ve had particular success with another option, share your results in the comment section below.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column


About The Author: was recently voted the 2013 Most influential SEM. She is the Vice President of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media where she focuses on search engine marketing strategy, landing page optimization (LPO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

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  • http://twitter.com/Kontera Kontera

    Hi Mona, 


    This is Jonathan from Kontera. I
    looked up the Chris Guthrie blog
    post you were referring to and if you look closely at the end of that
    post, Chris actually gave an update that he was contacted by a Kontera rep and
    that we wasn’t receiving premium ads due to a technical glitch. Once that
    was resolved, Chris reported experiencing much better results with Kontera.

    You can read the
    full post here: http://www.makemoneyontheinternet.com/kontera-review/

    Additionally, Chris’ post is from 2010 and since
    then Kontera has actually cemented a reputation as the most relevant in-content
    provider. This is thanks to our Synapse platform, a relevance engine that
    identifies phrases that most accurately represent page context and user
    interest, allowing advertisers to reach interested consumers at scale across
    the web. This proprietary technology allows Kontera to place ads where users
    are the most engaged and receptive, and has attracted such big brand advertisers
    as P&G, Microsoft, L’Oreal, ABC,  AT&T,
    McDonald’s, and more.


    If you’d like
    to talk about this issue at greater length, please feel free to contact me at
    jonathanc@kontera.com  J




    Jonathan Cohen

    Community Manager 

  • http://twitter.com/jmill919 Justin Miller


    Thanks for the Alternatives for PPC, but I am a bit surprised that Microsoft adCenter did not make your list.

  • ScottSalwolke

    Mona I agree with you about LinkedIn. I’ve had some success with their ads, but don’t like the lack of information on when the ads are running or where displayed. One platform I’ve been considering is advertise.com. Have you had much experience with them?

  • http://www.thelostagency.com/ David Iwanow

    I’ve had some success and fun with StumbleUpon ads, but what about Reddit Ads?

  • http://davidawilson.co.uk/ David Wilson

    Stumble Upon paid discovery is great for marketing your content. If you have something that you truly believe is link worthy and will create a buzz then paid submission could be the way forward. 
    Just don’t expect anything in terms of direct financial gain. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5U4FU7IXHHQZ243NBFYGQHLMZQ Pamela

    Hi Mona, this is Pamela from Infolinks. This is definitely a great start to a list of AdSense alternatives, but I have to say that it’s not comprehensive. Infolinks is a front runner in the competition against AdSense as we generate high quality, relevant ads served in real-time. Not only are we a great AdSense alternative, but we’re also a great compliment to AdSense for those looking to boost their revenues even higher.

    Take care!
    Pamela :)

  • http://twitter.com/MaryKayLofurno Mary Kay Lofurno

    Yes, I am also surprised, that microsoft ad center did not make your list.  Also, there are a few different say vertical ppc players.

    For example, at my previous job, I did alot of ppc with capterra.com [specialize in the software/technology vertical] .  They had a terrific ROI and low cost per lead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/federico.riva Federico Riva

    Sister, you cited services that eventually you do not suggest. Not very smart.

  • http://www.facebook.com/federico.riva Federico Riva

    Maybe too banal, and useful :) 

  • http://twitter.com/daveole Dave Olesczuk

    I agree with Frederico, this article is a bit baffling.  The title does not match the content.  The article is titled “4 Alternatives You Need to Consider Beyond AdWords” but most of the narrative around your “alternatives” is negative.  You don’t endorse any of these.

  • Mike Vallano

    Kontera is among the most pathetic forms of advertising I’ve ever seen. That bullshit doesn’t even deserve to be in the conversation of actual internet marketing. 


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