UPDATE April 21, 2022: As of February 11, 2022, I moved all my niche sites to Mediavine. I still recommend AdThrive but I happen to like Mediavine a little bit more. You can read my detailed AdThrive vs Mediavine write-up here.
Disclaimer: While I’m not shy about inserting affiliate links around here, AdThrive sadly does not have an affiliate program so I get nothing for this review. AdThrive did not pay me. I did not get a higher revenue share. I got nothing. It’s just a straight-up review highlighting my AdThrive experience after one year.
In one month, I’ll have been with AdThrive for one year.
It’s been a good year too, thanks in large part to AdThrive.
Like most AdThrive reviews out there including myriads of customer reviews, this will be glowing.
It better be.
I’m still with AdThrive.
I have no plans to move away from them.
AdThrive Revenue Screenshots
Below are some AdThrive income screenshots just so you know I actually use them as an ad platform and that I do well by them.
Here’s total revenue earned from Jan. 14 to Dec. 13, 2020 (AdThrive ads started running on Jan. 14/20)
Here’s revenue earned from my biggest site in November 2020:
Check out my income report posts for more revenue info.
The AdThrive Review “Short Version”
AdThrive is an amazing ad network for publishers. They do one thing but do it exceptionally well and that is to make publishers (i.e. content creators) reams of money from ads.
If you get accepted, make the switch. Getting into AdThrive is a rite of passage. It’s a milestone; a badge of honor in this wild business of publishing websites.
The Long Version
I certainly didn’t get admitted into AdThrive overnight. It’s been a process.
Before I go through every AdThrive detail, in case you’re new to this business, let me explain what AdThrive is.
What is AdThrive?
AdThrive is an online advertising network aka ad provider for bloggers for blog monetization. They are a Google certified publishing partner which is no small feat. They are an intermediary between website publishers and Advertisers (AdThrive’s advertising partners), very similar to AdSense (only far better).
AdThrive uses state-of-the-art tech for ad placement bidding as well it has direct relationships with many advertisers who bid directly with AdThrive for AdThrive’s publishers.
Once you’re accepted into AdThrive, they will handle everything for you. They are a boutique ad management service provider. They will take care of the tech, ad placement on your site, bidding (via the tech) and they will pay your ad income once per month. And yes, they pay like clockwork. I’ve never had a late payment from them.
How many publishers are currently with AdThrive?
I reached out to my rep and he said “We serve close to 3000 of the best publishers on the internet, located in 60 countries!”
My road to getting into AdThrive
Several years ago I applied to AdThrive with my biggest niche site. I had been blogging for some time and had grown the site quite a bit so I had the prerequisite traffic requirement which is (and was) 100,000 monthly pageviews. In fact, I was getting many times the minimum traffic requirement. AdThrive rejected me.
I was proud as punch of my website (aka niche blog). Up until that point I had never been rejected by an ad network to put their advertising ads on my site.
Merely having the 100K monthly page views does not mean you’ll get accepted. AdThrive vets your site with its advertisers and runs it through the gauntlet. It’s an achievement to be accepted.
I licked my wounds and carried on.
As Fat Stacks grew, more and more readers kept asking me “why don’t you use AdThrive?” I kept replying that I was rejected.
However, come December 2019 my biggest niche site had evolved and was better than it was years ago. I decided to apply to AdThrive again.
To my delight, I was accepted.
It was kind of bittersweet though because I was quite happy monetizing with Ezoic (read my Ezoic review). I really like the folks at Ezoic. I had met many of them at an Ezoic Pubtelligence event. I spoke with them regularly. I liked the direction Ezoic was (and is) going in creating this super helpful and powerful tech platform for publishers. I also made a ton of money with Ezoic.
To this day I recommend Ezoic strongly for any publisher not accepted into AdThrive.
If I were not in AdThrive I would be with Ezoic.
But getting accepted into AdThrive is like getting an acceptance letter from Harvard.
When choosing a university, you go to the one that is most highly regarded. A Harvard pedigree will open doors for the rest of your life.
That’s not to say Yale, NYU, Stanford, Northeastern, Duke, U of Michigan plus many other very highly regarded universities won’t. Anyone would be fortunate to go to those schools.
But when Harvard opens its doors to you, you go.
And that’s how I felt about AdThrive.
Maybe it was the fact I was initially rejected that made it that much more of an accomplishment for me. I was now in where I was once rejected.
What’s the saying “I don’t want to be in any club that’ll have me.”
Well, AdThrive wouldn’t have me once upon a time so I was delighted to be admitted.
So I accepted.
What ad networks have I used in the past?
I’ve been around the block with various ad networks. I’ve used the following:
- GumGum, and
- Underdog Media
What was the best Non-AdThrive ad network?
It was Ezoic. I really like Ezoic. I almost declined the invite to AdThrive because I was very happy with Ezoic. If AdThrive is not an option for you, use Ezoic. Great outfit. Big revenue. All-in-all I was pleased with it.
Getting into AdThrive
If you get accepted, congrats. That’s no small feat considering a very small percentage of sites that apply get accepted.
What percentage of sites that apply get accepted into AdThrive?
I asked my AT rep this question and he told me “only 15-20% of applications move past our review. Our vetting process is rigorous – that allows advertisers to trust the quality they’ll find in our network of publishers, and they’ll spend more to advertise on AdThrive sites as a result.”
What does AdThrive require in order to be accepted into their network?
You need at least 100,000 monthly pageviews. However, that is not necessarily sufficient.
AdThrive will vet your site with its advertisers. The 100K/mo. pageviews is merely the first barrier.
AdThrive takes it’s advertisers very, very seriously and therefore will only take on sites that its advertisers like.
I reached out to my AT rep asking for more insights as to what AdThrive looks for when vetting websites. Here’s what he said (keep in mind only 15% to 20% of sites that apply are accepted):
“Advertisers know and trust the quality of sites they find in the AdThrive community, so we work hard to maintain the standards that keep earnings as high as possible for every AdThrive publisher! I can’t share every reason why a site may be rejected, but we look for sites that fit all of these characteristics:
- Google Analytics is installed and running, recording a minimum of 100,000 monthly pageviews
- Majority of traffic is US-based
- No previous advertising infringements and not blocklisted with Google or other major ad providers
- Content is unique, original, amazing for audiences and advertisers
- Site is secure (HTTPS)”
What do the advertisers look for?
That I don’t know but generally speaking, and I’m merely speculating here, they look for quality, long-form, unique content and plenty of it.
How much does AdThrive cost?
AdThrive doesn’t charge fees up front. Instead, they’re revenue is 25% of what your site earns from the ads. The amount of revenue earned that is in your dashboard is all yours so it’s kind of like you aren’t paying anything. AdThrive scoops its share right off the top.
Onboarding with AdThrive
Onboarding takes a few weeks. If you get the highly prized “accepted” email from AdThrive, don’t expect their ads to be on your site within two days.
The onboarding process takes time, especially if it’s your first site with them.
They’re onboarding a lot of sites these days so you’ll get slotted in a few weeks down the road.
I was accepted in December 2019 but ads weren’t running until the middle of January 2020.
Is it a lot of work to onboard with AdThrive?
Surprisingly no. You just need some patience.
You must sync your AdThrive account with your Google Analytics and provide banking info to receive mountains of money every month. That’s it. AdThrive handles the rest.
In fact, one reason I love AdThrive so much is they handle everything. I don’t have to insert ads or muck around with any tech. It’s a true boutique ad network where they handle all customization and tech for you. I love that.
Do AdThrive ads earn a lot of money?
I can’t say it earns more than I was with Ezoic but I opt for AdThrive over Ezoic at this point because of the fact I don’t have to do anything. It’s very much passive income (although I continue working on my sites to grow them). My site is also pretty fast (after hiring WP Bullet and putting Nitropack on the site). FYI, AdThrive suggested I use Nitropack.
Back to the money.
What I really like about monetizing with AdThrive is I rest easy that my sites are earning as much as they can from display ads. I don’t wonder whether I should switch to another network that could earn me more. That never crosses my mind.
The peace of mind I get is priceless.
But it’s backed up by the fact I’m generating a ton of ad revenue across my sites.
2020 was my best year ever. While some of that is due to big traffic growth it’s also due in part to monetizing with AdThrive.
What are the best-earning ad placement locations with AdThrive?
Like most ad networks, the big earning ads are those above the fold (ATF) and the sticky units. Sticky ads are those that stay in view while visitors scroll down the screen.
AdThrive offers a sidebar sticky (desktop only) plus an in-content bottom sticky. Of course, they also offer a sticky anchor ad on mobile.
In fact, the ATF and sticky ads earn so well I’ve asked AdThrive to cut back on the in-content ads considerably. Now only a couple show up in the content. On this site (Fat Stack), which also uses AdThrive, I asked them to put no ads in the content.
The in-content ads, IMO, cause more harm than good. In other words, when I cut back on in-content ads, I didn’t notice a drop in revenue yet the user experience was way better.
I may eventually remove all in-content ads altogether on all sites. That gives readers an uninterrupted experience without hurting revenue much at all.
What kind of Revenue per 1,000 sessions does AdThrive earn?
Lucky for you over the last year I have quite a few sites on AdThrive in a variety of niches so I have some decent RPS data. Here’s the RPS range:
- August 2020: $11.09 to $23.45
- September 2020: $12.19 to $29.65
- October 2020: $9.85 to $25.38
- November 2020: $9.14 to $27.76.
If you want to know the RPSs for specific niches, you need my Fat Stacks Bundle (it’s in the Niche Selection module).
Do AdThrive ads earn well on mobile?
In most cases, ad revenue per 1,000 visitors is lower on mobile than tablet or desktop. However, more and more of most sites’ traffic is on mobile which means mobile is very important. The revenue can really add up.
Here’s the breakdown of AdThrive revenue by device for November 2020:
As you can see, mobile revenue is a good chunk.
Here’s a breakdown of how much each different type of ad earns on mobile:
What triggers revenue with AdThrive ads?
AdThrive ads are CPM ads which means you’re paid based on impressions. There’s a formula that incorporates clicks on ads and of course advertiser bidding via programmatic advertising exchanges that determines how much your site earns at any given time per 1,000 visitor sessions (RPS).
Can you see AdThrive revenue in real-time?
No. This is another area of improvement I’d love to see. Say what you want about AdSense but it sure was fun being able to click “refresh” and see your revenue go up through the day (especially when something goes viral haha).
You can’t see your current day’s revenue until the following day.
This area for improvement is definitely not a dealbreaker. It also helps me not waste time clicking “refresh” throughout the day.
What are the AdThrive payment terms?
AdThrive pays out on a net 45 basis which means you’ll receive revenue earned 45 days after the end of an earning cycle which is the last day of the month.
For example, you will receive payment for August’s revenue on October 15.
When does AdThrive pay?
AdThrive pays around the 15th of the month. I have direct deposit set up and usually the funds arrive a couple days before the 15th.
The AdThrive Dashboard – Let’s take a look
Overall, the AdThrive dashboard is great. It’s easy to use. Loads fast. Provides a decent amount of info (although reporting could be improved).
What type of ads does AdThrive provide?
They provide banner, sticky and video ads. I only use the banner and sticky ads.
Here’s a breakdown of the different ads (all devices) and how much they earned in November 2020:
Do AdThrive ads display nicely on websites?
I’ve yet to have an ad out of place or not display properly on any of my sites.
Whatever tech they have is bulletproof.
- Ad Stacking: I’ve never seen an instance of ad stacking which is when two ads display on top of one another.
- Misalignment: AdThrive displays ads centered. I like this and I’ve never seen an ad askew in my content.
- Stick ads: Sticky ads work flawlessly. There are clearly marked Xs in the top right of the in-content stickies for users to close them out.
Where does AdThrive place ads on a site?
Everywhere. AdThrive knows ad layout configurations for ad optimization resulting in maximum ad revenue. They tend to place large ads directly above article titles and then another a couple paragraphs below the featured image. On desktop, they also place ads throughout the sidebar. In fact, they ask that you place a number of widgets in the sidebar so that they can inject ads throughout the sidebar. The bottom sidebar is sticky (unless you specify otherwise).
Can you ask for ads to show up in specific locations or to not show up in specific locations?
Yes, you can. I do. For example, I run AdThrive ads on this site (Fatstacksblog.com). I asked that they do not run any ads below the fold in the content other than the in-content sticky ad. I do this because I find that excluding these ads does not hurt revenue all that much but greatly improves user experience (considering there are ads on the site).
For my other niche sites, I’ve asked them to significantly reduce the number of ads in the content below the fold. I prefer not interrupting visitors’ experience. I also find doing this does not hurt revenue much at all. In fact, I’v noticed no adverse revenue impact.
Is the AdThrive video ad unit good?
Yes, it’s good but I happen to prefer the EX.co video ad so I use that instead. I ran AdThrive’s video ad sitewide and it earned well but didn’t earn quite as well as the EX.co ad. I also prefer the EX.co player which is smoother. More importantly, you can place the EX.co video at the bottom of a post but the small bottom-right sticky video ad will play as soon as visitors arrive. This helps the video ad earn far more.
With AdThrive, you need the video placed toward the top and it’s not until the visitor scrolls to that player will the sticky arrive. I don’t care for the large video ad to be at the top of the content.
Hence, I don’t run AdThrive’s video ad and instead use the EX.co ad.
Can you put YouTube videos on your site if using the AdThrive video ad unit?
Yes, you can. That is not a problem. Just embed the YouTube videos as you normally would.
Can you run non-AdThrive ads on your site?
Yes, you can. They suggest not to, but I do run the EX.co video ad which is independent from AdThrive. You can run other ad networks as well if you wish. Perhaps you like native ads such as Taboola running or in-image ads by GumGum.
My hunch is you’re better off letting AdThrive be the sole display ad provider but by all means test it. I find it’s easier and the revenue is outstanding simply by letting AdThrive be the sole provider (other than the video ad).
Can you split test AdThrive ads with Ezoic ads in Ezoic’s split testing system?
No, you cannot. This would actually be kind of cool but AdThrive deploys its own tech that can’t be tested in the Ezoic platform.
Yes, you can. I do on several other niche sites. Actually, I’m down to a very few niche sites now after selling a bunch, but I do plenty of affiliate marketing on those sites including Amazon affiliate links and every other type of affiliate merchant you can imagine.
Do AdThrive ads slow down site speed?
Yes, they do but every ad network and provider does. Ads slow down sites. There’s no getting around it.
In an effort to deal with this without hurting ad performance, AdThrive suggested I use Nitropack on my site to improve pagespeed insight scores. It works great. While the sites are still slower than they would be if they didn’t have ads, my sites perform quite well now.
Is AdThrive customer support good?
Yikes, is it ever good. It’s amazing. I’ve submitted my fair share of customer support requests over the year and almost always I get a response same-day. While there isn’t live chat, they do get back to you quickly.
Moreover, the folks working at AdThrive helping out publishers are the friendliest people ever. They are super helpful and know their stuff well. I don’t think I’ve ever had a request or question that had to be escalated.
Does AdThrive have a premium program for high blog traffic publishers?
Yes, it does and I’m in it.
When invited I was told it was because I had 750K monthly page views and 10 million monthly ad impressions. You can read more about AdThrive Account Management here. I was invited about 3 months after onboarding.
What does this program get you?
As far as I can tell, the two big benefits are:
Personal rep for customer support: This is a nice touch because you get faster customer support responses. Moreover, your rep gets to know your site(s) and so the help is customized. I bounce a lot of questions off my rep.
A free SEO audit by HashtagJeff: At first I wasn’t too excited about this offering but when I got phase 2 of the audit, I was blown away. The level of detail and problems spotted was incredible. Not only were problems spotted, but the service suggested another service on how to fix most of them for not a lot of money. This free audit was fantastic. If you’re offered it, take it.
Does AdThrive offer any other services besides ad monetization?
No. This is one area where AdThrive differs from Ezoic. Ezoic is developing into a high tech platform for publishers. They offer insanely cool reporting, site speed tools, title testing in the SERPs. I suspect they’ll continue in this vein.
AdThrive, as far as I can tell focuses solely on ads for publishers. It’s a true ad network. I’ve heard nothing nor do I use anything else by AdThrive other than display ads.
How could AdThrive be improved?
I only have one suggestion for improvement and that is better revenue reporting. I’d love to see a breakdown of RPM, RPS (rev. per 1,000 sessions) and total revenue for every URL on my sites.
Currently, Adthrive only reports this data for the top 100 URLs.
AdThrive’s video ad earns well but as I pointed out above, to trigger the small sticky ad, the main embedded video must scroll into the web browser view. This means if you want the big bucks from a small sticky ad showing in the bottom right, you need to place the main video ad high up in your content, which I don’t like.
No affiliate program
I totally get why AdThrive doesn’t have an affiliate program, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish they did. What it really boils down to is they don’t need one. They attract peak-performance websites like crazy. The word on the Web is they are the preeminent ad network. Join any FB Group discussion on ad networks and AdThrive is highly praised. Few publishers who have been around the block haven’t heard of them. Their reputation is above reproach and so they don’t need affiliates shilling for them.
That said, it would be nice if they at least offered one for publishers accepted into their program like yours truly.
It would be great if you could see your revenue earned at any given point in the day instantly like you can with AdSense. I suspect this is impossible given that there is a lot more going on to generate revenue than the totally contained ecosystem for AdSense (Google controls the ad supply and the display side).
What are AdThrive alternatives?
While I strongly recommend you use AdThrive if accepted, if you aren’t accepted there are several decent alternatives to AdThrive. They are:
- Mediavine ads: Mediavine is very similar to AdThrive in that they vet applicants but once accepted, they handle everything for you. You must have a minimum of 50,000 monthly visitors to qualify but that doesn’t mean you’ll be accepted. They’ll further vet your site.
- Ezoic: Before AdThrive, I used Ezoic and earned very well with them. Ezoic has a very low threshold which is only 10,000 monthly page views. Ezoic will also vet your site but unless you have some glaring problems or are in niches that Ezoic won’t accept, it’s not hard to get into Ezoic.
- Monumetric: Monumetric is another advertising network that can earn well for publishers. I used them for a time and earned reasonably well. They too have a fairly low traffic requirement so they’re definitely worth looking into.
- AdSense: I don’t recommend using AdSense if you qualify for Ezoic, Mediavine or AdThrive. However, if you’re new to all this and don’t qualify for anything else, AdSense is better than nothing.
Another example where AdThrive knocked it out of the park for a blogger
I have a high-traffic publisher friend. He gets something like 5 to 6 million monthly page views.
He resisted switching to AdThrive until recently.
Once he did, his ad earnings jumped considerably and he had a decent ad mix on his sites before that. It’s not like he was running three AdSense ads. He had a solid mix with reputable ad networks. AdThrive ads considerably increased his ad revenue.
He went from $1,300 to $2,300 per day. Not bad.
While AdThrive rocks, you still need traffic
AdThrive is great but it can’t make money out of thin air.
If you want good results you still need lots of traffic and good content.
Where AdThrive shines is you can remain confident that you are earning as much as you possibly can. I like that peace of mind.
Revenue for Publishers
The reason I didn’t give 5 stars for reporting is RPM/RPS data is only provided for 100 URLs. It would be great if this data was available for all URLs.
I’ll conclude as simply as I can – if you’re accepted into AdThrive, accept and get their ads on your site.
Jon Dykstra is a six figure niche site creator with 10+ years of experience. His willingness to openly share his wins and losses in the email newsletter he publishes has made him a go-to source of guidance and motivation for many. His popular “Niche site profits” course has helped thousands follow his footsteps in creating simple niche sites that earn big.