It’s funny when I think back about some of the dumb stuff I did when starting online.
I had a niche site with which I had no idea how to monetize. I had little traffic and no clue how to get traffic.
The site earned nothing.
And yet, for some reason that I still don’t comprehend, I shelled out something like $97 for a some way-too-complicated ad management plugin.
I installed it and couldn’t figure it out. I had to set up zones and place ads within zones.
AdSense wasn’t even on my radar then.
I can’t remember what I planned to put in those ad spots.
Anyway, amazingly that site went on to earn quite a lot. I still own it actually; it’s a going concern. I don’t monetize with ads on that site, but I’ve since published a few sites that I monetize with ads.
I’ve learned a lot about monetizing with AdSense and other ad networks.
Since display ads form a good chunk of my business income, using the right ad management tools is important to me… even paid ones.
I don’t use that first plugin I bought, but I’ve since used my fair share of free and paid ad management plugins.
This post sets out what I think, after endless hours of testing and earning well over $1 million in ad revenue, is the best ad management plugin.
The top 3 ad management plugins
I’m going restrict my analysis to what I consider the top 3 options, all of which I’ve used extensively. Don’t worry, I’ll render an opinion as to what I think is the best.
The 3 you need to consider are:
- Ad Inserter plugin
- Advanced Ads plugin
- Better Ads plugin
1. Ad Inserter
What I will say here are 2 features this plugin offers that the other two don’t.
First, the dashboard is Ajax powered, which is awesome because it’s fast. I can slam ad code into each placeholder in a fraction of the time it takes to do so with Advanced Ads and Better Ads plugins. Those two are slower because you must first create the ad, which is akin to creating a post. Then you must assign a placement.
Ad Inserter handles all this in a crystal smooth Ajax interface. Within the same screen you input code and assign placement. I love how simple and fast it is.
The second feature it has that the others don’t is that you can input shortcodes within the same placeholder as your ad. This comes in handy far more often than you might think.
For instance, I use Bellows accordion menu plugin, which can be displayed anywhere with shortcode. With Ad Inserter I can place an ad above the Bellows menu in the placeholder. This is just one example of many uses to combine ad code and shortcodes.
Here are some key screenshots:
2. Advanced Ads
If you want ultimate ad placement control, Advanced Ads (free version is here) is the way to go. You can pretty much control ad placement in every conceivable way. The following are placements I appreciate:
- Above/below specific images
- Above/below tables
- Above/below lists
- Above/below specific paragraphs
- On category pages
- You specific devices such as only mobile phones (you need the premium version for this)
- In the gutter
- Sticky ads
- In custom posts
On and on and on.
Advanced Ads Screenshots:
This next screen is why I love Advanced Ads plugin. Check out the nuanced placement options you have, which can make a huge difference.
For example, you don’t want ads to show up in the middle of bullet lists, but you definitely want ads to show up above and/or below.
I particularly like how you can control after or before specific images within a post or page.
3. Better Ads Plugin
Of the three plugins I’m including in this analysis, Better Ads Plugin offers the least control. In fact, it’s rather simplistic/
However, it does one thing so well that it’s a key ad management plugin I use on all sites on which I place ads.
Better Ads magical power is the ability to display regular AdSense ads in Google AMP pages.
I’ve put most of my sites on Google AMP and therefore it’s important that I have a plugin that can display AdSense ads on the AMP platform.
Better Ads does this spectacularly.
While the degree of control is not as good as Advanced Ads or Ad Inserter, it’s good enough for AMP.
Better Ads Screenshot:
As you’ll see below, while placement options are okay, they aren’t nearly as good as Advanced Ads or Ad Inserter. However, the AMP ads is excellent and works really, really well.
Which one is the best?
I use all three on my ad-supported sites because each one has its benefits.
All in all, Advanced Ads plugin is the best option available because of its nuanced placement capabilities.
You definitely should start with the free version, but you might just find that you’ll need the premium version to enjoy the additional granular control it offers.