In the world of online affiliate marketing, you have a wide range of options. Some, like Amazon’s affiliate network, require not insignificant space on a website and a real investment in writing about products in order to make commissions. Others, like Google AdSense, are much more freeform and work by dynamically scanning your content for organic ad opportunities.
Google AdSense is a great option, but it’s not a perfect option for everyone. Some users find themselves blocked from using Google Services, either due to mistakes made in the past or mistakes made by Google. Some simply choose to avoid the Google juggernaut and would prefer an alternative. Some find poor performance with AdSense and want to explore their options.
Two of those potential options are discussed below. Clicksor and Infolinks are both popular options with many similarities to AdSense. Are they good options for you, or should you stick with Google’s well-documented offering?
AdSense is a Google property. That means that as long as you play by the rules, you can be safe and secure with your advertising. You don’t have to worry about a glitch in the system causing your site to drop in search rankings. Other offerings, like Infolinks and Clicksor, have somewhat more negative reputations. They are not, in and of themselves, detrimental to your site. However, because they are not as carefully monitored as AdSense, they are easier to use in black hat fashions. This in turn means that Google will be more likely to scrutinize any mistake you make and potentially count them against you.
This does not mean that you are going to harm yourself just by using these AdSense alternatives. It does mean you need to watch yourself and stay on the good side of the law to achieve the greatest success. Of course, the same is true of AdSense itself; if you break the rules, you can find your account blocked as easily as you can find a search penalty elsewhere.
All three of these affiliate networks offer similar services. They all scan your site with various algorithms to determine keywords they can use to place ads that fit with your site. They each have banks of advertisers in their network, serving ads of wildly varying quality. AdSense generally has the best vetting for their advertising partners, but this leads them to be more limited in what they serve.
Each service offers similar ads. They can place inline text ads, which look like links but earn you a commission when a user clicks on them. They can place larger banner ads, which can earn you money on clicks, views or impressions. They can also offer interstitial ads, which are similar to what you might see on Forbes when you click to an article and see an ad before you click through to the piece itself.
The primary differences between each of these three networks fall into a handful of categories.
AdSense is typically regarded as the most powerful and lucrative of the affiliate marketing options. They offer some of the highest payments, the highest quality advertisements and the best algorithm to scan for ad targets. You’ll never see out of context advertising placed on keywords that aren’t really keywords.
AdSense also has very robust and flexible controls for ads, allowing you to position them, block certain ads, choose ad formats and generally customize the AdSense experience to your site. It will look, to your users, as though you manually placed each link and banner.
Google powers AdSense, which means you gain the benefit of all of the deep reporting you get through Google’s Webmaster Tools and Analytics. AdSense data is deep and granular, giving you quite a bit of information to help tailor your campaigns to your website.
There are two primary issues with AdSense. The first is the time it takes to be approved for the program. Particularly in some non-U.S. nations, approval can take several months. Some sites based in India, for example, have been known to take up to six months for approval.
The second issue is the restrictions placed on the publisher. You will need to stay firmly within Google’s rules to avoid any potential penalty or removal from the program. This means gray and black hat sites, pornographic sites, online casinos and pharmacies will need to look elsewhere.
Infolinks is primarily focused on intext advertising, to the exclusion of most graphical ads. Textual ads are easier to make look organic, so you don’t have to worry about a banner popping up that you would never want to see on your site. The Infolinks scanning algorithm is also surprisingly robust, giving you a lot of control over the content that appears on your site.
Infolinks and Clicksor both offer payment after earning $50, via Paypal. Infolinks will also offer a bank transfer or prepaid card at a much higher earning level. It is also significantly easier to join Infolinks than it is to join AdSense.
Infolinks suffers on the payment front. For one thing, the cost per click and impression is typically lower than AdSense. While Infolinks may have a high click rate, the payment is low enough that you may benefit more from AdSense. Infolinks is best for sites with high volume, which cannot otherwise use Google’s AdSense. A high enough volume of traffic, coupled with the reasonably high click rate and decent quality advertising means you can earn a surprising amount from this AdSense alternative.
Clicksor is the second AdSense alternative, and it boasts a large network of advertisers. It’s also very easy to get into the program. Unfortunately, that’s about where the advantages end. Clicksor’s algorithm is less robust than the competition, an the broad nature of their advertisers means you may end up with the occasional ad you don’t want on your site. You can control it, but you need to remain vigilant.
Unlike Infolinks, Clicksor offers a range of advertising options beyond intext links. Image ads, flash banners, animated banners, pop-unders and interstitals are all available. Some of these, as you may recognize, can be detrimental in a white hat SEO sense. Clicksor is also known to occasionally serve malware, making them a dangerous option for white hat sites.
Clicksor’s pay rates are somewhat low for the industry. A $50 minimum earning is required to request a Paypal payout, and while wire transfers are available, they require $1,000 with an administrative fee.
In general, if you can go with Google’s AdSense, you would be well advised to follow the rules and stick with the giant. Your pay rates will be high, your control is very precise and your options are broad. Infolinks and Clicksor are better than many other alternatives available, but they still fall second to Google.
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