This article has been a long time coming. This summer I applied for Adthrive and was accepted for one site and have since added another. I have plans to add a third in the coming months. Now that I have websites with the 3 major display ad companies (in my opinion), I can write an honest article simply comparing Adthrive vs Mediavine vs Ezoic.
First, let me get out of the way that I realize Ezoic is different from the other two. The Ezoic platform is more of a marketing platform for website owners that also allows you to monetize your site with display ads if you choose. You can actually use Ezoic for its many other features and never turn on the ads.
Mediavine and Adthrive are third party ad management companies. They don’t have all the bells and whistles that Ezoic does, but depending on your goals and your strategy you may not even want those extra features.
These two companies do a lot more hand-holding and take a lot of the guesswork out of monetizing your site with ads. They ask you various questions about your preferences during onboarding, but literally do everything for you.
With Ezoic you have to set your sites up with ads yourself. It’s not difficult, but I can see how some people are intimidated and confused by the process.
These are merely my opinions as a publisher, and I do use all 3 of these ad companies currently.
Having said that, let’s jump straight into the pros and cons for each one.
Adthrive is the newest ad company that I’ve partnered up with, and the one that I’ve had my eyes on for quite some time. They’re owned by CafeMedia, a company that Andrew Shue (AKA Billy Campbell) from the hit 90s TV show Melrose Place, co-founded. There’s a neat piece of trivia from you.
I currently have 2 domains on their platform as of September 2021. I’m generally very happy with everything from onboarding, to RPMs and earnings, to customer support. An overall great company for publishers to work with.
They do have some pros as well as a few minor cons for some people, both of which I’ll mention below.
I’ve only been with Adthrive for a few months now, but I’m quite pleased with my experience so far. Below are some pros and cons for Adthrive that I’ve found in my short time with them. The cons really aren’t that bad, but I can’t have a pros and cons list without cons.
1. High RPM and revenue
I transferred 2 sites from Ezoic to Adthrive this year, in both cases I saw massive increases in earnings almost instantly. That could be for a variety of reasons, one of which is the fact that Adthrive knows how to optimize sites with display ads to maximize revenue. With Ezoic, the website owner is forced to do this themselves and they just aren’t going to be as good as a company that does it all day everyday.
Other people certainly may have different experiences, but this has been mine.
2. Easy onboarding
While somewhat lengthy taking around 2 weeks total, the whole onboarding process was easy and Adthrive did everything. The onboarding team was in contact with me every step of the way and I just answered a bunch of questions and gave them anything they needed.
3. Facebook group
I get all my updates about the goings-on of Adthrive and really the state of the display ad industry from the Facebook group. They have a blog as well that has helpful content.
4. Good support
I honestly have only needed to contact support once since onboarding, but their response was speedy and they solved my problem quickly. I expect it would be like that every time. I’ve heard chatter that support isn’t as swift on weekends, but I think they at least have someone on-call for any emergencies.
After onboarding, I don’t have to do anything really but log in to my dashboard and check earnings every morning. Adthrive earnings are usually shown for the previous day by about 10am CST.
I just worry about growing traffic, Adthrive gets me the most money possible (without sacrificing user experience too much) for this traffic. In my opinion that’s the way it should be.
6. Additional sites
This is a big one for me. With Adthrive you can add additional sites at just 30k page views/month, as opposed to the 100k page views required to get your first site in. I’ve even heard several say that they aren’t terribly strict about the 30k in every case, but 30k page views is generally what they go by. If you’re close enough, you might ask your account manager and get in just a bit sooner.
7. Video ads
Adding a simple video to display ads on can increase your RPM by 20% or more and have a huge impact on earnings. At a bare minimum the videos themselves only need to be an arrangement of still photos with some text overlays, and about a minute long each. They’re very simple to create with free tools on your own, and will increase your revenue instantly.
8. NET 45 pay
Adthrive pays on a NET 45 schedule, which is faster than Mediavine. While this isn’t a huge deal once the payments start rolling in, I definitely file it under the pros for Adthrive. With Mediavine you wait a full 65 days to get paid after a given month ends. With Adthrive it’s only 45 days.
Here are a few cons I see for Adthrive. The first one is for people who want to get on Adthrive, the second is for people who just got onto Adthrive, and the last is really not a big deal to me.
1. High entry barrier
To get your first site onto Adthrive you need to have a website that is getting 100k page views/month. Not only that, you need quality content and quality traffic. Just because you have the traffic doesn’t guarantee you a spot. Adthrive is looking for certain types of blogs, and you may not have the right one.
I waited patiently for 18 months while I grew a site from a brand new domain to 100k pageviews. I put in the work and made the cut, anyone else that wants on with this ad provider will need to do the same.
Compared to Ezoic, the reporting isn’t anything to write home about. But I’m not trying to bash. The dashboard is clean, organized, and easy to navigate. There are the basic features like daily and monthly earnings, RPM and RPS, and even RPM by url. So while improvements can be made, it gets the job done. I’ve also seen mention of upgrades in this department.
To be fair though, even if they had the most robust reporting platform in the industry I’m not sure how much I would even use all the bells and whistles. The reporting and analytics you get access to are certainly enough to do what you need to.
Edit: Since I published this article Adthrive has added several new features to their reporting including RPM by source. So they are constantly making improvements on this front.
Mediavine, like Adthrive, is considered by many people to be a “premium ad network”. Though they aren’t really an ad network, but an ad management company. They simply manage and optimize your ads for you so that you can focus more time on bringing in the traffic and less time on all the techie stuff that becomes a time-suck for many of us.
I have just one domain with Mediavine at the moment, but may add another next year. I’ve had this blog with them for about 18 months now, and am overall very pleased.
I moved a site to Mediavine back in March of 2020, so I’ve been with them for around 18 months now. In that time I don’t think I’ve had any remotely serious issues, so we’ve got more pros than cons for this ad provider as well.
1. High RPM and revenue
As you can see from the screenshot above, the RPM is good and the overall earnings are quite solid with Mediavine for me. In fact, this site has touched a $70 RPM before and will often be in the 60s for days or even weeks at a time, certain times of the year. However, this varies from site to site. Your experience may vary.
Note: I don’t compare RPMs on one site that’s on MV to a totally different site with different content on AT, that would be unfair.
2. Great support
Mediavine does have great support, but I rarely need to reach out to them. Everything just works. I bring in traffic, they pay me. It’s as simple as that. However, should you need to talk with someone, email support is responsive and helpful.
3. Easy onboarding
The onboarding process is very smooth, albeit a bit lengthy, but certainly no complaints here.
4. Facebook group
They have a welcoming and helpful Facebook group where publishers can discuss things related to the display ad monetization of blogs.
Everything is hands-off after you are onboarded. Just like with Adthrive, the ads are totally set up for you in order to maximize your revenue.
6. Video ads
High earning video ads are on Mediavine as well. This provider will even create a video for you for your site, free of charge. They did for me and it immediately added an extra $1k/month (sometimes much more) to my revenue. You may have to get in line and wait a few weeks for the video, but it’s free!
Here are just a few cons for Mediavine as I see them.
1. High entry barrier
To even apply to Mediavine you need at least 50k sessions/month and you certainly aren’t guaranteed to get in then. Both Adthrive and Mediavine are very picky about who they let in. You used to only need 25k sessions to get in, but they changed it to 50k soon after I was accepted last year.
2. Additional sites
This one is probably the biggest con for me. You get no breaks for additional sites like you do with Adthrive. It’s at least 50k sessions/month for ANY site you want to put on the platform. Since AT is only 30k pageviews, probably less than half of 50k sessions, most of my future sites will probably go directly to Adthrive for just that reason. I’d like to have more than one site on Mediavine, but this makes it more difficult to hold out.
When it comes to reporting in the Mediavine dashboard, you get about the same as you get with Adthrive. All the basics are there and you can see RPM by page as well, which is very useful. There’s certainly room for a little improvement in this area, but I’m not complaining. I am very happy at Mediavine and wouldn’t let something as trivial as this bother me much.
4. NET 65 pay
Again, not a huge deal after your first payday since then you get paid every month. After you first onboard though, you may have to go a month without a paycheck which isn’t ideal. It’s ok though and I’m certainly fine with it. I like that Adthrive pays on the 15th and Mediavine pays on the 5th, both are close to the times when I run payroll so this works out beautifully.
Last up is Ezoic, after Adsense this was the second platform I used for display ads back in the earlier days of my blogging career. I still have 3 sites on Ezoic, all are low traffic and don’t earn much. But I still do use this platform, and like the previous 2 ad providers, there are pros and cons.
Unfortunately there aren’t very many pros, but the ones I have listed are pretty good.
1. Low entry barrier
Ezoic has opened up the doors to everyone with no traffic requirements. Having said that, your site will still have to be assessed by Ezoic team members to make sure it’s a good fit. They don’t allow certain types of content and they do have some standards. But, if you have a nice looking site with helpful and well-written content you’ve probably got a good shot at being accepted.
The minimum for traffic used to be 10k sessions, which was still much lower than the previous 2 on this list. At that threshold even then they were lenient. Now they have various levels based on how much traffic you get. Starting with the Access Now level that doesn’t get much if any traffic. From there it’s Level 1, 2, 3, 4, and VIP.
2. Analytics and reporting
This a big pro for Ezoic for many people. Ezoic has Big Data Analytics, which is a very robust reporting and analytics platform that lets you take a deep dive into all of your traffic and earnings for your sites. Not only do you get RPM and earnings by url, but much more. For analytics nerds it’s easy to spend way too much time here examining your site’s performance.
The LEAP tool on Ezoic has to do with site speed that’s become so important in 2021 after a recent Google update. Even though the effects for most people’s sites has been minimal at worst. Any sites I have with Ezoic I use the LEAP tool and I will admit that it does speed up your site quite a bit. You must use Nameserver integration though, which many people aren’t find of.
4. Other features
As I mentioned in the intro, Ezoic is a self-proclaimed full-spectrum marketing platform for publishers so they have a host of tools for bloggers and site owners. I honestly haven’t explored everything they have to offer because I just don’t need all the extra tools and features. I know there’s a title A/B testing tool which sounds like it might be interesting to try, but I haven’t gotten around to trying it yet. So there are options like that with Ezoic that maybe the other guys don’t offer.
Sorry Ezoic, but you’ve got a long list of cons from me. I don’t hate Ezoic and I don’t want to trash-talk them, but they have the most cons by far. I think most people that have tried multiple ad networks would tend to agree.
1. Lower RPM (EPMV) and overall earnings
Ezoic uses EPMV, or sessions per 1000 visitors. This is RPM with Mediavine, or RPS with Adthrive. Some people might disagree, but not everyone has the same experiences. For me, Ezoic’s EPMV has been much lower than other ad providers. In some cases shockingly lower. Is this because Ezoic makes me set up my own ads? Or maybe it’s for some other reason, I don’t know. But, it is what it is.
2. Shitty ads
Here I mean low quality ads that almost make you embarrassed to have on your site. At one point there was this disgusting ear-wax ad that was littering my site with gross ads of a guy pulling earwax out of his ear. That’s just one example, you see low quality ads like this very often with Ezoic. In addition, they often stack ads or put the same ad on the same page multiple time. You don’t see these things as much with other ad providers. But luckily for us, we have to do is pay Ezoic money to lessen these crappy ads (sarcasm)… which I’ll mention below as another con.
3. DNS integration
Ezoic likes you to integrate your site by changing your actual nameservers to point to Ezoic. I actually don’t mind this one as much as some people seem to, but I’m not fond of the integration method. A WordPress plugin seems like a much better solution, and they do offer one, they just strongly promote the nameserver method. And remember, you can’t use LEAP without the DNS change.
Premium is probably the single biggest con for Ezoic for me. With other ad companies you get high quality ads on your site from all the big companies like Target, Best Buy, At&T, etc. out of the gate at no extra charge. Ezoic charges you money to show these ads, and they won’t even let the payment be deducted from your earnings. You have to pay a monthly fee separately.
On top of that, they like to do contracts with their premium service. If you aren’t careful you may accidentally sign up for a contract that has a hefty early-cancellation fee. When you’re invited to premium be careful of choosing the contract option, especially if you plan to switch to one of the above ad companies once you get the traffic to.
Having said that, if you’re on Ezoic and do get invited, premium will put a little extra money in your pocket. You earn more with premium than without it, it’s just a crappy way of letting publishers earn more in my opinion. If you mention this to Ezoic though you get the old “we’re just being transparent, other ad companies aren’t transparent”… yeah sure. We still don’t like premium.
5. No direct deposit
This is another big one. You can’t even get direct deposits from Ezoic. You can choose PayPal or Payoneer, and neither are ideal. I use PayPal and while it works, I don’t like it. AT and MV both just deposit straight into my bank, it would be nice if Ezoic would as well.
6. Not ideal for non-techie people
You have to set up all of your own ad placeholders yourself, you have to change your nameservers yourself, you have to use the LEAP tool yourself unless you want to wait in a long queue of people waiting for Ezoic to do it for you.
For anyone that isn’t technically inclined, Ezoic can be a nightmare. If you are a tech-geek like many of us are, it can be fun and entertaining playing with all of the tools they have. It can also be very time consuming, taking up time that could have been spent moving the needle.
7. Sub-par support
The support is ok most of the time but sub-par other times. Customer service agents have even been downright rude to me on multiple occasions, and I’m not even a rude guy. I consider myself to be pretty friendly to customer service and I don’t think I’ve ever made an unreasonable request. I’ve also heard many stories about people not getting answers on their tickets for weeks at a time.
I think the issue is that Ezoic has scaled way too fast and can’t handle the publishers they have using the limited support they have. I was pretty much scolded one time for moving a site off of Ezoic. Ticked me off…
8. Highly aggressive marketing
The Ezoic marketing machine is well-known in this industry. I’ve got to hand it to them, they don’t pull any punches. They are finding every little YouTuber doing income reports, finding Facebook groups, and other communities they can get in to promote their brand. Ezoic is everywhere promoting themselves. That doesn’t bother so much as the way they do it.
Then there’s the affiliate program. I’m part of the affiliate program, so I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I genuinely recommend Ezoic to certain bloggers at certain stages of growth. But I don’t recommend them from a disingenuous place. With an affiliate program everyone is coming out of the woodworks and promoting Ezoic with their links, so there’s no telling who is being genuine.
9. Trash-talking competitors
This is a big turn-off. I’ve seen the CMO do this as well as multiple CSA’s trash-talk other ad companies. Mainly the 2 others on this list. It’s almost like they get mad if you so much as mention another ad company, it’s quite strange really.
10. The community isn’t there…
The community you get with Ezoic, including any official or unofficial groups where Ezoic is regularly discussed, isn’t as welcoming as the communities you get to join with Mediavine or Adthrive. That could be for a number of reasons, and I won’t get into them here.
You know how some Android users absolutely hate iPhone users? It’s kind of like that. Many times I’ve seen someone mention how they earn more after switching to one of the other 2 ad companies on this list, and some Ezoic users will flat out say that it’s impossible and it just didn’t happen.
What do you even say to that? I’ve been that person multiple times that switched and saw a higher increase, but dedicated Ezoic fans or employees will simply say it isn’t true. This one is also very strange to me.
So, what’s the best ad provider for bloggers?
Again, this is my personal opinion as someone who uses all 3 of these ad providers. I see so many recommendations for Ezoic from people simply trying to get an affiliate commission.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with affiliate sales. That’s the business we’re in and I get that. Having said that, don’t tell me that Pepsi is better than Coke or Mountain Dew without trying all 3.
You lose all credibility when you do this and I won’t take another word you say seriously if I see someone doing that. So take all recommendations from a company like Ezoic that has an affiliate program with a grain of salt. Including mine.
For maximum revenue
If you have a blog with over 50k sessions/month and are looking to take your revenue to the next level, then hopping over to Mediavine is going to do just that.
Alternatively, if you are getting 100k+ page views/month you could apply to Adthrive and probably be equally happy.
Between Adthrive and Mediavine it’s really a toss-up for me as to who’s best. I know they directly compete with each other and probably aren’t fond of each other as companies. For me as a publisher though, I like both and would be fine having all of my higher traffic sites on one or the other.
From a business standpoint though I like to stay diversified and work with both.
If you’re considering moving a site to one or the other of these companies, you really can’t go wrong in this blogger’s opinion. Weight the pros and cons above, ask around, and make the most informed decision you can. That’s all you can do.
For small sites
Adthrive and Mediavine both don’t accept what I consider to be small sites on their platform. Since Adsense usually pays pennies when Ezoic pays dollars, Ezoic is the logical choice here.
Ezoic is far from perfect, even though the fanboys are usually out in full force promoting the brand for them. They are always making changes and adding features to their platform, which can be a good thing in many cases.
However, for me they’re making the wrong changes most of the time. They do have some glaring cons that I just can’t get past. While Ezoic does have quite a few pros, some of the cons mentioned above make them unattractive to many publishers.
Having said all that, if you’re starting off on your blogging or affiliate marketing journey, Ezoic is a great place to get your feet wet. Maybe even to make your permanent home.
I’ll leave with this: If you are able to, you owe it to yourself to try all 3 of these ad providers and judge them for yourself.