Modern marketers looking to promote their business will find a lot of choice of PPC networks. Google are the Kings of the pay per click advertising world, the Google Ads and Adsense platforms dominate the industry.
But which are the best PPC ad platforms? Are any of them better than Google? And are they worth using?
As of 2021, the pay per click industry is worth over $109 billion annually, and is forecast to grow to over $124 billion beyond 2022. Even Covid-19 was unable to put a damper on the stampeding rise of search advertising. That’s because the PPC ad platforms still offer an unbeatable reach for every business, large or small.
If you’re weighing up your options, this list of best PPC ad networks, including Google Ads alternatives will help you make sense of your choices.
We’ll take a look at everyone, from the giants of Google and Microsoft, to some of the smaller players. You might just find your ideal Google Ads alternative right here…
What exactly is a PPC network?
Originally, pay per click ads would be text results on search engine result pages, i.e; Google or Yahoo. Nowadays the paid SERPs are just a tiny slice of the available options.
Many of these PPC platforms offer the opportunity to display your ad on one of their partner websites or syndicated search result pages. These ads can be in the form of:
- Text based search engine results (SERPs)
- Display banner ad
- Embedded video
- Video ad within a video (for example on YouTube)
- Native advertising content (sponsored content)
- In-app advertising
- Pop-up ad in a website or app
Some of the PPC platforms, such as Google, offer pretty much all of these advertising options. Others target specific niches, such as in-app advertising or sponsored content only.
Although they’re called pay per click networks, this can be a bit of a misnomer.
The most common PPC bidding options are:
- Pay per click (CPC)
- Pay per thousand impressions (CPM)
- Pay per conversion/acquisition (CPA)
That’s actually just the tip of the iceberg, with the big ad platforms including Google and Facebook offering an even more diverse selection of bidding strategies.
The list of best PPC ad networks
So now you know what is a PPC ad network, it’s time to find out which is best for your ad strategy. The benefit of using a Google Ads alternative can include less competition, lower cost per click and the chance to target specific or niche demographics.
So, this list isn’t an exhaustive list of the best PPC ad networks, but explains the variety of options and what each platform can offer.
We’ll start with the big guns…
1. Google Ads
You already know that Google is the biggest of the PPC advertising networks, with over 78% of the market share globally.
Let’s put some numbers on that, so you can get an idea of how that translates in real terms.
- 40,000 searches every second
- 3.5 billion searches every day
- 1.2 trillion global searches per year
Put simply, it is the most used search engine and is the best way to reach the majority of internet users globally. Maybe with the exception of China, who put limitations on the services of Google in the People’s Republic.
The benefits of this are whoever you’re targeting probably uses Google, so it’s a great platform, whatever your industry.
However that means that your competitors are probably using it too, so the CPC can be incredibly expensive on competitive keywords.
As well as being the biggest PPC ad network (does that make it the best?), Google also offers an excellent selection of free tools such as Google Analytics and Keyword Planner to help you get the best out of your marketing efforts.
Google’s Display Network is also industry leading, with display PPC ads available on sites like YouTube, Blogger and some of the most visited websites in the world.
- The biggest global reach by far
- Variety of bidding strategies
- Huge suite of tools to optimise your PPC ad campaign
- The Display Network has an unbeatable selection of websites
- The highest CPC of all the ad networks
- Well publicised issues with click fraud
- Very competitive
Being second isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We looked in depth at Bing Ads recently, which is now known as Microsoft Advertising, and we think there are plenty of benefits to using the second biggest PPC platform.
If you’re looking for Google Ads alternative that offers cheap CPC (compared to Google) and still has a great reach then Microsoft Ads could be very tempting. Like Google, Microsoft Ads offers paid search engine results and a selection of popular sites to display your banner, video or content ads.
Although the selection of partner websites for display advertising isn’t quite as huge as Google, being able to advertise on MSN, Yahoo! and AOL definitely has its perks.
Another selling point of Microsoft’s PPC ad network is that users tend to be from high earning backgrounds.
Some stats for the Microsoft Ads/Bing Ads PPC network:
- 5.4 billion searches a month across the platform
- 36% market share in the USA
- 20% market share in the UK
- One third of the global market share
When you look at it like that, it looks pretty tempting right?
- Relatively cheap CPC for a PPC ad network
- A third of the global search market share
- High end demographic, especially in the USA
- Less competition for popular keywords and searches
- Choice of sponsored SERPs and display ads
- Well suited to B2B ad campaigns
- Not as much choice for display network results as Google
- Still attracts high volume of click fraud
In third place, Facebook Ads offers a very different but still appealing ad network package. While Google and Microsoft Ads are both based on search, Facebook Ads focuses instead on demographic targeting.
This means that a user doesn’t have to be actively searching to activate your ad. Instead, you can get your ad seen in two of the biggest social media feeds.
Ads can also show in Facebook Messenger and on the Facebook Audience Network. This is mostly focused on ads within apps. So if your business is apps or the kind of thing that targets the users of apps, you could be looking at a good option here.
But it’s that option to advertise in Instagram or Facebook’s feed that is really powerful.
Facebook’s algorithms give you the opportunity to really target specific demographics and interests. And, as you’re not actually showing in search results, you paid ads appear more like native content.
One thing to bear in mind is that Facebook Ads, and ads on the FB network, will need to be quite visual. No text only search results here. Shareable, well framed and with catchy, clickable content is what Facebook is all about.
The average CPC for Facebook Ads tends to be lower than Google and Bing, with around $1.72 being the average.
- Excellent for specific demographic targeting
- Native content ads can be very effective
- Visual content does best on Facebook Ads, especially with Instagram
- No need to bid on keywords, you ad will show to a target demographic whether they search or not
- Some good options for app developers
- Relatively cheap CPC ad network
- Although Facebook Ads targets a broad age range, it is increasingly an older demographic (over 30s)
- Ad viewers may not have purchasing intent
- Mostly B2C focused ads, although some suggest FB Ads for B2B can also be effective
- Facebook can be a controversial platform and at the time of writing some advertisers are boycotting them
Known as ‘Facebook for professionals’, Linkedin has been steadily growing in popularity as a PPC platform. The reason is, you’re able to reach a business savvy and well educated marketplace, often with strong purchasing power and intent.
Like Facebook, you can also target specific demographics. Although in this instance they’re professionals, such as marketing experts, C level executives and business owners. If you’re a B2B service, then you’ll probably have already considered Linkedin Ads before.
Like all the entries on this best ad networks list so far, there are a selection of ways your Linkedin Ads can appear:
- Sponsored posts (in the feed)
- InMail (direct mailings to specific target customers)
- Text ads
- Dynamic ads
- Display partner network
So what is the average CPC with Linkedin Ads?
Well, actually Linkedin requires a minimum bid of $2 for CPC and CPM ads. So already it isn’t the ad network with the cheapest CPC.
Interestingly they also offer a Cost per Send option for those InMails, with a flat rate for each mail sent and received. This can be as low as $0.10c per send, or thereabouts.
But, when it comes to quality of audience, for B2B marketers at least, Linkedin is hard to beat.
- Excellent access to audience of active professionals
- Option for native ads (sponsored content)
- InMail offers an excellent way for some direct marketing
- Great demographic targeting
- Not the cheapest CPC
- Only suitable for B2B marketing
The first of the dedicated native advertising platforms on our list, you’ve probably spotted Taboola on your favourite news site. What they specialise in is sponsored content which fits neatly into whatever list of news articles or content their partner sites display.
It’s like Google Adsense and the Display Network, but for a carefully curated list of websites.
How does this work for marketers?
If you want your brand to appear on sites like Business Insider, Forbes or New York Times then using Taboola is an affordable and effective solution.
You’ll need to create content that is engaging and designed to convert (without being spammy of course). Yes, this does mean making a blog post or news article about your product or service.
Your pay per click options are either CPM or CPC.
The average CPC for Taboola is normally just a few cents, making it one of the cheapest options for PPC ad networks.
Another thing that sets Taboola apart from Google’s Display Network/Adsense is that sites on Taboola’s network have to be high quality. This means all the websites on Taboola’s network have more than 1 million visitors a month, whereas Google Adsense sites can have pretty much any amount of traffic.
- Made for content marketing
- Low CPC compared to other ad networks
- High quality sites with high traffic volumes
- Useful for retargeting based on what users have clicked online before
- Your content marketing game will need to be on point
- Some see these types of content as intrusive or spammy
Actually, Outbrain is now owned by Taboola so it’s pretty much the same thing. They’re both content marketing focused, with a selection of quality websites.
So, what’s the difference between Outbrain and Taboola?
Taboola sites tend to have more traffic, with those monsters of the industry like Forbes etc.
Outbrain is still no shirker when it comes to displaying your content on it’s network of publishers. You’ll be popping up on sites like The Guardian, CNN, Wired, Conde Nast Traveler and Cosmopolitan.
The average CPC on Outbrain is lower too, with reports suggesting $0.10c as opposed to nearer $0.45 on Taboola.
- Excellent selection of publisher sites
- Lower CPC than parent ad network Taboola
- Like Taboola, people can find this type of sponsored content spammy
This is another content recommendation ad platform, similar to Taboola and Outbrain. Although RevContent doesn’t have the choice of high end sites, it does have a good reach with US audiences.
By their own tagline, they’re the fastest growing native advertising network in the world. So if you’re looking for a platform with potential to grow, and with much less competition, RevContent might be a wise decision.
For a PPC ad network with a relatively small reach, you’d expect the average CPC to be quite low. However reports suggest that RevContent’s cost per click is around the same as Taboola’s, at around $0.44c per click.
- The world’s fastest growing native PPC ad network…
- Not much competition
- Thousands of partner websites for you to show your content on
- RevContent seems to be perceived as a spammy ad provider on forums
- Quite high CPC considering the relatively small portfolio
Another social media platform offering itself as a PPC ad network? Well, yes, but Reddit is another useful niche advertising platform to have in your armoury.
What exactly is Reddit? Well, it’s the world’s biggest social forum, and if you’re not up to speed then maybe you should take a look.
There are currently around 330 million monthly active users, with visitors coming for everything from sharing memes to researching business opportunities. Yes, really, there is lots of B2B and B2C potential on this network.
Your ad will be in the form of a Reddit post with ‘promoted post’ in the bottom right hand corner. This does mean your ad will usually be visible at the top of a subreddit page, or popping up in the feed like a native advertising post.
Prices for advertising on Reddit are reasonable, with prices starting at $1.50 for CPM.
But is it worth using Reddit for advertising? The jury is still out, with mixed reviews online. The benefits of adding Reddit to your list of PPC sites is that you can target by community, interest and location – among other options.
In short, although it’s not proven as the most effective CPC ad network, there is lots of potential.
- Relatively inexpensive
- Good targeting options
- Still quite unsaturated as an ad network
- Mixed reports about how effective Reddit ads are
- Could be more effective just to post your link as a standard link in a related subreddit without paying for it
One of the biggest retargeting ad networks, AdRoll is a powerful tool to drive return visits, or convert interested visitors to paying customers.
The way AdRoll works is by using AI to understand visitor behaviour. It aggregates your marketing strategy across multiple channels to drive engagement on social media, email or from your own ecommerce site.
AdRolls’s secret weapon is BidiQ, which analyses user data across web and social media platforms to retarget ads at the best price. You can also use AdRoll to target customers with emails customised for them, which is often held up as a key strategy to convert.
Advertisers can also harness the power of dynamic ads, which are those ads that pop up with a relevant product after you’ve been looking for something similar. Although some people find these a bit freaky, they’re proven to be quite effective.
If you’re looking for a way to unify your retargeting strategy and you’re wondering if there is another way (besides Google Ads), then AdRoll is a very solid choice.
- Dedicated retargeting platform with very effective AI
- Unifies retargeting across websites, social media your own site
- Finds the best deal on retargeting ads
- Complex system can be hard to get the best results without some serious study
- Not much control over bidding strategies as AI handles it all
- Pricing varies hugely depending on your ad campaign
Another choice for retargeting ad networks, RTB House is the smaller upstart offering their own brand of AI tools.
RTB House actually has access to more websites for that retargeting potential, but other than that it’s very similar to the bigger and more established AdRoll.
As the name suggests, RTB House offers real time bidding on a broad selection of PPC ad networks, all from within their own platform.
Price wise, RTB House is quote based only, so you’ll need to contact them to discuss your retargeting ad requirements.
- Big selection of websites for ad retargeting
- Similar to AdRoll
- No free package
Back to the social media giants, and Twitter Ads is a useful PPC ad tool for business owners.
The choices for Twitter Ads are:
- Promoted Tweets
- Promoted Accounts
- Promoted Hashtags
- Promoted Moments
Most of these speak for themselves. There is another option too which is the Promote Mode, an automated ad bidding option which allows you to tweet and carry on as normal. Twitter will then promote your tweets, bumping them up to around 30,000 additional people.
For a flat rate of US$99 per month, this can be quite an effective PPC method.
Like all of the social media networks, the benefits of using Twitter PPC ads allows you to target by interest, demographic and geographic location.
For best results, use visual content or harness the power of Twitters micro-blogging style.
- Twitter is one of the cheapest social media ad networks
- Powerful demographic targeting
- Can be useful for both B2B and B2C
- Promoting your hashtag can be an effective ad strategy
- Cutting through the noise on Twitter can be hard work
- If you’re not already using Twitter then it might not be so useful
Here’s a stat for you. 50% of American millennial men use Twitch. Got your attention? Yes, Twitch has the potential to be a very powerful ad network.
If you’re not up to speed, Twitch is a live streaming platform which was built on live gaming. These days, you’ll find musicians, vloggers and more all live streaming on this rapidly growing platform.
Ads on Twitch can appear as:
- Sponsored posts next to live streams
- Embedded video on the home page or on category pages
- Text and image box on the side
- Text and image header
You can also choose to sponsor events (such as tournaments or leagues), or using Twitch suresteam. Both of these options offer great visibility and also work around things like ad blockers, guaranteeing your ad is seen.
At any one time there are around 1 million people watching Twitch, and this just keeps on growing. As Twitch states on their site, this is more than CNN or MSNBC’s daily viewers…. So, this is actually a PPC network to pay attention to for the future.
In terms of demographics, 81% of Twitch viewers are men, and these are overwhelmingly in the 18-34 year old age bracket. Most Twitch viewers are tech savvy and trust influencers and YouTube stars more than they trust traditional broadcast channels.
One of the strengths of Twitch is that you can choose to have your ads appear in the streams of specific live streamers. It’s more affordable than influencer marketing, and a bit more targeted than traditional PPC ad networks.
Truthfully, this is a channel that has been recognised for its powerful potential and is now used regularly by some brands. What this means, for you the advertiser, is that advertising on Twitch isn’t as cheap as it was.
- Target a young, tech savvy and mostly male demographic
- Offers potential for influencer partnership style advertising for a fraction of the cost
- Some interesting PPC ad options
- Something for everyone with regards to advertising, with high end sponsorship options or more affordable display ads
- High quality (i.e; expensive) ads work best, usually video
- Some ad channels such as homepage ads can be very expensive for small businesses
Another native advertising content platform, AdNow offers access to over 160,000 publishers. Offering real time bidding through AdNow gives advertisers the option to display native content ads, or display banner ads.
Being able to run both banner and native ads from the same publisher can be very useful. Publishers using AdNow are often the types not seen on Taboola, Outbrain or RevContent, the reason being is that AdNow are less strict about the publishers they accept.
That doesn’t necessarily mean low quality sites, but it does mean a reach that those ad platforms don’t offer.
A selling point for advertisers is the low cost per click, with around 3 to 6 cents for a click, and CPM being anything up to around $2.
- Native content and banner ads
- Websites not seen on some of the bigger native content ad sites
- Quite cheap CPM and CPC for a PPC network
- Some reports that ad quality is not as good as bigger competitors
- Less stringent screening for websites
The amount of users using ad blockers has grown in recent years, with options for browser extensions to block ads. But, this clever PPC ad network offers the potential to get around ad blockers with fully permission enabled and non-intrusive ads.
Data shows that the demographic most likely to use ad blockers are millennials, so using AdRecover offers the potential to get you ad seen by this high value audience.
AdRecover claims that all ads are non-intrusive, and many of them show ‘above the fold’ with no slow down of loading speed.
The way this is done is with static or text based ads, so no video or banner ads here.
There is no data online about the average cost for using AdRecover for advertisers. But they suggest that to use AdRecover, your monthly media spend should be $10,000. It might be that this isn’t the best solution for SMEs, but for established and growing businesses it could be a useful way to target millennials.
- Get your ads seen by users who use ad blockers, who are usually millennials
- Non-intrusive ads only
- Their own data suggests high CTR and conversion rates
- Might not be suitable for low budget PPC ad campaigns
- No display or video ads
Choosing the best PPC ad network for your ad strategy
As we’ve seen, there is a lot of choice of ad networks for advertisers, and choosing the best one isn’t so straightforward. The best all rounder, by far, is Google Ads, offering the biggest search engine for ads and the display network with the biggest choice.
However, if you’re looking for a platform to target a specific demographic, or a PPC ad channel with less competition, this list might have helped you come up with some ideas.
For example, if you’re targeting business professionals, Linkedin Ads might be your best choice. Or if you’re thinking of using native content PPC ads hopefully one of our recommendations could be your solution.
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