Guide to Managing Ads in WordPress

There are so many ad management solutions for WordPress out there, it is overwhelming. There are hundreds of unsorted ads plugins on WordPress.org. There are sophisticated ad servers that you can use without plugins…Or you can even manually insert ad code…

So, which one of these solutions or plugins is best for you? By the time you finish this page, you’ll have everything you need to know to make the right decision.

First, here are the fundamental ways to insert and manage ads in WordPress…

Ways to insert and manage ads in WordPress

Manual ad code insertion

Do you even need a plugin to insert ads into WordPress? A plugin isn’t necessary. If you have a really small website with a few 1000 pageviews or so, it may suit you to simply insert the ad code manually. If you are with AdSense, like most people, you have a block of ad code that looks like this

<script type="text/javascript"><!--
google_ad_client = "pub-8989100382265388";
google_ad_slot = "2840419180";
google_ad_width = 728;
google_ad_height = 90;
//-->
</script>
<script type="text/javascript"
src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js">
</script>

You can simply copy and paste this block of code as you’re writing your post or you can edit your theme’s PHP files and insert it there (assuming you know how to do that). Of course, it doesn’t have to be AdSense code. It can be the code of any other network. Or even your own HTML link or image.

As you see, this method is simple and straightforward, but it has serious drawbacks. First, what if in the future you wanted to remove some ads, what if you wanted to change the ad network, what if you wanted to insert some different ads…will you go back and edit all of your old posts? How about tracking clicks or managing your pageview inventory?

Obviously, this method has severe shortcomings for a publisher who’s keen on maximizing their ad revenue.

If you’re disappointed that I’m even suggesting such a basic method, I wanna make it up to you. Next I’ll tell you about enterprise ad servers that you can use with WordPress!

Using a sophisticated (and complex) ad server

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the fully fledged ad servers. These are 3rd party web servers that help serve ads to your visitors. The way these ad servers work is not too complex, but it does require a bit of explanation, which I’m not going to bore you with here.

Suffice it to say, large WordPress websites with millions of pageviews a month or more, usually consider a full fledged ad server.

Common ad servers include DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP), DFP Small Business, and OpenX. If you’re curious, you can easily and free of charge sign up for an OpenX and DFP Small Business and read the help files or start playing with the interface.

WordPress ads plugins

Inserting ads through the use of a WordPress ad plugin is the most versatile way to do it.

However…

Building software (i.e. a plugin) based on WordPress is really easy, relatively speaking. That’s why you find so many redundant plugins in the WordPress plugin directory. This problem is especially true for ads plugins.

For an absolute beginner, inserting ad code in a post or a theme is a task filled with mystery. At the same time, a programmer can write a plugin that is made of merely 10 lines of code that performs this basic task on behalf of the user. Plugin makers see an easy opportunity there so they rush to build a plugin. As a result, WordPress.org gets filled with a lot of orphaned plugins that are outdated and useless.

But there are also great, fully featured ad plugins for WordPress. The trick is filtering the noise and picking out the good ones. That’s what the below guide is for…

Guide to WordPress ads plugins

I have gone through most ads plugins. I discarded the outdated and bad plugins and picked out the ones that are worth your while. Let me tell you about them.

There are two general categories of WordPress ads plugins:

  1. simple ad code insertion plugins, and
  2. full ad management plugins

Simple ad code insertion plugins

I have talked about manually inserting ad code in WordPress and how unscalable that method can be. Code insertion plugins are usually simple plugins that do little more than alleviate some of the basic problems with manual code insertion. Ad code insertion plugins can:

  • insert ads in various locations in your posts and pages, like the top, middle or bottom of your posts
  • automatically insert ads in your old, archived posts
  • easily activate and deactivate ads

Some plugins can do a little more than that, some do a little less. The majority of ads plugins on WordPress.org are of this type.

Here are the best of the ad code insertion plugins roughly ordered by quality:

WP125

This plugin does one very specific thing: it helps you manage and insert a grid of 125 by 125 pixel ad images into your sidebar, like this. You can keep track of click-throughs, set an expiration date, and even maintain an archive of ads. If 125 by 125 ads are big part of your monetization strategy, you’ll love this plugin. Here is a screen shot of the Add/Edit Ads page. And another screen shot for the Settings page. You can download WP125 from here >>

Chitika Premium

You can use this plugin to insert Chitika’s search targeted ads on your WordPress site. It allows you to adjust the appearance and the settings for Chitika ads right from WordPress’s admin backend. If you’re a Chitika publisher, you’ll love this one. Check out this screen shot of the main page, the plugin resources on Chitika’s blog or directly download it from here >>

inLinks Ads (a.k.a. Text Link Ads)

This is an interesting plugin from Text Link Ads (TLA). Basically, you submit your site to TLA. Once approved, advertisers can buy keywords from your WordPress site and the inLinks plugin will turn the keywords in your posts into anchor texts pointing to the advertiser. You get paid month by month depending on how long the advertiser wants to keep the ad running. Download inLinks Ads here >>

(Note: TLA has another plugin on WordPress.org by the name “Text Link Ads” not inLinks. However, both plugins do the same thing. inLinks was more recently updated, so I assumed it is the most current.)

Random / Rotating Ads V2

One thing that differentiates this plugin from the rest of the pack is its ability to randomly rotate the ads that you save in it. You can have one single ad slot, for example at the header of your website, and have various ads randomly displayed. You can have AdSense ads, affiliate links, or anything. Checkout this (audioless) demo video of Rotating Ads V2 or download the plugin from here >>

WP-Insert

This is a really weird plugin. It does a lot of seemingly unrelated tasks. For example, it allows you to insert ad code in your template and posts and it also has the ability to let you insert Google Analytics code into your theme. I didn’t like the messy interface and the scattered focus of the plugin. If you wanna give it a shot anyway, you can learn more about it here or download it here >>

Full ad management plugins

These are the big boys. Unlike the list of plugins above, these WordPress ad plugins are fully featured and they do much more than simply insert ad code in posts or theme.

When it comes to real ad management and serving, there are only three WordPress plugins worth mentioning:

  • OIOpublisher
  • Who Sees Ads
  • Advertising Manager

These plugins include some advanced features like:

  • tracking click throughs and impressions
  • filtering ad display by WordPress categories and tags
  • filtering ad display based on user-defined criteria
  • let advertisers buy ad space directly from your blog
  • and much more!

I’ll tell you about each of these plugins and how they compare with one another.

OIOpublisher

For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I haven’t personally installed and tried OIOpublisher. But anyone can easily see that this is one hell-of-a plugin. Not because it says so on its website, but because you can figure that out by trying the demo, checking out the support forums, or reading the documentation.

With the use of OIOpublisher, you can:

  • sell text ads, banner ads, and even paid reviews
  • let your visitors earn commission if they refer advertisers to your website
  • have advertisers purchase ad space directly from your website without your manual involvement
  • send automatic weekly reports to advertisers
  • track impressions and click throughs
  • get great, dedicated support
  • install on as many of your websites as you like

I’m honestly very impressed with the quality and cleanness of the software and the website.

OIOpublisher is an all around ad serving solution for WordPress. It’ll probably do everything you need and more so it’s future-proof. Learn more and download OIOpublisher from here >>

But it is not free and a bit complex. If you want to try something simpler, you got other options…

Who Sees Ads

This is a popular ad serving plugin because it has all the basic functionality you would want — plus, one killer feature: defining rules based on which the plugin displays ads to visitors.

You can use rules like the following to determine whether or not you want to display ads:

  • visitor came from search engine
  • visitor is a regular reader
  • age of post
  • logged in visitor
  • date range
  • limit by number of impressions
  • limit impressions for a specific user

It can also rotate ads and let you easily place ads in your sidebar with widgets.

Check out this screen shot of Who Sees Ads main page, read more about the plugin on the author’s blog, try the demo, or download the plugin straight from WordPress.org >>

Compare the top three ad management plugins

I’ve told you a bit about each plugin individually. Now here’s how they stack up against each other.

OIOpublisher Who Sees Ads
Support and documentation Full documentation and support forum Sufficient documentation, and support in blog comments
Targeting Based on visitor location Rich targeting rules
Sidebar widget for ads Yes Yes
Rotate ads Yes
Random
Yes
Random
Track impressions Yes No
Track click throughs Yes No
Banner ads support Yes Yes
Text ads support Yes Yes
In-text links ads support (?) Yes No
Facilitate ad purchasing (?) Yes No
Affiliate program (?) Yes No
Ad server functionality (?) Yes No
Refund policy Within 14-days at vendor discretion Free software
Price and license $47 (multi-site license) Free software
Download here! Download here!

Conclusion

There are many solutions to displaying ads on WordPress: code insertion manually, code insertion with a plugin, using 3rd party ad server, or using a fully featured ad management plugin.

If you don’t want to manage your ads from within WordPress and just want a way to display ads, use an ad code insertion plugin or insert the code manually by editing your themes or while you’re writing the post.

On the other hand, if you want to go big-league publishing pro, you can use an enterprise ad server like DoubleClick for Publishers or OpenX.

But I think most people would find their needs met with an ad management plugin — one of the three above, specifically.

9 comments. You can post one, too!

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  3. Great article. I am dealing with a few of these issues as well.
    .

  4. Great article, you actually brought some points to my attention that I hadn’t known about. I have been using this plugin for approx 6 weeks and just keep finding things that it does that I hadn’t realised.

    Just having to battle a little with styling but that isn’t a biggy. Once fully setup and all the very minor styling issues are sorted it will be like having another member of staff just dealing with ads.

  5. Vikram

    Is there a plugin which will allow me to selectively display certain ads based on location.

    I am specifically talking about a situation wherein some advertisers are interested in giving an ad on my site but are limited to only certain cities. Can i show their ad banners whenever somebody comes to my site from that city.

  6. Ad inserter Looks promising now. i have been using it and quite satisfied with the performance.

  7. I purchased OIO publisher a couple of months back and was a bit disappointed with the load speed of my blog because of the slow loading javascript used by OIO. Thankfully, I was able to fix this by using PHP instead of javascript and the load speed of my blog is back to normal. I am now in the middle of implementing direct advertising on my blog. So far OIO publisher has been awesome!

  8. I use the Advertising Manager plugin and find it very powerful. I heard that OIO Publisher is extremely powerful, but still did not try it myself.

    Thanks for the wonderful post.

    Cheers,
    Prasenjit @ Incrediblogger.net

    • Thanks for your comment and the feedback on Advertising Manager, Praz! I hope to get more hands-on experience with these plugins and other advertising solutions when I manage to get WinkPress accepted as a BuySellAds publisher.

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