Why, when and how to upgrade from AdSense

Google AdSense is broadly considered the go-to platform for webmasters to monetize their properties in their early days. When you’re starting out, you don’t really have too many options when it comes to programmatic, so it’s really a no-brainer. However, some publishers can see pretty decent results with AdSense well into maturity, which begs the question if you should ever switch at all.

AdSense Upgrade

If you’re still wondering, don’t worry – we’re here to help. Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  • Why you should upgrade from AdSense to Google Ad Manager/CPM-based networks.
  • When the best time to switch is and how to tell you’re ready. 
  • How to make the change quickly and avoid unnecessary risks.

Let’s dig in.

Why you should  upgrade from AdSense to Google Ad Manager/CPM-based networks.

The bottom line is that putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea, especially when it comes to programmatic. Even if you’re happy with your AdSense performance, you’re exposing yourself to significant potential losses down the line.

Creating competition is key to unlocking the true potential of programmatic advertising and AdSense simply doesn’t give you the necessary tools for the job. What that means is you won’t be able to make almost any optimizations, reach to market shifts or drive progressive revenue uplift.

What’s even more challenging when it comes to AdSense is that it’s performance can be very unreliable. The marketplace operates on a CPC basis for the most part, which means you could experience huge daily fluctuations. On top of that, even though the platform is in theory a 100% fill solution, that’s rarely the case. The lack of backfill options effectively means anything that’s not monetized initially is simply lost.

In a nutshell, switching to a well-defined stack of CPM networks/exchanges delivers higher revenue, more control and consistency. What’s even better is that you can still keep your AdSense in the mix, by just plugging it in as a default for remnant inventory.

When the best time to switch is and how to tell you’re ready. 

Overall, the first 3 months of the year are the best time for any radical setup changes across the board (in some industries June/July are also appropriate). The main reason for that is the decreased risk factor in relation to performance, as ad spend is universally at its lowest point of the whole year. If you were to do the same in, say, December and encountered a setup glitch, even 1 day’s worth of lost revenue can have a dramatic effect on your total earnings. On the other hand, that’s very rarely the case in Q1.

When it comes to upgrading from AdSense in particular, there’s actually double the value in making the shift in the first financial quarter. With purchase intent being not even close to what it is during the holiday season, loads of advertisers are re-starting their campaign cycles and are optimizing towards awareness, rather than conversions. Such campaigns are predominantly run on a CPM basis, which means that huge chunks of their budgets will never even reach AdSense-only publishers.

So, how can you tell if you’re ready to upgrade? That’s a tricky question, as there’s no 1 set of rules that encompasses the entire on-boarding process across the industry. A key factor here, however, is the amount of traffic you’re generating on a monthly basis. A good rule of thumb is to run your URL through SimilarWeb. If the tool is showing any stats at all, you have a good chance of getting approval from most of the mainstream SSPs and Exchanges. There’s still no guarantee though, as most of these platforms don’t find it worth their while to on-board countless smaller websites individually.

This brings us to our next point.

How to make the change quickly and avoid unnecessary risks.

Let’s start with a simple truth. You need to get an ad management partner or join a network. 

There are numerous benefits in doing so, for both smaller businesses and more mature websites alike. Here are the highlights:

For small websites: 

  • A company managing a large portfolio is much more likely to get your site approved where it otherwise just wouldn’t. The entry level criteria for large-scale partners is way lower, as publisher seats are much easier to manage through an intermediary as opposed to doing so individually.
  • If you’ve never worked with mainstream ad exchanges before, chances are it will take you forever to get you setup right, even if you’re tech-savvy. The process requires very niche expertise and a lot of manpower, not to mention opening and managing all the different platform accounts you’ll need.
  • Unless you’re willing to spend a month studying all the partners’ policies, you have a pretty good chance of getting banned soon after launch. Some providers are quite strict with their requirements, complying to which is pretty much business as usual for management companies, while that’s probably not the case for you.

For medium- and large-sized websites:

  • Speed is your best friend and that’s exactly what you get. Even with the most basic setup it can take you up to a month to configure tags and implement them. With a specialized company the same is only a matter of days, including quality control. Not to mention that the smallest hiccup later on (like having to unplug a certain partner from the stack) can be a total nightmare for a smaller Ad Ops team.
  • Programmatic advertising is a vast and complex field, which requires loads of time, effort and experimentation to master. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel just to catch up with the market, ad management companies operate with hundreds of publisher properties at the same time and know exactly what to do to get maximum results. 
  • A lot of publishers believe that going through an intermediary is only hurting their revenues, as they have to pay a revenue share to the partner. In reality, more often than not it’s actually the opposite, since large networks usually get preferential rates from SSPs/Exchanges for their entire pool of clients. Even that by itself is usually more than enough to make up for the fees you have to pay, not to mention the amount of added value they provide. 
  • Last but not least, you almost always get a unified dashboard that collects data from all sources and puts all of it in front of you in a digestible way. A lot of people underestimate the benefits of this and only realize it’s importance after they’ve had to jump through 10 different accounts and collect an abundance of .csv reports. 

In conclusion

If you’re thinking about switching up from AdSense to a more advanced, CPM-based setup, now is just the time to do it. At first glance, the whole process can be quite intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Finding the right partner to take care of all that for you is in most cases the go-to option for publishers and 9 times out of 10 it’s also the best choice for the long term. Of course, that’s not absolutely necessary. Plenty of publishers have found success on their own, it’s just a matter of time and dedication. We always encourage media owners to at least do some research and see how deep the rabbit hole goes before making a decision.

Need a hand getting started? We’re always happy to help. Drop us a line or get in touch with one of our local representatives here.