Mediavine Review (How I Made the Switch from AdSense and Increased Revenue)
Earlier this year I switched one of my websites from AdSense to Mediavine.
You may or may not have heard of Mediavine before, but in a nutshell, they manage and optimize ads on your website, exclusively. They do it such that monthly revenue is as high as possible while maintaining the best user experience.
Display advertising with Mediavine is very much hands-off. All you need to do, is install a little WordPress plugin and ads will be displayed on a lazy-loading basis.
This Mediavine review takes you through the process of applying, getting accepted and setting up your website. I will also shed some light on how my site has performed in the last few months since joining, and I will share the pros and cons of being a Mediavine publisher.
Who Is Mediavine?
Okay, so who or what is Mediavine?
According to their Twitter bio, Mediavine is a group of publishers banded together working directly with the ad exchanges and advertisers to get top dollar for their ad inventory and sponsored work.
In other words, Mediavine takes care of programmatic display advertising on people’s websites and blogs. They do this exclusively, which means that once you’ve signed up with Mediavine, you will need to remove all your current ads (usually Google AdSense ads) from your site.
This is actually a good thing, because it simply means that as a Mediavine publisher you can focus on publishing good content. You don’t have to worry about managing ads on your site anymore as Mediavine will take care of all that.
Mediavine has also been an Internet publisher since 2004. They own and operate several high traffic websites, such as The Hollywood Gossip and Food Fanatic, and some of their staff run their own blogs as well.
They changed their name earlier in 2018, from Mediavine Publisher Network to simply Mediavine. They did this because they didn’t want to identify themselves as an ad network anymore.
Mediavine is much more than that. Their genuine goal is to help build sustainable businesses for content creators like you and me.
Google Certified Publishing Partner
Last but not least, Mediavine is officially a Google Certified Publishing Partner. And that’s kind of a big thing because there aren’t many companies out there that can claim that certification status.
To become a Google Certified Publishing Partner, an advertising company will have to meet strict qualification standards to prove that they are specialists in Google’s ad products.
Mediavine has also demonstrated excellent customer satisfaction with high ad viewability rates and a strong focus on mobile-first and video technology.
In short, Mediavine is on top of their game when it comes to programmatic display advertising.
Getting Started with Mediavine
Let’s go through the steps of setting up your website with Mediavine.
1. Mediavine Requirements
To be accepted with Mediavine, your blog needs to be in good standing with Google and will need to have had at least 25K sessions in the last 30 days. Sessions, not page views.
The main reason behind these requirements is that advertisers need to be assured that the traffic websites are sending to them via Mediavine is engaged, high-quality, and worth bidding on. Makes sense.
So if you can meet these requirements, go ahead and apply by submitting their online application form on the Mediavine website.
Don’t have 25K sessions yet?
If you haven’t yet met the minimum 25K sessions requirements, here’s a couple of things you can do:
Get a Tailwind subscription:
Most of us bloggers know how much traffic you can get from Pinterest. To make Pinterest life easier (and more fun!), a Tailwind subscription is a no-brainer.
It lets you schedule pins well in advance and at the right times, saving you a lot of time. Use it for a few months and you’ll see your Pinterest steadily growing.
Get a Semrush subscription:
Okay, okay, Semrush is expensive but it’s also awesome. In case you’ve never heard of Semrush, it’s an all-in-one SEO tool that lets you do effective keyword research and competitor analysis.
If you want to get serious about SEO, then Semrush can be your new best friend. Once you get to understand how the tool works, you’ll see how powerful it is!
Or try Keysearch instead:
Semrush too expensive for you? Try Keysearch instead, a much cheaper keyword research tool that still does a reasonable job at finding all the right keywords for your next blog post!
Once you’ve submitted your site, you will receive a confirmation email. In this email, Mediavine will ask you to run an analytics report so that they can do an initial verification of your traffic before moving on to the next step.
If the traffic report shows no issues, Mediavine will start the application process for their network partners on your behalf. You will also need to be approved as a partner within Mediavine’s Google AdExchange, which you have to activate yourself.
Once all the approvals are sorted, you will receive an official email from Mediavine stating that your application has been approved! Next they will ask you to sign the contract online, and once all the paperwork has been completed, it’s time to start the on-boarding process.
3. Preparing Your Website for Launch
Mediavine will now have a closer look at your website to see if there are any potential issues. Your site needs to be mobile responsive and needs to have a sidebar that is wide enough to display ads with a width of 300 pixels.
If Mediavine finds issues, you can either make style or code changes in your site yourself to resolve these issues, or you can have Mediavine do it for you.
If you don’t have technical skills or if you don’t have the time for it, simply create a WordPress admin account for Mediavine and one of their engineers will take care of it and report back to you once completed.
You will then need to install the script wrapper (that magically generates all the ads in your site) which you can easily do via the lightweight Mediavine WordPress plugin.
Joining Mediavine means you cannot have other ads on your site. Therefore, the very last step in the preparation process is removing ads that you currently have in your site.
For most websites these will be ads provided by Google AdSense. Simply delete all instances of ad scripts and you’re good to go. Amazon’s native ads are still allowed.
All done? Let Mediavine know and they will activate the ads on your site!
One important thing to point out here is that Mediavine wants you to maintain their five standard ad placements for at least 90 days after on-boarding. This allows advertisers to learn your site, and your readers to get acquainted with your new ads.
Also, from this point on, you will receive a series of emails from Mediavine, explaining more about their network, how things work and how to optimize your website for the best possible financial outcome. Very helpful!
The Mediavine Dashboard
Your personal Mediavine dashboard allows you to configure ad settings on your blog, analyze RPM numbers, check your income and so much more.
A big feature in the Mediavine dashboard is the site health check. This is a reflection of how well your site is optimized for ads, presented in different colors with red being not-so-good and teal being awesome. The saying “go for teal” is a thing within the Mediavine community!
Mediavine provides lots of tips around how to best optimize your site such that you can achieve those teal color ratings. I do keep an eye on it, but personally I am not too worried about the site health check. In the Facebook group though, this feature is quite a hot topic.
One of the most important features in the dashboard is the ad settings. Here you can configure what type of ads you’d like to allow in your site and on which devices you’d like them displayed.
You can also set the in-content ad frequency as a percentage on desktop as well as on mobile. This is very useful as it allows you to tone things down a bit if you feel that there are too many ads appearing on your blog.
As fancy as the Mediavine dashboard is, I find that it falls a bit short when it comes to detailed reporting and analysis. I’m a numbers guy and I love digging into things, analyzing and continuously improving results based on data.
I would love to see more detailed page- and ad-level data to see how well ads and pages are performing. Stats such as RPM per page and ad revenue per traffic source are invaluable as it allows you to see what works well and what doesn’t work so well.
I would also love to run detailed tests just like you can do with AdSense, but with Mediavine there are limits to what you can do in this regard.
Having said that, the average Mediavine publisher typically doesn’t mind this at all. For most bloggers, the current dashboard is advanced enough. Bloggers typically prefer to focus on publishing content and to let Mediavine take care of the display advertising bit. And that’s fair enough.
Site Speed and User Experience
The reason Mediavine was born is that they were looking for a better way to serve ads on their own high-traffic websites. Ads were slowing down their sites, negatively impacting their organic traffic and revenue.
There had to be a better way.
By nature, ads are slow. That’s just how it is. The Mediavine Ad Technology resolves that problem by implementing two important things:
- Asynchronous loading:
Ads are loaded separately from the content of the actual web page a visitor is reading. As a result, the process of loading ads doesn’t impact site speed.
- Lazy loading:
This means that ads will only be loaded when a user scrolls down the page they are visiting. As a result, ads are only loaded when they are visible to the reader.
In addition to this, Mediavine follows the Coalition for Better Ads standards. This means you won’t see any overly intrusive ads or bad ad placements that affect user experience.
Here’s a video with Mediavine’s Eric Hochberger doing a presentation about this very topic. Eric explains it much better than I do, so it’s worth watching:
So if you’re worried about site speed and user experience when moving your site to Mediavine, don’t be.
RPM, Revenue and Payments
So how has my site performed since joining Mediavine a few months ago? Let me share a few numbers with you.
RPM and Revenue
It’s only been a few months (at the time of writing), so it’s too early to make hard judgements, but so far the results have been quite promising.
What is RPM? It stands for Revenue per Mille. In other words, the money you make per 1,000 visitors, sessions or page views.
The session RPM for my site has been hovering between $15 and $20. From what I gather in the Facebook group, this appears to be a pretty average RPM, nothing out of the ordinary.
It very much depends on the niche your site is in. There are also sites that can achieve an RPM of $20 or even higher. My site lives in a very broad niche, which makes it harder to achieve above average ad revenue.
I won’t give you exact revenue numbers for the site that I have on-boarded, but it is definitely higher than I was getting via Google AdSense.
But to give you an idea, if you have a site that attracts 50,000 sessions each month, your monthly ad revenue would be $1,000 based on a 20$ RPM. Similarly, if you can achieve a $25 RPM, your revenue would be $1,250.
Not bad at all!
How is Mediavine Able to Achieve More Revenue?
Mediavine uses lazy-loading technology to display ads which increases overall viewability. And that leads to more revenue.
Another reason why RPM and revenue are quite high for Mediavine publishers is because of the sticky ads in the sidebar and at the bottom of each page. These adhesion units, as they are called, tend to perform really well.
What’s great is that Mediavine gives you, the publisher, a lot of tips on how to improve RPM. Things like publishing long-form content, more images and shorter paragraphs can all contribute to a higher RPM and increased ad revenue.
Show me the money!
Mediavine pays on or before the 5th of each month. Payments are on a NET 65 basis which means you get paid 65 days after the end of a given month. For example, revenue earned in January will hit your PayPal account in April.
As a publisher, you will receive 75% of the total monthly revenue, and Mediavine will keep 25%. There is a loyalty bonus scheme, which means you’ll receive a bigger share of the revenue the longer you stay on as a Mediavine publisher.
Mediavine Facebook Group
If you’re a Mediavine publisher, you’re allowed into their very lively Facebook group. Only if you want to, of course. The group currently has over 2K members and has a strong community atmosphere. The moderators, mostly Mediavine employees, are also very helpful and responsive.
The problem with this Facebook group though is that it’s become a bit of a victim of its own success. A lot of random things are being posted, unrelated to Mediavine or advertising.
Some people go to this group as soon as they have an issue with their blog or if they have a random SEO or Pinterest question. And in most of these cases, they will actually get helpful feedback.
That is great, but if you’re expecting to easily find Mediavine specific and/or advertising related information here, then you may be disappointed. The info certainly is there, it just tends to get buried under all these other, often unrelated posts and updates.
But well done to Mediavine for creating such a vibrant and supportive Facebook group. It shows how much they care about customer service and keeping everyone happy.
They also do regular Facebook live videos where you can ask anything you like. Very helpful indeed!
Mediavine vs AdSense
So what exactly are the differences between Mediavine and AdSense?
Google AdSense is essentially an ad network, whereas Mediavine is an ad manager. Mediavine works with several ad networks and partners to serve ads on their publisher websites. One of these partners is Google AdExchange, a premium version of Google AdSense.
Mediavine lets all of these networks and partners compete with one another for advertising space on publisher websites. The better the website, the more advertisers are willing to bid on advertising space.
The Technical Side of Things
With AdSense, all you need to do is add a piece of code in your content where you want an ad to appear. This can be in the sidebar, in your blog posts, in the header, pretty much anywhere you like.
With Mediavine it’s a lot easier and a lot less work. Instead of adding pieces of code throughout your content, with Mediavine the only thing you need to do is install a script wrapper once and Mediavine’s system will make ads appear in your blog.
They do so on a lazy-loading basis, which means ads will only load when they are viewable. More ads start appearing as a reader scrolls through an article.
It’s worth pointing out here that the Mediavine dashboard allows you to configure ad density. So if you feel that there are too many ads appearing in your site, you can tone this down a bit, or vice versa.
You can also choose to manage Mediavine ads the way you manage AdSense ads by using ad short codes, otherwise known as content hints.
Using content hints gives you full control over where ads are appearing throughout your content:
As you can see, it’s even possible to use different content hints for desktop and mobile.
Typically, pages on mobile would have ads loaded than on desktop due to the smaller size of the screen. So with using these short codes you can maximize the RPM on mobile.
Mediavine Pros and Cons
To summarize this Mediavine review, let me go through the pros and cons of being a Mediavine publisher. Please note though that these pros and cons are based on my personal experience so far.
- Mediavine provides excellent customer service and support. It’s very obvious that this is embedded in their company policy. If you have any questions, you can shoot them an email, and they will always respond in a friendly and timely manner.
- They are innovative. Mediavine uses advanced technologies such as lazy-loading to achieve the best possible user experience and ad revenue. They also provide fancy tools such as the Mediavine Video Player to further increase ad performance.
- Mediavine is proactive in the sense that they are very much willing to have a critical look at an individual site to see if there are ways to improve RPM and increase revenue.
- The ads that I’ve seen on my site and other Mediavine sites appear to be relevant and good quality. This is of course very important from a user experience perspective.
- Both the RPM and revenue are good, absolutely better than with AdSense. I have yet to meet someone who is able to achieve a better RPM with AdSense than they can with Mediavine.
- You can fine-tune ad settings such that they are a better fit for your site. You can change the percentage of ads shown, you can exclude certain types of ads, and much more.
- Mediavine gives you full control over where ads are shown by using specific short codes. It can happen that ads show up in places where you don’t want them to show up. Or sometimes they can interfere with the layout/structure of an article. In these cases it’s a good idea to use these short codes so you can decide yourself where ads should appear.
- I personally find that the dashboard reporting is a bit limited in what it can do. I’d love to drill down on performance per page and see exactly how well certain ads are performing on different pages. Google AdSense is definitely a lot more advanced in that regard. In all fairness though, the Mediavine dashboard as a whole is probably sophisticated enough for most publishers.
- The Facebook group is a bit scattered. As I mentioned above, the group has become a victim of its own success. But that’s only how I am experiencing the group though, others may find the group a great place to hang out and share their blogging experiences. The moderators are also doing an excellent job addressing people’s questions.
Payments can only be processed via PayPal. Update: In September 2018, Mediavine switched over to a new payment provider and they are now finally able to offer direct bank deposits and other payment options in addition to PayPal, for US based as well as for non-US based publishers. Yay!
If you’re a non-US blogger like me and you don’t want to lose money on PayPal’s fees and exchange rates, then be like me and open a TransferWise account. If you’re not familiar with TransferWise, they are basically very similar to PayPal except that they don’t charge those crazy fees.
So what I do is simple. In my payment settings in the Mediavine dashboard, I request for my revenue to be deposited in my US bank account associated with my TransferWise account. This carries no fees.
Once I have received the funds in my TransferWise USD account, I transfer it to my local AUD bank with very minimal fees and excellent exchange rates. It works great!
Hopefully this Mediavine review has given you some useful insights. The people behind Mediavine are bloggers themselves and have become experts in the huge industry that display advertising is.
The requirements to join as a Mediavine publisher are also very reasonable compared to some other ad management agencies.
So if you own a blog that consistently generates a good amount of traffic, I strongly recommend Mediavine as your ad manager. Your site will be in good hands.