What are the Highest CPM Ad Networks? A Guide for Publishers + 5 Options

What Are the Highest CPM Ad Networks? A Guide for Publishers + 5 Options


Many publishers ask which ad networks pay the highest cost-per-mille (CPM) in the hope of finding an ad partner that will maximize their revenue. It’s an important question, as there are many ad networks out there and it’s not easy to figure out which will pay the most.

But finding the highest CPM ad network isn’t the only consideration in maximizing revenue. In many cases, CPMs — the amount advertisers pay for every thousand impressions — might not be the most important metric. For example, if you have a high click-through rate (>1.5%) for any pages or ad placements on your site, ad networks that pay-per-click may generate more revenue.

Plus, the CPMs advertisers are willing to pay are affected by factors such as geolocation, your vertical, and the viewability of ads. As such, there’s no single CPM that an ad network pays to their publishers, and some ad networks may perform better for different sites.

As a result, another metric often used by publishers is revenue-per-mille (RPM). Unlike CPM, which is a measure of the cost of a single ad spot, RPM factors in the total revenue that a publisher might get for a collection of ads, a single page, or even across their entire site when factoring in the CPM of different ads but also other key revenue-affecting metrics like fill rate, click through rate, and more.

In this guide, we dig further into the factors to consider when trying to find the highest paying ad network. Then, we look at some of the top CPM ad networks to work with.

Snigel is a header bidding partner that helps publishers maximize their ad revenue. Get in touch for a free assessment. 

Ad Networks vs Other Monetization Solutions

First, let’s clarify what an ad network is, since there are different kinds of ad monetization partners out there that are often casually referred to as “ad networks”.

  • Ad networks. The term “ad network” is most commonly used to refer to a type of intermediary between publishers and advertisers. They gather ad inventory from multiple publishers and sell it as a bundle to advertisers based on the publishers’ verticals and GEOs. Each ad network has established deals with advertisers, meaning publishers don’t need to negotiate revenue deals themselves.
  • Ad exchanges. While advertising networks sell inventory to advertisers on behalf of publishers, ad exchanges — such as Google AdX — let publishers directly auction their ad space to advertisers. This way, publishers get more control over the ads they show, but, as a trade-off, there’s more work involved. Publishers have to manage the transactions themselves, optimize their own ad tech, and negotiate revenue share deals with ad exchanges. Individual publishers often struggle to get the best revenue deals, as they lack negotiating power — which means lower CPMs.
  • Header bidding solutions. Finally, header bidding solutions like Snigel let publishers auction inventory through multiple ad exchanges at the same time. This enables publishers to get higher CPMs because they’re not limited to the highest bid from one ad network or one ad exchange. Rather, with header bidding, you can access the highest bid from multiple ad exchanges. Overall, this means you simply have more advertisers bidding on your ad inventory, increasing your chances of higher CPM rates.

As a result, publishers on average see a 57% increase in ad revenue when switching from using a single demand source to connecting to multiple ad exchanges with Snigel.

Plus, as we’ll explain below, header bidding platforms typically come with additional features to let you optimize the user experience on your site while still maximizing revenue (such as choosing the best ad formats for a particular ad placement). Snigel also has ad ops specialists who help implement, monitor, and continuously optimize your site’s ad setup.

How Header Bidding Works [Illustration]

6 Factors to Consider When Choosing the Highest-Paying Ad Network

When choosing an ad network, publishers often first consider CPMs. But  as we alluded to above, just comparing CPMs across different publishers can be dubious because (1) ad networks don’t pay out the same CPM for every publisher and (2) other factors besides CPM affect revenue.

On the first point, the actual CPM ad networks pay will depend on many factors, including your user geolocation, your vertical, the ad tech your site has, and more.

And on the second point, as we mentioned above, there are other factors besides CPM that can affect overall site revenue. Take fill rate for example (how often an ad spot gets bid on at all): you may be getting very high CPMs on a particular ad spot but if the fill rate is small (say 25%) you’re not making as much as the CPM suggests. Thus publisher’s often talk about RPM, which factors in CPM but also other metrics to get an overall number for revenue on the site or across a collection of ad spots.

With this in mind, here are some factors that can affect both the CPMs an ad network pays and your overall site revenue:

  • Ad tech. As we’ve been saying, a given ad network doesn’t have a single CPM that it pays all publishers. Rather, the CPM your sites get depend on many things, including the ad tech supported by the network. For example, video ads can often have CPMs that are 20% or higher compared to display ads alone, as advertisers are typically willing to pay more for ads that have higher impressions. So an ad network that has the tech to support ad formats that command higher CPMs could end up earning you more revenue.Other ad tech can optimize your floor prices (the lowest CPMs that advertisers can bid) to tackle bid shading from advertisers, for example. Not all ad networks support this technology so it’s important to see what is supported by the ad networks you’re considering.
  • The ad network’s strengths in a particular vertical. Specific supply-side platforms (SSPs) may be better suited for specific verticals. The ad networks and header bidding partners that focus on those verticals will often have established relationships with those SSPs, allowing publishers to access more relevant ads that could command higher CPMs. But it’s not guaranteed that vertical-specific SSPs will provide higher CPMs in every single auction. That’s why it’s useful to work with header bidding platforms that can connect you to many SSPs, so you can benefit from the highest bidder across many SSPs.
  • Your users’ GEO. Different tier GEOs will typically earn different CPMs. But you’ll also want to check whether the ad network serves your tier and, if so, how they perform there. For example, if an ad network doesn’t have many deals with advertisers in a particular GEO, you’ll likely earn lower CPMs for traffic from that GEO.
  • Customizable strategy. Different forms of content and different topics require different ads. For instance, ads on long blog posts when lazy loading is used to ensure higher viewability often get higher CPMs when they’re placed lower down the page, while short reference-style pages typically perform better with fast-loading ads above the fold. So your ad strategy — that is, which ads are placed where — affects total revenue by dictating how many total ads are on the page, what their fill rates are, and of course the CPMs of each of those ad spots.However, some ad networks are completely self-serve, meaning that publishers will need to plan their strategy, choose the ad tech, and test and optimize results themselves. Others provide a cookie-cutter approach, deploying very similar strategies for each site. Other header bidding partners such as Snigel help publishers to plan their strategy, implement and optimize the right ad tech for their GEO and vertical, and troubleshoot any relevant issues. For instance, if you want to balance maintaining a great user experience with monetizing your site traffic, Snigel will help you think through how best to do that.As we explain below, this expert assistance on ad strategy can be really impactful as there are many details that need to be optimized to find the maximum-revenue ad strategy for a given site. Most publishers don’t have the time or experience to commit to this.
  • Payment terms. Outside of CPM and RPM, another factor to your actual earned revenue is what percentage of the revenue goes to the publisher. Most ad networks operate on a revenue share model where they take 15–30% of your total ad revenue (publisher gets 70–85% of revenue). So you need to carefully factor in a particular network’s rate and terms along with the other factors on this list. Note, however, you shouldn't just optimize for the ad network that takes the lowest share of revenue, because a low rate network may score poorly in the other factors and thus earn you less overall revenue. Or, vice versa, a really high paying network may charge a high rate, negating their other advantages. This is just one factor that needs to be considered along with the others.Plus, some ad networks have lock-in clauses, meaning if you’re not meeting your revenue goals, you might struggle to walk away. They may also charge fees for additional services, such as greater customization.
  • CPM or CPC. While CPM is the most common payment method used by ad networks, it’s not the only. Some ad networks, most notably Google AdSense (at the time of writing), pay per click. Depending on the specifics of your site, your audience, the specific pages, and the placement of your ads, you could earn more revenue by optimizing for clicks instead of ad impressions.

All of these factors can (often substantially) affect the revenue you earn from different ad networks. But you’ll also want to consider the ad network’s eligibility requirements, such as minimum traffic requirements and content quality, when choosing the right ad network for you.

5 Top CPM Ad Networks

1. Snigel: Header Bidding with Customized Strategy and AI Ad Tech for Maximum Revenue

As we said above, Snigel is a header bidding partner, meaning it can help you auction inventory through multiple ad exchanges simultaneously. So it works like an ad network except it gives you access to more advertisers to increase bids on your inventory. On average, websites that partner with Snigel see an increase of 57% in revenue.

Snigel is for publishers who make over $50 a day, in any vertical including tech, education, weather, other reference-style sites, and more. With Snigel, in addition to our header bidding service, publishers get access to:

  • Advanced AI-powered ad tech, formats, and optimization features.
  • Specialist ad ops experts, who can help you design and implement your ad strategy, so you can complement your revenue with great user experience.

Advanced AI-Powered Ad Tech

Snigel’s ad optimization technology and variety of ad formats help publishers maximize revenue, achieve more impressions, and access higher-value ads, this includes:

  • Adaptive ads. Snigel’s AI fills designated ad spaces with whatever size (and number of) ads produce the highest revenue (for example, two small ads for CPMs of $0.90 or a larger single ad for $1.60). Adaptive ads can increase revenue by 10–30%.
  • Super adhesive formats let you display larger ads in smaller spaces by having the ad move to follow the user’s scrolling. Larger ads typically give higher CPMs, so this is a great way to boost revenue. Super adhesive formats can increase revenue by 20+%.
  • Interactive ad units engage users by inviting them to take a quiz, fill out a poll, or interact with the ad in another way. Interactive ads tend to have higher views, which means higher CPMs for publishers. Interactive ad units can increase revenue by 3%.
  • Smart Refresh refreshes the ad in an ad space after certain intervals if a user stays on the page. Or, if a user switches to a new tab, Smart Refresh will display a new ad when they return to the page. Smart refresh can increase revenue by 6%.
  • Adblock recovery automatically switches between high-paying ad formats and adblock compliant ads depending on the user’s settings. This way, you always get some revenue from your traffic. Adblock recovery can increase your revenue by 10+%.
  • AdStream lets you display high-quality native video ads on your website in a variety of formats. AdStream can increase revenue by 23%.
  • AI bidder optimization switches bidders between client- and server-side header bidding, alongside matching users with the best bidders for their country, device, and browser. This improves load speeds and revenue potential. AI bidder optimization can increase revenue by 7+%.
  • Dynamic floor pricing automatically adjusts floor prices every hour depending on the user’s GEO, device, browser, and much more to combat bid shading, which means you get higher CPMs. Dynamic floor pricing can increase revenue by 5%.

Specialist Ad Ops Expertise

Ad technology like that listed above helps publishers get the highest ad revenue possible. But it needs to be selected carefully depending on your content, vertical, and how users navigate your site — then implemented, maintained, and optimized. To get the best results, this requires time, technical expertise, and experience with many different ad setups to know which arrangements are best for which sites and situations.

That’s why publishers who partner with Snigel benefit from our ad ops specialists. Our experts have experience with dozens of different ad setups and know what works for each site. They’ll work with you to build a custom ad stack to help you reach your specific monetization goals — whether that’s to maximize revenue or prioritize user experience.

Many ad networks adopt a “set and forget” approach to your ad setup, helping you get kicked off, but not offering much support later on. Instead, with Snigel, a dedicated ad ops specialist will stay involved for the long term to help you manage and update your ad stack.

Part of this involves running A/B tests to determine which ad tech improves your revenue most. For example, we can directly compare ad placements and formats on portions of your traffic, to establish which gets the highest CPMs. These tests also ensure that any ad tech doesn’t negatively affect your core web vitals, as this in turn affects traffic and site revenue.

Pricing and Payment

Snigel uses a simple 80/20 revenue share model, where the publisher takes 80% of the total ad revenue. This cost includes the long-term support of our ad ops specialists.

Publishers can easily test Snigel on just 10% of their traffic, to see how we can help you grow your ad revenue. And there are also no lock-in periods, so publishers can leave at any time.  Snigel pays on a Net 30 basis, meaning publishers receive payment 30 days after the end of the month.

To work with Snigel, publishers also need to meet the following selection criteria:

  • Minimal or no bot traffic.
  • Daily earnings of at least $50 (which typically equates to 100k monthly pageviews).
  • High-quality content that’s original and free from copyright issues.

2. Adsterra

Adsterra homepage: Advanced Advertising Network with a Unique Partner Care Approach

Adsterra is a self-serve ad network that publishers can use to maximize their revenue independently.

It supports many different GEOs and verticals, but most of its clients are in the games, ecommerce, utility, and software verticals. It also has no minimum traffic requirements, meaning that it could be a good option for smaller publishers.

Adsterra boasts a range of its own ad tech, including popunder ads and social bars, which it says can help publishers achieve higher CPMs. The ad network can also connect publishers with affiliate marketers, so that they can monetize their social media performance, too.

As it’s a self-serve platform, you won’t receive the assistance of dedicated ad ops specialists. However, the solution does offer 24/7 online support, via live chat and email. Publishers will receive troubleshooting assistance or support with specific tasks and technologies, all in a matter of minutes.

In terms of pricing, Adsterra does not publicize its revenue share deals on its website. But they have Net 15 payment terms, meaning advertisers receive payment 15 days after month-end, with a minimum payout of $5.

3. Amazon Publisher Services

Amazon Publisher Services homepage: Build, monetize, and grow your digital media business

Amazon Publisher Services (APS) offers a suite of ad marketplaces to different publishers:

  • Unified Ad Marketplace (UAM), Amazon’s header bidding solution
  • Transparent Ad Marketplace (TAM), a direct ad exchange
  • Connections Marketplace, where publishers can connect with other ad tech vendors.

UAM is a header bidding platform designed for small and medium-sized publishers. It’s a fully managed service. That means that you won’t have to plan your ad strategy yourself, but you typically won’t have the control over your ads that you would have with Snigel.

Otherwise, UAM gives you access to over 20 SSPs and pays you in a single payment, on a Net 60 basis with a $5 minimum payment threshold. It operates on a 90/10 revenue share model, meaning publishers receive 90% of ad revenue from advertisers.

Alternatively, TAM is suitable for large publishers who already have deals with SSPs. It is an entirely self-managed platform, and as a publisher you will have to arrange your own contract and payment deals directly with advertisers. It’s free for publishers, because Amazon charges bidders $0.01 CPM to use the platform.

One thing to know is that Amazon doesn’t directly provide ad tech to publishers itself. Instead, to reach higher CPMs, publishers can use the Connections Marketplace to access new ad tech directly through APS.

4. Ezoic

Ezoic homepage: Intelligent Technology for Exceptional Content

Ezoic is one of the most widely used monetization platforms around. It’s primarily for publishers who prefer to manage their ads themselves, as it is completely self-serve.

Publishers have two main options for monetizing and optimizing their sites with Ezoic:

  • You can handle all of the optimizations and track CPMs yourself, or
  • You can use Ezoic’s AI tool.

The former option can be a lot of work for publishers that don’t have the skills and expertise. You’ll have to decide ad placements and ad formats yourself, and monitor your ad performance, with very limited hands-on support from the Ezoic team. However, Ezoic’s AI tool can be quite limiting, as there’s little room for customization.

Overall, Ezoic claims that publishers see a 50–250% growth in revenue thanks to their ads. However, many reviews of the service suggest that the ads negatively affect the user experience by overwhelming the user.

Ezoic doesn’t specialize in any particular vertical, and publishers of any size can use Ezoic’s DIY solution. Those with over 10,000 monthly pageviews can choose between standard or premium packages.

In terms of pricing, Ezoic’s Standard plan operates on a 90/10 revenue share model, but they do charge additional fees for added features. The costs for the Premium plan are not available on their site. But the Premium plan locks you into a year-long contract, with a charge of 50% of the remaining annual premium to leave early.

5. Google AdX

Google AdX (accessed through Google Ad Manager)

Google AdX is Google’s ad exchange. It’s accessed through the Google Ad Manager, an ad management platform primarily aimed at large publishers who already have a lot of direct sales. It's a highly sought after platform, as it specializes in premium ad campaigns that are exclusive to Google.

Given its premium focus, the CPMs that advertisers pay can be quite high. For instance, compared to Google’s other advertising platform, AdSense, using AdX can boost publishers’ revenues by 20–50% for Tier 1 GEOs.

However, using Google AdX alone can be quite limiting for publishers. Firstly, you’re limited to using just the advertisers that already work with Google, as AdX is not a header bidding platform. Plus, as a publisher, you’ll have to manage all your relationships with advertisers yourself.

While it can be a source of increased revenue, Google AdX can also be difficult to access for many publishers, as it has very strict requirements. That’s why most publishers choose to work with a Google AdX partner, such as Snigel, instead.

Final Thoughts: Choosing the Best CPM Ad Network

Every publisher is different, with different verticals, audiences, and strategic priorities. That means no ad network can guarantee a specific CPM for all of its publishers. It’s also important to remember that the CPM is a metric describing a single ad spot. But the revenue of your entire site is dictated by your overall ad strategy including factors like ad formats (which can have different CPMs and fill rates), ad density (how many ads are generating revenue), click rate, how relevant the ads are to your audience, and more.

On average, after all revenue shares and fees are accounted for, Snigel delivers 23% more ad revenue than competitors. Publishers that partner with Snigel benefit from advanced ad tech and dedicated ad ops specialists who can help optimize your site to achieve the highest CPMs possible.

Get in touch for a free assessment of your website and to learn more about Snigel.

About the Author

Ira is Snigel's Head Of Marketing. She supports our team and publishers by creating awesome guides on the latest adtech trends. Ira's background is in software development, communications, and media.

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