The choice of Pay Per Click (PPC) ad networks has boomed in recent years. From traditional search engine results pages, to social media, to native advertising on a huge variety of websites.
For a marketer choosing the best PPC ad network for their marketing budget, it can be overwhelming.
Do you put all your money in the Google Ads basket?
Maybe one of those new native ads specialists will do the trick?
We think that it’s good to select a few PPC platforms and see which works best for you. There is no blueprint that you can apply to any business, and each pay per click ad network comes with its own benefits.
We’ll look at a selection of the best PPC ad networks and hopefully this list can help you make sense of it all.
The best PPC ad networks
This list of the best PPC platforms is not necessarily in order of the best. Yes, you will likely have heard of half of them (at least).
We’ll be summarising features such as the reach, the pricing plans and the ad options.
For the sake of a TL;DR, our list of the best pay per click ad platforms looks like this:
- Google Ads
- Microsoft Ads (aka Bing Ads)
- Facebook Ads
- Instagram Ads
- Linkedin Ads
- Yahoo Gemini (Verizon Media)
Want to know more? Read on.
1. Google Ads
The biggest players in the game. There is no denying the global reach of Google Ads. In fact, Google has a phenomenal 78% market share of the global PPC ad market.
Although reports suggest their market share is decreasing slightly, it doesn’t look like Google Ads is going to be usurped as the biggest PPC platform any time soon.
Reach: 3.5 billion searches every day… That’s 1.2 trillion every year, and rising!
Ad formats: Google Ads pay per click network offers a comprehensive spread of pay per click ads. This includes:
- Search engine results pages (SERPs)
- Display Network (ads and videos on partner websites via the AdSense platform)
- YouTube advertising
- Google Play app store advertising
- Gmail in app advertising
- Google Shops advertising
Bidding Strategies: They’re not just the biggest ad network, Google also offers the biggest choice of CPC bidding strategies of pretty much any PPC platform. And, in fact, they’re constantly innovating in this area too. An example of some of their pay per click bid options are:
- CPC (automated and manual cost per individual click)
- Enhanced CPC
- CPM (cost per mille)
- Target ROAS (targeted return on ad spend)
- Target CPA (targeted cost per acquisition)
- Maximise conversions
- Maximise clicks
- Target Outranking share
- Target Impression Share
Pricing: The CPC of Google Ads varies massively, from a few cents to well over $100. The average is between $1 – $3 (depending on industry, keyword, etc).
Pros of Google Ads: With such a huge reach around the world, pay per click on Google Ads means you will be able to target nearly any global demographic.
From local niche services, to global products and branding. This kind of reach is a marketers dream and can be the difference between success or failure for a business.
Being able to target platforms like YouTube is huge. And, with Google Display Network, there is an exceptional choice of partner websites where your paid ad can appear.
Cons of Google Ads: With such a big choice and reach come some unique problems. Google Ads can be hard to get right, and can quickly get expensive for certain industry keywords.
Challenges include click fraud for instance, in which paid links are clicked on with the intent to either deplete or divert your marketing budget.
Being so popular with global searchers, bidding on Google Ads PPC can also be very competitive. In fact, keyword bidding on Google Ads can attract eye wateringly high CPC.
2. Microsoft Ads/Bing Ads
Being the second biggest player in the paid search engine game isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bing Ads is now known as Microsoft Advertising and has a similar PPC package offering to Google.
What makes them a good choice over the behemoth that is Google? Well, Bing Ads has been shown to have a cheaper CPC than Google. For cheap PPC advertising networks, Microsoft is a good place to start.
Their users also tend to be from high income backgrounds in the US. In fact, Bing Ads has a 36% market share in the US, and 20% in the UK.
Reach: A third of the global search market. This includes 6.4 billion searches a month, including over 127 million searches not found by Google.
Ad formats: Being a search engine, Bing does of course offer SERPs, which also show as search results on Yahoo!, AOL and MSN.
Microsoft Ads PPC also offers a display network type deal, with display ads on:
- Windows App store
- Outlook Email
- Websites for display and native advertising managed by various sales partners
Bidding Strategies: Although not quite as comprehensive as Google, there is plenty of choice with Microsoft Ads bidding strategies.
- Enhanced and Manual CPC
- Target ROAS
- Target CPA
Pricing: One of the major selling points of using the Bing Ads network is the lower CPC. Tests have found that average CPC on Bing Ads is around a third cheaper than Google Ads. For a solid figure, the average CPC shows as about $2.20.
Pros of Microsoft Ads: With less competition comes a better chance of getting your ads to stand out on the Bing Ad network.
That lower volume of competitors also means your bids are lower than on the hugely popular Google Ads network. And there is even data to suggest that the click through rates are better on Bing too!
A third of the global search market is still a good slice of the planet, and using Microsoft Ads alongside Google can be beneficial.
Add in the fact that Microsoft’s demographic is supposed to be of a higher quality (i.e; higher earners who tend to be well educated), and Microsoft Ads starts to look like a serious contender for your advertising bucks.
Cons of Microsoft Ads: That smaller reach might not be for everyone, especially if your strategy is getting the most amount of clicks/views possible.
Microsoft Ads is not immune to click fraud either, with around 20% of all clicks on this ad platform being ‘invalid clicks’.
3. Facebook Ads
The first social media entry on our list, Facebook Ads offers a PPC ad network with some incredible targeting potential. As Facebook isn’t based on search, it’s a different beast, with targeting based on specific interests, demographics and location data.
Although as of 2020 Facebook is seeing some controversy (again), as a PPC platform it remains very popular among SMEs. Despite this controversy, it’s unlikely that Facebook will be disappearing from our lives any time soon.
Reach: 1.62 billion people use Facebook every day! There are 2.62 billion registered active monthly Facebook users, across the globe.
Add Instagram into the mix and that’s an additional 1 billion monthly users.
Ad formats: With Facebook, ads are targeted to users based on things like their interests, location and factors such as age, education level or even behaviours.
Facebook’s PPC ads can appear on:
- Facebook Messenger
- The Facebook Audience Network (apps and websites on the partnership network)
Bidding Strategies: The most common way to run PPC ads on Facebook is using cost per thousand impressions (CPM).
There are also options for cost per click and options for Target CPA (cost per action) and Target ROAS.
Pricing: The average cost of a PPC ad campaign on Facebook is lower than Bing. Average CPC on Facebook is reportedly around the $1.70 mark.
Pros of Facebook Ads: The demographic targeting is a powerful way to reach a specific audience using Facebook. Something which is a little trickier to do on the search engine ad networks.
Facebook has a huge volume of monthly impressions, with something like over half of all internet users on Facebook and 1 trillion page views a month.
Another benefit of using Facebook is that your ad isn’t activated by search, so you can get your brand in front of people much more easily.
Cons of using Facebook Ads: Besides regularly appearing controversies, it is also noted that Facebook’s users tend to be in a higher age bracket, normally over 35.
4. Instagram Ads
OK, yes, Instagram Ads can be posted via Facebook Ads. But actually this huge ad platform warrants its own section as you don’t necessarily need a Facebook account to start running ads on Insta.
So, why use Instagram Ads? As a PPC platform it has a higher click through rate than any other social media platform. There are over a billion monthly active users, the majority of whom (over 70%) are under 35.
Basically, if you’re targeting the millennial market, this is the platform you should be using.
Reach: Over 1 billion and growing fast!
Ad formats: Instagram offers either in feed ads, native ad style. Or, you can also choose to display your post as part of the hugely popular Instagram stories.
The visual nature of Instagram means that well shot video or photos can be very successful.
Bidding Strategies: The bid strategies on Instagram Ads are very simple. Cost per click, or cost per thousand impressions (CPM).
Pricing: It’s hard to nail down Instagram Ads average price, but it seems to be on a level with Facebook Ads. CPM can be as low as $2-3, or as high as $5 or more.
Pros of Instagram Ads: For millennial appeal, it’s hard to beat Instagram. With over 70% of users under 35, this is the PPC platform for those targeting the ‘cool’ crowd.
The native ads style of Instagram Ads is also quite appealing for many, with the opportunity to create some nice images.
Engagement is also much better than Facebook Ads. It’s been shown that Instagram users are around 10 times more likely to follow a brand or business they like on Insta instead of Facebook.
Instagram Ads can be managed from Facebook’s ad dashboard, or by using Facebook’s Power Editor.
Cons of Instagram Ads: If you’re not targeting those under 40, Instagram might not be the best paid ad platform for your business.
The popularity of Instagram Ads has led to a surge in ads, which in turn leads to a decline in ad engagement.
5. Linkedin Ads
The social media network for professionals, Linkedin has grown in stature in recent years. It’s not just for job hunters either, with an audience of engaged and educated people from around the world, including business decision makers and C-level executives.
If you’re looking for a PPC platform where you can get the attention of decision makers in business, this is your best bet. If you’re running accounts based marketing (ABM) campaigns, or even if you’re looking to build brand awareness around a business service, Linkedin is a solid choice.
Reach: Linkedin has over 575 million registered users worldwide, with 260 million of those active monthly. Around 44% of all Linkedin users take home over $75,000 per year.
Ad formats: The staple of all social media networks is the sponsored post, which is of course an option here too.
Advertisers can also choose:
- InMail – direct mailings which can be paid for individually
- Text ads on the home page
- Sponsored posts
- Dynamic ads which are tailored to the user and their interests
Bidding Strategies: Paid ads on Linkedin rely mostly on CPM and CPC. However, with InMail, there is also the choice of cost per send.
Price: The average CPM for Linkedin Ads is around $2. The cost per send for InMail is around $0.10.
Pros of Linkedin Ads: Being able to target business leaders and professionals might be priceless for some.
The option of sending the direct email is also a nice touch, and for those selling B2B, potentially very effective.
Cons of Linkedin Ads: If you’re not a recruiter, or you’re not targeting B2B, then Linkedin Ads isn’t for you.
One of the best known and most comprehensive of the retargeting ad networks. AdRoll is an AI based tool, built to convert casual visitors and to bring back that valuable repeat custom.
It might be of more interest to ecommerce businesses and those who have a product to sell. Although it’s not a paid search platform, per se, it is a very useful way to promote your business using cross channel marketing techniques.
Using AI to optimise paid search campaigns using native content advertising, email marketing, dynamic ads on partner websites and some other nifty remarketing strategies.
Reach: AdRoll has access to over 1.2 billion international shopper profiles. It can run ads across Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft, accessing something like 98% of the internet.
Ad formats: As mentioned, the whole USP of AdRoll is that it uses AI to target customers across multiple channels.
Users of AdRoll can choose a variety of ad strategies including:
- Personalised ad targeting
- Audience retargeting
- Multi-site dynamic ads
- Intelligent email targeting
Bidding Strategies: Although AdRoll focuses heavily on AI, marketers can adjust their ad campaigns and choose how to pay for leads.
We have a choice of:
- Target CPA
- Target CPC
- Maximise Conversions
Price: AdRoll offers a free package so you can get to grips with the potential of the platform before you commit. Once you’re ready to get stuck in, packages start from a very reasonable $9 per month. Be aware that this isn’t seen as a cheap PPC platform, and the sky is definitely the limit.
Pros of AdRoll: For those that know their audience and have some marketing savvy already, AdRoll can be a very effective way of targeting customers.
As AdRoll uses real time bidding for your ads, you don’t need to worry about setting up your cost per click or anything else.
AdRoll works with most popular ecommerce platforms including Shopify, Magneto, WooCommerce and WordPress.
Retargeting is seen as an effective yet complex practice, but using AdRoll makes it surprisingly simple.
Cons of AdRoll: As mentioned, you’ll need to have some solid experience of targeting customers and running PPC ad campaigns. Although it’s quite simple to set up, AdRoll is quite technical and isn’t for beginner marketers.
AdRoll can also be quite expensive. That subscription package price is just the tip of the iceberg, so bear this in mind.
7. Taboola and Outbrain
Taboola and Outbrain, two digital advertising platforms, announced that they have entered into an agreement to merge to better compete with Facebook. Many of the platforms on this list offer native advertising, but these players specialise in it (full disclosure: Outbrain is a CHEQ client). What this means is you’re getting a platform dedicated to generating sponsored posts on a broad selection of partner websites.
They both offer advertisers access to some of the biggest and most visited websites in the world. Think NBC, CNN, The Guardian, Mashable and Business Insider.
If you’re looking into running a native ads PPC campaign, one of these platforms will be your best choice.
Reach: Individually, Outbrain and Taboola both reach over 80% of the internet. That’s more than Facebook!
Ad Formats: With native ads, it’s all about the content. With both of these platforms, you’ll be sharing video or articles.
Bidding Strategies: As you’d expect with this kind of PPC network, most of the options revolve around CPM or eCPC.
Price: Both Outbrain and Taboola offer quite similar CPC, which is usually at least $0.10. CPM starts at around $0.40, but can easily get above $3 or $4.
Pros of Taboola and Outbrain: Being able to display your content on some of the world’s most visited websites can be invaluable for many.Native advertising has been shown to be quite an effective form of advertising, much more effective than pop-ups or banner ads.
Cons of Taboola and Outbrain: Although the biggest options for native ad networks, Taboola and Outbrain are definitely not the cheapest options for PPC.
8. Twitter Ads
Twitter is still one of the most popular social media platforms, which also makes it a very effective PPC ad network.
In fact, many brands use Twitter to promote their business, and when you look at the stats it does start to make sense. The ad CTR on Twitter is a very respectable 1-3%, and the publicity from a trending hashtag (sponsored or not) can be invaluable.
If Facebook has a relatively old demographic, then Twitter has a decent spread with around 32% of Twitter users being between 18-35.
Reach: 330 million registered and active monthly users is pretty solid. 64 million of these are in the USA, 48.5 million in Japan and 23.5 million in Russia. Rounding out the top 5 are the UK with 17.7 million and Saudi Arabia with 15 million.
Ad Formats: As a social media network, there are several ways you can promote your brand on this ad network:
- Posts in the feed
- Sponsored hashtags
- Promoted accounts
- Twitter moments
- Automated promotion
The last one on the list is where you Tweet as normal and Twitter will use your budget to ensure you automatically get as much exposure as possible,
Bidding Strategies: The PPC bidding strategies for Twitter include:
There is also a subscription option for the automated promotion, starting at $99 per month.
Price: Twitter is one of the cheaper social media ad networks, with a variable cost per click. Some reports suggest a few cents for a click, although there are reports of anything up to around $10.
For CPM, the average is around $3, which is average.
Pros of Twitter Ads: That CTR of 1-3% is quite impressive for a pay per click ad.
Although the reach isn’t as big as Facebook or Google, Twitter does reach an active community in a variety of countries.
Twitter claims that their promoted trends have some useful effects, such as boosting retweets by 32% and a 22% boost to brand conversion.
Cons of Twitter Ads: Let’s be honest here. Twitter doesn’t have the reach that Facebook does (although the user demographic is younger).
Although Twitter and the social media networks are good for brand visibility, the jury is out about their effectiveness for lead generation.
Somewhere between the native advertising networks and Google’s Adsense, Bidvertiser bills itself as a premium direct advertising network. This all in one platform allows advertisers to create ad campaigns to be featured on one of the 78,522 partner websites.
So, what sets Bidvertiser apart from the competition? There is some good transparency about the sites your ad is featured on, and they also claim to have an in-built fraud detector. How effective is this? Well, I can’t find anything online that mentions it so who knows?
One of the main pros of using Bidvertiser is that it’s one of the cheapest PPC ad networks, allowing you to kick off your advertising for just $100, or $5 a day. That will probably be why most businesses use it.
Reach: Over 78,000 websites in 192 countries.
Ad Formats: Bidvertisers allows ads including:
- Native content ads (video and/or text)
- Pop under windows
- XML feed integration
- In-app ads (catfish ads)
Bidding strategies: Bidverstiers offers the option for advertisers to use:
Price: Finding information about average CPC rates for Bidversiter is pretty tricky.
Pros of using Bidvertisers: The entry level price for running a PPC campaign on Bidvertiser is one of the lowest online, which makes it attractive for smaller businesses.
Most reports suggest that the quality of ads on Bidvertiser is equal to Google Ads, which is obviously a good thing.
Being able to choose between native ads and some of the other options, at such a low price, could be very appealing to those who might not go for Taboola/Outbrain.
Cons of using Bidvertiser: Reports online suggest that ad targeting can be haphazard, with ads appearing on sites that might seem irrelevant or unrelated.
The sign up process for publishers is pretty simple, meaning you’re not necessarily getting premium inventory here.
10. Yahoo Gemini (Verizon Media Native)
Remember when Yahoo! was the best search engine? If you do you’re probably as old as me. But those days are long gone and Yahoo! as a PPC network has been playing catch up to Google since, well, since Google appeared.
Yahoo Gemini is now known as Verizon Media Native, and offers an admittedly pretty decent paid ads network. In fact, the blurb claims that it’s the only platform to offer search and native advertising in the same platform. So far, good USP.
But, what about Bing Ads? Slightly confusingly, Yahoo Gemini/Verizon Media is totally independent and has no bearing on Bing Ads, although there is some crossover.
For example, with Verizon/Yahoo, you can pay for SERPs in Yahoo, but there is no display network of third party sites. All sites used for display are owned by Verizon/Oath. Yes, it is a bit confusing.
So, should you use Verizon Media Native for your PPC ad campaigns?
Reach: 1 billion monthly users and 2 billion ad impressions a day is a pretty impressive amount.
Ad Formats: As well as search results in Yahoo!, Verizon Media Native own Engadget,HuffPost, Tumblr and AOL. So your search ads will appear here too.
Beyond search, you can also choose display ads including:
- Native image ads
- Native video ads
- App install ads
- Carousel ads
- Tumblr sponsored ads
- Ads in Yahoo! Mail
- Moments Ads
The Moments option is a display ad that offers a full screen ad from a smaller banner or text ad. It’s quite a clever format, allowing you to present a relatively unobtrusive ad format that can then fold out for those who are interested.
Bidding Strategies: Offering such a diverse selection of ad options, of course the PPC options reflect this.
- Manual CPC
- Enhanced CPC
- Maximise clicks
- Maximise conversions
- Target CPA
Price: Data suggests that Yahoo Gemini aka Verizon Media Native offers a slightly cheaper CPC than Bing Ads with a slightly higher CTR.
Pros of using Yahoo Gemini: Affordable SERP ads and the option to create native ads on some of the world’s most popular websites? It’s definitely an attractive package.
If you’re looking for a niche audience, those using Yahoo and the Verizon family of websites, this is an affordable way of targeting them.
Verizon Media offers perhaps the cheapest CPC compared to the other paid search ad sites, but with a respectable CTR.
Cons of using Yahoo Gemini: It doesn’t quite have the reach of Microsoft Bing Ads, with no network of publisher sites available.
Many reports suggest that video ads are not that effective on Yahoo Gemini. But, try for yourself and let us know how you get on!
We’re back to the dedicated native ad platforms, and RevContent is one of the big players after Taboola and Outbrain. So why would you use RevContent for your native ad campaigns?
RevContent do have a good selection of premium inventory, the bar for publishers to meet is pretty high.
Reach: RevContent reaches 97% of the US market and has 250 billion ad impressions per month.
Ad Formats: Being exclusively native advertising, RevContent offers the option for sponsored content and video ads. These are displayed in widgets hosted on publisher sites.
Bidding strategies: RevContent offers CPM, CPC and CPA.
Price: Many bill RevContent as a cheap PPC option, which, compared to Google Ads it is. In general it is on a par roughly with Taboola/Outbrain. An average CPM is around $0.44 but can go up to around $3.
Pros of using RevContent: As a smaller ad network, you’re likely to have less competition in your niche if you’re using RevContent compared to the better known native ad platforms.
One of the main USP’s of RevContent is the ability to fine tune your demographic/interest targeting. There are apparently 3000+ targeting options compared to Facebook’s 800.
RevContent also offers real time data.
Cons of using RevContent: Although it is cheaper, RevContent doesn’t have the reach of many of the bigger PPC ad platforms.
Some forums and feedback reports suggest that RevContent ads look ‘spammy’.
Although they are another native advertising platform, BuySellAds does have one of the more interesting offerings. For a start, they offer extra ad placements such as host-read announcements on podcasts (obviously not useful for everyone but does make them stand out) and email newsletter placements.
BuySellAds’ parent company has also been buying up content sharing sites like Digg and it sounds like they have some interesting ideas in the pipeline. They also offer some intriguing native ad placements on things like the new tab in Firefox, or on specialist sites like Dribble or CoinMarketCap.
Reach: It’s actually pretty hard to find figures about the market reach of BuySellAds, so no solid figure here I’m afraid. However, they have over 12,000 publisher sites using the platform to display ads.
Looking at the Firefox new tab impressions as an example, they have 1.5 billion impressions a month. And that’s just one platform.
Ad Formats: If you’re looking for an innovative way of using your PPC ad budget, BuySellAds might be your best bet. Options include:
- Native ad content
- Sponsored video
- Sponsored posts
- Display banner ads
- Host-read radio ads on Podcasts
- Email ad placement
Bidding strategies: Again, slim pickings on the info front, but very likely the usual CPM, CPA and CPC.
Price: BuySellAds doesn’t do things like the other pay per click platforms, but instead allows you to pay a fixed amount per month to buy ad space. Prices start at $10 and of course the sky’s the limit.
I’ve not been able to find an average CPC or CPM for BuySellAds, but if you do, please comment and let us know.
Pros of using BuySellAds: A wider selection of native advertising options means BuySellAds might be your paid ad platform of choice.
As a company, BuySellAds do seem to be quite ambitious, buying out various other advertising and content brands. This could make them a useful ally for your paid marketing campaigns.
BuySellAds also make it easy for publishers to be advertisers, and vice versa. No need to sign up for different platforms or use multiple accounts, as you do with Google Ads for example.
Cons of using BuySellAds: The lack of information about success stories with BuySellAds doesn’t look good. Every other ad platform on this list has plenty of reviews and details, but these guys not so much.
When it comes to choosing the best PPC ad network for your marketing requirements, there is, as you can see, a lot of choice. In fact, this is just a small selection of the available PPC platforms, with new ones popping up all the time.
However, we think this illustrates that there is more to PPC ads than just Google. And although they are the biggest and best, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best for your business.
However, whichever platform you’re using, click fraud and ad fraud can be a big headache for many. Especially if you’re spending thousands of dollars a month on a new platform, the last thing you want to be worried about is how many invalid clicks you’re getting.
CHEQ is the only anti-fraud software that covers the broadest selection of paid search and native ad platforms, working on all these paid search and paid social accounts, giving you cybersecurity ad protection with a simple 5 minute set up