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Ad Management in WordPress: Comparing Four Top Plugins

Online advertising has been popular right from the infancy of the internet. In fact, online ads prove to be extremely useful for both the advertiser and the publisher. As a publisher, you can earn a steady flow of income by showing ads, whereas as an advertiser, you can drive extra traffic to your website and watch your business grow, simply by placing ads on the right channels.

Online advertising has been popular right from the infancy of the internet. In fact, online ads prove to be extremely useful for both the advertiser and the publisher. As a publisher, you can earn a steady flow of income by showing ads, whereas as an advertiser, you can drive extra traffic to your website and watch your business grow, simply by placing ads on the right channels.

Naturally, for something so effective and powerful, you need to be sure that your investments and incomes are in order. It is at this junction that ad management software comes into play. Now, considering the fact that a good number of websites out there rely on WordPress as their CMS, how about the ability to manage your ads and track your earnings and traffic right from WP admin panel itself?

Yes, I am talking about ad management plugins for WordPress websites. In this article, I shall be taking a closer look at four of the most popular premium ad management WP plugins. So without wasting anymore time, let us go ahead and check out the plugins!

Premium Ad Management Plugins For WordPress

1. WP AdCenter

WP AdCenter is a popular solution for managing advertisements across your WordPress website. Developed by Kooc Media, WP AdCenter gives you full-fledged control over the advertisements that you run, right within your WP admin panel.

wp-adcenter-main

Major Features:

1      WP AdCenter comes with custom shortcodes, widgets and the ability to edit your theme files for placing ads.

2      The entire process is automated: potential advertisers can signup, pay via PayPal and then see their ads appear on the website.

3      You can have as many ad zones on your website as you want. Naturally, this plugin ranks high on customization prowess.

4      Detailed statistics showing impressions and clicks, both for publisher and advertiser.

5      Included customer support.

Interface, Operation and Verdict:

After activation, the plugin displays its own menu in the admin panel, having sub-heads such as Settings, Ad Zones, Campaigns, Packages, Banners, Advertisers, Advertiser Status and Statistics. Obviously, the menus are self-explanatory and there is not much to explain here. Instead, let us take a look at the functioning of the plugin.

You have the ability to add advertisements using various means: the easiest method is to employ the shortcodes or widgets, though you can also edit the theme files.


wp-adcenter-edit

There is no limit on the number of ad zones or campaigns that you can have, and the plugin has predefined settings for all the popular banner sizes.

In terms of statistics, the plugin shows graphs plotted on the basis of impressions and clicks.

wp-adcenter-stats

So, is the plugin worth it?

Yes. WP AdCenter seems to be an ideal plugin for a small- to medium-size magazine or publishing website. Considering the fact that the process is automated and allows your advertisers to signup and pay without any hassles, this plugin can surely make your life easier.

However, on the downside, I am not too fond of the theme editing prowess for this plugin. As far as I believe, each plugin should attempt to operate custom code independently, instead of appending it to the theme (precisely why I prefer plugins for custom shortcodes and SEO, not themes). Also, WP AdCenter can use some better analytics and statistics — beyond mere graphs (though I do admit that graphs will suffice for most people).

  • Pros: Easy to use, automated mechanism, shortcodes and widgets
  • Cons: Needs better statistics
  • Pricing: $49 for single-site license (one year support)

2. AdPress

AdPress is the second premium ad management plugin on our radar. Just like WP AdCenter, AdPress too aims to make it easier for you to publish ads and earn revenue. The plugin has been developed by Abid Omar.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/34698423[/vimeo]

Major Features:

1      AdPress allows you to have unlimited campaigns for running your ads.

2      The plugin has a custom interface, unit testing and debugging mode.

3      AdPress also offers the ability to allow automated sales and detailed statistics for ads (including Click-Through-Rate).

4      The plugin comes with multi-site support, and you can customize it to suit your needs.

5      Dedicated support, forums and knowledgebase.

Interface, Operation and Verdict:

The plugin has divided its interface into two major menus. The first menu allows you to add campaigns, moderate requests and monitor the settings. The second menu allows you to take a look at the available ads and purchases.

The process of adding a campaign is fairly simple: you have to specify details such as the type of ad (banner, link or Flash), number of ads, price per click or impression, and so on. A live preview of the ad is shown on the campaign creator page itself.

adpress-campaign

You can tweak the settings for image, link and Flash ads in the Settings page. Plus, you can also specify your PayPal account details therein too.

adpress-settings

And is the plugin worth it?

Well, AdPress is more suited for the control-freaks among us. It lets you modify every detailed aspect of your campaign, and while the interface is not as refined or eye-candy as that of WP AdCenter, it is still good enough to help you tweak things. Considering the fact that it has ample support for WordPress MU, AdPress can serve the needs of the bigger power users.

The plugin’s official blog, however, is rarely updated. While the knowledgebase is populated, I often consider the official blog to be a representation of the developers’ enthusiasm about the product.

  • Pros: Easily customization, WPMU support
  • Cons: Interface looks dated
  • Pricing: $35 for a Regular License via Code Canyon

3. AdSanity

AdSanity is an ad rotator plugin for WordPress that lets you create and manage ads on your website. The plugin, developed by Pixel Jar, is easy to set up and comes with detailed statistics.

Let us see how AdSanity fares in terms of features and performance.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCqY7DvA2Kk[/youtube]

Major Features:

1      The plugin is extremely light-weight and nimble and an ideal pick among ad rotator plugins.

2      AdSanity offers two custom widgets: one for single ads and the other for ad groups.

3      There are also two publishing options as well: infinite or date-based.

4      The plugin gives you graphical stats and you have the power to pull up custom stats for a particular ad between any given date range.

5      AdSanity has several addons and filters, including a Developer API, that can help you customize the plugin to suit your needs.

6      Priority support, documentation and screencasts.

Interface, Operation and Verdict:

AdSanity follows a rather unique approach to ad management. I noticed that after activation, the AdSanity licensing menu disappeared and instead, the plugin showed a separate menu for Ads.

I discovered that the plugin treats ads as custom post types. This is what the admin panel URL says for a new add: /wp-admin/post-new.php?post_type=ads

While creating a new ad, you can also specify whether the ad will be hosted on-site or elsewhere. Thereafter, you just have to give the ad a name, specify its size, provide your tracking URL or custom code (if any), and specify the schedule. Boom! You’re done.

adsanity-new-ad

The ad management page works just like the Post Manager in WP, and is thus not a difficult entity to use:

adsanity-ad-management

Lastly, AdSanity, just like all other plugins, also offers a good deal of statistics.

adsanity-stats

And, the usual question: is it worth it?

Yes. A big YES! I like the way AdSanity treats adverts. You can create ad groups, have your tracking code and view statistics. But beyond all of that, adding a new ad is super easy and anyone who has used WordPress even a little bit can operate this plugin.

Plus, the fact that the plugin also offers its own API means you can tweak it as much as you want!

Pros: Super easy to use, light-weight and flexible

Cons: A mention of the API and customization tweaks can probably be made somewhere on the Settings page

Pricing: $29 Blogger License for one public domain (includes a year of updates and support). $69 for 3 sites and $129 for an unlimited license.

4. OIOpublisher

OIOpublisher, the last plugin on our radar, is an ad manager that aims to offer you complete control of your ad space.

oiopublisher-main

Major Features:

1      Use it on WP sites or elsewhere — OIOpublisher is not a mere plugin, it is more of a full-fledged software to help you manage ads.

2      By the way, OIOpublisher did actually start off as a WordPress plugin, but then it evolved into a complete ad management solution. Talk about success stories, eh?

3      Forum, documentation and tutorials.

4      Special love for WordPress users.

Interface, Operation and Verdict:

Alright, the interface is slightly confusing at first. However, OIOpublisher does have links to quick start guide and tutorials right in its admin panel, so you won’t have to swear at it.

Basically, OIOpublisher has the following sub-heads: Ad Zones, Ad Purchases, Affiliates, Marketplace, Settings and Ad Statistics.

The plugin supports multiple languages, has various skins and more importantly, offers you to ability to target your ads on the basis of geolocation.

oio-ad-zones

By default, you can have banner ads, text ads and inline ads. You have the option to run link exchange programs, tweak the size of your ads, and so on. All in all, OIOpublisher is the complete ad customization package.

oio-tweak

That said, I am not really impressed by the stats offered by OIOpublisher. Not that they are wrong, but a graphical representation would’ve been much better. It can really be annoying if you are wanting to catch a quick glimpse of your statistics — all you have are numbers and figures.

So, should you use it?

Only if you are extraordinarily enthusiastic about it. I feel that AdSanity and WP AdCenter are better and more refined options. While OIOpublisher is indeed powerful software, I believe that ad management tools should generally stay in the back and make life easier for the user. OIOpublisher shouts “Customize Me!” the minute you launch it, and such heavy customization may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

  • Pros: Really customizable, tweak each and every aspect of your campaign
  • Cons: Dry stats, may seem too complex for the everyday user
  • Pricing: $47 for one copy

With that, we come to the end of this review of ad management plugins for WordPress. Which one is your favorite? Have your say in the comments below!

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Jean Galea
Jean Galea
Jean Galea is an investor, entrepreneur, and blogger. He is the founder of WP Mayor, the plugins WP RSS Aggregator and Spotlight, as well as the Mastermind.fm podcast. His personal blog can be found at jeangalea.com.

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19 Responses

  1. @jean Didn’t know about the issues with AdRotate; thanks for pointing that out. One thing to consider about CrankyAds; it’s a plugins that front-ends an ad server and it appears they take a 25% cut on all ad sales so even though I mention it I’m not sure I’d ever use it unless I simply misunderstood their policies.

      1. I just read through the comments regarding AdRotate and I’m on the fence regarding it. Yes it was bait-and-switch, to a point. But I do think the users were coming across with a level of entitlement that I have to question. Just because someone offers something for free doesn’t mean they should be required to always offer it for free especially if it costs them time and money to support and maintain it. In this case they can always go back to get the prior versions, it was GPL, albeit they might not know how to but somebody in the lynch mob could have easily grabbed a zip and made it available for download.

        If the plugin wasn’t something that generated probably significant income for the users or if the developer was charging a transaction free I could provide more solidarity with the users but honestly I find it hard to side with the users on this when he’s charging less than US$40 for a site license, especially considering how generating revenue will allow him to continue to improve the plugin whereas not getting sufficient revenue would probably result in his abandoning the plugin.

        I know my view is probably not the common view in the WordPress community, but then I’m also probably more aware of the need for people to be able to generate an income than are most hobbyist bloggers and/or college students (of which many in the WordPress community are and from which I believe of lot of this ethos comes from.)

        Anyway, that JMTCW. 🙂

        1. I see your point Mike, I’m with you when it comes to being aware that people need to generate an income, especially in the case of plugins which have a substantial codebase, require a lot of support/guidance, provide a high return for users, and need to be updated frequently.

          This particular case seemed to be quite unfortunate, and more of a result of the lack of foresight from the developer rather than any bad intentions with regards to his users. Thankfully nowadays we’re seeing more awareness about the importance of plugin developers starting out on the right footing, and having a clear plan for monetization of their plugins, while still providing a free version.

          Taking all this into consideration, I feel it’s hard to side with either the user or the developer on this one. The developer clearly made a mistake by turning free features into premium ones, as this will always generate a backlash. On the other hand users are probably using this plugin to earn some money so they should also be ready to support the plugin. But the whole controversy does involve around the free features becoming premium ones, which in some cases created problems on the front end of the users’ sites, hence the backlash is understandable.

          Whichever side you’re on, I think you will agree that such controversies don’t benefit the community, and we should encourage developers to have a clear plan from the start. Here’s one developer who’s getting it right and actually sharing his business model from the word go.

          1. Hi @Jean – Thanks for the quick reply.

            Immediately upon seeing your reply I realized that my comments could be misunderstood so I wanted to make sure you knew I wasn’t questioning your choice, only explaining mine.

            Yes I agree that it’s hard “side” with either. I guess when I see a bunch of people gang up on someone I tend to have empathy for them, even if they were somewhat at fault. I blame my parents on that; they taught me to root for the underdog. 🙂

            But you make a great point, and one that I hadn’t considered that changes my view; broken sites. It really does help to openly and honestly share perspectives on things.

            Finally, great link; thanks. I’ll be studying that post a length.

            Keep up the great work!

  2. I was just about to mention crankyads – Yaro Staraks startup. I haven’t tried any of the others, but I’ve heard of two of them.

  3. Thanks for the tip about Cranky Ads. I will try it out.

    Any further recommendations for free plugins for the noob?

  4. if you can’t edit campaigns in AdPress, that’s a huge shortcoming, which it seems like you can’t after some testing.

  5. Do you happen to know how the plug-ins compare as far as affecting the page load time of the website? I’ve heard a few complaints that OIO Publisher slows the website down considerably but I wasn’t sure if those complaints were trustworthy

    1. Sarah, We use OIO publisher and while it is a good plugin overall — yes it does slow our site down. It is one of the largest resource hogs for our CPU usage. It’s not as lightweight as we would like. Looking for lightweight and comparable alternatives in the meantime.

  6. Hi,

    I like AdSanity because I’m using it for my website and I’m totally happy about its performance.
    This was a good chance for others to share their experiences. Thank you for sharing these kind useful tips for others. Keep posting.

  7. Thanks for this great review. I’ve been using WP AdCenter for some time and found it to be quite good but recently upgraded to a newer version and all of the existing campaigns I had have been lost from the dashboard. I’ve contacted them about this and am waiting to hear back regarding the best way to ensure that old campaigns etc are seamlessly updated when plugin versions are updated.

    I’m also wondering what folks have found to be the best solutions for allowing geotargeting?

  8. Hi,

    I started to work with AdRotate after their bait-and-switch-move and was more or less happy. It is a good working free tool with (very) limited options and is enough for webmasters, who just want to manage ads in groups or work with planned ad dates. But if you want to optimize your ads, make A/B-tests, handle sites although they are cached or deliver ads fitting to the (mobile) device of your users, you should try Advanced Ads (https://wordpress.org/plugins/advanced-ads/). In my honest opinion, this is contemporary the most powerful plugin for ads in WordPress.

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