There are many plugins on wordpress designed to display ads. And many more to display pop-ups, sliders, and other display units that serve as calls to action like an email signup box. And there are a few that do all of those things, plus give you the opportunity to actually sell ads on your website to third parties. That’s the focus of this post.
Selling ads can be a great way to earn money on your high traffic website instead of or in addition to the advertising options that are available to you such as affiliate marketing, adsense, and display ads. In this post, I’m going to go through a few good options that cover all the ad-serving bases.
WordPress Plugins that Support Selling Ads
These are the three plugins that I’ll be covering in this article. The required features that land them on this short list is that they allow you to sell ads on your website on top of otherwise solid ad display platforms. There are free versions of a few of these plugins that have good functionality, however to sell ads you reasonably need to upgrade to pro versions and add-ons. Personally, I’m a believer in software developers earning money for their hard work and support, and have no problem paying for quality plugins and good support.
- WP Advanced Ads
- Ads Pro
- Ad Rotate
Let’s go through them in some detail. I’m not going to worry much about distinquishing free vs paid features in this article since the primary feature we’re talkinga about is selling ads, which require the pro version of all these plugins. Lots of other premium features come along with that.
1. WP Advanced Ads
Overview – With WP Advanced Ads you can:
- create and display unlimited ad units
- rotate ads
- schedule ads and set start time and expiration date
- target ads by content and user groups, geography, and device
- inject ads into posts and pages automatically without coding
- sell ads on your website automatically with the Selling Ads add-on
Ad Content – you can enter simple image banners, enter our own plain or rich content, scripts, shortcodes, and even PHP to support whatever ads or other calls to action that you may want to present to your viewers (like a signup form via shortcode)
Placement Options – There are many placement options for automatic and manual insertion, including the standard before and after content, between paragraphs, sidebar widget, inside a gutenberg block, etc. There are additional placement options like pop-overs, backrgound, slide-ins available with add-ons.
You can add one ore more ad placements via the interface, and by default, you create a single ad to go into that placement. You can also identify a group of ads to go into a single placement, which is very powerful.
Rotation Options – Create one or more groups of ads that you can use to put more than one ad into a single placement.
Selling Ads – This is what we’re here for. WP Advanced Ads has an add-on that allows you to sell advertising products. It is highly dependent on WooCommerce and the buyer experience will be very WooCommerce-like, if you know what I mean. That’s as opposed to a process that’s more streamlined and customized for purchasing ads. It has the following features:
- define advertising products that advertisers can choose from
- sell ads per day (CPD), impressions (CPM), clicks (CPC), or custom conditions
- set the placement the ad product will be visible on — sell ad spots or even partial rotating ad spots, up to a full site takeover with multiple placements, pop ups, even background ads.
- improved conversion by moving upload process after the purchase
- informs publisher when all ad details are uploaded and the ad can be reviewed
- advertisers have their own account with a list of purchases and links to their ad stats
- built on WooCommerce and therefore extendable with most of their add-ons, which means it’s super flexible and leverages all the woo-commerce add-ons like subscriptions, and different payment methods.
- pay with PayPal, Stripe, invoice, or any other payment method available with WooCommerce
Other Important Features – WP Advanced Ads has way too many features to list and it’s not only loaded with about as many ad-related functionality like Adsense and Google ad manager support, but it also supports AMP, Lazy Loading, cached sites. A major risk of introducing a potentially heavy plugin like this to your website is performance, and you can be confident that this plugin has the features to deal with this and longevity to have seen it all. This plugin has been around for 10 years with a consistent track record of maintenance updates and reliability.
The Developer – WP Advanced Ads is written by Thomas Maier of Advanced Ads GmbH. You can see from his presence on WordPress.org that he is readily available and prompt with his responses in his support forum.
Gut Check / The Little Things – Here’s the subjective part where I just go with my feelings after doing a bunch of research. If you don’t believe in following your gut, take this with a grain of salt…
What impressed me the most about this plugin is that the developer is active, supportive, and appears to be very on top of things. For example, after installing the plugin, I got an alert that my web host appears to be WPEngine with a link to some common issues related to WPEngine. WPEngine does a lot of things to optimize wordpress and make it run as fast as possible like caching and turning off some software features that can hurt performance. It can be frustrating troubleshooting these things, and it is amazing to have this knowledge not only available, but presented to me proactively.
The documentation and FAQs are more extensive and easily navigable than the typical WordPress plugin.
Finally, as a software developer myself and someone who has used many premium WordPress plugins, this is important. First, it does support developers with a fully documented developer interface with available functions, actions, and filters. Second, and most importantly, this plugin is not over-developed with a thousand features and options that makes it difficult to use and maintain. Plugins like this tend to become massive if the developer tries to add every little feature wanted by everybody. And while it is feature rich, it doesn’t feel like it in all the bad ways with confusing settings and UI. Trust me, you don’t want to hitch your wagon to bloated, hard-to-use plugins.
Pricing – You can buy the plugins individully or get the entire package with a year support for €69. Buy it here. There’s a 30-day money back guarantee.
2. Ads Pro Ads Manager
WordPress Plugin page : none – this is a premium only plugin available on the Envato Market.
Overview – Ads Pro is a polished advertising plugin that looks beautiful on the surface. It’s got all the major features that you could want in an ad serving plugin:
- Unlimited ad manager
- Inject ads into posts at multiple locations automatically
- Scheduled Ads
- Display ads based on device, category and tag filters, and geography
- Responsive Ads
- Many different display formats (over 20)
- Ad templates
Ad Content – you can put any media or text and html code and scripts into an ad. There aren’t advanced features like PHP and shortcode inclusion.
Placement Options – There are many placement options for automatic and manual insertion, including the standard before and after content, between paragraphs, sidebar widget, inside a gutenberg block, etc. There are additional placement options like pop-overs, backrgound, slide-ins, video ads.
Rotation Options – Create one or more groups of ads that you can use to put more than one ad into a single placement.
Selling Ads – This plugin appears to have been developed for selling ads as the primary feature as opposed to as an add-on to a basic ad serving platform. Therefore, it has well designed front-end for purchasing advertising as well as for managing purchased ads.
- WooCommerce, Stripe, Paypal and Bank Transfer integrations and payment options
- Stats for advertisers, with graphs
- Well-designed order flow that’s customized for buying ads, with a live preview of the ads.
- Well-designed user admin back-end with a list of all purchased ads, stats, and graphs.
Placement Options – The options in this plugin are more traditional, and while you can insert any ad format into your website, there aren’t options for pop-overs, backgrounds, sliders, etc. If those are important functionality, pay close attention to this.
Rotation Options – Create one or more groups of ads that you can use to put more than one ad into a single placement. Groups allow different types of rotation, including a dynamic rotation to show more than one ads after a period of time rather than only on refresh, as well as in ad blocks to show more than one ad at at time.
Scheduling – One area this plugin shines is with it’s scheduling options. You can not only specify start and end dates, but you can specify within that days of week and time ranges. There’s also an extensive notification system to let you know when ads are expiring.
The Developer – Ads Pro is written by Scripteo who is an Elite Author on Envato Marketplace, and the author of a number of plugins. Ads Pro has been around for 5 years, has received many updates, and is well maintained. The product has been purchased over 8000 times, so this plugin is here to stay and should continue to be maintained.
Gut Check / The Little Things – Again, this is the part where I go with my gut. Take it with a grain of salt.
First, this plugin is available on the Envato Market / Code Canyon. That means a few things. First, there’s no free version available on wordpress.org. There’s a money back guarantee, but you do need to pay to see it work. Second, that tends to make it more difficult to reach the developer. The primary support option is through the codecanyon comment system, which can be frustating to use and it’s public, which makes it difficult for me to share examples of my problems as I don’t like to air my clients’ websites, new development, and problems. Responses also tend to be terse, though in this case, the company is quite responsive. Finally, it’s just an impersional way to work with someone you’re spending money with on a recurring basis, and for a product that support is likely to be needed. You’re talking to a company alias, not a person. Also be careful to translate the licence to annual as they standard license on Envato is 6 months. If you want support and updates after that time, you’ll need to renew. Unless you purchase the extended support (which I recommend) that increases the cost vs the other licenses in this list.
Pricing: $57 for 6 months, $76.50 for 12 months. Buy it here. Again, with Envato/CodeCanyon, be careful to take the license/support time-frame into account.
3. Ad Rotate
WordPress Plugin Page: https://wordpress.org/plugins/adrotate/
- Easy ad management
- Ad groups for rotating ads
- Support for shortcodes, widgets, php snippets, and automatically inject into posts.
- Targeting by device, geography, categories
- Schedule ads start and end dates
- Stats and anlytics
Overview – AdRotate is on this list becuase it does offer a way to accept payments, though it’s not nearly as tightly integrated with payment options as the other two. Otherwise, it’s a very functional and feature rich ad and free ad managing plugin for WordPress.
Selling Ads – With the pro add-on you can allow advertisers to add, edit, and manage their own advertisements. This is managed with a role in WordPress, which you can connect to a WooCommerce buyer. This process is less than fully-automatic as it requires a manual step to assign a purchaser to the advertiser role. The advertiser interface is the WordPress admin interface, scaled down. So if branding is important, you’ll be doing a good amound of admin interface customization. There are plugins for this, but it’ll be some extra work and headaches.
Developer – This plugin is built by Arnan de Gans who has been publishing the AdRotate plugin for more than 5 years. He’s very responsive on his forum, admittedly less so on his own support forum (which is fine!) and of course prioritizes support to his paying customers. Which of course you will be one if you are selling ads with the Pro add-on.
Gut Check / The Little Things – Like with WP Advanced Ads, Arnand puts his face on his product. This just feels better to me than the faceless developers at Envato. His responses on the support forums are helpful, personal, and detailed. Not like he’s rushing through things. He also puts time into documentation and informational blog posts.
Pricing – € 39.00 for a one-year, one-site license. Multi-site and developer licenses are available. Buy it here.
You probably can’t go wrong with any of these plugins. They’re full-functional and provide solid ad managing tools as well as extensive ad display options, placement, date planning, tracking, and ad sales functionality — if you pay for the premium plugins. Which again, you’re going to have to do if you want to sell ads.
If you want more polished, more UI, and pretty interface, with ad templates, more advertising display options, that has more hand-holding (may come at the expense of customizing to your own look and feel), check out Ads Pro.
If you want all the functionality, solid support and developer options, and less frills, check out WP Advanced Ads or Ad Rotate. The purchase flow and full automation on getting paid advertisers in might be the thing that sways you one way or the other. These plugins promise solid support, customizability, and maintenance.
WP Advanced Ads and Ads Pro both have many more advertising display options (like popoves, sliders, corners, background ), while Ad Rotate is more about more traditional inline ads and would need to be combined with another plugin to get those sorts of advanced display options.
Of course the devil is always in the details and there are literally hundreds of features and factors that may push you one direction or the other. I hope this gives you a good start.