OutBrain, Zergnet Tested For Publisher Earnings, Plus Traffic Strategy Advice

Blog Monetization & Traffic Tips

I recently started testing a series of different clickbait companies for blog monetization. With so many bloggers annoyed with low earnings from ad banners, and the increasing number of visitors using ad blocker extensions from Chrome, webmasters looking to earn extra cash from their blogs need to be even more clever these days. In this article, I share the results of two companies that specialize in clickbait type widgets for earnings and offer insight into how one could use their method for better purposes.

Disclaimer: There are no affiliate links in this article, however, this is not an official review. I am merely offering some quick insight into the earnings from a test from two companies over a two to three period.

I tested OutBrain and Zergnet. Both are similar in style but do have slight differences in terms of payout for the publisher.

This is an example of one of the banners for OutBrain

If you’ve never heard of either of these companies, you’ve definitely seen their widgets. They are usually at the bottom of blog articles or in the sidebar.

There is a wide range of websites that show these types of widgets. Some are very well respected blogs and news sources, others are not. The worst sites that feature these types of clickbait widgets are the websites that put the entire article into a gallery format. I think at some point or another, we’ve all fallen victim to clickbait and landed on some list-based gallery article purely built for the sole purpose of getting you to the site to show you as many advertisement banners as possible.

From a marketing perspective, I really don’t have a problem with these companies. Getting your ad on a respected website allows you a chance to be found from an excellent authority site. However, from a publisher’s point of view, I was surprised by two things:

  1. How well these widgets work
  2. How little they pay

The website I used to test both of these companies is a sports site (NFL related) with a demographic of 18 to 35, with a male to female ratio of about 6:1. The widgets were tested in the offseason between FEB to MAR, but did still see on average 1,200+ page views a day.

Outbrain Results After 3 Weeks

  • 17,564 impressions
  • 155 clicks
  • Earrings: $7.28
  • Average $ per click: $0.047

Less than 5 cents a click is really bad. Especially, as I’m guessing these sites charge at least $0.50 per click to the advertiser. I’m not sure if they pay more to some publishers than others but the earnings scale is confusing. For example on one day, I had 15 clicks and earned $0.52 ($0.035 per click) and on another day, I earned $0.70 on 7 clicks ($0.10 per click). I thought maybe there was a correlation between the CTR (click through rate) and views per day, but nothing seemed to add up.

Zergnet Results After 3 Weeks

  • 19,096
  • 111 clicks
  • Earnings: $8.17
  • Average $ per click: $0.073

Just over 7 cents a click is more but isn’t much better. I’m currently sticking with Zergnet for now, but I’m looking for a replacement.

Other Findings

With both companies, I placed a set widgets in the sidebar and a set of widgets at the bottom of all blog posts. The CTR from the sidebar was 0.20% whereas the bottom of the article was 0.97% with roughly the same number of page views. In other words, don’t bother wasting space in the sidebar if you’re going to do this.

Alternative

Getting 100 to 150 clicks for anything in a little over two weeks with some basic traffic is impressive. Regardless of the payouts, the product does work. If you had a website that had over 100,000 impressions a week these types of clickbait widgets would definitely be worth it, but not everyone has a blog that gets that kind of traffic.

If your goal is to increase your ad revenue, more traffic is obviously one way to do it, however, another strategy and one we don’t often think about is trying to double the traffic you are already getting. With a heavy focus on improving your bounce rate, you could increase your earnings and possibly your positioning in Google SERPS at the same time. Google does put an emphasis on User Experience when ranking your site, and one of the ways they measure that metric is time on site and the number of page views a visitor sees when they come to your blog.

My suggestion would be to make a list of your most Clickbait-like content and add it to the bottom of all your blog articles. Find your most popular posts from over the years and duplicate the OutBrain or Zergnet boxes that everyone falls for. There are a lot of built-in widgets that already do this for you with your WordPress theme, so if you have this feature I would suggest creating a new WordPress category of your most popular clickbait content and only show that category at the bottom of your articles.

To go one step further, you could make a cluster of clickbait banners using photoshop, or by taking advantage of the caption option of the WordPress image itself and add titles. With a little CSS styling, you could re-create your own version of the OutBrain/Zergnet box to get your readers to check out one more thing before they leave.

Example:

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Mike Patch

Optimize Dude was started with the intention of creating a fun down to earth practical blog to help WordPress users with improving their website. Mike Patch is a long time blogger, SEO and Web Designer.

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