Is Ezoic Worth It For Small Websites?
I have been using Ezoic for the ads on this site for over a year and I am very happy with the results. Especially for a small website like this one, even a little amount of ad revenue can make a big difference. It doesn't take much to cover the server costs and even help fund some hobbies.
When you are starting out, the only option is to use Google AdSense, but once you get ten thousand visits a month, you can apply to join the Ezoic program. In this review, I will give my overall thoughts and impressions after having used Ezoic for a full year. Additionally, I have been part of the Ezoic Premium service for a few months now, so I will talk about how that works on top of the normal Ezoic program.
Why Run Ads At All?
The decision to put ads on your website is going to be based on the content of the website and your personal situation. Personally, I like to see people get some compensation for their work. How many hours of work have I been saved because someone was kind enough to put in the effort and share their work online? Looking at some ads is a small price to pay.
I put a lot of effort into everything I put on this website. I want all the information to be the best it can be and that requires a lot of work. Between the hours of work and the server costs, it is nice to be able to offset those with some ad income. More than that, however, the ad income on this site funds the creation of new pages. In fact, many of the most visited pages on this site only exist because I could use the ad income to fund the purchases necessary to create the page.
As time has gone on, those pages have brought a lot more visitors which really has helped the site overall. It ranks better in search results, and the feedback I get from the increased readership has helped me improve many pages. Without the ad income, I wouldn't have been able to justify the costs that ended up creating some of the most visited pages on this site.
Do Ads Hurt Traffic?
For context, I have always had ads of some sort on this website, even when traffic was very low. As an information-based site, most of the traffic is from one-time visitors from Google search. I only have to worry about writing solid content that will be found in a search result, not a recurring blog with steady readership that might be put off by ads.
Switching from AdSense to Ezoic added a considerable amount of ads to every page on this site. I was worried that people might be put off and leave the site, but, in actuality, there was no drop in traffic and I have never had anyone complain about them. I figure most people who are bothered by ads are probably already running ad blocker software and I don't do anything to prevent that.
Ezoic isn't simply an ad broker. They use machine learning to find the best ad placement for each user individually. It's constantly testing and adjusting the amount, type and location of ads on each page. As the publisher, all I have to do is provide ad placeholders in positions where I think an ad would be appropriate, and the Ezoic system handles the rest.
One problem with ads is that they certainly slow down the loading of your site. In actual use, this isn't a huge problem with Ezoic. It first loads a placeholder, then loads the ad later. This prevents the ads from blocking the rendering of the full page. From a normal user perspective, the page has loaded very quickly. Unfortunately, tools like PageSpeed Insights are measuring the time it takes for the entire page to load, including all the ads. By that metric, the ads can make your page take 20 or 30 seconds to fully load. So far, this hasn't been a problem, but it is something I am keeping my eye on.
Starting out, of course, I only had a few pages on this site and very little traffic. Google AdSense was essentially worthless, only making pennies a day. As my traffic grew, AdSense did start making a little money, but nowhere near as much as what other people with similar traffic were making. As soon as I had ten thousand page views in a month, I applied to join Ezoic and, thankfully, was accepted.
With Ezoic, my earnings went up considerably. With AdSense, the average EPMV (earnings per thousand visitors) was $1.52. With Ezoic, the average EPMV over this past year was $5.90. Some months were higher than others, of course. Ad rates go up considerably during the holiday season and drop off in January, for instance, so the monthly earnings vary wildly.
That first month on Ezoic, though, I earned about four times more than I did with AdSense the previous month. That was a nice surprise. It really encouraged me to start putting more pages on the site, to see how well they would do.
How Does Ezoic Work?
In terms of placing ads, it is very easy to use Ezoic. You simply place a div with an ad code (a placeholder) wherever an appropriate spot for an ad would be. Ezoic will then use its machine learning algorithm to place ads in those spots, learning which ones earn the most over time. You can have as many placeholders on a page as you want. In fact, by having more placeholders, you give Ezoic a lot more options to test ad locations, which will result in a better user experience and ad revenue in time.
Ezoic provides a browser extension that lets you place ad locations as well, which is particularly useful when it comes to choosing the size of ad to show in a location. I use Jekyll for this site, so I manually place the divs as I'm writing a page, but WordPress users can use a plugin to make it easier.
I love the control this provides. I can make sure that ads won't break up an important section of text. When I was still using AdSense, I used the Auto-Ads feature, which inserts ads across your website automatically. Invariably, it would put an ad in the worst spot, completely breaking up the flow of an important piece of information. Maybe it has improved since then, but I much prefer having complete control over where ads can appear on a page.
If this seems confusing, have no worries. Ezoic has excellent help pages and videos that explain the full details of all of this. When I first signed up, I was surprised, considering how small my site is, that an account manager was in constant contact with me as everything was getting set up and really helped make the process easy. They even checked how I was putting the placeholders on the pages and added a bunch more in locations I hadn't considered. The whole time they were friendly and knowledgeable, easily answering all my questions. It was a great onboarding experience.
Is Ezoic Premium Worth It?
Ezoic Premium is an invite-only, paid service that gives you access to higher-earning ads. It requires an upfront monthly fee to join (with a discount for a yearly contract), which is why it is an invite-only program. They will only offer it once your website has consistently earned enough that the premium service would be a benefit to you.
In the invitation, Ezoic says that they can nearly guarantee you will make more than the cost, assuming your website traffic remains stable. The advertising industry is fickle, though, so it is technically possible that you could lose money on the deal. Realistically, the biggest problem you could face is if your website suddenly lost a lot traffic. In my case, the traffic to this site is remarkably consistent and has never been affected by Google algorithm updates, so I figured any additional income would remain consistent over the course of the year.
Within Ezoic Premium, there are many tiers that unlock based on the monthly income you earn from the normal Ezoic network. Each tier costs more, but gives you access to more premium ads, letting you earn more. One thing to note is that these tiers each have an upper limit of how much you will earn. Otherwise, why would you ever sign up for a higher tier?
I saw this play out on my website over the holidays. On Christmas I had a big spike in traffic. As expected, my normal earnings went up considerably, but my Premium earnings hardly changed. Each tier will only serve a certain amount of premium ads in day, making the Premium income quite predictable.
When you go to sign up for Premium, Ezoic provides an estimate of how much you will earn based on your past traffic. In my case, the Starter Plan estimated about $10-20 of profit after the monthly fee. The Growth plan would provide $24-40. Each additional plan likewise provided an increasing return on investment.
As ad rates increased in December, and my normal earnings increased, I was given the option to upgrade to the Growth Plan, which costs twice as much per month. I was worried about this, because I knew that ad rates plummet in January and I wouldn't be able to sustain those higher earnings, so I held off initially. I didn't want to get stuck in a higher tier plan and end up losing a lot of money over the course of the year.
Thankfully, I found out a very important fact. Ezoic will automatically downgrade you back to a lower tier if your earnings start to drop. Knowing this, I upgraded to the Growth Plan and immediately saw higher Premium earnings, as expected. Sure enough, towards the end of January, as the ad rates had dropped and my earnings were lower, I was automatically moved back down to the Starter Plan. The billing adjusted automatically, so I only had to pay for the days that I was on the higher tier plan. You really can't lose on the deal.
Basic, Preferred or Elite
Within each tier, there are three levels: Basic, Preferred and Elite. The higher levels let you access a greater amount of the premium ads (and include some other bonuses, like a quarterly site review). At the lower tiers like the Starter and Growth plans, you are really best using the Elite level. The margin of profit on the Basic tier is so thin that it's hardly worth doing.
I tested this myself to see if there really would be a difference. I joined Ezoic Premium at the Basic level of the Starter Plan. I tried the Basic level for a month and found the results to match up with the estimate very closely. I then upgraded to the Elite level and immediately saw better results, again matching the estimates. Ezoic confirmed that most Premium users are on the Elite level, as it makes the most money for most people.
When you are offered Ezoic Premium, they give you a free two week trial, so you can get a decent feel for what the additional income will be. The earnings during the trial period were consistent with the Elite level.
If you are currently using AdSense, I wholeheartedly recommend Ezoic. You should apply as soon as you are able. It's a huge improvement over AdSense.
If you are already using Ezoic and are thinking about Premium, I would look closely at your traffic over the course of a year. If it's consistent and you aren't planning any radical changes that would disrupt it, I would join Premium as soon as it is offered to you. Likewise, you should upgrade to the highest tier plan available to you, knowing that it will revert to the lower tiers when your earnings go down.
If your traffic is more seasonal, I would check that your minimum earnings would still qualify for the Starter Plan. At the worst case, you could forgo the yearly contract savings and simply pay on a month-to-month basis during the part of the year you get the most of your traffic. And remember to talk to the Ezoic Support staff. They are very knowledgeable and can really help you figure out what your options are and what would be best for your situation.
I do have a referral link. If you sign up using that link I get some kind of bonus at no cost to you.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.