Running advertising on your WordPress site can get pretty complicated and so can the plugins available. This particular post is aimed at those whose needs are on the lower end so I’m only looking at free plugins here. If you’re really serious about advertising and need robust features, chances are you’ll need a fully featured paid plugin such as OIO Publisher or Adsanity.
For my situation, the criteria is:
- The chosen plugin must be easy enough for my client to manage themselves
- It must have a widget for easily displaying ads, or at least have an easy short code that will work in a widget
- It must be able to handle either uploading a banner image, or pasting in ad code from a 3rd party such as Google AdSense, BlogHer, etc.
I tried out a bunch of plugins and below are the only ones worth mentioning. There are a lot of plugins available for advertising so it’s important to think about what your needs are in order to make a good decision without being too overwhelmed. Many are freemium models – i.e. there’s a free version but also a paid version with more features.
Some considerations that may impact your decision:
- How closely do you need to track stats, clicks, impressions?
- Do you want your plugin to also handle taking payment for an advertiser to pay?
- Will you be using 3rd party ad code, or just uploading images provided to you?
- Do you need to rotate a series of ads ? And if so, do you need to weight them?
Simple Ads Manager – Recommended
This is the one I ended up using since it had a decent balance between having a comprehensive set of features but without being overly complicated to use.
Each plugin tends to have its own lingo which is the first hurdle to figuring it out. The way that Simple Ads Manager works is that for each area on your site that will have ads, you create an Ads Place for it. So if you have an area at the top of your site with ads, that would be its own Ad Place, and if you have another in the footer, you’d create a separate Ad Place for that. A nice feature is that you can set a default ad that runs if there’s nothing else, such as a “your ad here” promotion. The developer has provided some good documentation on all the features. So your basic workflow is pretty simple:
- First create an Ad Place
- Create ads for each Ad Place
- Add widget to display ads
In my use case I didn’t need this, but the plugin does have comprehensive ways to target ads so that you can choose to display certain ads on certain pages/ categories or sections of your site. For really granular control over that, you can utilize the Ad Zone feature.
Other features that the plugin includes are: Ad Blocks for showing multiple ads at once (good for small sidebar ads), automatically inserting an ad before or after your page / post content, dedicated widgets, short codes, template tags, weighting of ads in rotation, tracking clicks and more.
Useful Banner Manager
I really wanted to use Useful Banner Manager because it seemed the easiest and most logical for a client to manage but the major stumbling block is that it can only work with images that you upload – not with 3rd party advertising. Many of my clients are using Google AdSense, BlogHer or other networks that provide a code snippet through which to serve the ads so the lack of support for this is a major failing for this plugin unfortunately.
AdRotate has a freemium model. The free version has a decent set of features but where it falls apart for me is that the way of actually adding an ad is very non-intuitive so it’s not good for clients that want to manage it themselves. If you’re on the more tech-y side, you may find that this plugin meets your needs. The paid version includes features such as weighting, geo targeting, scheduling of ads and more.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve found any others that you think are worth mentioning.