When it comes to making a choice, most affiliates think about offers. But selecting a push ad platform is equally, if not more important. There is an abundance of affiliate offers out there, and the number of push notification ad networks keeps growing. Knowing what makes an ad network great is the key to making the right choice.
At first glance, they all look promising.
They all say that they serve billions of clicks each month.
They all say their traffic is bot-free and of premium quality.
They all say that they have a lot of options that help you reach the people you want the most.
Be a picky customer. You have the right to be. Ask questions and look for answers. Read between the lines and take a glimpse behind the pretty design of push ad networks’ web pages.
The goal of this article is to help you with that.
The List of Core Criteria
There are a lot of different angles from which you should look at push ad networks. They range from technical aspects to the level of human support. To get the full picture, you need to:
- Read official network information. They do not necessarily hide the truth. Just take everything they claim with a grain of salt.
- Talk to network representatives. They can easily highlight the benefits of the platform. You can also ask them questions that relate directly to the way you run ads. What’s the minimum deposit? Are there automated rules for campaign optimization? What’s the volume for a particular OS in this one tiny GEO that brings you amazing ROI? Have a chat and learn about the push traffic, network benefits, targeting options, and other useful ad formats.
- Search affiliate marketing forums. This is where you’ll find the most honest feedback about each push notification ad network. If you want to learn what other affiliate marketers have to say about the quality of push notification ads from each popular ad network you can read the case studies and follow-along threads to see if fellow advertisers have had success with particular networks. You can also tell a lot about a network by looking at their posts on the forums. If they’re sharing useful information (rather than focusing on selling), you can count on high-quality support when working with them too.
- Find out on your own. Test different networks. Each test requires some funds to be invested as a deposit, but if you can spare some money, do so. Sometimes one network will have high-quality traffic for one niche offer in a small GEO and the likelihood of someone discovering that (and sharing!) with the community are not all that high. It’s a self-serve world, so sometimes you just need to find out on your own.
Most of the things I’ll mention here can be applied to all kinds of traffic. Display ads, video ads, pop traffic or domain traffic, you name it… all advertising networks are out there ready for you to test. And with so many communities around, every affiliate marketer can do their own research and pick the best push notification ad network out there.
What to look at when choosing push notification ad networks?
Let’s get into more details now. The main focus of this article is push traffic. So let’s discuss how to find the best push network that meets your needs and traffic requirements.
1. Traffic volume
Do you remember that famous quote from the movie ‘Social network’: “What is better than a million-dollar company? A billion-dollar company.” The same goes for impressions. A billion impressions coming from the push notification subscribers is a good indicator of a serious push ad network.
Given that most affiliates tend to stick to their vertical, it is important to check if there is enough traffic in the vertical that you operate in. Honest networks provide some sort of free traffic calculators that allow you to estimate what volume of traffic you should expect.
Depending on what your preferred targeting and niche are, you might prefer web push traffic over mobile or vice versa. That’s why the calculator can make your preparation process much easier. Check mobile and desktop volumes, and if they don’t meet your requirements, don’t join.
Yes, there are ad formats other than push notifications. But we don’t want to talk about display ads, banner ads or video ads right now… we want to talk about other ad formats… that also fall under the category of push traffic. One of the biggest new formats that have recently been appearing in most push notifications ad networks out there is in-page push.
This ad format filled the longstanding gap in push notification traffic that made it impossible to deliver ads to iOS devices. In-page push ad campaigns close that gap and deliver your ads in a non-intrusive way to iOS users as well.
2. Traffic quality
Before we talk about traffic quality, we need to understand where push traffic comes from. Whenever someone clicks the ‘Allow’ button on the ‘Show notifications’ dialog box, a new push subscriber is born. In theory, this guarantees a high quality of traffic, because this person has already proved their interest in receiving offers by performing an action. But between ‘theory’ and ‘reality’, there is a huge gap filled with various tricks that publishers (unbeknown to ad networks) like to use to fool advertisers.
The sad practice is that some publishers artificially pump the numbers of push subscribers up by blocking their website’s content for those that did not allow notifications. This is called a ‘forced opt-in’ and it lowers traffic quality by oversaturating the market with uninterested subscribers.
With more and more publishers (including those who turn to cheap tricks to gather push databases), the market gets saturated with low-quality networks that sell you impressions from duplicate subscribers.
It’s nearly impossible to tell what portion of traffic has been obtained that way. As much as any ad network tries to keep its self-serve advertising platform clean and filled with quality traffic, sometimes among the quality push traffic there might be some underperforming sources.
Following the old expression that says that you should strike the iron while it’s still hot, you should present your offers to visitors just after they subscribed. The statistic says it all: the click-through rate of push creatives is about 7 times higher among freshly-subscribed recipients and up to 3 times higher among those who have been subscribed for a few days, compared to those who have been receiving web push ads for over a week.
These days, with current market saturation, it’s very difficult to achieve a CTR higher than 2-3%. That’s why you might want to test new push campaigns using a whitelist with the ‘youngest’ subscribers. You can obtain the freshest data by asking your account manager or the support team of the push network.
Another red-hot topic is ad fraud. To be more specific, the legions of click bots. All best push ad notification networks on the planet will tell you in unison that they have sophisticated mechanisms that can filter them out. Automatic solutions are good, but they work best in tandem with a good compliance team. Such a team can manually verify publishers and react to complaints. Ask if your network has a compliance team and how they go about quality assurance.
Remember, the best networks bring you the highest ROI. You may be interested more in raw profit, but it is the ROI indicator that reveals the true quality of traffic. Every push ad network tries to deliver a quality audience for your push notifications but does every ad network does a massive traffic cleanup that doubles the ROI of its clients? Well… Zeropark did that.
3. Customer support
The core of push ad networks is people, not technology. Servers are often rented, databases bought. Visuals outsourced. Technology that backs up ad networks is often on a similar level. What makes the difference is how people behind this network respond to your questions, solve your problems and approve your campaigns.
A good account manager is worth their weight in gold. This person can give you tips and whitelists of premium-selected inventory. When you start talking to a given push ad network, you will be able to sense if there is a certain chemistry in the air. Read other people’s stories on forums. Usually, a low level of customer support is not tied to a single case, but it is rather visible as a pattern.
Similarly, push notification ad networks with excellent support are usually praised for exactly that. Affiliate marketing communities tend to be a little harsh sometimes. But if something works well, they won’t spare the well-deserved praise either.
Campaign approval team
The more campaigns you run, the more you will appreciate a fast-acting campaign approval team. The best ones operate 24/7, so you don’t have to match their working hours in different time zones. Another important quality of an ad network’s approval team is consistency.
If you run a lot of push ad campaigns you must be surely familiar with the campaign guidelines and a solid team will always be able to help you work on your push notification ads so that they meet the required standards and restrictions without losing the customer appeal.
4. Technical aspects of ad networks
We’ve talked a little bit about the human element, now it’s time to mention the technical element. Ad networks usually advertise their traffic targeting options and an obligatory AI-powered feature. When you run several campaigns you notice that the important technical factors are usually omitted in their advertising materials.
For example, budget capping options work best when there is more magic to them than a simple ‘if… then…” condition. Due to the nature of push traffic, many clicks are delayed and are registered long after notifications have been displayed. This may easily lead to an overspend, something that may shake a fragile cost-revenue balance.
Only a few ad networks are smarter than that and try to predict your spending. This allows them to lower your spending rate as they approach the cap. Ever tried to reach an even value when filling up the gas tank of your car by slowing down the flow of fuel? That’s exactly that.
It’s very important that your DSP of choice has an algorithm that works in your favor. For example, in Zeropark, the campaign bid will work towards averaging the cost of bids, so if there are sources within a campaign that are cheaper the algorithm will pay less for them but because of that, it will be able to pay more for sources that are more expensive. You can learn more about it in our Ultimate Guide to Bidding Strategy.
Browser targeting / OS version targeting
Robust targeting options are the most important thing right after the high-quality traffic. If you want to make sure your push notification ads get to the right audience, you need to engage with traffic sources that offer more than just country targeting. While push networks usually offer plenty of standard options for countries, devices, and OSes, it’s worth noting that some, such as Zeropark allow options like browser, device language, and OS version targeting.
Additionally, good push notification ads networks allow you to put caps not only on your daily or campaign budgets but also on individual sources. This matters, because setting a cap on an individual source prevents it from eating your entire budget. You may test more sources and get more data with this option enabled.
But if your affiliate network doesn’t more than a set number of conversions per day, you might consider using push notifications ad networks that have the conversion cap option.
5. Push advertising cost models
The most typical cost models used are CPC (cost per click) or CPV (cost per view). It is nice to have a choice, but generally speaking, the CPC model is considered to be better. It pre-qualifies a visitor. You pay only for those ones that have engaged with your ad, and therefore are more likely to convert.
6. Push ad platform traffic optimization options
When it comes to optimization options, there is one simple correlation: the more you have at your disposal, the more magic you can do. Let me say this clear:
No affiliate campaign has ever worked long-term without any optimization efforts.
Not even one, believe me. Be it display ads, video ads, or push ads campaigns, you need to tinker with it even a little bit. And to do that, you need tools.
The nature of push ads makes them feel more personal. The sudden notification on a visitor’s phone about a great local offer creates an impression that it’s been hand-picked and custom-tailored. Don’t ruin this impression by targeting your audience broadly or worse, blindly. It’s useful to have the following targeting options:
- Geo-targeting, up to the city level.
- Language, separately from the selected country.
- Device type, with OS type and its version.
- Frequency filter, with day-parting options.
This will change your targeting from ‘everybody in the USA’ to ‘the newest Samsung user in New York on a Friday night’.
Also, not every chunk of push notifications traffic costs the same. Not only different push traffic sources have different overall prices, but also targeting options can be cheaper or pricier as well. Oh, and yes, let’s not forget about push ad formats. In-page push ads are priced differently than regular push notification ads.
In that case, micro bidding is something you need in your push notification ad network of choice. It goes without saying that just as you’d pay differently for impressions for other ad formats, you should pay different prices for push ads coming from different sources as those are often varied in quality.
Multiple push creatives
Testing is a part of the affiliate game. Go with an ad network that allows you to upload multiple creatives and split test them. The typical scenario goes like this: you upload as many creatives as possible and, in the beginning, they all receive the same amount of traffic. After some time, you pause the unprofitable ones and keep adding new ones. After several rounds of tests, you can declare the winner and pause the rest.
Campaign optimization feature
Last but not least, you need some kind of campaign optimization feature, be it a smart algorithm or a self-serve auto-optimization feature. Your push campaigns won’t get optimized on their own… or will they?
With Zeropark’s rule-based optimization, they actually can. All you need to do is set up some automated rules and your push advertising campaigns will optimize by themselves based on those rules. If you want to ensure that you’re getting quality traffic and your push ads are not wasted on an audience that doesn’t convert, you just need to set some IF-THEN conditions and watch the automated rules optimize your ad campaigns for you.
7. Push regulations
This angle is probably the most discussed one. Push notification ad networks have their own sets of regulations, where they define what is, and what is not allowed.
As much as you want your push network to provide you with high-quality traffic, these self-serve ad networks also need to abide by the affiliate marketing rules to keep their publishers happy and the mobile and desktop website and mobile apps clean of any malicious or misleading content. Hence, there are certain rules of push advertising that you’ll need to abide by:
- Ad networks may not allow adult advertising with push traffic. Some allow soft nudity only.
- Using all or some brand logos may be prohibited.
- Smartlinks or offer rotators may be forbidden (bad news) or reviewed on a case-by-case basis (good news).
These regulations are not black and white. They cannot be. What is ‘soft nudity’ anyway? There is always an aspect of interpretation, intended use, and so on. If you are not sure if your offer or creative breaks their regulations, you can always ask the support team or an account manager. It’s always better to talk than get banned and lose your deposit.
Push notification traffic quality goes both ways. That’s why keeping all ad formats, not just push traffic, clean and friendly both to publishers and advertisers is important to every ad network.
However, if you insist on running any of the potentially questionable verticals, such as adult offers, you might want to look for high-quality traffic in self-serve advertising networks that explicitly state ‘adult traffic’ as one of the targeting options. Trust us, if you plan on running your ad campaigns in a sneaky way, your cooperation with push networks will be short… and you won’t be welcomed back.
8. The last one
This is the moment when a writer usually sums everything that has been said up into one, catchy phrase. So here it goes: select push ad networks in the same way as you select places to eat. If a waiter is rude, food comes from questionable sources and the building looks like it’s about to collapse, you go somewhere else. The same logic applies to push ad networks.