Comparing push ad networks is tough,

How to Compare Push Ad Networks: The Ultimate Guide to Being Picky.

1081 754 Michał Schindler

When it comes to making a choice, most affiliates think about offers. But selecting a push ad network is equally, if not more important. There is an abundance of affiliate offers out there, but there are only a few push ad networks. 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 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 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. It is much harder to tell bright lies when talking to someone directly than just writing “Awesome network” on their front page. 
  • Search affiliate marketing forums. Although there are people associated with ad networks writing promotional content disguised as an honest option, they are usually easily identifiable. Most of the opinions are true, just very subjective. That’s why it’s important not to completely fall for the quantity (popularity of a given push traffic source) and look at quality instead. 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.

Most of the things I’ll mention here can be applied to all kinds of traffic, but the main focus has been put on push traffic.

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 clicks. A billion clicks 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.

2. Traffic quality

Before we talk about traffic quality, we need to understand where does 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 push ad networks like to use to fool advertisers.

Forced opt-ins

The sad practice is that some publishers artificially pump the numbers of push subscribers up by blocking their web site’s content for those that did not allow notifications. This is called a ‘forced opt-in’ and it lowers traffic quality by oversaturating 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.

You need to investigate how the publishers aggregated in this network attract their subscribers.

Subscription age

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 have 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’s 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%. You really need as much as you can get, so ask your account manager if you have an option to target the freshest subscribers or if you can get a whitelist with them.


Another red-hot topic is ad fraud. To be more specific, the legions of click bots. All push ad 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 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.

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.

Account managers

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.

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.

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 spend. This allows them to lower your spend 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.

Additionally, good push ad 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.

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 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. You need to tinker with it even a little bit. And to do that, you need tools.

Targeting options

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’. 

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.

7. Push regulations

This angle is probably the most discussed one. Ad networks have their own sets of regulations, where they define what is, and what is not allowed.

  • 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. It’s always better to talk than get banned and lose your deposit.

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.