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WordAds: is it a WordPress Rival to AdSense?

One OSTraining member was investigating ways to monetize their site and asked us about WordAds, the WordPress-based advertising program from Automattic.

They were curious about how WordAds works and how it compares to Google's Adsense offering. It probably doesn't help that the name is confusingly similar to Google's AdWords program.

Here's our introduction to WordAds and whether it's worth testing on your site.

What is WordAds?

WordAds is Automattic's own advertising program that runs on WordPress.com and now on some self-hosted WordPress sites. Generally the ads will run on your sites unless you pay for a Premium account. It's the only form of advertising allowed on WordPress.com.

However, if you have enough traffic, you can get paid a share of the WordAds revenue. The program pays out based on impressions, not clicks, so traffic is the fundamental metric driving the program. How much traffic do you need to be allowed into the program? The WordAds site at https://wordads.co says "a site generally needs thousands of page views each month to earn meaningful revenue."

Here's the intro video from Automattic:

What ads run on WordAds?

It seems to be mostly video ads. The main examples given at Wordads.co/faq/ are video ads; and browsing around WordPress.com blogs, I only saw videos. One example is shown below, a video from AMC promoting the new season of "Better Call Saul". Most of the videos seem to run on VideoPress, which is Automattic's own video hosting platform.

A video ad displaed via WordAds

According to the WordAds FAQ, there may also be some banner ads, but only for themes that explicitly designed to support them:

banner ads displaed via WordAds

Using WordAds on self-hosted WordPress sites

Late in 2015, Automattic released AdControl, a plugin which lets you use WordAds on your own site. However, it is subject to the same approval restrictions based on traffic.

The AdControl plugin on WordPress.org

AdControl does require you to also have JetPack installed:

The AdControl plugin enabled on a WordPress site

After installation, you will also need to apply for acceptance in the WordsAds program.

WordAds application screen

I applied for my test site and got this letter telling me to wait to hear from them. My guess is that they use the Statistic feature in JetPack to judge whether your site meets the minimum traffic requirements.

WordAds acceptance email

Experiences using WordAds

Given the limited scope of WordAds, it's not really ready to be an Adsense rival. It probably works best for high-traffic WordPress sites with a very heavy percentage of visitors from North America.

Here's some feedback from people have used WordAds:

Have you used WordAds? Would you recommend it as a good option for WordPress users?


About the author

Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.