Top 3 website Monetization Shady Practices

The online advertising industry is extremely competitive and publishers are always on the lookout for ways to increase their ad revenue. But do you know what metrics influence your earnings and for that matter, how much your traffic is really worth? 

In this article, we’ll be uncovering some of the most frequently used “shady practices” in website monetization. 

Before we jump into the 3 shady practices we’ve seen coming to light most frequently in 2020, what should you as a website owner be looking out for when it comes to partnering with an advertising network? How do you set yourself apart from the competition and, most importantly, how do you keep your website compliant with Google and the Better Ads Standards Coalition? 

What should you be looking for in a viable ad network?

Transparency 🥛
Always partner with an ad network that prides itself on transparency and simplicity. Opt for platforms that will give you full, unaltered access to top-performing statistics, whilst tracking and displaying your earnings on a month to month basis. This, in turn, will allow you to track and gauge your online performance in real-time! 

Cutting-edge security and anti-Adblock technology 🔐
The ad network you choose to work with needs to have a state-of-the-art anti-Adblock solution in place to ensure that the right ads are never cut from your site. This ensures that your online revenue will stay intact and continue to climb. Make sure you’re partnering with a network that values online security above all else and constantly updates their protocol to keep your profile and deposited fees lock tight and well protected. 

Reputation and legacy 👌
Online ad networks pop up and shut down in the blink of an eye, with most of them falling short of the five-year mark. This is usually because they’re opting for quick-fire returns and not in the game for the long run. Always choose a partner with a proven track record and a whole lot of “skin in the game”.  

Always ask yourself the key questions that come with choosing the right ad partner. 

  • What special features does the platform have for publishers?
  • What is the extent and level of their anti-Adblock technology?
  • What ad formats do they provide?
  • What are the platform’s fill-rate, pricing, and/or payment options?
  • What is their support team like?
  • What is the extent and level of their anti-ad-block technology?
  • What is the ability of the platform for reporting and statistics?
  • What is the platform’s level of transparency and ad compliance?
  • What is the overall reputation of the company?

Right, with the above in mind, let’s dive into the three most common tactics that mess with your monetization cycle. But before we do that, let’s get to grips with the terms and metrics needed to get you on your way.  

What metrics influence a publishers’ earnings?

As a website owner, it’s vital to know what metrics you need to analyze your performance. 

Publishers tend to use earnings as their main performance indicator. However, it’s also necessary to gauge other important variables that will influence earnings. These are…

Ad Impressions

Simply put? Ad impressions  (or ad views), are the number of times an ad has been displayed to a user. The total number of ad impressions depends mostly on the website’s audience size (eg. number of page views/visits) as well as the number of ad placements on the site.


This metric represents the publishers’ average earnings per 1000 ad impressions. The eCPM of a specific ad placement mostly depends on the chosen ad format and how users engage with it. To get a full understanding of website monetization, check out this handy monetization guide for website owners and publishers. 

So, what are the top 3 no-nos when it comes to website monetization and partnering with the right ad network?

Top 3 shady practices used in website monetization

Having high-quality content with a consistent flow of visitors isn’t enough to start monetizing effectively. It’s vital to find an advertising partner who understands the importance of user experience and offers you the most efficient monetization strategy.

Tactic #1: Impression shaving

Earlier we discussed eCPM, the metric used to weigh up a solid ROI vs. a not so solid user experience. Some dishonest players in ad tech today have started manipulating their stats to boost up their publishers’ eCPMs. How? By not showing 100% of the ad impressions generated in the websites panel statistics (aka “impressions shaving”). Here’s a case study example… is testing 2 different platforms (ad networks) using Pop-Under ads. The publisher is expecting to get a “fixed CPM” offer from both platforms after the initial test.

Network 1 ✅
Generates 100K ad impressions, which equates to $100 earnings at a $1.0 (e)CPM.

The above case comes from a trustworthy platform that hasn’t tried to manipulate their stats and shave off impressions. They also followed the frequency capping laid down by the publisher. 

Network 2 ❌

Generates 130K ad impressions which equate to $130 earnings, at a $1.3 (e)CPM.

The above case comes from a sneaky network that manipulated their stats and shaved off 30% off of their ad impressions. They also didn’t respect the frequency capping that the publisher initially agreed to. 

Now, here’s where the underhanded tactics start to come out! 

Following the test period, the publisher ends up picking advertising platform (2), since it offers a fixed CPM offer of $1.3  (which, on the surface, looks really good).

The legitimate Advertising platform (1) made a fixed CPM offer of $1

In reality, the user experience is greatly compromised as the “higher earnings” came from displaying far more ads than the publisher originally allowed in their frequency capping. 

Furthermore, as Advertising platform 2 is shaving 30% off of the publisher’s ad impressions, the actual fixed CPM that the publisher gets is not $1.3 but rather $1.0. 

In short. Both tactics lead to the same result!

Adcash - Website Monetizing Shady Practices Article - Impression Shaving

Tactic #2: Corrupted ad tags/ad script

Providing corrupted ad tags to publishers is a shady practice that seems to be gaining more and more momentum in the last few years.

In order to create an environment where they can get a competitive edge, some advertising networks don’t seem to care about the user experience on their publishers’ websites at all. 

For example, ad tags that allow networks to trigger Pop-Under or Pop-Up ads through a tag that was only meant to display Native ads are regarded as corrupted. 

This practice allows the advertising network to…

  • Indicate a higher performance to website owners, thus undercutting legitimate networks with transparent statistics. 
  • In some cases, not pay the publishers for the unexpected ads displayed.
  • Generate a strong side profit at the expense of the publisher and the overall user experience.

Pro Tip? Use a VPN (with a residential IP) to test different locations and the overall behavior and output of your ad tags. 

Tactic #3: Disrespecting frequency capping

Ad networks that offer intrusive ad formats usually recommend publishers to set restrictive frequency capping. This is done to find the sweet spot between performance and user experience (eg. Pop-Unders that are limited to 1 impression per IP/day).

Networks that offer such intrusive ad formats aren’t respecting frequency capping rules. Oftentimes, the network should show only 1 impression per day, but this capping is only respected in some countries and usually where the publishers themselves are based. Meanwhile, visitors from other GEOs (i.e. the USA, Brazil, China etc.) are seeing 3 or more Pop Ads per day!

The website owner will benefit from this in the short term. They’ll get paid for the extra ad impressions generated.

BUT. And this is where the glass tower starts to break, 💔…

This will end up hurting the site’s user experience in the long run and the publisher will most likely lose a lot of traffic to their site. 

Pro Tip? There are ways to ensure that your monetization partner isn’t cheating. Use a VPN to check the behaviour of the chosen ad format in different locations (we’d recommend using a residential IP to do so).

So to summarize, a legitimate ad network will ALWAYS respect the frequency capping restrictions laid out by the publisher. 

If an ad network generates 100K ad impressions, the resulting publisher account should always be shown as 100K ad impressions, $100 earnings and $1.0 eCPM. Anything more, or anything less results from frequency capping not being respected by the ad network. 

It’s important to remember that the misuse of frequency capping often (if not always)  results in a loss or decline of visitors to your site. In fact, the credibility you stand to lose could mean the difference between a trusted, profitable site, and what users may start to see as a “scam site”. 

So with the above in mind, and to round off what’s been discussed…

Consequences of using shady tactics on your site? 

The question is… what do you stand to lose as a publisher if your ad network isn’t on the level and your website starts to fall into the gray zone of acceptable advertising? We can split this two ways, between you and your traffic.

  • Users, once loyal to your site content will start to leave due to the overwhelming influx of ads they come into contact with.
  • This, in turn, will force them to find an alternative niche website that provides the same content, BUT, with a better user experience (i.e, less disruptive advertising)
  • Best case scenario? Your users stick around, BUT, refuse to engage with any of your onsite ads. This will result in a decrease in revenue and a shaky bottom line. 

Losing revenue is pretty serious as it is, but the hole does go a little deeper. The resulting decrease in interest will mean losing onsite credibility and with that…

  • Google will see your site as no longer generating the traffic and interest it once did and automatically decrease your site ranking, sometimes all the way down to the 3rd or 4th page of a niche search.
  • A large decrease in ranking will give way to lower organic traffic, meaning your paid advertising goes up and your bottom line goes in the opposite direction. ⬇️
  • Lastly, if you are seen to no longer be in compliance with the Better Ads Standards Coalition, (the governing authority of global online advertising), you can lose all credibility. Your ads can be outrightly blocked, and if the case is extreme, you could even be penalized in a court of law. 

So, bottom line? Stay on the level and make sure the network you choose is doing the same! The downfalls are way too much to risk. 

So, that’s about it from us! Now you’re just a little more equipped with the knowledge you need to fight traffic fraud and spot the industry’s shady players from the get-go

With the above in mind, why not take a shot with Adcash and grow your online presence (and revenue) moving into 2021?! 😁👌 We’ve been around since 2007, (which by online advertising standards – is a lifetime).  Join our network of 100, 000+ exclusive websites, and get tailored, high converting ads delivered straight to your digital door. 🚪


Spread the word and get a 5% lifetime Bonus! Refer other publishers to our platform and we’ll guarantee you earn a 5% lifetime bonus for every new lead. It’s how we say “thanks for the support” and keep you in the loop as to what’s happening in our world.

Think your advertising partner isn’t on the level? 

We’re here to help you find out for sure! Our publisher will do a full audit (free of charge of course 😁) and gauge whether your earnings are what they seem. We’ll make sure your frequency capping is being upheld, that no dodgy tags or ad script is present on your site AND, that no one is shaving your impressions and giving you only half the picture. 

Get in touch with us right here, and we’ll uncover the truth, together. 

Happy monetizing and all the best for 2021. 

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