I have found it really hard to find objective information about different Pay Per Click (PPC) networks, especially second tier networks. If you pose the question in a forum, the response will usually be something like “XYZ sucks”, which isn’t too helpful as far as hard data is concerned. So I decided to run my own, somewhat scientific test of PPC networks. Here is what happened.

About the test

I chose a set of ads and keywords that were proven to do well on Google Adwords for these tests. I won’t say the niche (competition is tough enough already), but it’s about a mid-range set of keywords as far as monthly impressions and click pricing. The minimum spent at each PPC network was $50, with most of the test running in the $100-$300 range. If it was clear the traffic was not going to convert, I cut the test short, but if it showed some promise I let it run for a while.

After examining the results, I assigned a score between 1 and 5, with 5 being the highest, to each of these 5 categories:

  • Traffic Volume (Highest volume = 5)
  • Conversion Rate (Best conversion rate = 5)
  • Click Pricing (Lowest pricing = 5)
  • Keyword Competition (Lowest competition = 5)
  • Interface ease of use (Easiest to use = 5)

After totaling up the scores, each PPC network was given a final score. Winners for each category and an overall winner were chosen, based on the scores.

The 10 networks tested

  • Google Adwords
  • Yahoo Search Marketing (Panama system)
  • MSN Adcenter
  • Adbrite
  • Miva
  • Searchfeed
  • Kanoodle
  • Enhance
  • Looksmart
  • Search123

The Results

PPC Network Traffic
Average Score
MSN 3 5 5 4 3 4
Looksmart 3 4 4 4 4 3.8
Searchfeed 3 4 4 4 3 3.8
Google 5 3 3 1 5 3.4
Yahoo 4 4 3 2 4 3.4
Miva 2 2 5 4 4 3.4
Adbrite 3 1 5 4 4 3.4
Enhance 1 3 5 5 3 3.2
Search 123 1 1 4 5 2 2.8
Kanoodle 1 1 5 5 3 2.8

Category Winners

Traffic Volume:

Not a big surprise here, the king of Traffic is Google by a long shot.

Conversion Rate:

MSN takes the prize for the best conversion rate. Adcenter’s traffic converted about 10% better than the closest competitor.

Click Pricing:

The lower traffic networks are always going to have the cheapest clicks, so we have a 5 way tie here between MSN, Miva, Adbrite, Enhance, and Kanoodle.

Keyword Competition:

Keywords were easy to buy with little to no competition on Enhance, Kanoodle, and Search 123.

Interface ease of use:

Google reigns supreme again in the interface department. Their continually improving web interface along with its offline Adwords editor make it tough to beat. Although the new Yahoo Panama system is a close second and gaining quickly.

Overall Winner:

The winner of the smackdown is MSN. Their strong placing for conversions and click pricing, coupled with a decent traffic volume puts them in the number one spot. A surprisingly strong second place tie goes to Searchfeed and Looksmart. Their low click pricing, and low competition helped them edge out some of the Tier 1 heavyweights in the field.

Although the undisputed kings of volume, Google and Yahoo were hit hard by their higher pricing and extreme keyword competition.

Keep in mind these results were for one specific niche and keyword group, your results may vary wildly.