Affiliate Marketing vs. Display Ads — Which Makes More Money?

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Affiliate marketing and display ads are both lucrative ways to make money on your website. However, while they both generate passive income, there are a lot of differences between the two website monetization methods. 

As such, there are distinct active steps that you must take to make full use of either strategy. Read on to discover more so you can make a better-informed decision as to which makes more money: affiliate marketing or display ads.

Things to Know: Affiliate Marketing vs Display Ads

About Affiliate Marketing: Affiliate marketing is a revenue-sharing scheme whereby you, as the affiliate, promote products on behalf of a merchant using a special link or code. 

Whenever someone makes a purchase through your link, you earn a commission. This website monetizing method is ideal for sites that publish a lot of buyer intent content. 

About Display Ads: Display advertising is text-based, image-based, or video-based material, including customer testimonials or product demo videos,  which can be edited using a video maker and then used to advertise products or services on websites. 

This type of advertising typically works on a CPM (cost per impression) and is perfect for sites that publish lots of informational and media content. 

Affiliate marketing and display ads can be used on your website as a way to generate a source of passive income. Both methods depend on having a high rate of traffic to your website if you want to generate high levels of revenue. 

Keep in mind that: 

  • With affiliate marketing, you’ll have to find affiliates and build partnerships.
  • It’s a lot easier to sign up on an affiliate network than it is to be approved on ad networks like Google AdSense if you work with mainstream and a wide range of ad networks if it comes to the adult niche. But networks have a much easier process. 
  • Many affiliate companies offer Payoneer or PayPal as a payment method, but a lot of networks like Adsense do not, or keep rejecting such payment systems. 
  • With display ads, you’ll need to investigate which ad networks payout best through research and experimentation.

Ad Mediation 

Finding the best ad networks that offer the most lucrative deals and the highest payouts takes a lot of effort and time. However, with an ad mediation service like AdSpyglass, you can increase your profit from various ad networks by up to 50% automatically. 

There are other mediation services, of course. But AdSpyglass offers significantly more benefits and features than others. For example, unlike Adsense, which isn’t allowed in certain niches, AdSpyglass can work for virtually every niche, including the adult industry

Here’s how AdSpyglass compares to working with just one ad network:

  • AdCash: A great option for banners, this network has relatively good CPM rates. With AdSpyglass you’ll be able to rotate their banners simultaneously with other networks’ banners in one ad spot, this way you’ll double your income without changing ad codes on your website.
  • Adnium: This publisher ad network has a self-service platform and a great referral program that pays 5%. However, it has inconsistent CPMs across markets, which makes it a less preferable option. In this case, AdSpyglass will protect your income by showing ads with better CPM from other networks. This way you won’t lose profits when one network has cost fluctuations.   
  • Adskeeper: This is the ideal platform for native ads for affiliate marketers. It has fair CPM rates on all tiers and a referral program with lifetime commissions. Its major drawback is that withdrawal can only be done monthly on a Net-30 model. AdSpyglass will save the day with this case too. Just add other networks to your ads rotation using the AdSpyglass marketplace and receive constant payouts from their partners on the Net 7 and even the Net 0 model. 

Pros of Affiliate Marketing

The biggest benefit of affiliate marketing is that you can sell virtually any type of product or service to make money on your website

For example, you can sell physical products such as adult toys, books, magazines, etc., or you can opt for informational products like promoting webcam, dating, betting, gaming (adult gaming), gambling, subscriptions, Nutra, VPN, and other utilities.

Digital products, in particular, can be extremely lucrative with a theoretically unlimited earning potential. 

Compared to display ads, the percentage of people who will actually take the desired action on your site will be a lot lower. 

However, the amount you earn for each conversion is a lot higher, with some affiliate schemes offering commissions as high as 75%. 

This means you only need a few conversions to earn a good income through affiliate marketing. 

Having said that, it’s important to note that it can take a significant length of time for you to see success with this type of monetization method. You need to build a loyal audience that will trust your recommendations, and it can be months or even years before you start to see real results.

Pros of Display Ads

  • Tons of Options: There are tons of networks to choose from. You’ll find something that works for you regardless of the niche or industry you’re in. You can either search for the best options manually or use a service like AdSpyglass. 
  • Setup is Quick and Easy: Simply apply to join your chosen display ad network, and if you qualify, you will be approved. After approval, follow the instructions for setting up your site to display ads. Most networks operate on a CPM basis, which means you’ll make money for each impression on your website ads whether or not the visitor purchases something. 
  • High Income Potential: Although it’s difficult to estimate the amount of money you can earn through display ads, this calculator can give you a pretty good sense by approximating your income based on certain factors, such as your daily traffic and current daily income. 


  • Source of Passive Income: The biggest benefit of using display ads is that once you have completed the initial set up you will have a source of passive income that you can optimize and scale to earn more from ads on your site.
  • Get Paid Like Clockwork: With ad networks, you can expect to be paid on time, every time. All payments are made automatically, and you’ll receive your ad money without any delays once you hit the threshold. The same is in the case of the AdSpyglass Marketplace where you get paid directly with no need to integrate each new network. The best of it is that they have pre-paid buyers so you’ll be able to work with them based on Net 0 with daily payouts.

Comparison of Income from Affiliate Marketing and Display Ads

In early 2014, I published formally began my online website business. 

Basically, what I do is build websites, monetize them using proven monetization, and experiment with new monetization methods on-site and off-site, including with YouTube channels and online courses on leading eLearning platforms.

In September 2014, I published my first income report on my main site and have been publishing them ever since. 

This helps me see my income growth, keeps me accountable to my followers, and offers direct social proof of how to build passive income with a diverse range of monetization methods.

Since 2014, affiliate marketing and display ads have proven to be my most lucrative sources of passive and near-passive income. For example, let’s take a look at some major takeaways from my February 2022 income report:

  • Using Ezoic display ads, I generated $11,020 in revenue on five separate websites
  • Using Google display ads, I generated $838 in revenue from six websites 
  • I generated $9,722 in revenue via affiliate marketing on
  • I generated $621 in revenue via affiliate marketing on five other sites

In short, I made $21,580 in revenue from affiliate marketing and display ads in February 2022. Of course, it’s important to mention that I made this money from eight different sites, which means I averaged $2,697.50.

On some sites, I made more money than the average while I made significantly less with others. And while these numbers may look enticing no matter how you slice them, it’s important to mention that making over $20,000 a month from affiliate marketing and display ads is not as simple as it might sound. So an ad mediation service such as AdSyglass may be a good solution here for you based on my expertise.

A Few Final Considerations About Display Ads and Affiliate Marketing 

To begin, I didn’t start making this sort of money overnight. In October 2014, when I first reported revenue from display ads, I only made $1.92 from Google display ads. 

I’ve only been able to increase my revenue because I’ve increased traffic to these sites by optimizing all pages on the sites I own for search engines. In other words, to make good money from display ads or affiliate marketing requires a steady stream of traffic to your site.

Now you don’t have to rely on SEO. There are other methods of driving traffic including from email or social media when it comes to the mainstream niches where my area of expertise is. You can also get in touch with the AdSpyglass team of experts to get some insights into the adult niche.

The point is that increasing organic traffic to your site is a must if you ever hope to make money on your website — no matter what monetization strategy you’re using.

Additionally, I own a suite of websites. The more websites you own, the greater the number of potential revenue streams. While there are certain sites that make more money in revenue than I do across my whole suite, this is not the norm.

Furthermore, I’ve put a lot of time, effort, and work into each of these sites. In fact, there’s so much work I have to do just to keep up with my sites, I outsource a lot of administrative tasks, blog writing, cold outreach, article revisions, and more.

This is a business, and if I didn’t invest money into the business, I would never have been able to scale it to this point.


While display ads and affiliate marketing can provide lucrative forms of passive and near-passive income, there is still active labor involved in maintaining, growing, monetizing, outsourcing, and other tasks.

Making money online is not as easy as it might seem. If you think you can make a bunch of money by just throwing together a website overnight, putting up a couple of pages, and integrating display ads, I can tell you from personal experience that it’s certainly not that simple. 

As you can see from my income reports, blending different revenue channels together is the best way to increase revenue. In words,  it’s not only possible for affiliate marketing and display ads to coexist on your website, I personally recommend that you use a combination of both monetization strategies to maximize your revenue streams. You can also pass your display ads activity to an ad mediation service to automate this part and decrease the risks you may face here, such as CPMs drops.

A prime example of this can be found on this post from the popular beauty and fashion site,  While at first glance this appears to be a page focused on giving readers an idea of different coffin nail designs, you may realize it can become quite lucrative when you notice that not only do they have display ads on the page, but most of the source links are affiliate links leading to manufacturer pages.

Not only that but the term “coffin nails” has a monthly search volume of 281,000 so this will be a very valuable page if the site can rank well in the SERP. 

The last thing to note is that you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with other monetization strategies. Or you just employ an ad mediation service to do this work for you when it comes to displaying ads.

There are many options available including eLearning courses, creating audio content using podcast hosting platforms, publishing YouTube videos, influencer marketing on TikTok or Instagram, and even building and selling NFTs. 

Or check for more insights into the adult niche here:

Did this article answer your question on which makes more money between affiliate marketing and display advertising? Let us know below!


What is affiliate marketing? Affiliate marketing is a revenue-sharing scheme where you, as the affiliate, promote products or services on behalf of a merchant using a referral link or code. 

What is display advertising: Text-based, image-based, or video-based material which is used to advertise products or services on websites. 

What is ad mediation? It is a technology that lets publishers manage and optimize multiple ad networks in one dashboard with just one code added to the publisher’s website.


Ron Stefanski is a website entrepreneur and marketing professor who has a passion for helping people create and market their own online business.  You can learn more from him by visiting

You can also connect with him on YouTube or Linkedin.

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