It’s pretty incredible how ‘smart’ search engines and advertisers have become over the past few years. In fact, a lot of current buzz in the web world is about big data. Most of what consumers do online is tracked, stored, and analyzed in order to pinpoint trends and predict buying behavior. Plenty of data, such as demographic information, interests, location, and behavior, is offered when consumers make online purchases, use search engines, and join social networks.

Therefore, it is not necessary nor is it smart for advertisers to dish out big bucks and hope for some sort of ROI for ads that are blindly sent to a massive audience; instead, ads can be optimized and targeted to a specific audience quickly and easily, increasing the chance of conversions and/or profit. The goal of this process, called personalization, is to get relevant information to those who are most likely to find it valuable.

Here are some of the most popular online advertising networks today:

Search Engines and Large Platforms

  1. Google AdWords: A form of pay per click advertising, AdWords is the standout when it comes to search engine advertising. Advertisements appear right at the top or side of Google search result pages and are related to what the user was searching for. Advertisers pay only if people click on the ads and visit the advertiser’s website. In addition, changes can be made at any time and ads can be targeted to various demographics. Reports also are generated so advertisers will know how their ads are doing.
  2. Google AdSense: Google AdSense is a free service for website publishers that gives them the chance to earn money in exchange for displaying targeted ads on their website. They choose the type of ad(s) and placement, and advertisers bid on the slots.
  3. Yahoo! Advertising Solutions / Yahoo! Bing Network Advertising: Although two separate pages are listed above, Yahoo! and Bing consolidated their advertising networks. Yahoo! offers a number of advertising options, and forms include ads on the Yahoo! Homepage, rich media ads, video ads, and ads for mobile devices.
        • Bing Ads essentially is Microsoft’s form of Google AdWords. Advertisements appear on the top and side of Yahoo! and Bing search result pages. Advertisers set their budget and pay only when ads are clicked.
  4. Microsoft Media Network: Microsoft has control over popular channels such as Xbox, Bing, MSN, Skype, and Windows 8. Therefore, advertisers using their services can choose whether their content will be seen on television, computers, or mobile devices.

Other Advertising Services

  1. Clicksor: Clicksor lets advertisers choose their daily budget and does not require a minimum spending limit. Their ad types include inline text links, text banners, pop-unders, graphical banners, and interstitial ads.
  2. TribalFusion: TribalFusion offers fully-customized advertising solutions, allowing advertisers to efficiently plan, optimize, and analyze the success of their campaigns. Their message offerings include rich media, in-banner video, custom placements, and tandem ads.
  3. BurstMedia: BurstMedia works with brand and performance advertisers and specializes in a number of ad formats including display ads, sponsorships, rich media, videos, and social media marketing items.
  4. Bidvertiser: Bidvertiser specializes in pay per click advertising that appears directly on websites. Advertisers choose where they want the ads placed, create text or banner ads, set keywords and location, set budget, and then submit that information.
  5. Kontera: Kontera is mostly known for their specialization in in-text advertisements. They analyze online conversations and content views in order to better place ads in social, mobile, and display mediums.
  6. Chitika: Advertisements placed through Chitika are optimized and sent to appropriate publishers in their network. Ads are local, mobile, and search targeted. However, their website makes it clear advertisers must commit to spending at least $50,000 per month on Chitika Ads.
  7. offers cross-platform ad optimization, allowing brands to better connect with consumers in real time. One of their newer services (currently in beta), Display University, teaches viewers the “ins and outs of online advertising”
  8. Vibrant Media: Vibrant Media’s services allow advertisers to integrate their YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook API keys into their marketing efforts. Ads can be cross-platform and forms include in-text, in-image, and video. Some of their more unique options include the mosaic and lightbox brand canvases.
  9. ValueClick Media: ValueClick Media offers solutions for the following industry categories: automotive, retail, travel, political campaigns and the serving industry. ValueClick can carry those industry solutions across three different platforms: display, mobile and video. Results can be viewed on a tablet, smart phone, laptop or desktop computer.
  10. PulsePoint: Former companies ContextWeb and Datran Media merged and became PulsePoint, which offers services across digital media including display, video, social, mobile and email.
  11. AdBull: AdBull offers a new ad format that does not display as a banner, but instead as an ad that temporarily appears where your target audience is looking – at the cursor. These temporary ads are displayed to qualified users depending on the site and encourage engagement.
  12. DynamicOxygen: DynamicOxygen provides services to advertisers for a fraction of the cost compared to other big time search targeting companies. The company is ran by a Sponsored Search Network that enables advertisers to target millions of potential customers through major search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. They also offer a self-service bidding platform that allows users to create keyword targeted ad campaigns quickly.
  13. Casale Media: Casale Media works to create campaigns that fuse together the importance of not only the targeted audience, but the context, visibility and user experience as well. They offer services such as optimization technology and analytics, which are overseen by experienced campaign advisors. Casale is dedicated to creating planning tools that allow their customers to construct the ideal environment for their brand.
  14. InfoLinks: Infolinks analyzes web content in real-time to place ads in the most engaging atmospheres. Their ad units include overlay ads in search traffic, in-text ads, in-tag ads, and in-frame ads.

Social Media Advertising

  1. Facebook: With more than 1 billion users and a plethora of big data collected from profiles, Facebook arguably is the best social media platform for advertising. If your company or brand has a Facebook page, you can create ads and even target them to specific audiences. Like Google AdWords, Facebook only charges advertisers for the number of impressions/clicks each ad receives. Advertisers set daily and lifetime budgets and will never be charged more than those amounts.
  2. Twitter: If you’re an avid tweeter, you might have seen promoted tweets, trends, or accounts. Businesses can use Twitter Ads self-service to grow their Twitter presence and target potential customers. Twitter advertising also follows the “Google method” – advertisers are charged only when people retweet, @reply, favorite, or follow a Promoted Account. Clicks on Promoted Tweets also count.
  3. YouTube: Chances are you’ve watched a YouTube video in the past day or two, contributing to the 4 billion daily views familiar with the ads that play at the beginning of some YouTube videos. If your company has video ads or the resources to make them, YouTube is a great platform for sharing them.

Pseudo-Social Media Advertising

  1. Hulu: Hulu is a high-definition haven for those who either missed or can’t get enough of their favorite television shows. They offer free and paid service plans, and, similar to YouTube, they show ads with their videos. The ads typically are placed at spots in the video where a commercial break would occur if it was shown on TV. However, Hulu has more than 10 different ad formats ranging from video advertisements to content player skins.
  2. Pandora: When it comes to internet radio, Pandora is one of the most popular free services available. Because it’s free, however, advertisements are played in between songs here and there.
  3. Spotify: Spotify is internet radio, but what makes it unique is that listeners are able to choose what exactly they want to hear, and their choices are played instantly. Like Pandora, the free version of Spotify plays ads after every few songs. Spotify’s ad services come with detailed tracking and reporting information. There are a number of different ad formats including audio ads, branded playlists, and display ads.

Mobile Advertising

Mobile advertising is a newer endeavor, but it can easily be seen in smartphone and tablet applications. For example, a lot of application developers will offer both free and paid versions of apps, the latter being ad-free. Therefore, those short on cash will be forced to look at ads unless they’re willing or able to pay for the product. These companies specialize in mobile advertising:

  1. Mobclix: Mobclix is a service that pairs advertisers with some of the top mobile apps on the market. They offer targeting tools, personalized recommendations, and one-on-one services.
  2. Tapit!: Tapit! offers mobile ad services for mobile optimized and non-mobile optimized sites. Ad forms include banners, non-intrusive formats, full-page ads, prompts, and in-banner videos.
  3. Millenial Media: Millenial Media offers some of the most interactive mobile ad options on the market including mobile circulars, 360 degree object rotation, media galleries, and expandable banners. Ads can be specifically customized for a tablet or smartphone.
  4. LeadBolt: LeadBolt touts their automatic optimization and easy management platform for advertisers looking to place content on mobile platforms. Ad units include audio ads, notifications, advanced overlays, and in-app alerts.