I’ve never been much of a car guy.
I drove a Chevy Lumina in high-school.
Then a Dodge Caravan in college.
Got a Honda Accord when I graduated.
Then I turned 30.
I wanted to switch things up. I was looking for something different.
Eventually I stumbled across an FJ Cruiser online.
It’s a very polarizing car.
Half the people I talk to love it. The other half hate it. Very little in-between.
But I loved it.
It had just the right amount of power, utility, and quirkiness.
Three windshield wipers. Clam-shell doors. You could leave the back window open while you drove it.
So I went on the hunt, and eventually found one for sale.
It was a 2008. “Sandstorm” tan. Just under 100,000 miles on it (these things regularly last 300,000 miles – bulletproof engines).
But there was one drawback – the frame.
When I got on my back, crawled under the car and looked up I saw a completely rusted-out frame.
My gut immediately told me something was wrong.
“Run. Don’t buy this car”.
But my brain had other plans.
I decided to have the car inspected at a nearby Toyota Service Center.
Their finding: “Frame checks out solid”.
So I bought the car.
Less than a year later the upper control arm broke completely free from the frame while I was driving and pulled me into oncoming traffic.
Luckily no one was in the other lane at the time.
But what if someone had been?
What if I had been on the highway?
I never should have bought that car.
I should have listened to my gut…
Things That Make You Go Hmmm…
In June of 2022 Ezoic reached out to me.
I had left them for AdThrive 8 months prior, and they wanted me back.
I took their call.
I was happy with AdThrive, but there’s no harm in talking.
We ended the call and then I got an email with an offer:
- A guaranteed revenue floor based on my average display ad earnings with AdThrive
- A guarantee that I’ll make 15% more with Ezoic display ads (and a sizable payout if I don’t)
- Access to their premium ads at zero additional cost
- A separate, additional financial incentive after 6 months, paid monthly so long as my traffic continues to grow
- Direct access to account management, support, direct brand sales etc.
- 30 day notice to cancel this contract at any time
It was a pretty incredible deal – a meaningful increase in monthly revenue for my site if they were able to deliver.
I was excited.
And yet, my gut told me something was wrong.
I struggled accepting it.
I remember agonizing over it with my wife for over a week.
Was I making the right decision leaving AdThrive?
What was I missing?
After a lot of thought, and another follow-up call with Ezoic, I decided to make the move.
It wasn’t until several months, and many “Hmmms” later that I realized I had probably made a mistake…
Ezoic makes you pay extra for access to “premium” ad providers.
There are various premium “levels”, and as you move up each level, you pay more and more for this access.
On net, Ezoic guarantees you make more with premium, or they will downgrade your level (or remove premium entirely).
Part of my deal was not having to pay for access to these premium ad providers at all. I’d get access to premium ad inventory for “free”.
The day after I moved my website back to Ezoic, July 2nd, I logged into my dashboard.
It was asking me to “pick a premium ad plan”.
So I reached out to the Ezoic team and asked why – presumably premium ads should already be on, since that was part of my deal.
I was told that the “premium team was out” of office and should be back next week.
Next week comes around and I ask again if premium ads are turned on.
I’m told “they have been on” all along and they are “not sure why I was told they weren’t on”.
But when I log into the premium ad section of Ezoic, it still says I’m not getting premium ads.
I ask why that is.
Ezoic says “we whitelisted your site for premium ad partners, but you won’t see revenue or reporting appear” on the dashboard. “All earnings will be reported as normal”.
Time On Page
Not too long after activating Ezoic, Google Analytics reported a significant drop in Average Time on Page across my entire site.
For a long time my site consistently reported an Average Time on Page of 7 minutes and 8 seconds.
Now I was getting readings of 5 minutes and 45 seconds.
When I shared this with Ezoic I was told “it’s their CDN messing up Google’s reporting”.
Then when I pushed a bit more I was told “it’s either they way my plugins or Google Analytics scripts are loading” or “I have a newer Google Analytics configuration that sets different defaults”.
A few months later I noticed that my website was considerably slower.
Both on desktop and mobile.
I mean my actual experience going to the site felt slower on those devices. It was noticeable to me.
So I decided to test it using Google’s own page speed test.
Before with AdThrive, I was getting scores in the 90s.
Now with Ezoic, these scores were well below 50.
When I shared this with Ezoic I was told to ignore Google’s page speed tool.
“It’s literally built for testing local website copies on your hard drive. Thats how the Google team built it because they think all people with websites have local instances and push their sites live onto a production copy.”
I ask if it’s problematic for Ezoic that Google’s own publicly facing page speed tool can’t be used to verify whether an Ezoic site is fast or not.
I’m told well, “it’s not all sites”.
Mine has “lots of recommendations in Leap (Ezoic’s Core Web Vital’s tool) to improve speed, but basically it’s half the plugins I’m using that are making my site slower. But it just doesn’t matter”.
Even with some red flags, and other things not quite adding up, my site continued to earn incredibly well.
Ezoic did deliver on that promise – I was earning well over 15% more with them than I was with AdThrive.
Right around this time I became friendly with a competitor site in my niche.
It’s long story, by we ended up exchanging phone numbers. We texted regularly about our sites and what ad rates we were seeing.
This was incredibly useful information for both of us since he was with Mediavine for awhile and then AdThrive, and I was with Ezoic.
Having visibility into ad rates across these display ad platforms was great.
Eventually he got sick of hearing how much better my rates were, and decided he wanted to move his site over to Ezoic too.
I told him about some of the drawbacks I was experiencing, but in the end I was making more money. He was interested.
So I made the connection between him and Ezoic.
He eventually decided to make the move and Ezoic credited me for the move as an affiliate.
Which meant Ezoic would pay Niche Twins 3% of his site’s daily earnings.
(This was fully disclosed to the site owner before he made the move – he was happy I was getting a commission as a result)
Early on, everything was great.
The new site was earning more money with Ezoic, and Niche Twins was making around $3,000 a month from our 3% commission for “referring them”.
Then one day I get a text message.
Ezoic was terminating his contract.
Ezoic said it was due to the “recent change in traffic patterns as a result of Google’s algorithm update, and the current state of the economy and its affect on ad rates”.
Ad Rate Drop
Eventually I sold my site.
In February this year, just before the deal closed, Ezoic EPMVs were averaging $32.78 (towards the end of the month EPMV was getting closer to $50).
Things were trending up.
Once the new buyer took over the site (the very next month in March) the site was only earning $9-$12 EPMVs.
Over 45 days later and Ezoic EPMVs still didn’t go above $12.
When the new owner of my site asked Ezoic what the hell was going on, they said:
“There is a Google Ad exchange penalty which is a domain-level restriction. AdThrive, Mediavine, and other competitors still use the same bidders so it wouldn’t change the restriction” if he moved to them.
So a mysterious Google Ad exchange blackbox “penalty” occurred at the beginning of March, right when I did the hand off to the new seller.
Yet the new owner was instantly accepted into both Mediavine and AdThrive (Raptive), and both said they saw zero issues with the domain, or with him as an individual.
The new owner and his site were both in fine standing with Google, as far as they could tell.
So the new owner moved the site to AdThrive (Raptive) and instantly started earning $28-$32 RPMs, and rising.
Earlier this month it was reported a rouge 29-year-old Ezoic employee added his personal Chase account as the payee for a $9,149,001 payment from Google.
A payment that was intended for Ezoic.
Ezoic eventually got all the money back but they were at “risk of becoming entirely insolvent” from the incident.
Last week I heard Spencer Haws from Niche Pursuits (who I look up to and respect quite a bit) was leaving Ezoic’s Insiders group.
I don’t know a ton about that group other than the fact that Ezoic was paying Spencer every month to be part of it. (Something Spencer has always been transparent about).
I guess Spencer tried getting Ezoic display ads to work on NichePursuits.com, but it was slowing things down too much and conflicting with many of his plug-ins, so he just went with Mediavine instead.
The photo of Spencer, and backlink to his site was removed from Ezoic’s homepage.
In my humble opinion, Ezoic is a little bit like that FJ cruiser I told you about at the beginning.
It’s cool that they exist.
In a world where your options starting out as a new publisher are essentially limited to AdSense, Ezoic does routinely outperform.
And that’s huge for many content creators around the world.
An extra 50 or a 100 bucks a month can make ALL the difference for many people (one of the few things said publicly on Twitter by an Ezoic employee that I actually agree with).
But the frame is rusted.
I already ignored my gut on that once before.
And if I don’t feel safe getting in the car anymore, how can I in good faith tell you to?
Keith and I (Niche Twins) are no longer affiliates for Ezoic.
We’ll be waiting for Niche Twins to hit 50,000 sessions to get into Mediavine.
1 thought on “#09 | Things That Make You Go Hmmm (Ezoic Review)”
Hi Mike and team, I just wanted to say that I love your newsletter and your blog. Nat from Twitter!