Broadly speaking, we don't recommend adding ads until you qualify for Mediavine or AdThrive.
The pay out just isn't worth it.
While it can be enticing to think you can start to "cover costs", there's always a trade-off. In this case, the trade-off is a worse user experience and pagespeed performance.
Mediavine themselves admit this: https://www.mediavine.com/seo-and-ads-fact-vs-fiction-and-how-mediavine-optimizes-both-together/
This performance penalty can mean that it takes longer to qualify for a real ad network.
This doesn't just apply to slower pagespeed load times, the poorer user experience means that visitor is more likely to bounce and less likely to visit another page. Both of these issues means that you're displaying fewer ads for them over time.
What does this mean financially?
If you had ads for a year and generated $50 per month for 12 months, you would make $600. But let's say this delays you qualifying for a better ad network by even one month, because of the performance penalty.
A single month on a good ad network will generate $500+ at the beginning, rising to $1000 within 3-4 months as the ads are optimized.
This means a single month on a good ad network is worth as much as an entire year with adsense.
Looking at the big picture, it doesn't make any sense to install adsense (or gourmetads) on a blog, ever.
That's why, broadly speaking, we don't recommend adding ads until you qualify for Mediavine or AdThrive.
Update 2020/07/01: Mediavine recently raised their minimum to 50,000 pageviews/month to deal with the volume of applications.
This means that you can consider SheMedia or Ezoic (with their "site speed improvement" costing $20/month) if you're unable to hold off waiting for 50,000 pageviews.
The better thing to do is work on cranking out as many high quality recipes as you can, as quickly as you can, and building up your backlinks so that you can hit that 50,000 visits/month ASAP. That should be your only focus when you start.
Creating just 2 high quality recipes per week for a single year will get you to 100 posts, which should be more than enough to hit that threshold.
For context, the top bloggers put out a recipe per day (5 per week) on average.
What are the CPMs
While these numbers are completely anecdotal and true only at a certain point in time, we've heard the RPMs (revenue per thousand impressions) work out to roughly:
- Mediavine: $20-$30
- AdThrive: $20-$30
- Ezoic: $10-$20
- SheMedia: $10-$25
- Monumetric: $10-$15 (make sure to enable their "Pagespeed" feature!)
- GourmetAds: $5
- BlogHerAds: $5
- Adsense: $3
Note: every network measures and defines RPMs different - the numbers above are what we've been told by bloggers on those networks in casual conversation.
RPMs also vary depending on:
- Where your visitors are form (North America traffic is much more valuable)
- What your content is about (some content attracts higher value visitors)
- Time of year (holiday season sees a surge due to advertising spending competition)
- Type of ad unit being displayed (video pays higher)
- Type of device
- How much of your content the visitors views (ads must be loaded+viewed to count)
Do Ads hurt pagespeed?
Yes! All ad networks, including Mediavine, will hurt your pagespeed.
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't display ads however. The question you need to ask is whether the penalty from having a slower website, is worth the revenue generated by those ads.
In the case of Mediavine, AdThrive and Ezoic, the answer is yes.
Note: for all these ad networks, you need to "opt in" to enable lazyloading - this is known as "Site Speed Accelerator" in Ezoic. AdThrive has a specific form to request this. Mediavine users can find this in their settings in their Mediavine Publisher Dashboard.
For any other ad network (including Adsense), the answer is no.
Video currently has the highest paying ad rates at the moment, anywhere from 20-50% higher than regular display ads.
As far as we're aware, only Mediavine currently has a usable video ad player.