Category Archives: Ad Networks

Discussion of online ad networks.

How Facebook Will Become The Biggest Ad Network

Facebook’s stock has been taking a beating since their IPO. I’m not an expert on stock trading and I don’t own any Facebook stock, but I think the media and investing world are thinking too much about the short term and what Facebook is today opposed to what it likely is to become in the future.

Primary Revenue Concerns

One of the primary concerns is how Facebook will monetize it’s growing mobile audience. Everyone seems to be really freaked out about the fact that mobile is growing and Facebook hasn’t monetized it well yet. On one hand, people have a point even though Facebook made $180M in revenue from mobile sponsored stories on their first try. On the other hand, isn’t it a pretty good situation that Facebook is the most downloaded application on EVERY mobile platform and is far and away the leader in mobile time spent? That’s a pretty good starting place to figure out how to be a dominant player in mobile.

Another big question on everyone’s mind is if Facebook will be able to build any significant businesses beyond advertising. Since their payments revenue has been primarily gaming-related and that growth has slowed, people are wondering where the growth comes from. Payments could be a solution in areas beyond gaming, and some people are also pointing to their acquisition of Karma as a way to get into mobile/social commerce. Techcrunch also has a run down of revenue-generating ideas, but I wanted to go deeper in an area that I think people are underestimating: A Facebook Ad Network.

The Birth of an Ad Network

The concept of a Facebook Ad Network is not a new one. People have been bringing up that idea since they launched their developer platform in 2008, and they’ve even recently started testing running ads purchased through Facebook’s ad interface on Zynga.com.

Running socially-powered rectangle ads on the right rail of Zynga.com is just scratching the surface, and is only part of what Facebook could do as an ad network.

First, Facebook can offer what they are doing on Zynga.com to every other web publisher easily since almost every quality publisher uses Facebook’s platform already for authentication. Since that user data is already there, Facebook can do the same targeting they do on Facebook itself.

Why would publishers take their ads you ask? They are visually more pleasing than Google’s Adsense text ads, since they are not standard IAB shapes they probably get better click-through rates, and as social ad targeting continues to improve it’s possible that the CPM they can earn would be higher than other alternatives.

Taking it to Mobile

Even though launching the full web ad network of Facebook’s standard ads would be huge by itself, Facebook also has the majority of quality mobile applications using Facebook for authentication as well. Additionally, Facebook’s new mobile sponsored stories ad unit is showing great results so far in Facebook’s mobile app.

Since most quality mobile apps contain some kind of newsfeed similar to Facebook’s, Facebook could extend their mobile sponsored stories to the feeds of other mobile applications. They also have a new non-social ad unit that allows for “appvertising” where other application developers can offer their app for download. It makes perfect sense for Facebook to extend this to the other mobile applications using Facebook’s authentication.

Mobile is exploding, and as it continues to grow Facebook can easily become the largest mobile ad network very quickly.

Bigger Than Adsense?

Facebook is still a young company. They’ve also only been serious about monetization for a couple of years. Many people have pointed to the fact that Google at the same age was ahead of Facebook in these efforts. That’s fine, and it really doesn’t have any impact on how big Facebook’s ad network can become. Google needed to acquire Applied Semantics to create Adsense, and it’s possible that Facebook could make an acquisition that also jumpstart their ad network efforts in powerful ways.

Even if they don’t acquire anyone and do it on their own, the combination of Facebook’s massive web ad network potential with the possibility of a huge mobile ad network even without a ton of innovation leads me to believe they could challenge Adsense for the largest ad network.

The one thing they have working against them is that Adsense really benefits from having advertisers who are really primarily interested in advertising on Google search results also extending their ads into the Adsense network. Is advertising on Facebook’s owned and operated site itself going to bring in the same type of demand?

Probably not. However, Adsense is not a very effective form of advertising on mobile devices. If Facebook is the one to crack mobile feed advertising and bring other innovations to advertising on mobile, they’ve got a shot at overtaking Google’s network.

What’s your take? Can Facebook become the biggest ad network on the web and mobile?

Microsoft AdCenter scores the WSJ Properties

It looks like it’s really going to get interesting in the battle for publisher ad space. In the last year Microsoft has started to become much more serious about locking up publisher properties, and they’ve done so again with WSJ.com and its related properties.
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Yahoo! Ad Network is #2 Right Out of the Gate

I found the headline on this article at Adotas’ to be amusing: “Advertising.com Beats Yahoo! In Reach”.

The article refers to the November Comscore numbers for Ad Networks that has Advertising.com hitting 86% of the US internet audience, while the Yahoo! Ad Network hits 85% of the audience. So while the headline is certainly true, I’m not sure Advertising.com finishing at the top is the most interesting part of the numbers.

Advertising.com has been on the top of these numbers for a while, but this is the first month that the Yahoo! Ad Network has actually been listed in the numbers, and it finished barely second right out of the gate. Also it’s notable that Google’s legendary ad network is in third with the number of users it reaches in the US, and that a Yahoo!-owned Blue Lithium network is in 4th hitting 74 percent of the market.

As the Yahoo! Ad Network begins to start getting aggressive on off-Yahoo! properties such as their relationships with eBay and Comcast and recent deals with Forbes.com, WebMD, Ziff Davis, and Cars.com, it seems likely to me that Yahoo! will take over the top spot here and own the 1st and 4th largest ad networks on the web. That’s going to be a story worth telling soon.

AdRoll is a Good Idea, but tough to Execute

Techcrunch has a post up today on AdRoll, a new “social” ad network that’s been started by former Paypal and Slide co-founder Jared Kopf.

First, I think calling it a “social” ad network is grabbing onto the social buzzword a bit, but it does appear to be more social than other ad networks as it allows publishers to form their own mini-networks based on their topics or other factors.
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Ad Networks and Platforms Everywhere!

I find it fascinating that we have two trends occurring right now in the online advertising space which are working in opposite directions. First, we have consolidation of ad networks and ad platforms happening as fast as companies can get the deals done. AOL bought Quigo in the latest move in the Battle of the Online Advertising Superpowers. But at the same time, we now have individual publishers and social networks starting their own vertical ad networks all over the place. Myspace and Facebook have both announced such efforts in the past week.
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MSN AdCenter Launches Content Network

MSN AdCenter has announced that they’ve launched their content network to be available to advertisers. But my question is, where’s the content?

Well, I actually know that it’s supposed to be on MSN content properties and any other high-level publishers they may have ad distribution relationships. However, what’s interesting is they don’t have a publisher network out there along the lines of Adsense or YPN to distribute these ads. It seems like they’d be better off launching both around the same time, although the theory may be that getting the advertisers into it now will prime the pump for the publisher network when they launch it. And you know they’ll launch it especially since they announced “ContentAds” over a year ago.

I’d actually like to see another player in the contextual network market. As any of you who have been reading my blog know, even though I work for Yahoo!, I’m all about competition helping publishers earn more money. And of course helping provide the tools to make that happen….

Ask.com Is Launching a Contextual Search Network

SearchEngineLand is reporting that Ask.com is launching a contextual search ad network on their own content properties such as Ticketmaster.com, Evite.com, and Match.com on May 21st. They then may roll this product out to third-party publishers next quarter.
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Speaking at SXSW in Austin on March 10th

SXSWOn March 10th in Austin I’ll be on the Online Publishers and Ad Networks panel at SXSW.

The panel will be moderated by publisher Jonathan Weber of NewWest.net, and will have me representing Right Media and the ad exchange market, Cody Simms of the Yahoo Publisher Network representing the contextual network market, Larry Allen of Tacoda covering behavioral targeting and ad networks, and Justin Ward from Feedburner covering RSS advertising.

Hopefully it will be educational and worthwhile, I know I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never been to SXSW, so I’m anxious to check out many of the other sessions and speakers as well.

Top 11 Publisher Ad Tools That Help You Make More Money

I always enjoy posts from bloggers where they mention the top tools or resources they use to master whatever it is they are an expert in. Along those lines, I thought it’d be a good dea to pass along the list of the top ad tools I use and know of to help web publishers and bloggers make more money.

The basic assumption for these tools to be useful to you is that you run a blog or website that uses advertising to make money whether that advertising is sold directly by you, through an ad network, or you use a contextual solution like Google Adsense or YPN. Some of them are very direct in how they help make more money, and some of them are helpful tools that provide information to help you make more money from your advertising. For the most part they are free tools with a couple of exceptions.

crazyegg logoCrazyEgg
Self-described as a visualization tool to improve, test, and track your site, CrazyEgg is best used for publishers to generate “heatmaps” of where people are clicking on their site. This data can be used to make better decisions on where to place ads to get more clicks and response from users. CrazyEgg allows you to set up tests so you can effectively test the difference between two different ad sizes in the same spot, two different color palettes, or totally changing an ad’s location.

It’s easy to setup, it just requires signing up for an account and placing some code in your page footer. You then create a test and start tracking clicks. The free version allows you to track up to 5,000 visits and track 4 different pages at once. There are paid plans if you want to do more in-depth tests.

RMX Direct LogoRMX Direct
If you’re working with ad networks, you should be working with RMX Direct. RMX Direct is a free ad network manager that helps you sell your inventory easily and for maximum revenue. It allows you to work with networks directly that are part of the Right Media Exchange, as well as auction your own ad networks like Google Adsense, YPN, Valueclick, Tribal Fusion, or anyone else.

Auctioning your inventory is the best way to maximize your revenue, and RMX Direct has other cool features that make managing ad networks a much better process. Check out a previous post about using it manage contextual ad networks.

feedburner logoFeedburner
If you run a blog or a website with RSS, you need to be running your RSS feed(s) through Feedburner. There are numerous benefits alone in the streamlining, analyzing, and optimizing of RSS feeds by using Feedburner, but if you have enough subscribers it’s an ad revenue stream as well. If I wasn’t consolidating and tracking my RSS subscribers through my Feedburner feed, I probably would have never bothered advertising within my feed. Feedburner makes it extremely easy to advertise in your feed once you hit 500 subscribers, so I’m now just making additional revenue without additional work. Bravo.

AdsBlackList
If you’re using Google Adsense, you should be using AdsBlackList. It’s a site that compiles user submissions of sites that are “Made For Adsense” sites and low cost per click advertisers. When you sign up for an account, it has you enter your site and some keywords about it. It then returns a list of “Made for Adsense” and low cost per click advertisers you can then ban from showing ads on your site. Besides probably helping increase the quality of ads, you’re also hurting the distribution of a lot of junk in Google’s system. I have not run specific tests on if the overall revenue per click goes up after banning their suggested lists, but other publishers have reported good results.

Google Analytics LogoGoogle Analytics
Yes, it has performance issues. Yes, there is a lag time before you get your data. Yes, it’s Google. However, Google Analytics is still the most complete free web analytics tool out there. For this article, the benefit of Google Analytics as it relates to ad revenue is that you need to analyze your traffic and find out what type of content is interesting to them, what keywords are they using to find you, what referring sites are there, and what geography your users from.

Armed with that data you can now make decisions. Can you identify an underserved area of your site that users are interested in? Interested users means more page views which equals more money! Do you have a lot of visitors from a foreign country? Perhaps it’d be good to sign up with an ad network based in that country and geotarget it to those users with a tool like RMX Direct? You can’t make smart decisions without data, and Google Analytics provides it for free.

amigo-logo-lowres.pngAmigo
For those of you who are still signing up users for email newsletters, Amigo operates much like an ad network except it’s a tool for email advertising. Sign up with Amigo and they’ll match ads and stick ads into your email newsletters earning you additional revenue. If you don’t have an email newsletter, maybe it’s time to start one?

Google Adwords Keyword Tool
I know this tool is meant for Adwords advertisers, but it can be a great way for publishers to find out what search phrases are paying a lot per click if they’re using Adsense or YPN. Click on the “Site-related Keywords” tab, and enter in the URL of a site in the topic you’d like to research. Check the “Include other pages on my site linked from this URL” box, then select “Cost and Ad Position Estimates”, and enter something large like $50.00. You’ll get a result that shows keywords along with an estimate of the CPC they require to get to the estimated ad position.

This is a rough way to find out what topics and terms are generating high revenue per click to focus your content. You can also get estimates of search volume and search volume trends if you’re curious as to how the keywords in the topic stack up there.

Yahoo/Overture Keyword Tool
The famous Yahoo/Overture tool returns keywords that contain the keyword you enter, along with the number of searches on Yahoo Search from the previous month. Many question the accuracy of this data as some strange terms sometimes have really high search counts, but regardless it can be a good estimate of search volume and provides a way to brainstorm additional topics to cover to get more traffic and ad revenue. It also provides a good counterbalance if you’re using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. If a keyword looks interesting to you in both tools, chances are it’s an interesting keyword in reality.

quantcast dataQuantcast
A newer and very cool data/ranking service is out called Quantcast. Quantcast “quantifies” publisher sites and provides an Alexa-like traffic estimate and ranking, but takes it a step further and provides demographic estimates of your audience such as age, gender, household income, ethnicity, and education.

It doesn’t stop there either, and shows interesting things like “Siteographics” which shows what entertainment the audience likes, what retail stores they shop at, and what magazines they check out. It also shows what keywords they used and what other sites are similar in audience. Here is the Quantcast data for YouTube.com.

Why is this cool? Well, once you start selling advertising on your site directly to advertisers, they are often interested in demographic data. The beauty of Quantcast is that they’ll get the data for you and you can point advertisers to this objective third party that has the data. If your site is big enough, they probably already have you listed. If not, you “Quantify” your site by placing a bit of code in the footer of your site template and it will start grabbing the data.

SurveyMonkey
If you don’t trust Quantcast or want your own specific data, you can use SurveyMonkey to create surveys you can show to your audience via popup windows or direct link. It’s a free service, and is pretty easy to use to setup surveys and distribute them.

Just like the benefits of Quantcast, this is great data to provide to advertisers about your audience, and SurveyMonkey results make a great addition to your online media kit or page that pitches advertising on your site.

Webmaster Forums
While not specifically a tool, I felt it necessary to point out some of the top discussion forums where there are web publishers talking about advertising and how to make more money. In no particular order here are ones that I’ve found value in on a consistent basis:

Conclusion
If you have additional tools to suggest, please list them below in the comments. If they make sense, I’ll add them to the list.

10 Ways to Use an Ad Server to Dominate With Contextual Ad Networks

YPN LogoOver the last few years contextual ad networks such as the Yahoo Publisher Network and Google Adsense have become powerhouses in the publisher advertising world. Even though ad servers were around long before these networks, many publishers and bloggers don’t bother using ad servers when working with them.

google_sm.gifPart of the reason is they make it pretty easy to just slap their ad code on your site and get going, however that’s EXACTLY what they want you to do because then they own all access to that inventory. It can really help you dominate with contextual ad networks if you use an ad server in the ways listed below. Note: RMX Direct is the example ad server being used because it’s free, does all these things, and is the ad server I’m most familiar with at the moment. However, many of these concepts will work with other ad serving options.

1. Set Frequency Caps
Frequency capping is when you specify that you want to only allow a certain advertiser or ad network to receive a set number of impressions over a time period per user. For example, you could specify that you only want to show 10 Adsense impressions per hour per user. The rest of the impressions they’d get could be YPN, or other ad networks you may be working with. Why do this? The main reason is that if you just always show Adsense, the same ads are often shown throughout your site. If a user hasn’t clicked on any after a certain number of impressions, it may help to show YPN ads that have different ads, or YPN ads with a different visual look, or maybe even show CPM display ads.

coloredad.gif2. Manage Multiple Color Palettes
With the recent Adsense policy changes requiring competing networks to have ads that have a different visual “look”, an ad server can make it easier to manage multiple color palettes. As mentioned above you can use frequency capping to run different visual looks, but you can also easily manage the delivery of those visual looks by creating multiple campaigns/placements in an ad server that can easily be turned on or off, and have the details adjusted.

3. Combat Smart Pricing
I’m not entirely sure if YPN has “Smart Pricing”, but with AdSense if you are serving ads across multiple websites and one of the websites has clicks not converting as well as others, that website will drag down your revenue per click as a whole. See more information on “Smart Pricing” here or here. Many publishers who realize this and deactivate Adsense from their poorly performing sites see an increase in click payouts due to smart pricing. With RMX Direct, if you suspect that one of your websites may be hurting your overall revenue per click due to Smart Pricing, you can stop serving AdSense ads to that site with the click of a button. There is no need to take down ad code off the site since it’s controlled through the ad server. Then you can also turn it back on with the click of a button, switch it to YPN ads, or do something else with it. It’s much easier and quicker than jockeying code around all over the place.

4. Track Impressions From Multiple Networks In One Spot
One thing that’s always annoying about working with multiple ad networks is having to login to multiple reporting systems to get data. With RMX Direct or another ad server, you can see your impressions for YPN and AdSense all in one place. Unfortunately, at this point most ad servers can’t show revenue data because the amount paid per click varies. As Adsense and YPN move more forward with APIs, we’ll probably see more ad servers finding ways to import that data as well.

5. Work Display Advertising Into The Mix
Users can become blind to contextual text advertisements, which can result in low click-through rates meaning poor revenue for you. Why not put some guaranteed revenue in your pocket by adding CPM display advertisements into the mix? RMX Direct takes that idea one step further beyond normal ad servers, as it has display networks built into the product to apply to and work with easily. They will compete with the prices of your contextual ad networks, making it a guarantee you’ll only earn more revenue. Competition is a beautiful thing.

But what about the “low” quality of many graphic ads? Excuse the sales pitch, but RMX Direct also has a tool called Media Guard that allows for insane control of the characteristics of ads you don’t want appearing on your site.

6. Analyze Geographic Distribution of Ads
The reporting systems of the contextual networks don’t give any geographical breakdown of where your ad impressions are coming from. Knowing this information can help you make decisions on the type of content you create, or if it makes sense to geotarget your ads. If you found out today that 70% of your ad impressions were coming from Europe, it might make sense to create more content for that audience. You can also set up channels with contextual networks and test using different color palettes in different countries to see the results. Different cultures feel different ways about various colors, it wouldn’t be surprising if users from different countries respond to ads differently.

similarpubs.gif7. Learn From Similar Publishers
This one isn’t available in most ad serving products, but one of the most powerful features of RMX Direct is our community. Sure, you can find a forum out there of AdSense or YPN publishers, but can you find a forum of people who are using both, plus a number of other ad networks at the same time? Our forum is full of publishers just like you who have been there and done that. Ask them for advice, they’ll be happy to help (as will the RMX Direct support staff).

8. Get RSS Reports of Impressions and Revenue Estimations
Building upon the idea of tracking impressions from multiple ad networks in one spot, some ad servers feature RSS reporting so you can get your stats right in your RSS reader. Again, with the contextual networks, at this point only the number of impressions shown can accurately be reported, along with an estimation of revenue if you’re using RMX Direct. But if you’re using the display networks in RMX Direct, it’s very handy to get the real revenue statistics through RSS.

Tracking Impressions

9. Work With As Many Networks As You Can Handle
If your website doesn’t have much traffic, then you don’t need to work with many ad networks. However, if you get a decent amount of traffic and take advertising seriously, you should definitely work with as many ad networks as it makes sense for your traffic levels. To start out with, you have the ability to sign up with nine ad networks from the Right Media Exchange. However, once you start adding additional ad networks in, the sky is the limit. Work with whatever contextual networks you want. If fact, you can add networks from the whole spectrum, more display networks, more contextual networks, and even more affiliate advertisers.

10. Geotarget Your Ads
Which does better in Asia, YPN or AdSense? Want to find out? With RMX Direct, you can geotarget your advertising placements. It’s useful in a number of situations. Let me give you an example: let’s say you’ve noticed a spike in clicks from Russia and you’re worried about click fraud. The solution is simple, turn off contextual ad serving to that area with a quick click and save (if the problem is severe, please notify your ad network). As mentioned above, you can also target color palettes to specific regions, or eliminate showing contextual ads to any countries beyond the USA if you want to show different types of ads to international users. The power is in your hands.

Geotarget Ads

Bonus tip: Instead of PSAs, show display ads.
With some contextual networks, you can specific what you want to do in the event a public service announcement (PSA) needs to be served. Well, don’t lose that impression and the money that comes with it, send it to an ad server like RMX Direct where you have display networks that can pay you a CPM for that impression. Simply put RMX Direct ad code into an HTML file and point the network to it. Behold, 100% fill rate for your advertising.

psa_small.gif

Conclusion
Hopefully the above tips showed that a whole new level of power is available in managing contextual networks by using an ad server. You put the control in your own hands and can use it to optimize your contextual advertising.