Over the past few weeks I’ve been a part of a beta testing program of a new ad format for Chitika’s eMiniMalls.
They are a new type of ad that many of you will find quite beneficial for your blogs – I know I have. You’ve probably seen them around. They come in a range of sizes but usually have a picture of a product and then some tabs running across the top that say ‘Description’, ‘Best Deals’, ‘Reviews’ and ‘Search’. As you put the cursor over the top of these tabs they change what the ad shows.
I’ve added one to the sidebar here at ProBlogger so you can see what I’m talking about in the flesh and have added a screen capture of another sized one below.
How do they work?
- ads pay on a per click basis. The value of the clicks depends upon the product being featured.
- left in default mode – mini-malls are contextual ads (ie they look at your content and try to find ads that are relevant with it)
- ads can be set to be non contextual and to target specific keywords (this is helpful when it comes to running them in conjunction with Adsense – more information on this below).
How Profitable are they?
The terms of using eMiniMalls don’t allow me to share specific figures but I can share the following:
Overall – I’ve been beta testing mini-malls for 5 weeks now and am very happy with them. They don’t out perform Adsense for me yet – but my overall earnings with them for the month of September is more than a quarter and less than a half of my Adsense earnings for the month (regularly readers will be able to do some sums and come up with some approximate earnings there). Take into consideration that I don’t have them running on every blog I own and have not spent much time optimizing them yet and you’ll see that they have some real potential.
Cost per Click – Very good. The first day I added mini malls to and saw the amount that each click was paying I was quite surprised. They are considerably higher than my average click value on Adsense – some days they are 5 or 6 times higher. I’ve talked to a couple of other bloggers using them and they report similar click values. This is the definate strength of mini-malls.
Click Through Rate – The percentage of people clicking on eMiniMalls ads is considerably lower than what I get on Adsense. This is a bit disappointing and is probably for a number of reasons.
- Poor Optimization – This is partly my fault. I’ve just not had time to really optimize the ads properly. It is also partly because they are not currently offering channels to track ad performance on different blogs/categories/positions. As a result if I were to try to optimize the ads now I have no way of tracking the results. Channels are a feature that will be added shortly however so I’m expecting to be able to increase my CTR somewhat.
- Poor Ad matching – Chitika are still working on how they match ads with content. Ad relevancy seems to be a bit of a problem on some posts. I know this because I know they have ads for some products that just don’t show up on pages where i’d expect them to. Hopefully they’ll continue to develop their algorithm and find ways of making ads even more relevant.
- Lower Numbers of Ads – I’m suspecting that Chitika has a lower number of ads than Adsense to select from to run on sites using mini-malls. This means that sometimes ads can be a little irrelevant to your content which would decrease CTR also.
Let’s hope they can increase CTR in future.
Reports – I’ll emphasize that mini-malls are in beta at present so don’t expect too much in the reporting realm yet. At this stage they just update at the end of each day and give you some basic stats under the four headings of – Date, Impressions, Clicks and Revenue. These stats are what they call ‘unaudited’ – which means they haven’t taken anything off the total that they suspect to be click fraud or ‘dodgy’ clicks. They ‘audit’ you at this stage once per month (they have indicated that this will happen daily at some point in the future). I was only in the system for three days of last month but the auditing brought my ‘unaudited’ figures back by about 10% of what they were. Clicks are audited by some secret process that includes multiple or repeated clicks, traffic from bots and spiders as well as traffic coming from certain countries like China or Korea.
I’m not too impressed by the auditing feature. While I understand why its there I can see that this will be the cause of some tension between Chitika and Publishers. I’m sure Adsense has some sort of system in place that does something similar – but they are big enough to build it in as a real time feature so that publishers just don’t know what they lose. I’d rather not know the amount they take off for this than have it dangled before me to be taken away later.
I know from my conversations with Chitika staff that the reporting system will be undergoing significant improvements in the coming weeks and months.
Ad Formats – The currently offer 10 different size formats in some pretty standard sizes. I’ve recommended to them that they add a couple of new formats that I believe would be beneficial to bloggers but overall the options are pretty good. They also allow you to make some changes to the design of your ads by changing colors of borders, title and text to match your blog.
Payment – Payment is via Paypal in US Dollars at the start of every month – around 30 days after the end of the month you’re being paid for. You need to reach a minimum of $10 to get a payment.
Can Mini-Malls be used in conjunction with Adsense? – Most people I talk to about mini-malls asks this – it’s important as most bloggers want to use them in conjunction with one another.
I’ve talked to Google about this via email. The first email I got back from them said ‘no’ you can’t use them for two reasons:
- They look too similar to Adsense Ads
- They are contextual ads
I decided to follow the email up pointing out two things.
- They actually don’t look like Adsense ads – they have a picture in them, tabs etc. I think the mistake Adsense made at first was in confusing mini-malls with Chitika’s other ads which do look very similar to Adsense ads.
- You can actually disable the contextual element of the ads and plug in code that targets a specific product.
The email I received back said that they were sorry for making a mistake and that Chitika mini-mall ads can be used in conjunction with Adsense IF they are set to be non contextual.
I know of two others who have had this same conversation with Google with the same results.
English Sites only – at this point they are in beta test and only accepting Engine sites into the program. While this is sad for non English sites I guess they have to start somewhere. Hopefully they’ll widen it later at some point.
All in all – I’m pleased with Chitika’s mini-malls. They have loads of potential. I suspect (and until I get channels I won’t know for sure) that they will do best on product related blogs. They seem to serve very relevant ads to my gadget type blogs and struggle on some of my more ‘news’ related blogs.
I’ve also seen them producing very relevant ads over at ShoeBlogs (remember in the interview I did with Manolo that he said that chitika ads were in some of his better performing ads). I’ve also seen a couple of bloggers so impressed with mini-malls that they’ve ditched Adsense all together as they were able to earn significantly more from Chitika (one of these is Jeremy Wright from ensight.
As with all new ad programs I would suggest that putting all your eggs in one basket is not the way to go – give Chitika a go by all means but keep in mind that eMiniMalls are in a beta test and as with all beta tests things are being tested and tweaked along the way. There is promising signs but take your time with it.
You can apply to be a part of the eMiniMalls beta test at Chitika Mini Malls Sign Up.
Disclaimer: the links to Chitika in this post are affiliate links – if you sign up using these links I earn a small amount as a commission. It does not impact what you earn from Chitika but rather is paid by Chitika. While these links are affiliate links I genuinely believe in the product and have pointed out both its benefits and weaknesses.
Update: A couple of people have asked for more information on the Adsense/Mini-mall running on the same page thing. Here is an excerpt from an email that Google sent associates and I when we asked them for clarification about running the mini-malls in a non contextual mode.
‘Yes, you can use the Chitika products that rely on keywords selected by
you as opposed to your site’s content, on your site in addition to Google
For additional questions, please visit our AdSense Support site at
https://www.google.com/support/adsense or feel free to reply to this
If you’re one of the many bloggers who have just signed up for Chitika eMiniMalls after reading this review you might like to check out Quick Online Tips who have just posted tips on running Chitika eMiniMalls & Google Adsense on Same Webpage.
There they give code that helps you to set your eMiniMalls up in a way that is non contextual (and is therefore allowable with Adsense) but in a way that rotates a variety of ads which will help you to get a bit of variety in your ads which will help combat ad blindness.
I’ve been using this rotating ads code over the past day or two and have noticed an increase in earnings already.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that the bloggers that are reporting the best successes with eMiniMalls are the ones that are targeting products on their blogs. I know I mentioned this above – but bloggers with a focus upon gadgets, clothes, shoes etc seem to be doing very well from them.
Update III – I’ve added a Chitika eMiniMall Tips Page for those of you who have signed up. Enjoy.
Share what you’ve learnt about eMiniMalls below in comments.