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PubMatic – Automate Ad Optimization – First Impressions Review

pubmaticOver the last couple of weeks I’ve been testing a new service called PubMatic on one of my blogs and I think it’s something that will interest some ProBlogger readers – particularly those with medium to large blogs wanting to optimize their advertising.

The premise behind PubMatic is that when you’re a publisher you are confronted with an array of advertising networks to choose from to monetize your blog. Many bloggers start with AdSense, but soon find that there are numerous other options to test.

But who has time to test which option will work best for your blog?

The problem we face is that if we don’t test different options we could be leaving money on the table (just imagine that there was another option out there that monetized your blog a lot better than what you’re currently doing) but testing different networks (and testing different options within a network) takes time – a lot of time.

Anyone who has started testing different ad design with just AdSense knows that it takes a lot of tweaking and testing to get the best performing ad – but then if you have to do that with different networks as well you could have yourself a full time job just doing ad optimization!

This is where PubMatic comes in.

Pubmatic is one of numerous new services that has been launched in the last year or so that takes some of the grunt work out of optimizing your ads.

The system is a little difficult to explain (there’s a great video below that will give you a nice rundown) – but in short it has two main features that will interest bloggers:

Pubmatic-Ad-Networks1. Run an Ad Network Auction – Pubmatic allows you to run a mini Ad Network Auction on your blog for each of your ad units – every time a visitor comes to your page. What this means is that you are able to sign up for multiple ad networks and run them all on an ad unit – serving up the ad that will perform best for you. Ad networks that are supported at this time include AdSense, YPN, ValueClick, Komli, Blue Lithium, Burst Media, Advertising.com, Tribal Fusioin and Casale Media. I’m told that PubMatic are also negotiating with a few other ad networks that will be more familiar to bloggers.

Pubmatic-Ad-Optimization2. Optimize Your Ad Layout – the second part of PubMatic is that they help you to work out what ad layout will work best for you. So at present I’m using PubMatic on one of my blogs on one AdSense ad unit to help me to work out what ad design will work best. Instead of me having to do split testing on the ad unit and to keep trying different color schemes – PubMatic is rotating a variety of different ad unit colors through the ad unit for me and is tracking what works and what doesn’t. Once it completes a ‘training phase’ (more on this below) it will run the best performing ad design in that ad unit for me.

The other cool part of PubMatic is that it provides you with a central place to view all the ad units that you run through them. So instead of having an AdSense account, a YPN account and other accounts to check your reports – IF you choose to run all your ad units through PubMatic you can view them all centrally.

OK – that’s my explanation of it – but let me show you the official PubMatic Tour Video. I’ll also write a few first impressions of it below:

First Impressions of PubMatic

I’m writing this first impression review as someone who is only testing it in a limited way. This is for two reasons:

1. Because I am not enrolled as a publisher in most of the Ad Networks that are available with PubMatic. This is because some are not available outside of the USA (YPN for example) and because some are pretty major networks that have pretty high standards to get into them.

2. Because I’m only testing it on one ad unit so far and am still in the ‘training period’ with that ad unit.

So my first impressions:

I love the concept - this is the future of ad management for publishers. There are other systems doing this – but this is one of the few that I’ve seen that is accessible for smaller publishers and that is currently free (it’s free during it’s current Beta – not sure where it’ll go after that).

More Ad Networks Please – I say this is accessible to publishers of all sizes – but should say that most bloggers will not be able to fully use it (as I am not) because the current ad networks that you can use it with are out of the reach of many. I’m looking forward to the day that other ad networks are added (for example Chitika and WidgetBucks would be great).

Trial Period is Too Long – I’m told that the trial period (the period that it takes for PubMatic to work out which ad design will work best) is currently between 50,000 – 70,000 impressions. This means that if you’re testing an ad unit to see what colors work best for your blog – you’ll see it rotate through different color schemes for quite a long time if you’re an average blogger (considering that 35% of ProBlogger readers have under 100 readers a day on their blogs this could be frustrating).

Trial Period Ads – While PubMatic learns what ad design will work best on your blog you will see some very very very ugly ad units on your blog. Here are a few random ads that I just saw in my test unit:

Pubmatic-Ad-1

Pubmatic-Ad-2

Pubmatic-Ad-3

OK – they are BUTT UGLY ads (considering the blog is largely a Red/Maroon color scheme). But don’t write off PubMatic yet because you don’t need to subject your readers to this. I’ve been testing PubMatic with a ‘I don’t care’ option selected when it comes to what colors are selected. I didn’t realize this – but there’s also another option to ‘blend ads’. I’ve just selected this now and will see how those ads look shortly. (update: the ads are better in ‘blend’ mode – although still not perfectly blended to the site – however I guess this is the point of using this service as it helps to work out what converts best). Perhaps an improvement could be to give publishers an option to nominate some colors that Pubmatic could choose from (ie to select 10-20 ads that would be acceptable to test the different variations).

‘Ads Optimized by PubMatic’ Tag – You can see in the ads above that each one also has a little link back to PubMatic. While I understand why they’ve got this and on one level don’t mind (they are giving the service for free at this time) I’d prefer not to see them. There’s already an ‘Ads by Google’ link on the ads and to see another one just gives readers more options to click something that is not an ad and it does clutter things a little more than is perhaps needed.

Easy to Install and Good Reports – Getting set up with PubMatic was easy. I had my first ad unit working within minutes. The reports are good too. The only downside of the setup is that you don’t start getting reports immediately – they say that they take 2 days (mine took about 24 hours) before you start seeing the results.

Conclusions

My initial conclusions (is it possible to have a conclusion that is initial?) are that this is a service that many medium to larger bloggers will want to experiment with. It’s a beta launch so I’m sure there is a lot more in terms of features to be added – but it’s a service that hopefully will mature in time into a very useful tool for bloggers. I doubt it’ll be something that smaller bloggers will find that useful at this time (although it’s open to them to test) due to the long trial periods and the restrictions on networks included – but in time I suspect that even a smaller publishers will find uses for this type of tool.

PubMatic Challenge

The reason I’m publishing this first impression review today is that today they are launching a new competition called the PubMatic Challenge where they will be picking winners each month to be rewarded with free advertising. All you need to do to be in the running to win is to sign up – run PubMatic and given them feedback on how much it’s helped you to increase your revenues. The winners each month will get some free advertising on a variety of Web 2.0 websites.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Coen Jacobs says:

    Looks promising, will check it out as soon as I have some spare time! :)

  2. Darren,

    Thanks for the review. This is something I will surely try out in the coming days.

  3. I like that one. Thank you Darren! I will give a try , talk to you soon.

  4. Darren…this is a valuable post! I’ve been struggling to decide if I want to start removing adsense from my sites. Google is killing me with LOW cents per click and my sites are authority sites. I’m getting tired of google making all this money off MY CLICKS.

    If you were to use one set of ads for your living what would you use? I know you don’t use adsense anymore, but what about the others?

    Thanks for your time!

  5. I’ve only just started to monetize one of my blogs and like most people just plumped with Adsense to start with. Services like this will come in really useful if they do what they say they do as I don’t have time to manually go through all the options, especially with the number of ad networks around these days.

  6. 45n5 says:

    two others similar to this in private beta

    rubiconproject.com
    yieldbuild.com

    although I wasn’t accepted for either of those so off to try pubmatic.

  7. Jude says:

    If you install your own OpenAds rotator, doesn’t it almost work the same way?

  8. I’d hate to see “Ads Optimized by PubMatic” on top of “Ads by Google”. 4 entities being advertized from 1 single banner – that’s a little too much!

  9. Climbingnarc says:

    Thanks for the tip! This will be a great way to experiment with the many different ad networks at one time.

  10. Looks Good :)

  11. Angela says:

    It’s good to see a service like PubMatic. If it is as stated, then it should be very useful to blog sites. Actually it might bring some relief.

  12. James Joyner says:

    I’d note, too, that if you have under 100 readers a day, you shouldn’t worry about monetizing your site just yet. Build an audience first, then start running ads.

  13. Amy Bass says:

    Looks very interesting. I am going to be signing up for this and trying it out. :)

  14. I think “giving it a try” is the only answer to this and other opportunities that are presented to you.

  15. Tim says:

    Is there an option in this thing to block certain types of ads (flashing, etc.)?

  16. Chip says:

    The impression trial period is way too long for my small 4 months old blog. I’ll have to wait 2 or three months to get accepted. Or not. Anyway, I’ll give it a try tonight.

  17. Wayne Liew says:

    I doubt this service will really work because as you can see, you will need to contact them after you have got contacts from your advertising platform. This might take a lot of effort from fellow publishers and as you can see, not many advertising platforms are open to answering mails.

  18. JDJ says:

    It seems that Pubmatic is having a problem with its registration form. I can’t get past the initial page. Also, it does seem that it may take a while to optimize the ads on my blog, but I am just curious to watch the process as it works, and some free advertising wouldn’t hurt!

  19. Works great for me so far, except I am confused about the reporting. Yesterday’s reports: Google Adsense says I have one click, Pubmatic says I have three on one page and then in another report says I have 25 between two ad networks. Not sure what to believe or if some of the reports are delayed.

    Has anyone else had discrepencies in their reporting? I just want to see if this is normal during the first few days.

    I guess I’ll give it a few more days before questioning pubmatic since it does say delayed reporting up to two days for new ad tags on it’s website.

  20. I just started this running yesterday – unless yesterday was a total fluke (certainly possible), I am very impressed.

    I was nervous about this because of YPN – it has never done well for me and I’ve only used it as filler where I had large pages and ran out of Google. Because it has always had such dismal results, I was very concerned about mixing it in with my regular ads.

    As it turned out, Pubmatic ran about 30% of my impressions as YPN ads. As usual, that was pumping a dry well: it often results in nothing and at best is a few dollars, and that remained true.

    However, Google income jumped about 30% over what I would have normally expected for the day. Of course 30% swings in Google do happen and that could have been from something else entirely – no way to tell.

    We’ll see what the next week or so brings..

  21. aisha says:

    looks very interestng… thinks to test this once

  22. Is B5 Media using this service? If so, how does B5 Media like it? If not, what was it about the program that they did not like? I’m still waiting to see more about how folks like it since it’s still in beta before I try it.