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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.

15 Things I’d Love to See Ad Networks and Affiliate Programs Do to Help Us Earn More Money Blogging

I write quite a lot about what works in the ad networks that I use to make money from my blogs – but sometimes there are some little niggling problems with ad networks and affiliate programs that can be quite annoying.

Today I thought I’d compile a short ‘ProBlogger Wishlist’ of things that I’d love to see specific ad networks and affiliate programs rolling out. I’m not doing this because I don’t like any of the programs mentioned here (in fact most feature in my top earners list) – just because I’d like to see them improve.

Feel free to add your own on these networks (and others) in comments. Hopefully some of them will lead to some positive changes:

1. Direct Deposits for Amazon Associates

AmazonI’d love to see publishers outside of the USA able to be paid via direct deposit. I not only have to wait an extra week or so to get my cheque each month, but because my monthly payments are over $2000 my bank then charges me over $60 to cash them – and they have to send the cheque back to the USA for authentication before they’ll clear the money. This authentication process takes an extra 6 weeks. So if I earn money on the first day of a month it can be around 3 months before I see any money from it. If direct deposits are out of the question payments via PayPal would be another alternative.

2. Direct Deposit Payments at Clickbank

Cb LogoWhile we’re on the subject of payment via cheque – the other group I’d like to see with a direct deposit system (or a PayPal payment) is Clickbank. Come on people – get with the 21st century!

3. Increase Minimum Payouts – Linkshare

Logo-4I don’t even know where I still earn money with Linkshare (I must have promoted something once of theirs and it still earns me a dollar or two a month). The problem is that they send me a cheque for that dollar or two every month or two. Do you know how embaressing it is to go into a bank and try to cash a $2.27 check (considering it’s in US dollars and I have to get it converted I don’t bother any more). It’s time for a minimum amount earned before sending cheques Linkshare.

4. More Customization with ID Tracking at Amazon Associates

AmazonI love the fact that Amazon added the ability to use ‘tracking IDs’ to allow their publishers to track which links are converting best (see how useful this can be in this post analyzing what people buy at Amazon from one post). The problem is that once you add a tracking ID there’s no way to remove it. I have a growing list of them and it’s getting pretty messy. It’s also be great to get more customized reports with tracking IDs that’d allow for more drilling down.

5. Better Reporting at AdSense

Logo Main-1Speaking of drilling down in reports – while I think AdSense has one of the best reporting systems, I think it’s time that they took things to the next level and gave us some more useful tools for analyzing our results. While channels can be handy – unless you use a different channel for each post it’s impossible to tell which pages are converting best unless you use a third party application to track clicks on a page by page basis. Another simple wish for AdSense reports is a cost per click figure (something other networks give). I know this is complicated by impression based ads – but it’d be handy to have more information on this. I’d also love to see more ability to combine data from Google Analytics and Google AdSense.

6. Split Testing at AdSense

Logo Main-1A built in mechanism for split testing might be nice too. It’s now possible to rotate different ads in the one ad unit, but there’s no way to track which combination converts best. Split testing tools might be useful (in fact they’d be good at all the ad networks – not just AdSense).

7. Better Referral Reports at WidgetBucks

Logo3-1Time to look at the newest ad network on the block, WidgetBucks. I’m getting good results with this network but I think there’s plenty of room for improvement. For starters I’d love to see more data on referrals. At this point there’s just a total referrals number and the promise of the total amount earned to be given at some point in the first week of next month. Most other networks give significantly more information on this including a daily breakdown (even if it is audited later). Not having these figures takes some of the incentive for promoting the program away from publishers and will slow the growth of the network.

8. Better Referral Reports at AuctionAds

Auctionads-1The other ad network that I’d like to see improve it’s referral reporting is AuctionAds. At the moment I have no idea what of my income comes from the ad units that I run and what comes from referrals. Again – it doesn’t really inspire me to actively promote it if I can’t see what the results of that promotion are.

9. Channel Names at WidgetBucks

Logo3-1Another pet peeve of WidgetBucks for me is that the name you give different widgets appears in both the reports page and on the widget. While I don’t mind being able to customize the widget in this way – it’s frustrating in the reports page as there’s no actual descriptive way of labeling widgets. For example I’d like to be able to have ‘popular digital cameras’ appear on my widget – but in the back end reports would like to be able to call my widget ‘Digital Photography School Footer’. It’s getting more and more confusing the more widgets I add. In fact the whole reports page probably needs to be reworked. Imagine having 100 different widgets across different sites – the page would be a mess.

10. Less US-centric Testing at AdSense

Logo Main-1Regular readers will know about this one already – but there’s nothing more frustrating for a publisher situated outside of the USA than seeing great new ad units released and not being able to test them. AdSense did this recently with their YouTube Video unit.

11. Open Up for International Publishers at YPN

Logo PnSpeaking of US exclusive deals – I’d love to see Yahoo’s Publisher Network (YPN) open up to international publishers with international traffic. The YPN beta launched in August 2005 and did so exclusively for US publishers with predominantly US traffic. It struck me this morning that it’s been over 2 years now (26 months to be exact) and there’s been no movement on that. In fact if anything they tightened things up about a year ago by booting out some publishers who had too much non US traffic.

12. Open up RSS Ads at AdSense

Logo Main-1While a 26 month beta test with no expansion seems pretty bad – AdSense have one of their own which has been going longer. In April 2005 they introduced their RSS Advertising system (AdSense for Feeds). The program is still in a beta test according to their help center page and the beta test is full and they don’t anticipate adding any more publishers too it. Still – publishers are encouraged to keep checking back to that page for updates – I wonder how many have been for the last 30 months.

13. Improved Reports at Chitika

Chitika LogoChitika have made some real improvements over the last year or so – but one area I’d like to see them take to the next level is their reports. One aspect of them that I find frustrating is the channels are and a simple improvement would be to make the channel names in reports live links that take publishers to a report for the last month of that channel alone. Also useful would be the ability to group channels together (like AdSense offer). For example to be able to put the multiple channels that you might have on a single blog into one report so you can get a combined report for the full blog. At present if I want to know a blog’s performance with Chitika (I might have as many as 10 channels on a blog) I need to get the calculator out and look at each channel individually to get their totals.

14. Open up to Smaller Publishers – Chitika

Chitika LogoAnother common complaint that I hear from many publishers about Chitika is that smaller publishers are not eligible to join. While I understand that this ads significantly to the workload of an ad network – most (if not all) other ad networks that I’ve mentioned in this post don’t have a minimum traffic limit for publishers. This frustrates many bloggers and could actually hurt Chitika in the long term because publishers that grow might have been put off by their early rejection from Chitika.

15. Better Conversion at AdSense Referrals

Logo Main-1I’ve asked ProBlogger readers a number of times if they’ve had any success with AdSense Referrals – the response was an overwhelming ‘NO’. The exception is those who promote the ‘Google product’s – but outside that I’ve only found a few that have had any luck with it. I’ve actually chatted with a couple of people at AdSense about it and know that they have challenges that they are working on – but I’d really love to see the Referrals program taken up to the next level in the coming 12 months. PS: Jen shares her AdSense Referrals wishlist here with some more good suggestions.

As I mentioned above – I’m certain that there are many other improvements that all of these ad networks and affiliate programs could make. I’d invite you to add your own points to the wish list.

My hope with this post is that it doesn’t become a ‘bitching session’ but a more constructive conversation that might help the ad networks concerned to improve what they have on offer.

WidgetBucks Update – Speeds Up Loading Time, Removes Backlink and Removes Non English Sites From Network

Logo3-1WidgetBucks today emailed publishers using their system with a note to let them know that they’ve been working on loading times for WidgetBucks ad units. This has been one of the major complaints of publishers about the system.

The upside is that they’ve found a way to decrease loading times for publishers – the downside is that you need to update the code on your blog for the changes to come into effect (see below for instructions).

The other benefit of the update that they didn’t actually mention in the email is that the new code no longer has a backlink to WidgetBucks in it (something that has been criticized by many). Andy Beard has more on these changes and makes some suggestions on other changes they need to make.

Here’s how they said to make the update:

You will need to update code of your existing widgets for the speedier load times to take affect on your site, blog or network. Know that changing the code will not impact earnings for any of your widgets.

Here are the two steps you’ll need to follow:

1. Sign-in to http://widgetbucks.com and go to My Widgets

2. For each active widget, simply edit and re-copy the code block into your site or blog (the same steps you went through when you created the widgets originally)

Update to WidgetBucks Policies Regarding Non English Sites

Also announced today by WidgetBucks is that they’ve updated their Policies to exclude Non English sites in their program.

They explain:

“As we’ve continued to evaluate impression, click and conversion data during WidgetBucks’ first 3+ weeks, we’ve observed that a majority of non-English language sites are delivering a consistently low conversion rate. With our merchants and advertisers predominantly based in the U.S., this is not a surprising phenomenon. And as an advertising network, we have a responsibility to our merchants to deliver quality traffic that has the highest likelihood of conversion to sale.”

This is going to hurt for non english sites and already I’ve heard complaints – understandably so. Some have complained that they’ve seen good conversions on their non english sites. My response would be that by ‘conversion’ I suspect WidgetBucks is not talking about the ads getting clicked – but about the ads converting for advertisers. I suspect that the reason for this change is that advertisers complained that they were paying out for traffic that didn’t actually buy from them.

It’s a pity that WidgetBucks didn’t foresee this problem and learn from the pain of other ad networks who had the same issue.

PS: I’d be interested to hear whether others are noticing faster loading times. My initial feelings are that it’s marginally faster – but still slower than I’d like. I wondered whether it’s my location impacting speed and have put in an email to WidgetBucks to see.

WidgetBucks Review

Earn $$ with WidgetBucks!It has been a bit over two weeks since the new advertising network WidgetBucks announced it’s launch (here’s where I posted my first impression review of WidgetBucks) and as promised here is my update on how it has been performing for me.

For those of you unfamiliar with WidgetBucks – here’s a sample ad unit to remind you.

I’ve been testing it in a couple of places and to this point have found it to have had mixed success. A few comments:

The Good Stuff about WidgetBucks

  • All of the testing that I’ve been doing with WidgetBucks ad units have been on product related blogs where I think they have a much greater chance of performing well than on blog with other topics.
  • I’ve been running it in a ‘split test’ with Chitika ads in one position (ie 50% of the time I display a Chitika ad unit and 50% a WidgetBucks unit) and to this point the WidgetBucks ad is earning more on a CPM basis than the Chitika unit (it’s still early days on that test though). The CTR is higher on the WidgetBucks ad but the click value is higher on the Chitika ads.
  • I’ve also done split tests with AdSense and found that WidgetBucks out performed them also.
  • As a result of all this – I’m earning more with WidgetBucks than I would have with ads in the same positions as with either Chitika and AdSense (and considering that they are my two biggest earners that’s pretty good).
  • I suspect CTR is higher because of the animation in the ads which draws the eye to them.
  • WidgetBucks have been adding new ad unit sizes and categories. They’ve also announced that they’ll be adding more options in the weeks ahead.
  • Reporting is good (although having the delay/auditing does make it difficult to test and tweak ads)

The Bad Stuff about WidgetBucks

  • Despite WidgetBucks staff commenting that their ads load fast – I still see them loading slowly on my blogs. They are generally the last thing to load on my pages (which is good in that they let other things load first) but it can take 1-3 seconds for them to load (some report it as being longer). This isn’t really good enough.
  • Contextual Targeting doesn’t seem to have worked for me very well. I tested an ad unit in the contextual mode on my blog and it gave reasonable results in that the ads were on cameras and the site was about cameras – but I’ve rarely seen more specific targeting. What I mean by this is that if I have a page about a particular model of camera I’ve never seen a WidgetBucks ad actually served that mentions that camera. I think if they were more targeted contextually the CTR would be significantly higher – the ads would probably convert better for advertisers too.
  • Ads dominate pages too much for my liking. While they do give the option to use different color schemes, even the most subtle colors make it difficult to blend ads into a page. While this probably helps with CTR it isn’t great for usability – particularly with all the animation going on. While you can easily have 2-3 ad units of AdSense or Chitika on a page to run too many WidgetBucks ads on a page would probably be quite overwhelming for readers.
  • In my first impression review I said that the affiliate program sucked – they improved it which is great – however they don’t give any indication of what those earnings are until the first week of the following month. It’d be great to have some more immediate indications of not only the total number of referrals but how it’s performing. This would also give me a clearer indication whether others are earning good money from WidgetBucks.

So on an earnings from I like WidgetBucks – but on a design and reader usability front I still have some issues which hold me back from using them more.

Again – it’s worth emphasizing that different ad options will work differently on different blogs. WidgetBucks ads work well for me on product related blogs (as do Chitika) – while AdSense seems to work better for me on non product related blogs. The key is to test test test and see what works best for you.

I should also say that it’s another couple of weeks until payments come through from WidgetBucks. I don’t have any doubt that they’ll pay as promised – but while the initial earnings from it look pretty decent I can’t really review it fully until I see some cash hit my paypal account!

What’s Your WidgetBucks Review?

Have you tried WidgetBucks yet? If not click here to sign up. If so – what do you think now that you’ve had a couple of weeks to test them?

Are 125 x 125 pixel Ads Right for Your Blog?

125-Pixel-AdsOver the past 6 to 12 months the 125 x 125 pixel advertisement has emerged onto the blogging scene as a fairly common means of advertising.

I don’t know who did it first – but there are hundreds (if not thousands) of blogs using it. Some of the more prominent ones include TechCrunch, Read/WriteWeb, CopyBlogger and John Chow – but there are many hundreds others. In fact over at b5media we have them on all of our 250+ blogs.

Why 125 Pixel Ads Are Worth Considering

125 x 125 ads are an attractive option for bloggers and advertisers on numerous fronts:

  • Bloggers tend to like them because they fit well into sidebars (either in a single vertical line or side by side)
  • They give the option to sell multiple ad units in the space often reserved for one larger ad (four 125 x 125 ads fit nicely into either the position of a skyscraper or large rectangle ad). Generally selling 4 smaller smaller ads will bring in more than selling one larger one
  • Many medium to smaller level advertisers like them because they are cheaper than a larger ad and they can have their ad appear on multiple blogs for the same price as a larger one on one blog.
  • Increasingly affiliate programs are offering publishers 125 pixel ads – these can be run in unsold ad spots so that they can be monetized even when the full stock of ads are not sold.

Should you run 125 x 125 ads on your blog? Balancing the Arguement

There are some good reasons to experiment with 125 pixel ads – however it’s not all plain sailing.

There are a number of things to consider before moving to this format:

  • They work better in some industries than others – in my limited experience of selling advertising I’ve found that each industry has it’s own preference when it comes to ad unit size. I was chatting to an advertising agency last week about them buying a banner ad on one of my blogs and when I suggested 125 pixel ads there was silence on the other end of the phone. The rep had never sold a 125 pixel ad – his industry dealt almost exclusively in large banners, skyscrapers and rectangle ads. 125 pixel ads tend to be something that tech, web 2.0 type advertisers prefer – perhaps it’s expanding to other industries – but many still operate in more traditional sizes.
  • Mainstream advertisers are still catching up – similarly, I’ve found that even in the tech web 2.0 space, many larger advertisers prefer more traditional ad sizes and some are not set up to sell anything else.
  • It takes more work to sell four ads than one – While selling four smaller ads can bring in more revenue than selling one larger one – there are more costs involved in selling four – particularly when you consider your own time in making the sale and administering the ad. This is of course if you can sell any ads at all. Selling one ad and having three empty spots can be quite disheartening.

How to Use 125 pixel Ads on Your Blog

A few pieces of advice for selling 125 pixel ads:

Have some filler ads in reserve – if you set aside four ad 125 ad units in your design then be prepared to have some unsold inventory for periods of time. There are a number of options here:

  • you could run an affiliate program (if you can find one that fits with your niche)
  • you could run an AdSense ad here (they offer 125 sized ads (although a text ad might look odd next to other image based ads)
  • you could run a Chitika ad unit (again they might look odd)
  • another option is to run an internal ad (an ad that points to different parts of your blog/site)
  • you could run an ad swap here – arrange for another blogger in your niche to run their ad there in return for you running one on their blog (to swap traffic)

Prepare an ‘advertise here’ ad - another option for a filler ad is to prepare an ad that advertisers the opportunity to advertise in that position on your blog. Point this ad to an ‘Advertise page’ on your blog which has information on the benefits of advertising on your blog. It can also be worth to have another link or small ad near these ads that points to the same page for when all ads are sold out.

Look at who is advertising elsewhere in your niche - if you’re struggling to find advertisers for your blog a good idea is to keep track of who is advertising on other blogs and websites in your niche – particularly those advertising using 125 pixel ads. If they are willing to advertise on your competitors blogs then they are likely to consider yours too.

Positioning is Everything – on my old template here at ProBlogger I was forced to have my 125 pixel ads below the fold. I did this reluctantly because there was no other room for them and was keen to get them up in a more prominent position with the redesign (in fact it was one of the main reasons I did the redesign). Having them below the fold gave a poor conversion for advertisers which resulted in being able to charge less and struggling to get advertisers to renew their ads. Moving them up the page helped significantly.

Consider your Competing Ads and Affiliate Programs – one thing to carefully consider is how many other ads and affiliate programs to include on your blog. This is worth considering on three fronts:

  1. Too many ad units on your blog can be detrimental on two fronts. Firstly it can crowd out the content and disillusion regular readers while putting off new visitors to your blog. Some blogs have so many ads that their content is pushed way down the page and effectively hidden.
  2. Too many ads on a page dilutes the conversion that advertisers get. If an ad is one of four they have a much higher chance of being noticed and clicked on than if the ad is one of ten.
  3. Some blogger miss out on being able to sell ads by running affiliate programs or AdSense on their blogs. The problem with running an affiliate program on a blog is that the program you are promoting via that program might decide that they don’t need to advertise on your blog. This might be a good thing if the affiliate program pays out more than the advertising would have – but it could also be costly. Running AdSense on a blog where you’re trying to sell ads directly can also hurt you because in some cases it’ll be much cheaper for the advertiser to advertise on your blog using AdSense. Remember AdSense takes a cut of what the advertiser pays – so you could potentially be losing out quite a bit. This all needs to be monitored and you need to do some analysis of which monetization technique is best for you.

Feature Advertisers - one way to add some value to those advertising on your blog using 125 pixel ad units (or any type of advertising) is to give them a little extra attention by periodically featuring advertisers on your blog in a post. Disclose what you’re doing so that readers know that you’re highlighting paying advertisers – but do it both to give your advertisers extra value (increasing the chances of them renewing their ad next month) and as a means of attracting new advertisers.

Have Your Say on 125 Pixel Ads

What do you think about 125 pixel ads? Do you run them on your blog? Why or Why not?

WidgetBucks Update on Reporting Delays

Earlier in the week the WidgetBucks launched (read our first impression review here) with a fair bit of fanfare around the blogosphere.

Since it was announced I’ve had a number of readers ask me why they are not seeing any income in their reports despite there being clicks on the ads (it is a pay per click ad system). I shot WidgetBucks an email on this and the response was as I’d expected – they have an auditing process in place that means there is a 48-72 hour delay in seeing the actual income figure reported.

Why does it take so long? – The reason given is that it takes time to get reports back from their advertisers .

This is the same problem that most similar advertising programs have in one way or another. Chitika only updates all figures once every 24 hours and then audits them at the end of a month (reducing the earnings), AuctionAds have a delayed system too (where you see clicks on ads immediately but it can be days to see what you’ve earned on a given day as a result of it being based upon Auctions that happen over time).

As a blogger I find this frustrating. We’ve become used to systems like AdSense which show us not only impressions and clicks very quickly after they happen – but also the income earned. Of course AdSense is run by Google who have some serious resources to throw at the problem.

As someone who has talked with a lot of these advertising networks personally I also understand the challenge that they have. They need to balance the needs with publishers and the relationships that they have with advertisers (and the systems that the advertisers need to work with). After all – if the advertisers don’t get looked after then the whole system falls down.

I’m not sure what the solution is – but hopefully WidgetBucks can shorten the waiting time in conjunction with their advertising partners – or develop a predictive system that gives publishers an indication of how much they’ve earned to speed up the process. Otherwise I suspect that some publishers will become frustrated with it and give up.

How is WidgetBucks Performing?

I’ve been testing WidgetBucks on one of my blogs and while I’m yet to see any earnings reports I’m pleased to see that their CTR is very similar than other ads in the same position. I’ve rotated it through a split test with Chitika and AdSense in the same position and see both Chitika and WidgetBucks outperforming AdSense on a CTR basis in that position. The real test will be to compare earnings figures. I suspect these results will vary considerably from blog to blog and even based upon ad positioning.

WidgetBucks – A New Advertising Option for Your Blog

Earn $$ with WidgetBucks!I’ve just heard about a brand new advertising option for bloggers by the name of WidgetBucks that is launching as we speak. I’m yet to test it live on my sites as it is brand new – but from my initial looking over of the service I’d say that it has promise. The nearest thing that I could compare it to would be Chitika eMiniMalls as it is an interactive ad unit that flashes through different purchasing options for readers for different products. Here’s how one of their ad units looks (there’s another at the base of this post):


Widgets come in a range of sizes and can be customized to different colors. They will also let you target 13 different categories (each category has sub categories) if you choose to manually set them – but will let you run it in a ‘contextual’ mode (called ‘MerchSense’).

How Do You Make Money?

You make money on a ‘per click’ (CPC) basis and WidgetBucks claim that those who’ve tested them are getting $3-$6 CPM. Payment is via Check but you need to hit $50 before you trigger your first payment.

$25 SignUp Bonus

In fact this is actually easier than it might seem as they start every publisher off with $25 in their account as a signup bonus so all you need to earn is another $25 to get a $50 check.

WidgetBucks will allow you to run as many ads on a page as you like and you can use this system with AdSense according to their FAQ.

Tracking is on a Widget by Widget basis and the reports page looks pretty good.

What I like about WidgetBucks

Keep in mind that I’m yet to test it out and am writing this as a first impression review

  • I like the ad units – they are very clickable
  • There is a good range of colors and ad unit sizes to choose from
  • Reporting looks good
  • Reported CPM is reasonable considering you can run multiple ad units and other ad systems on your page
  • This strikes me as being a good system on ‘product related blogs’

What I’d like to see Added

  • My experience with these types of ads shows me that the more targeted the ads are to your content the better. If you’re writing about a particular model of MP3 player you want to see an ad for that MP3 player served. When Chitika made this available in their system my earnings skyrocketed – I hope that WidgetBucks has a way to do this shortly.
  • Referral system (which I’m using in this post) – it pays $5 when the person you refer earns their first $25. While this is ok – it is nothing in comparison to other referral systems that payout a % of the earnings of those you refer. While there is some incentive to get some sign ups there’s little incentive to help those you sign up to increase their earnings once they are signed up. update – great news, they’ve taken notice of this complaint and have increased this to 10% of earnings for 10% (something I’m proud to say that I suggested to them!).
  • The smallest ad unit is 468×60 – while the 5 units are pretty good to choose from it’ll be good to see if they add more later – particularly smaller ones.
  • I’ve never really been a fan of ads that have lots of animation. These could be annoying for some blog readers.

I’m sure I’ll discover more that I like and dislike about WidgetBucks as I test it more – but overall it looks like a system worth testing out to see if it works well on your blog or not. I’ll be giving it a go in the coming days and look forward to hearing how you find it too.


What do you think of WidgetBucks?

How Much Screen Real Estate do You Dedicate to Ads?

Serverdome has a good little survey of some blogs about blogging and how much of the space on their blog above the fold is dedicated to advertising.

Like I commented on the post – I’d love to see them do the same thing with the 10 Ten Blogs on Technorati’s Popular list – to see how blogs that are not about blogging do it as a comparison would be interesting.

I also noted that the banner ad at the top of ProBlogger only serves ads around 50% of the time. At other times I rotate banners pointing people to different parts of this site (in actual fact we were about to move that position to 100% internal banners to give sidebar sponsors exclusive run of the site and have just done so). I guess they are some sort of a combination of internal navigation/ads.

I’d be interested to hear how much screen real estate you dedicate to ads on your blog?

See the mini study at Serverdome.org

AuctionAds give $25 to New Publishers

AuctionadsAuctionAds have announced a bonus of $25 for new publishers signing up to use their system.

Sign up and your balance will automatically receive the $25 without you having to do anything. They do have a minimum payout of $50 so you’ll need to implement their ads to reach that mark before you get your money but it’s nice little incentive to get you using their system.

If you’ve already signed up with AuctionAds you will still get your $25 bonus if you’ve not had a payout previously.