Boston Pubcon Day 2: Taking stock of contextual advertising space

Boston Pubcon Day 2: Taking stock of contextual advertising space

Author | Vikas Malhotra | Friday, Apr 21,2006 7:51 AM

Boston Pubcon Day 2: Taking stock of contextual advertising space

On Day 2 at Pubcon being held in Boston, USA, there were lots of sessions on SEO, content writing and webmaster issues. However, there were two sessions of great relevance to publishers and advertisers. For publishers there was Contextual Advertising Space, and for advertisers there was pay per click offering of the various search companies.

So without further ado, let’s dig in and take stock of the takeaways from the Contextual Advertising Space session.

Contextual Advertising:

Average user spends: 5 per cent of time searching and 95 per cent browsing the web.

So to monetise the first 5 per cent of the time-spend, we have the PPC campaigns on search properties, and for the balance 95 per cent we have the contextual advertising platforms of different vendors at various websites.

Contextual advertising is important in number terms because it is expected to have a 20 per cent revenue share (by 2008) from the current 15 per cent of the overall paid search industry volumes.

Two qualities for publishers that the search networks look for before signing a site in their contextual or content network are:

If the site provides good brand value for advertisers; Reach and breadth of the audience available with the publishers.

The three top qualities that publishers should look for in their contextual advertising platform provider are:

1. Earnings potential: Breadth of advertisers that the platform has; ad types that they allow; targeting services and optimisation potential.

2. Control they get on the entire programme.

3. Networks relationship management history and reputation.

Let’s quickly review the contextual platforms that the various vendors presented at Pubcon today. The two search giants, Google and Yahoo, were there in the session as also three other contextual ad companies. These were Kanoodle, ContextWeb and Quigo.

Most of the features in these networks overlap; however, the major difference in all of them is the way they define relevance of the ad displayed on the page.

Bright Ads (BA) by Kanoodle

BA utilises editorial mapping, behavioural data and page scan technology to decide the ad relevance. The targeting is based on themes (not keywords). They have a topic taxonomy of 15,000 categories and sub-categories with which to decode the relevance puzzle.

Their cost per click is north of 70 cents and their best verticals are finance, health, computing, travel and automotive.

Some of the cool stuff they are doing is trying to monetise ads by putting them in RSS feeds and articles mouse over as well.

Also, since they use cookie-based advertising in targeting users on their behavioural cycle, a publisher makes money even if the ad is not clicked on their site but some other site. However, the visitor should have visited them once to get the cookie deposited.

For sites with page views in excess of 100 K, Kanoodle is building a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) based programme as well.

ContextWeb (CW)

Advertisers with CW need to buy on categories, not keywords. They have 380 categories in their taxonomy to disambiguate the context of the website. They optimise client campaigns by domain and not category. They claim to have 50 of the top 200 rated (Comscoremedia) websites in their network.

Some of the cool stuff that can be done with CW is that third party ad serving is also possible on their network as also the fact that dynamic content can be monetised with real time indexing as ad serving is on the fly. In other words, the real time indexing scans web content the moment a user navigates to the page and then serves the relevant ads on the page. This is something which is not possible with spider based search technology.

Google Adsense

Google remains the most popular Contextual Advertising Platform till date. A show of hands in the hall proved that almost 70 per cent of the people use Google’s Adsense programme. That is some achievement for the company which is accessed in 17 languages in over 100 countries.

Google uses link structure and search query data (helps refine page meaning) to determine context. It helps webmasters attract more users by using content from its services like videos, maps, news, and then help you monetise that content by Adsense.

Some of the cool things with Google are that you can advertise by link units (low real estate) as compared to ad units. One can try both the units to see which works best. In general, link units are more generic and hence can be used to target more generic context.

You can view samples of Google ad units here:

Also, you can sign up for Google site search and then use Adsense on your site results pages.

Google has also started providing a facility for publishers to sign up their own advertisers as well through their OASU (onsite advertiser sign-up) programme. They create a customised login page, which is co-branded with the publisher and can be used for advertiser sign-up.

Section targeting can be used to target multiple ad units on the same page. Google also provides analytics facility with their Google analytics tool.

Yahoo Partner Network (YPN)

YPN is being promoted as an open platform so that developers can build applications on it. The relevance of YPN is determined by editorial review and algorithmic site review.

YPN allows publishers to choose categories and sub-categories for their site and this also determines the ads displayed. They sometimes let this kind of selection override their own engine’s relevance determination. They do this because they believe webmasters know what works best for their site. So their involvement is important for the right context selection.

A cool thing about YPN is that they are also building a Self Serve platform (in beta) for contextual ad serving. Publishers can set up their own advertiser network using Yahoo platform. At the moment it is for US publishers only and that too by invitation.

For more one can visit

Adsonar from Quigo

Adsonar is the contextual platform from Quigo. They determine relevance based on topics and not keywords. They also do page match (even if the pages are generic) to determine context. They allow white labeling of their service by publishers to set up their own advertising platforms. They believe that by delegating control to the publisher, you empower them to upsell the services that they can offer to advertisers.

The consensus view at this session was that a publisher can sign up with more than one network and then see what works best for him.

More on PPC program comparisons tomorrow…

(The author is Chief Business Consultant, Media Estate, and Founder Director of Mosaic Services, a leading Online promotions and search marketing company.)

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