TopicAds by CafePress launched today

CafePress has launched their own pseudo-contextual advertising program TopicAds today, where publishers specify keywords related to their content, and TopicAds will serve relevant products from their CafePress product inventory.

The ad units, which are not technically contextual ads since the program isn’t selecting ads based on content, but relying on publishers to specify keywords, are similar to what you would expect in a publisher ad unit, except that instead of text ads, you are seeing images.

Here are some sample ad units. This one is for keyword “espresso”.


And for fun, the keyword AdSense, just incase you ever wanted to wear a shirt with an ad unit across the chest 😉


And because I just finished listening to the Daily Searchcast where Danny Sullivan was talking about Matt Cutts and the Cuttlets, here is an ad unit for “Matt Cutts”:


I talked with Brad Meinert, the Director of Online Marketing at CafePress about their new TopicAds program, and asked a few questions about the program.

Is everyone who has a Cafe Press store included in this program? Or does each store owner need to sign up?

Shopkeepers must sign up for the affiliate program separately (basically sign the T&A etc. w/in their account area). Once they do, they can grab the code for a TopicAd and place it within their shops. What’s interesting is that shopkeepers are tagging their designs w/ their shop name, and then promoting their shops by getting others to run TopicAds using the shop name as the primary tag. This is an interim solution because eventually they’ll be able to filter the TopicAds by shops…

Are only t-shirts included? Or other products?

The ads shows designs – and when a user clicks on the design, they land on a page w/ a larger graphic of that design, and a few products w/ that design. What products are available is up to the shopkeeper. They determine what designs go on what products.

Are products screened for sensitive/off-color/sexual designs prior to being shown on publisher sites?

Ultimately, content is the responsibility of our Shopkeepers, but we do have content usage policy which outlines what is acceptable, and what is not. Images that show up in TopicAds are based on tags, and it is the responsibility of Shopkeepers to ensure that their images are tagged properly so inappropriate material does not show up where it doesn’t belong. In the future, we hope to provide additional filters – negative keywords, kid-friendly, specific shops, specific products, etc.

Can you release any conversion stats of what people are seeing so far (ie. how many impressions and/or clicks convert to a sale?)

I have some stats on CTRs, but probably not enough to be statistically significant. But currently, they are much better than static banner ads that we’re used to (0.1% CTR), and closer to contextual CTRs (for 336×280 definitely over 1%) and conv rates. Once I have some good stats I can pass them on. But it’s something I’m obviously tracking daily…

One of the most appealing things about TopicAds for publishers is that I have checked with the AdSense team, and these ads are fine to run alongside AdSense on the same page. So it could be a good compliment for publishers looking for a secondary program, or even something to run as an alternate ad.

The obvious drawback, however, is that this runs like a regular affiliate program… because publishers are NOT getting paid on a per click basis (such as with AdSense & YPN), but rather publishers are only paid a commission if one of the clicks converts into a sale.

When I went to grab screen shots for webmaster and SEO terms, the ad units were very much filled with logos for various search engine and optimization companies, so it gave the impression of fairly spammy ad units. But if you are a company who has logowear through CafePress, it would make sense to make sure your logos are enabled into TopicAds for free branding purposes. But unfortunately, this would definitely drop down the chance of conversions for publishers displaying the ads.

It will be interesting to watch this program grow, and see if they do get a following by publishers looking for programs to co-exists with AdSense & YPN. You can signup for TopicAds here or by logging into an existing CafePress account.

Share this with others!
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Facebook

5 comments to TopicAds by CafePress launched today

  • CafePress Lanza TopicAds

    Jen reporta en este post en que CafePress(af) lanz

  • This looks like a great idea, and good system. I immediately signed up for it and dropped an ad unit into my political blog. Unfortunately, I then realized that CafePress does not have a very good handle on “objectionable content.” In other words, in twenty minutes of surfing my site, I was greeted with ads containing the word “f-ck” (in various forms), no less than five times (each time, a different ad).

    It’s not like I’m a saint, and it’s not like I’m trying to run a G-rated blog. But that amount of occurence of that word was enough for me to remove the system, and e-mail CafePress. If they develop some sort of control (requiring publishers to register images as containing “adult” language, would be nice… and then allowing people to opt in/out of said images), I’ll be back in a flash.

  • apelincoln

    Whoa, that’s crazy. What term were you using that brought back r-rated results? So far all my TopicAds have been really neat and on-target!

  • nothing new

    I’m a little late with my reaction to the article JenSense posted about the new TopicAds offered by CafePress, but I still feel the need to comment. There was also a ClickZ article about it, and I’m sure there are many other reiterations a…

  • yb

    I just signed up for the program, and I can see two problems initially:

    1) The ads don’t make clear that these products are wall posters, mousepads, mugs, etc…. The ads with just a design on them look very out of place on my site because they don’t make clear what they are selling.

    2) The objectionable content, as described earlier. I have a very G-rated site, and some of the designs use the site’s topic as a graphic gimmic to sell products that would be inappropriate for my audience.

    This has a lot of potential, especially if we got to see the designs ‘in action’ and if we had the option to specifically choose which designs are not appropriate for our audiences (filter out specific designs)