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December 21, 2004

First AdSense, now IntelliTXT adds image ads

AdSense began beta testing animated AdSense image ads earlier this month to complement the static image ads they had already offered. And now Vibrant Media is following suit by offering IntelliTXT Plus, according to a ClickZ article published Wednesday.

IntelliTXT Plus recently began beta testing for a release in the first quarter of 2005. will work in the same way the regular IntelliTXT does. The page will appear with double underlined keywords, except when one does a mouse-over, instead of the usual IntelliTXT text ad appearing, an image would appear alongside the text.

Potential applications of IntelliTXT Plus are adding a company logo for a branding effect, or showing the image of a product alongside the text offer, for a direct-response campaign.

While the image option that IntelliTXT is currently offering appears to be more discreet than the entire box filled with an image ad, IntelliTXT will be one to keep an eye on for trend and marketing purposes. Vibrant Media could very easily continue to go the image ad route by offering full image ads in their pop-up tool-tip box, as opposed to the currently beta testing text accompanied by a product image or logo.

What is most significant, however, is the trend that the resurgence of image ads bring. It is interesting to note the trend swing so quickly from image ads to text ads with the launch of Google AdSense. But now it seems to be tentatively heading back to image ads once again, as a sideline to the currently offered text ads. Perhaps old school execs are adamant on image ads, which is starting the swing back towards images. Or perhaps there are other reasons behind this new image ad trend. Ideas?

Posted by Jenstar at 10:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 18, 2004

CrispAds for Blogs, RSS & Atom Feeds

CrispAds - text ads for blogs as well as RSS and Atom feeds, are jumping on the contextual advertising bandwagon, but by offering something that AdSense currently does not - the ability to advertise on RSS feeds.

From the advertiser perspective, it offers advertisers a very tight niche community - blog writers and readers - and the ability to market related products to them. CrispAds does not disclose what the CPC is for advertisers until after signing up (you are charged an initial $5 for credit card verification).

From the publisher end, it offers a 95% revenue share and after signing up, all the publisher needs to do is submit categories and insert the javascript. Payment is by PayPal.

But how well their ads would do when targeting non-blog keywords remain to be seen. Because unlike AdSense which contextually targets based on the page contents, CrispAds targets based on catagories submitted by advertisers, and matched up to the catagories a publisher submits for each blog. They do seem to be having difficulty attracting advertisers into the program. Their ad inventory seems to be severely lacking - I only saw one non-CrispAds advertisers - but this is a problem that plagues many newer programs in this space. I saw plenty of CrispAds ads running - not sure if those are considered paid or PSAs (non-paid public service announcement ads). But they should at least put up some blog-related affiliate ads and pay publishers for them, which would give the appearance of more advertisers, resulting in more advertisers AND publishers.

Advertising in RSS feeds is definitely controversial. On the one hand, bloggers would like to bring in a few pennies for their efforts, but on the other hand, they worry they could alienate their readship with RSS ads. And well known authors in the blog community have been weighing in. John Battelle on Searchblog supports the idea and says "If we don't support authors, we all lose". Dave Winer of Really Simple Syndication refers to RSS ads as "boring".

Still curious about CrispAds? You can sign up with their sample RSS feed at http://www.crispads.com/blog/wp-rss2.php to see the ads in action. The jury is still out on the success of this particular program. And so much of it has to do with timing. All it would take is AdSense to allow their ads to show on RSS, and this program could easily fail. But with so few options for RSS advertising at the moment, if bloggers and advertisers are willing to give it a try, it could be successful.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 10, 2004

Adwords advertisers have a voice in getting AdSense removed

If Google Adwords advertisers see their ads running through the AdSense content network on less-than-desirable sites, apparently it only takes a few of them to be publicly vocal about it before the ads get pulled.

The site in question, vioxx.x.yi.org, gained notariety last month when Senator Orrin Hatch used it in a Senate Finance Committee hearing as an example of extreme steps lawyers were willing to take to get potential Vioxx lawsuit cases. But what he didn't realize is that the site was an AdSense publisher, and all those advertisers on the page were not even aware their ads were running there. And those that did were not happy about finding their ads there, according to an article last week at the legal news site Law.com

Todd Schneider was incensed. Schneider says his San Francisco firm, Schneider & Wallace, was linked to the "million dollars" site without his knowledge. "We believe their Web site is immoral, illegal and unethical," he said.

Some lawyers went as far as contacting Google to get their ads removed from the "Make Your Millions with Vioxx Lawsuit" site, says NYLawyer.com

Worried that the site created an ethical liability, several lawyers -- including Kenneth Suggs, president-elect of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America -- wrote letters to Google requesting that the ads be removed.
Google would not confirm how many complaints were received, but it only took about a week for action.

As of Thursday, law firm ads on vioxx.x.yi.org had been replaced with public service links. Friday, the site contained no Google ads at all.

And while the website in question still has the AdSense javascript to run three AdSense ad units, visitors see "You are not authorized to view this page" messages within the three iframes. It also raises an interesting question about advertisers bound to ethical ad guidelines who advertise via Google Adwords with the content network enabled. Since advertisers have no control over where their ads appear, this could result in disciplinary action being taken against the advertiser. However, Google also shows willingness to work with advertisers, which may actually result in more advertisers willing to try advertising through the content network. If these advertisers have a voice in getting their ads removed from undesirable sites - and preventing those publishers from showing ads on those pages - it will only benefit both programs in the long run... unless you have one of those undesirable sites, of course ;)

Posted by Jenstar at 05:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Heading to Chicago SES? Plenty for contextual advertisers to see

If you are heading to the Chicago edition of Search Engine Strategies next week, there is plenty to see if you are an advertiser wanting to learn more about contextual advertising, although not too much for the publisher end of things.

These are the sessions I plan on hitting that are related to contextual advertising:

Monday, December 13, 2004

9am - Online Advertising and Search Forecast: Projecting Growth through 2009
Gary Stein, a senior analyst at JupiterResearch will present this session, detailing where search is headed over the next five years.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

11:30am - Search Engine Advertising Forum
This one includes reps from Google Adwords and Overture. However, this one sits opposite the Black Hat, White Hat & Lots of Gray session, featuring oilman (Todd Friesen) and WebGuerrilla (Greg Boser), which is destined to become the session of the conference, if not the year. This one will be a toss up for me ;)

4:00pm - Broad Matching & Other Ad Targeting Options
I am curious to see if they touch on targeting specifically for contextual advertisers, such as Joe the Adwords Advertiser who wants to see his ad running on Mary the AdSense Publisher's site. Emily White from Google Adwords will also be on this panel.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

3:45pm - Dealing With Contextual & Other Non-Search Ads
This will be the best session for contextual advertisers, since this panel deals almost exclusively with contextual advertising. I went to this session previously in Chicago, and even I picked up some new information. Speakers include:

Brad Byrd from NewGate
Barry Chu from Overture
Andrew Goodman from Page Zero Media Inc.
Joshua Stylman from Reprise Media
Emily White from Google Adwords
Don't miss this one if you are interested in contextual.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

10:45 - Auditing Paid Listings & Clickfraud Issues
This should be a popular session with the recent clickfraud publicity, with advertisers wanting to learn more. Speakers include:

Jessie Stricchiola from Alchemist Media
Danielle Leitch from MoreVisibility
Lori Weiman from KeywordMax
I saw this in San Jose as well, and contextual advertising was only mentioned briefly as a possible source of clickfraud. I wonder if they have noticed different trends over the last few months, or if the problem still remains primarily in search.

Want to know who else is headed there as well? Search Engine Watch Forums has a SES Chicago roll call thread going, and voting is enabled, so people can quickly see you are on the "Yes I am going" list. It is definitely a Who's Who of the SEO world.

And if you are headed to Chicago, be sure to pack your winter woolies, it's going to be a cold one!

Posted by Jenstar at 12:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 08, 2004

IntelliTXT announces publisher growth since initial launch

Hot on the heels of last week's much-publicized announcement that Forbes.com would cease running IntelliTXT on their articles, Vibrant Media has announced publisher numbers and specifics in a new AdWeek article.

IntelliTXT originally launched in April with 120 publishers running their unique brand of ads, where a user mouses over a double underlined keyword on a webpage to reveal a pop-up text ad. They have since added more publishers to their roster, including some high profile ones.

Vibrant said its new clients include Entrepreneur.com, MedicineNet.com, IDG Entertainment, Rotten Tomatoes, Askmen.com and Stock House Network, bringing the total number of publishers to 330. The overall use of the pay-for-performance advertising has nearly tripled during the same period, the rep said.

No other publisher has publicly followed Forbes.com's footsteps of removing IntelliTXT, but other publications must be reviewing the use of the contextual advertising program and if there are issues surrounding the blurring of advertising versus editorial lines.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

adMarketplace is the latest contextual advertising program

Conducive Corporation's adMarketplace launched today, and touts itself as the first online auction marketplace for buyers and sellings of graphical ad units. Unlike many graphic ad networks, adMarketplace uses on-page content to determine what ads to display.

The adMarketplace patent-pending technology dynamically analyzes the publisher's Web page based on HTML and meta data, content and keywords. AMP then searches its network of advertisers within the particular keyword vertical to determine the ad that best matches the page. A contextually relevant ad from the advertiser who bids the highest CPC is delivered to the publisher's site.

ClickZ reports on the numbers of advertisers and publishers currently with adMarketplace for the launch.

The network officially launches with "thousands" of advertisers, Waltz said, most of which were recruited through direct sales. The company does get other paid ads from a third-party source, it said, but Waltz wouldn't divulge that source. On the publisher side, adMarketplace has 60 sites signed, but Waltz said he's bound by contract not to name them.

ClickZ reports that publishers need "several hundred thousand monthly impressions". The adMarketplace press release includes:

Getting started with adMarketplace is simple. For publishers, adMarketplace works seamlessly with existing ad units and ad-serving systems, without getting in the way of an existing sales force. For advertisers, simply upload/create an ad, pick the targeted context, and name the price per click and budget. After the campaign begins, log in to monitor results and change anything at any time.

Because this contextual advertiser only uses graphic ads, I don't think they will be able to grab much marketshare from the dominant AdSense in the contextual advertising market. And as Nick_W from Threadwatch stated, they definitely need to work on the spiderability of their adMarketplace.net site.

Posted by Jenstar at 07:40 AM | Comments (0)

AdSense beta testing animated ads

AdSense has been running their image ad program since May, where an image ad will replace the usual AdSense text ad unit of the same size. Adwords and AdSense has decided to expand their image ad offerings by adding animated ads to the mix.

While the image ads FAQ for Adwords advertisers has yet to updated, Google has begun to beta test animated image ads with a select group of advertisers, according to DMNews, and running them on the sites of those publishers who have opted to display image ads.

While animated image ads must still adhere to the 50KB rule of non-animated ads, it will be interesting to see just how "animated" they are. Will advertisers be allowed to use a "punch the monkey" annoying style of animation? Or will it be limited to two or three slow-moving frames?

Posted by Jenstar at 07:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2004

If you monetize your prescription drug or tobacco sites with AdSense, you will need to look elsewhere

Many affiliates have been running AdSense on their pill sites as a way to monetize them in addition to the actual prescription drug commission - or have resorted to AdSense alone once the legal issues started heating up in the US. But AdSense has made the jump and as of today, no longer allows AdSense to be run on prescription drug sites. And when you agreed to the terms, you also agreed to adhere to the policies, even when they are updated.

The changes to the policies today include:

  • Incentives (monetary or point-based) to users to click on links or ads while visiting a site containing Ads
  • Sales or promotion of certain weapons, such as firearms, ammunition, balisongs, butterfly knives, and brass knuckles
  • Sales or promotion of beer or hard alcohol
  • Sales or promotion of tobacco or tobacco-related products
  • Sales or promotion of prescription drugs

One has to wonder if these changes were made in response to the massive publicity surrounding click fraud in recent weeks.

The addition of Incentives (monetary or point-based) to users to click on links or ads while visiting a site containing Ads will cover issues such as publishers promoting their site on external sites such as forums, and asking visitors to be sure to click the ads.

Publishers affected by the new policy changes have to remove AdSense from those pages and/or sites immediately, in order to stay in compliance with the AdSense terms and policies.

There is further discussion on this issue at WebmasterWorld.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:27 PM | Comments (1)

New way of tracking stats for AdSense publishers

AdSense has had a redesign, along with new features being added for publishers, namely the ability to track stats on a site, directory or page basis.

First up, when you login, you will notice the main AdSense page has a brand new - and much cleaner - look.

Next, Google has added the ability to track stats according to site, directory or page. This will make it much easier for publishers to track earnings across multiple sites, without having to enter specific channels. You just enter your URL in the URL channel control panel, and you do not have to make any changes to the AdSense javascript. This will also help those who need to keep track across multiple domains for tax or partnership reasons, without having the need for multiple AdSense accounts. Nicely done.

In addition to tracking stats by individual domains, you can also track on a directory level basis as well as individual page basis. So entering www.example.com/funkywidgets/ will track all individual pages in the /funkywidgets/ directory.

AdSense has also upped the number of content channels from 50 to 60. Hopefully AdSense will continue to increase this number for publishers, especially with the new addition of tracking on a directory basis. Unfortunately, there is still the 2 day delay for seeing channel stats.

Finally, five new languages have been added to the mix for AdSense search - Traditional Chinese, Russian, Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian.

Posted by Jenstar at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2004

The future of Adwords & its impact on AdSense

Fortune interviewed Google CEO Eric Schmidt this month, and printed the actual interview. Eric Schmidt made an interesting statement in regards to the future of Adwords.

FORTUNE: Do you think we'll evolve beyond keywords? (The basis for every search today)

SCHMIDT: Oh, very much so.

FORTUNE: To what?

SCHMIDT: Today, we buy and sell keywords, but what you really want to do is move to concepts or themes or groups or something. It's a difficult area because it's hard to automate that, but what we would like is we would like customers to be able to say, 'I'm in this industry, please help me.'

The idea that they would eventually move beyond simply buying and selling keywords, and into concepts, themes or groups brings about some interesting ideas. Once something like that is implemented into Adwords, it could open the door to a variety of options for AdSense publishers.

The AdSense ad serving javascript contains options that are not used by regular AdSense publishers (although beta testers and premium publishers have use of some of them). Some of these include: "kw_type", "kw", and "hints". If advertisers could bid based upon themes or groups, AdSense publishers could use this kind of feature to help targeting, or to help target broader or narrower themes.

Adwords changes can directly impact AdSense publishers, and this would definitely be one of them, if and when Google decides to expand beyond keywords. However, something along these lines sounds to be a positive addition to the Adwords program, and if they decide to give the related flexibility to the publishers as well, an added feature for AdSense as well.

Posted by Jenstar at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2004

Google CFO addresses the issue of Click Fraud

I've been following the click fraud issue since Google began publicly addressing it in their SEC filings leading up to the IPO. Google Chief Financial Officer George Reyes addressed the click fraud issue at an investor conference sponsored by Credit Suisse First Boston, reports an article in CNN.

"I think something has to be done about this really, really quickly, because I think, potentially, it threatens our business model," Google Chief Financial Officer George Reyes said Wednesday.

What exactly is click fraud? Essentially, someone (or something) clicks on ads either to drain a competitor's daily ad budget (so their ads no longer display) or as a publisher to make more money with AdSense.

Does Google have things in place to combat click fraud? Yes, to some degree. I have received refunds for fraudulent clicks on my Adwords campaigns, and Google has suspended publishers committing fraudulent clicks. And more recently, Google has launched a lawsuit against Auctions Expert International for fraud, for allegedly clicking ads to earn money through AdSense.

The case, filed Nov. 15 in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County in California, is among the first civil lawsuits to relate to click fraud. The lawsuit charges that Texas-based Auctions Expert International signed up to display Google's targeted text advertising on its Web site, and then fraudulently clicked on the ads to profit from its pay-per-click system.

Google and others are under scrutiny as advertisers grow concerned about phony clicks."Because advertisers pay Google for each click on their advertisements, Google strives to ensure that each click is generated by a user legitimately interested in accessing the site being advertised," according to the complaint.

"Defendants...flagrantly abused (Google's service) by artificially and/or fraudulently generating ad clicks," the filing says. "These clicks were worthless to advertisers, but generated significant and unjust revenue for defendants."

Google generates 98% of its revenue through their paid advertising programs, and has been the reason behind the company's massive growth this year. And protecting that against click fraud has to be a priority.

Coincidently, I have heard of an increased number of publisher's being suspended for fraudulent clicks in the past few days. Perhaps a fraud prevention algo tweak, or perhaps a few more people added to check for "less than desirable" publishers. If a publisher is going against the terms/policies, well they should be shown the error in their ways ;) And since my experience has shown that nearly every suspended publisher I have known of has been blatantly breaking the terms ("hey, click my ads", framing external webpages with AdSense, etc), Google will only improve advertiser's confidence in Adwords by continuing to actively prevent fraud. Should by-the-book publishers be paranoid of getting caught in the crossfire? I don't think so. "Innocent" publishers are usually not all that innocent after all.

Posted by Jenstar at 07:33 AM | Comments (1)

Forbes.com stops displaying IntelliTXT in their news stories

Forbes.com began running IntelliTXT ads in their site in June. At the time, they were Vibrant Media's largest client of their IntelliTXT contextual advertising program, and both Forbes.com and Vibrant Media received much publicity about this partnership, including in the New York Times. However, Forbes.com has pulled the plug on IntelliTXT on all their news stories, according to this article at DMNews.

IntelliTXT has been a hot topic for site owners, because it blurs the line between what is and is not advertisement, and it can be quite intrusive to Joe Surfer visiting a site. IntelliTXT works by scanning a page for keywords, then double-underlining those keywords. When a surfer mouses over those keywords, a little popup displays with the advertisement in it. The surfer can then choose to click the ad or move the mouse, resulting in the popup advertisement disappearing from the page. (You can see it in action in Vibrant Media's flash demo). Some publishers report better earnings with IntelliTXT over other contextual advertising programs, including Google AdSense.

Ad inventory for IntelliTXT is powered by their own listings, and supplemented by Overture's ContentMatch contextual advertising program. It has a small market share, despite being distributed through Vibrant Media, Burst! Media and Tribal Fusion. And there are definitely limitations. For example, it is only viewable in Internet Explorer 5 or higher. And their publisher reach is very small - only 250 publishers, according to their Advertiser FAQ.

But DMNews reports that they are getting a larger reach.

The Sunday Times (UK) and PricewaterhouseCoopers recently named Vibrant Media the second fastest growing private technology company in Great Britain. Their report put the company's 2003 sales at $5.5 million. Vibrant expects to generate $25 million in sales this year.

Vibrant Media boasts that IntelliTxt has response rates 24 times that of banner ads and outperformed Google AdSense listings relegated to banner placements. Stevenson said IntelliTxt links garner click-through rates of 1.4 percent to 3 percent.

With such a high profile publisher pulling listings off a significant portion of their page views, it will be interesting to see if others follow suit.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

December 01, 2004

Busted! Another "innocent" suspended publisher not-so-innocent after all

Nothing makes publishers more paranoid than hearing about other supposedly innocent publishers being suspended for no reason at all. Every month, one or two publishers post in the AdSense forum at WebmasterWorld that Google is unfair because AdSense suspended them for fraudulent clicks... and of course they didn't do a single thing wrong...

Of course, fraudulent clicks doesn't just cover clicking your own ads. It can include inciting clicks, encouraging surfers to visit all your sponsors, and even having AdSense on a page with a disabled back button and nothing else to click on but AdSense.

The latest suspended publisher pleaded innocence, but you guessed it, that really wasn't the case at all.

Encouraging others to click on your ads on pages outside your site is against the AdSense terms. For instance you said:
Feel free to stop by, visit my sponsors, and register on our active forums.

This was posted by you on another message board earlier this year, after you began running AdSense... and it is against the terms to do this. Perhaps someone reported you, or they found it on their own, but that could very likely be what got you suspended. That, or all the posts you made pointing to your now-inactive mesothelioma site...

Read the whole thread here.

More proof as to why publishers really shouldn't be all that paranoid about being suspended, because so many of the suspended publishers were actually guilty of those fraudulent clicks they claimed they were innocent of.

Posted by Jenstar at 12:44 PM | Comments (1)

Google AdSense contributes to highest ever domain name registrations

Verisign released their quarterly "Domain Name Industry Brief" (NOTE: PDF) and the PPC marketplace, including Google AdSense contributed to the 5.1 million new domain names registered in the third quarter of 2004 - the highest in internet history.

The PPC advertising market is driving domain name registration growth as registrants register domain names that contain meaningful terms or attract traffic. These registrants generate revenue by enhancing resale value of the domain name or by placing PPC advertisements on a parked page. The company that serves the advertisements shares revenue with the domain name registrant according to a negotiated split.

Jim Wagner, at InternetNews.com also reported on the AdSense connection in Ad Programs Drive Record Domain Name Growth.

"The Google AdSense program and other programs like that, that's spurring on the increased, rapid purchase of domain names in the U.S.," said Raynor Dahlquist, VeriSign name services group acting vice president.

Interesting how one contextual advertising program can make such an impact. And no, I am not going to admit how many domain names I have registered because I thought it would be perfect for a content site with AdSense :)

Posted by Jenstar at 11:04 AM | Comments (3)