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June 13, 2005

Comparing the ad relevancy of Google AdSense & Yahoo Publisher Network ads

With some of the Yahoo employees running Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN) ads on their blogs, I thought it would be interesting to compare relevancy between YPN and AdSense and see how the two compare.

I compared the ads by seeing the ads displayed on the blog entries - selecting entries where ad inventory would not be an issue - and then using the Google AdSense Preview tool to compare YPN against the ads that AdSense would serve on the same page, then took screenshots which are below.

The first comparison was a blog entry of William Reardon's entitled "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith". First the Yahoo ads:


Love Money Revenge Spells must have come from the keyword "revenge". Then it shows a fairly general blog ad. No ads related to Star Wars at all, even with multiple refreshes of the page, and checking on several days.

Now, let's look at what Google AdSense displays:


Their ads are much more targeted to Star Wars and light sabre ads... the ads you would expect to see on a page about Star Wars.

Next up is an entry "I am Ulysses!" at the Ink Stained Wretch. So you would expect to see ads regarding James Joyce and/or Ulysses. But which publisher program delivers?

First up, is YPN:


I would guess the wax seals ad (which I also noticed on the main index page of the blog) is coming from the blog title itself. Not sure what the other two ads are being triggered by.

Now let's look at what Google AdSense would serve on the same page:


Pretty targeted ads in comparison.

Back to William Reardon's blog is an entry on "House Shopping" and it is YPN's turn to shine here.


These ads are targeted to house hunting, although the second ad isn't targeted to the location mentioned in the entry, or to my IP address.

Now for Google AdSense, it struggled with this page, and shows the problem many blog owners face on their blogs... showing all blog related ads.


I also compared Flickr results comparing AdSense & YPN, which is easy to do since some page views run AdSense while some run YPN. AdSense had the most targeted ads - YPN shows very similar ads on every page, no matter what the topic was. Here are a few examples, starting with the Manhattan tag photo page that the AdSense Team recently pitched as an example of a publisher site.

relevancya1.gif relevancyy1.gif

Next is a look at the page for photos tagged with the term "Wedding" and again YPN has the same problem with ads, showing photo related ads, instead of wedding related ads, which AdSense does successfully.

relevancya2.gif relevancyy2.gif

It is worth noting that Flickr uses a different ad code, and not the same AdSense-type javascript code used on the two blogs above, but clearly relevancy is an issue.

Some interesting observations though, for those wondering how relevant YPN is while it is in limited beta. It seems to still need some work compared to the targeting of AdSense, which many publishers agree is quite good. There will be many publishers watching to see how relevant the YPN ads are, because ad relevancy is so closely tied to a publisher's CTR rate, and hence their overall earnings. The true test will be once YPN begins showing on content sites, where the problem with generic ads (such as blog ads & photo ads) will be less of an issue.

Posted by Jenstar at June 13, 2005 10:13 AM

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Thanks for taking the time to do that. As you showed, Google is obviously still superior to Yahoo! (or any other contextual player). It will be interesting to see who switches from Adsense to Yahoo! when they finally make it generally available. My guess is that it will be people who felt burned by Google Adsense at one point or another. For me though, I'm still in love with Google Adsense. On another note, I'm looking forward to hearing you speak in New Orleans next week.

Posted by: Jon Henshaw at June 13, 2005 01:45 PM

hmm about Flickr, it seems that Google is thinking more about each page: "what are these photos about", where as Yahoo! is thinking "these are photos"

It will be interesting to see how and if they will get better, another point is the Yahoo ads look really bad. Aside from the colour the flickr ads seem too long and text ads seem uninteresting.

Posted by: Tom at June 13, 2005 04:37 PM

I'm not sure your comparison makes any sense. Take this simple example for comparison:

Suppose you have a page. Any page. You need to choose two ads. On the one side, you can pick from 100 candidate ads. On the other, you can pick from 3 candidate ads. What are the ods of getting better results with the second than with the first? Very small indeed.

A more relevant comparison, imho, would be:

- What is the margin that Google grabs (70% is somewhat insulting)? same for Yahoo? same for MSN?

- What is the display policy of the three? Do they display the meaty ads ($20+ asbestos click) on search results and the leftovers (i.e. $.05 clicks unless there is a huge demand) on your site, or do they pool both?

Posted by: Denis de Bernardy at June 13, 2005 05:06 PM

Denis de Bernardy makes a valid point. How many more publishers does Adsense have at the moment compared to the amount that Yahoo selected from?

Yahoo! will have a huge jump of advertisers when it opens making the relavency a lot better... Don't discount them yet.

Posted by: Gary at August 2, 2005 08:20 PM