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August 02, 2005

Inside the Yahoo! Publisher Network Beta

It is officially 12:01 EST, so I can talk all about being inside the Yahoo! Publisher Network beta (I know some of you wondered why I was suspiciously silent when the rumors broke today). And it was worth the wait.

YPN has launched beta testing of their contextual ads for a small group of non-employee publishers. If you would like to check out ad relevancy, I have placed it on two non-blog sites - Womens Finance and Moms Budget.

They do allow custom tracking channels (similar to AdSense channels) and URL channels. There is a current limit of 50 active tracking channels, which I hope to see raised. I currently run more than that many channels on AdSense at the moment.

There is nothing set up for alternatives to PSA ads other than changing the ad unit to a single color. It would be good to see an alternative ad option, where publishers could subsititute an ad or ad network if YPN is unable to deliver targeted ads, or see something similar to the collapsing ad unit that AdSense offers. I saw a lot of PSA ads when I placed it online, and it can be a short while before targeted ads are showing.

All the obsessive stat checkers will love a feature that YPN has implemented into their control panel. When you login, under the daily balance, it states "* Estimated as of Aug 2, 2005 at 7:45 PM PST" This will give publishers a very definitive look as to what time the stats are current until.

The user interface definitely has some quirky bugs that need to be sorted out. I had problems going back and forth between designing what my ad unit should look like and back to the page that generates the javascript. It seemed to be buggy CSS, because I got double headers, and the boxes were doubled up as well. I also had problems with the javascript not updating properly, when I'd change between ad unit sizes, ad styles and channels. This could easily be solved with a "generate javascript" button for these times.

Ad unit customization is also a little clunky, but could easily be changed to make it better. You need to select radio buttons before you can select colors from the color picker, and you couldn't edit the # color in a text box without first selecting the appropriate radio button.

Ad unit colors seem to be much more limited in YPN - I tried to simply use my AdSense ad colors on my Womens-Finance site for YPN, and it rejected some of the colors, and used black instead. So I had to try and hunt out the closest color in the color picker instead. I also ended up with two copies of an ad style with the identical name "jensense", each looking different. Hopefully an edit or delete option will be available once it is out of beta.

The ad unit javascript also isn't as clear as to which colors represent which part of the ads. So it is a bit of work to figure what color to change if you want to change the ad unit colors without having to use the ad picker designer in the control panel. And then you could run into the unavailable color issue, which is what happened to me.

It offers the same ten ad unit sizes that AdSense offers, although some of them offer a different number of ads (such as YPN's large rectangle showing only three ads).

Something that is very cool about payment options is that it appears publishers have the option of transfering their YPN earnings over to their Yahoo search marketing account, if they use the same login username for both accounts. This is something AdSense/AdWords customers have requested since the launch of AdSense, so it is nice to see this as a feature YPN is implementing for their publishers.

You can also block up to 200 advertisers from showing up by adding their URLs into the ad blocking tab.

Reporting is very similar to AdSense, with stats for all the same information between the two competing programs. You can also download reports as well.

There are also terms and policies, which includes a lot of what you'd expect to see ;) And yes, they include that you cannot run YPN with another contextual ad program on the same page. So there goes my idea of running AdSense & YPN side by side for relevancy checking ;) And stats cannot be disclosed either, which is inline with the AdSense terms.

They also market other aspects of the Yahoo network, including Y!Q, adding your feed to My Yahoo! and getting links for Yahoo! Maps.

Now there is the nitty gritty of YPN, now for my personal thoughts on the program so far.

Comparing AdSense to YPN ad units, I prefer the AdSense ad units. The large rectange only contains 3 ads with a larger font, while AdSense has four ads. Math says that the odds are better with four choices than three.

Some targeting is a little off, but I am hoping it will get better over time. I guess it will really depend on whether people are clicking the ads or not to really decide whether the off-targeting is an issue or not. If they have a good CTR and the ads are paying well, then there is no real issue then.

No, I haven't dropped AdSense, because I know people are wondering that. I am doing limited YPN testing (limited in comparison to all the sites I run contextual advertising on at the moment). So you could say I am beta testing the YPN beta ;)

This beta is by invitation only, and I am not sure if there will be more beta testers added right away or not. But it can't hurt to fill out http://publisher.yahoo.com if you haven't already, and you may be lucky enough to be contacted as a beta tester. They plan to launch out of beta by the end of the year.

I am sure I have forgotten some details in my insider's look into YPN, so please leave comments.

Updated: You can apply for becoming a YPN beta tester here.

If you're interested in being considered for the Yahoo! Publisher Network beta program, please enter your information below. Participants of the program must be a resident of the U.S., with valid U.S. Social Security number or Tax ID.
Good luck!

Posted by Jenstar at August 2, 2005 09:01 PM

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Comments

I think its working out so far! I love the fact that
Yahoo is comming in, it opens new doors to everyone.

Posted by: keya at August 3, 2005 12:00 AM

will be watching on with interest. Sad to not be participating but I'm geographically challenged.

Posted by: Darren Rowse at August 3, 2005 12:25 AM

Can we have some screenshots pretty please? :-)

Posted by: Duncan Riley at August 3, 2005 12:41 AM

Duncan,

I posted some screenshots on my blog.

http://labnol.blogspot.com

Thanks Jensense for the update.

Amit.

Posted by: Amit Agarwal at August 3, 2005 01:44 AM

I think he's wanting the control panel screenshots ;) I am just making sure I am allowed to take some screenshots first, once I have permission I will post so people can check out what you see once you login.

Posted by: Jenstar at August 3, 2005 03:02 AM

Looks promising. However is $$$ at par with adsense.

Posted by: Dhiram at August 3, 2005 04:10 AM

Does the control panel show how the revenue is divided? I would love to see what % is given to publishers ... I know adsense will probably never do this.

Posted by: Mauro at August 3, 2005 08:12 AM

One small thing I've just noticed: The "Ads by Yahoo!" label in the ad box is not a link (unlike "Ads by Google").

Posted by: Azam at August 3, 2005 06:21 PM

It will be interesting to see how YPN measures up to adsense. I'm really hoping as a publisher that maybe YPN will let us know what percentage of the advertisers bid price we will receive....let's see if MSN will get in on the game as well.

Posted by: Allen at August 3, 2005 08:36 PM

Disappointing. One would expect Yahoo to top AS on all fronts after studying competitive offers, but no. Instead, they
choose to half-heartedly mimic what AS already provides.

Posted by: jimmy at August 6, 2005 05:19 AM