Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tracking Your Ads - Getting the Most for Your Money

When I worked for American Airlines in the 80's and 90's, airline "yield management" was really coming of age. Yield management was created in an effort to sell all the seats on the plane. It deals with understanding and anticipating then reacting to consumer behavior to maximize revenue.

A lot of planes were going out with empty seats, simply because people didn't want to pay the price.

Nowadays, online travel sites, like Travelocity (with their roaming gnome), do their best to compete to snatch up those empties as the former American Airline computers, known as the Sabre network - located underground somewhere in Tulsa, Oklahoma, run a massive program that sorts out remaining seats to the highest bidder.

So next time you're flying, the fellow next to you probably didn't pay the same price you did for the same services.

One thing that plays in your favor is booking early. Another thing is shopping the sites. There are sometimes 10 different prices for the same seat.

The same is true for contextual ads. Behind them is a giant computer network that determines price based on the "yield management" algorithm. And, since you and the advertiser are in business to make money, it is well worth studying everything that affects your profits.

Remember, I always say - ROI is king!

Here's what I'm tracking with my ads. Make sure you are doing the same.

When working with Google AdSense or YPN, the biggest factor is the ad format. I make sure all my ads match the background of the page. There has been talk that even the font of the ad text, (Google uses arial, YPN uses verdana), makes a difference. I haven't been able to notice since the sites where I match the font have only been running a few weeks.

I have found that text ads suffer much less from "banner blindness" than image ads. Text ads have been doing well for over four years. The novelty certainly has worn off. They are here for the long run.

Text ads work best on my pages where readers are already in a reading mode. It's just an extension of their reading experience.

From my experience, ads closer to the top left part of the page are generally seen before ads elsewhere. Ads located at the bottom or bottom right of a page get fewer viewings than ads positioned elsewhere. Ads closer to the upper left tend to be seen more quickly (that's how we read a newspaper, book.)

I've found that leaderboard ads across the top, with a 160 x 600 (wide skyscraper) down the left side (or right, depending if you're using a Blogger template), and another leaderboard across the bottom, works best on blog formats. On other formats, you must experiment. Here are my recommendations:
  1. Start with the 336 x 280 large rectangle in the upper left hand corner of your page.
  2. Give it a separate channel.
  3. Use a wide skyscraper (160 x 600) down the left hand side. Give it it's own channel as well.
  4. Use a leaderboard across the bottom, with it's own channel.
  5. Track the results for a week.
  6. Change the top ad block to a leaderboard.
  7. Change the wide skyscraper to a 120 x 240 vertical banner (text).
  8. Leave the bottom as a leaderboard; they seem to work best there.
  9. Track for another week.
  10. Compare.
  11. If you'd like, try other formats and styles - use images near the ads, etc., but stay within the AdSense Terms of Service.
Now here's my rule that works every time:

If I note during the testing that the results change negatively by as much as 25%, I stop and change again (or change back).

You can easily see this with AdSense if you check your numbers a few times a day. With YPN it's more difficult. As with Overture, it takes a day to get your data.

In any event, don't let it run negatively for more than a few days - unless you're aware of something affecting your results. This would be: holidays, weather, and general news events. The biggest effect will be holidays - and depending on your site - your results will go up, or down. Weekends also affect results. Your biggest days will be Mondays, lowest, Thursday or Friday.

Also make sure you watch what the ads are displaying. Do they really match your content? If not make the changes I suggested using Google's Sectional Targeting. If that doesn't help, write AdSense support and explain your dilemma.

Next, we'll look at contextual ad companies. Until then, start tracking your ads. Try my methodology above and watch your results. Within a few days you'll know if you have a winner - and whether you're getting the best price for that ad.

1 comment:

Invisible Genius said...

Interesting article..