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Monday, October 1, 2007

Online Advertising: Ad Revenue Optimization For Your Blog - PubMatic Is Here

Internet ad revenue optimization can be a tricky business, and often involves spending a good many sleepless nights testing ad units, placement, and even which networks to give your business to. A new service, however, promises to automate the entire process, and claims that you could increase your revenues by up to 90% in for the bargain.

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Photo credit: Cornishman and Ljupco Smokovski - Mashed-up by Robin Good

PubMatic recently went into open beta and made an appearance at the TechCrunch40 event, receiving an enthusiastic response from much of the tech blogosphere. Besides bold claims as to the impact the service can have on your earnings, one of the most striking things about PubMatic is its emphasis on getting the best deal for the little guy - independent publishers like you or I.

Here's the deal: you replace your usual snippets of Adsense, YPN or other ad network code with PubMatic "ad tags". PubMatic then processes information from the networks it is currently affiliated with, and delivers the highest paid ads to your website. That alone is a definite boon, as working out which of the networks are going to pay you the highest CPC rates is still far from an exact science.

But PubMatic goes a step further. Once it has located the best price for you, it continues to work towards boosting your profits by optimizing the colour scheme of the ad units displayed on your website. PubMatic could make a lot of people's lives easier, potentially eliminating the need for split A / B testing and other time consuming techniques used to gauge the success of ad units.

The best thing about all this? Not only do the PubMatic people claim that they can increase your ad revenues by 20% - 90%, but they are also offering the service for free. Zip. Nada. At least for the beta period. That's a difficult offer to turn down. So how does it fare?




PubMatic - Overview

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PubMatic offers the kind of service that independent publishers want to hear about. Not only do the PubMatic marketing materials claim that they will increase your online earnings by 20% - 90%, but they also offer a way that you can save time along the way. For over-stretched bloggers and entrepreneurs, this comes as a breath of relief.

So what exactly is on offer here?

First up, PubMatic offers you a time-saving way to access information on four different ad network accounts from a single place. Just like your RSS reader makes life easier by bringing the websites you enjoy reading into a single place, so PubMatic aggregates information about your ad revenues and gathers it in a simple dashboard.

From your PubMatic dashboard you can view consolidated reports about your eCPM, click through rate (eCPM), impressions, and revenue, with the ability to quickly identify which services are providing you with the best yield.

But that's really just the icing on the cake, as the key selling point that PubMatic has in its favour is the automation of your website advertising.

While that doesn't mean that you have to turn your entire website over to PubMatic, what it does mean is that any ad-space you assign to the service will make use of a series of algorithms that attempt to determine the following for you:

  • The highest paying ad network - Which of the PubMatic supported ad networks will give you the highest returns
  • The best colour scheme - Which colour scheme, calculated from the existing colour palette of your website - will attract the most clicks

The idea is that this will not only boost the amount of money you make from your content consistently, but also save you a great deal of time spent trying to calculate your own winning advertising formula.



PubMatic - Ad Network Affiliation

PubMatic_networks.jpg

At the time of writing PubMatic aggregates five ad networks:

This is certainly a good start, and obviously the inclusion of Adsense and YPN were pretty much obligatory for a service hoping to attract small to medium sized web publishers. PubMatic claims that it will be actively expanding the range of the ad networks covered by its service, and this will to my mind prove to be a make or break factor.

Obviously the ability to aggregate a decent number of ad networks will ultimately determine the success of the service, given that the primary selling point of PubMatic is its ability to increase your ad revenues by getting you the best possible price for your ad-space.



What PubMatic Won't Do For You

It would be quite possible to come to certain misconceptions upon first glance at what PubMatic is offering. There are three things that PubMatic won't do for you that should probably be pointed out:

  1. Sign you up for Ad networks - PubMatic is essentially an aggregation service, and while it will link to and provide information from your ad network accounts, it isn't going to sign you up for them or get you passed their particular requirements and specifications.
  2. Aggregate your revenues - While PubMatic will try to score you the best price for your ad-space, and display your total revenues across the networks you participate in, you still need to collect your earnings from the individual accounts.
  3. Put your ad space up for auction - PubMatic doesn't actually auction your ad inventory in the way that a service like Right Media will - collecting bids directly from advertisers and awarding the highest bidder the ad-space. Instead PubMatic relies on its algorithms to grab you the best offer in an automated fashion.

In short, it's better to think of PubMatic as a data aggregation and automated optimization resource rather than a replacement for your existing relationships with ad networks.



Getting Started With PubMatic

One of the things that smaller publishers will be happy about is that PubMatic is open to all, which means that whether you are capable of generating a tiny amount of ad impressions each month or a significantly larger amount, you will be able to sign up and make use of the service.

Upon signing up to PubMatic, you are asked for your existing account details for any of the ad networks you have joined previously. For those that you haven't signed up for, you can click through to the appropriate service sign up pages.

PubMatic_signup.jpg

The only problem here is that you are subject to the limitations of whichever service you would like to join - if there are requirements of your location or current site traffic, these cannot be bypassed by joining via PubMatic. Yahoo! Publisher Network, for instance, is only accepting US citizens at the time of writing.

Once you have linked your network accounts up to PubMatic, exceptions aside, you are ready to start using the service. The first thing you'll do is to generate what PubMatic call "ad tags", which are basically the snippets of code you'll replace your existing ad network code with.

Generating these snippets of code is straightforward, and you do so through the use of a form with multiple drop-down menus. From here you can select:

  • The website you wish to use the tags for
  • The networks you wish to use
  • The Ad format and an indication of where it will be placed on your page
  • The choice of either selecting your own colour scheme or having PubMatic automate the process, with the further option of choosing a scheme which blends in or stands out
  • Optional settings which allow you to create a comparison report between your existing Adsense eCPM rate and that achieved by your PubMatic tags

pubmatic_generate_tags.jpg

You can then save the tags you create and embed them into your website just as you would Adsense code. This process is quick and painless and provides a nicely granular degree of control - you can make use of PubMatic automation to the extent that you feel comfortable with, which will be welcome news to exacting publishers.



Consolidated Reporting

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Once you are signed up, and you have placed the "ad tags" in the appropriate parts of your website, all that remains to do is to check in on your progress. The reports tab of the PubMatic Dashboard gives you a number of choices, from detailed reports to summary graphs.

PubMatic_Reports.jpg

As you can see, from here you can keep tabs on your eCPM, revenue, impressions and clicks, and filter information by website, time period, network and combinations thereof, giving you plenty of data to crunch.

Furthermore you can get an at-a-glance overview of performance for today, yesterday and the last seven days from the "home" tab of the dashboard, replete with easy-access information on all of the above-mentioned factors, along with a couple of graphs to give you an instant glimpse of how things are looking for you in the current week.

If that didn't make it easy enough, there is also a widget available that will simplify your ad-monitoring even further.



Widget Support

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One nice addition to the PubMatic setup is the inclusion of a handy desktop widget. This makes use of the Yahoo! Widget Engine platform, so if you are on a computer running Linux you are going to be out of luck, unless you make use of a virtual machine. Mac OSX and Windows machines are supported, however.

The HeadsUp Widget gives you a useful way of tracking your PubMatic revenues in near-realtime, right from your desktop. You don't even need a PubMatic account to use it, although it certainly helps.

The widget gives you a quick way to check your revenue, CPM, click-through rate, and ad impressions from any of the major networks you are making use of. Furthermore, you can apply granular control to the results so that you can view your data by:

  • Website - If you are making use of PubMatic on more than one website you can view your aggregated revenues, or those of your individual sites
  • Network - You can check which of the five currently supported ad networks are providing you with the most revenue, or the total amount you have made for the given period
  • Time - You can check your revenues for the current day, the last 7 days or the last 30 days

This is a nice little addition that takes the pain out of logging into several accounts and gives you a simple way of keeping an eye on your earnings as you go about other tasks.



Video Introduction

In the following screencast demo of the service - originally published on the Pubmatic website - you can get a feel for the straightforward process of using the service. In just over six minutes you get a good chance to see the entire process, from signing up to the resulting ads you might see running alongside your content.



Possible Drawbacks

How far you are likely to trust a series of algorithms to take care of the business side of your blog will probably depend to a great extent on how much you stand to lose. Certainly, PubMatic would argue that you have plenty to gain. I imagine that anyone earning a decent sized income from their current advertising setup is going to be reluctant to risk losing out should the automated PubMatic system fail to live up to expectations.

If you've spent a lot of time studying and learning the best combinations of ad units and networks for your readership, you may already have taken into account certain human factors that an algorithm could miss. Regardless, if the figures PubMatic quote are to be trusted, I'm sure the temptation to at least test the system alongside your other advertising services will spring up sooner or later.

The biggest drawback I see at this stage with the service is the small number of advertising vendors drawn on. As I write this PubMatic relies on five ad serving services - Google Adsense, Yahoo! Publisher Network, ValueClick, Blue Lithium and Komli.

To truly leverage the best possible ad revenues for its users, it strikes me that PubMatic would be better with as wide a selection of ad networks as possible. The greater the competition, the better the chances of publishers getting a great rate on their ad-space. Of course, the downside for said vendors is that they will, as a result, have a hard time shifting their less profitable ad inventory. I'll be interested to see how PubMatic fares in attracting new networks in the coming months.



Review Summary

PubMatic makes use of a series of algorithms to leverage the best possible prices for the advertising displayed on your blog or website. Rather than relying on one ad network or supplier - such as Google Adsense - PubMatic draws on a number of services, and calculates which will have the best economic results at any given point in time. At the time of writing five major networks are supported, and it would certainly be nice to see this number increased in future. Obviously the more networks you have competing for your ad-space, the better results you are likely to see.

Pubmatic also tests and optimizes your ad-units colour scheme to find the most profitable combination, and claims that by using the service you are likely to see a significant increase in your advertising revenues.

Essentially this is an aggregation service that gathers your existing ad network accounts in one place and automates the process of selecting which will provide you with the best revenues on an impression by impression basis.

If you aren't already making a considerable amount of money from the advertising on your blog or website, you will certainly have nothing to lose by giving PubMatic a shot. With bold claims as to the 20% - 90% increase in revenues you can expect to see, it makes sense to put the service to the test for a month at least.

High earners might want to be slightly more cautious, but with these kind of figures being bandied around, the gamble could well turn out to be a very fruitful one. I'm always cautious about magic bullet solutions, so am taking these claims with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, PubMatic has managed to provide a case study to support its claims, and as yet there have been no negative reports by those that have put the service to use.

Experienced webmasters and publishers will already have discovered the ad units, networks and placements that have been most effective for them through trial, error and experimentation. Nevertheless, given that there are an almost infinite number of factors involved in maximizing advertising yield, and only so many hours in the day, PubMatic provides a welcome solution.



Additional Resources

If you'd like to read more about PubMatic you might want to check out the following links:




Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media and entitled: "Ad Revenue Optimization For Your Blog Just Got Easier: PubMatic Is Here

 
 
 
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posted by Michael Pick on Monday, October 1 2007, updated on Saturday, April 24 2010


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