One of the common comments that I’m reading in discussion forums about Chitika eMiniMalls is that they are not converting well in terms of CTR. There are a number of threads recently about how publishers have very large levels of traffic but are seeing very very few click throughs – especially when comparing their figures with other Ad programs.
This was something I spent a bit of time talking about in my initial review of eMiniMalls – my own Chitika CTR is running at a bit under half of my Asense CTR (keep in mind you’re not allowed to reveal specific CTR of either program). Disappointing to say the least.
Of course when comparing click values the shoe is on the other foot for me with Chitika out performing Adsense (it’s paying me about 3-4 times higher on most of my blogs per click).
While it would be easy to get down and depressed about the CTR I decided to do something positive about it and surfed through some of the sites that I saw in forums reporting low CTR this morning. My conclusion is that while eMiniMalls definately have room for improvement with CTR that in some cases, publishers could make improvements also in the way they are using Chitika ads.
The following are some of the suggestions I would make to the publishers I saw today that might be helpful to other Chitika publishers also. Please note that these are suggestions only and I can’t guarantee anything – but since playing around with some of these elements I’ve seen my own CTR on the rise a little since starting my own use of eMiniMalls.
1. Poorly positioned Ads
Tangent time – on our recent weekend away we were passing through a small country town and as we were coming out the end of it I noticed a small sign off on the side of the road in the middle of a field that was advertising a motel. The ad had some things going for it – it was in the vicinity of the motel, it advertised their very reasonable price and it managed to get my attention – however there was one thing that was not it the ads favor. The way it was positioned was so that only people leaving town would ever see it and it was actually on a pretty small and lonely road which few cars used. The positioning seemed all wrong and I wondered what it’s conversion rate would be.
As I surfed around eMiniMall publishers sites this morning I noticed a very similar problem – poorly positioned ads. Some of the main mistakes that I saw included:
• ads too low on the page – this is a positioning that that many publishers using all kinds of ad systems have trouble with. When the only ad you have on your page is at the bottom of your page where few people ever look you’ll generally find that your CTR is going to be pretty low. Don’t hear me as saying ads towards the bottom of pages NEVER convert well – there are exceptions to every rule – however studies show that in general design element above the fold (the part of your site that people view without having to scroll down) get people’s attention a lot more than those below the fold.
• ads cluttering each other – a trend I noticed this morning was people using multiple chitika ads all in a row next to each other at the top of a page. On one site I saw 10 eMiniMall ads – all above the fold! While I don’t mind the eMiniMalls design – it’s not designed to be used 10 times in a small space. The effect is clutter and in the case of the site in question – dizziness on my part! Chitika recommends 3 ads per page as a maximum. In most cases I would agree. I am experimenting with a few ways of using more than this – but only on large/long pages. I’d encourage people to experiment with more than one ad per page – but be open to the idea that one or two well positioned, well designed and relevant ads can actually be much more effective in terms of earnings than lots of ads.
I wrote extensively about ad positioning in my previous tips post so I won’t go over it all again now – but I would identify positioning as being the biggest mistake that publishers are making.
As an example of this – I spoke a few days back with one of the publishers that I referred to the program who had previously had only one ads on his pages – at the bottom of each article. He added a second ad towards the top of each page and saw his earnings almost triple overnight.
2. Using default keywords:
Chitika has a default setting where they load eMiniMalls with the following keywords/phrases:
• digital cameras
• ipod mini
• sony playstation
• dell laptop
I was surprised how many pink ipod, dell laptop, canon powershot and playstation ads I saw around the web this morning. Obviously a lot of people are just going with the default setting and in doing so are probably decreasing their potential CTR.
While these are probably reasonably high paying keywords per click – unless your site is a gadget blog that talks about these topics you’ll find that they will not perform as well for you in terms of CTR as the ads are just not relevant.
3. Other Irrelevant Ads
I was quite puzzled by some of the choices of keywords that some publishers were targeting on their sites. Perhaps they were trying to find the most bizarre ads known to humankind in the hope of attracting curiosity clicks – but in many cases the ads had little (if any) relevance to the site at hand. I won’t pretend that finding relevant ads for every site topic is easy (it can be a challenge) but I would highly recommend you put some serious time into at least attempting to find ads that are on a related topic to your site.
I’d rather 4% of readers on my site click on a 0.35 cent ad than 0.01% clicking on a $1.50 ad.
One of the traps I see many publishers falling into is searching for the highest paying keywords. There are many discussion threads in forums that start with a question about this. I think asking about keyword value is starting with the wrong question. Rather start by asking questions about who your readers are, what they’ve come to your site looking for, what you’re writing about etc and you’ll be on a better path. Once you’ve answered these questions and identified your niche then you can begin to look at the different values of ad options within that niche.
How do you get relevant eMiniMall ads for your blog?
There are a number of ways – most of which I’ve written about previously in my eMiniMall tips post. But let me highlight a few that you might like to experiment with (please note that not all of these tips work on every site or with every ad unit on a blog. Try a variety of things and see what works well for you):
• use titles as keywords – my best converting blogs use this principle. I use the blog title tags to trigger the keywords on these blogs. This works especially well on product related blogs where the title of your post is predominantly the name of a product. This strategy would NOT work well on a blog like ProBlogger where I’m writing about ideas, concepts and bigger topics than product.
• use categories as keywords – I’ve seen a number of publishers deciding against using titles as their keywords but instead using the categories of their blogs to do the same job. Once again this will be most effective when your category names are product related or happen to trigger relevant ads. Test this out simply by going to the Chitika home page and putting your cursor over the ‘search’ tab in the eMiniMall they have there and typing in the name of one of your blog categories. Do this with a number of your categories. Are the results relevant? If so this might be an option for you.
• manually insert keywords using plugins – there are a number of being developed for blog systems that allow publishers to insert eMiniMalls into individual posts and to specify keywords for those ads. This is perhaps a bit more of a time consuming option (although I suspect in time it would speed up) but could well be the most accurate way of getting highly relevant ads to appear where you want them in posts.
• manually insert keywords in sidebar/banner position ads – this is the approach I’m taking here at ProBlogger at present. I’ve got just the one ad unit on this site at present (positioned above comments at the end of articles) and its rotating through some keywords that have some relevance to the topic of this blog. I’m still not satisfied with the keywords I’m targeting but am narrowing in on some that are better than what I started with. The key is to not just assume that because my readers are techy that they’ll be into gadgets – but to find a more specifically related topic (so at present I’ve got some ads on laptops, podcasting equipment and a blogging/podcasting book). As I say I’m still testing on this blog and rotate new keywords through from day to day to help combat ad blindness.
• consider contextual mode – eMiniMalls started out as a contextual advertising system (like Adsense, YPN etc). Of course in more recent times they’ve switched off contextual mode as the default to allow publishers to use it in conjunction with Adsense who don’t allow publishers to use two contextual systems on the one page. While most Chitika publishers do use another system like Adsense on the same page – I’ve talked to a number of publishers who have made the decision to run solely with eMiniMalls in contextual mode because the results of doing so out performed their previous contextual system. This is not something I will be doing in a hurry but it might be an option for some.
4. Poorly designed ads
Most publishers seem to design their ads reasonably well in terms of colors however I have noticed quite a few making a couple of mistakes:
1. Default Settings – once again Chitika give you a default setting that will be served to your blog unless you change it. It’s got blue text and white background. While this is not an offensive color scheme, unless you happen to have this color mix on your blog it might be in your best interests to change it to something that matches and looks more integrated with your site. Once again studies show that blended ads tend to perform better than non blended ads.
2. Outlandish Ads – my ‘blended theory’ is one that there is of course another school of thought for and I see that some publishers are doing there best to design the most ugly ads in the universe in an attempt to draw their readers eyes to the ad. My own personal experience with bright, contrasting ads is that they just don’t work on most sites and that in using them you run the risk of annoying readers more than anything else.
5. Not using Channel Tracking
I was quite surprised by the large numbers of publishers that were not tracking their eMiniMall ad units with channels (I can tell this by looking at a page’s source code). I won’t go into how to set them up here (I’ve done that previously) but would highly recommend that publishers consider using them. I’ve been tracking my blogs with channels since they went live last week and have used them to identify a number of under performing ad units that I’ve now reformatted in terms of keywords and positioning in attempt to increase CTR and click value. The results have been very encouraging. Channels enable you to take out a lot of the guess work about which ads perform best and worst.
6. Stale Ads
One of the things I’ve noticed on some publishers sites is that their ads never change. They’ve chosen one keywords and in the month or two that they’ve run eMiniMalls on their site they’ve never changed it. This means that if someone surfs into your site every day and/or views multiple pages on your site in a session that they’ll just see the same ad served over and over again over time. The result of this is most definitely ad blindness. More innovative Chitika publishers are experimenting with a variety of ways of keeping their ads fresh which include:
• using the rotation (I talked a little about this in my tips post
• manually changing ads every few days
• rotating Chitika ads with other types of ads (ie every second ad might be a fastclick ad – this is what the big blog networks do using ad server technology).
• triggering different ads for different days of the week (I saw a plugin for this somewhere)
This is more important for publishers with sites that have a lot of repeat readers. If your site is more reliant upon search engine traffic it might be better for you to find the keywords that work best for you and to stick to them – perhaps just having a light keyword rotation so that every second or third impression shows a different ad.
There’s no doubt that eMiniMalls do have a lower CTR than Adsense on most sites that I’ve seen. Disappointing but not the end of the road in my opinion. Since working on some of these areas my own figures have continued to make eMiniMalls work on most of my sites to an degree that makes them my primary earner. I wouldn’t argue that it’s the ideal ad system for every blog – but it’s definately worth experimenting with.