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Google AdSense Forum

Google: More Intelligent Targeting?
compared to YPN

 1:31 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

For a couple of weeks now, I've been running a test on which will perform better on my site, Adsense or YPN. Adsense is in my flagship site, while YPN is in my smaller site. But to make the two comparable, I decided to run both YPN and Adsense on the homepage of my main site.

Using phpadsnew, I set the two to have equal weights so at the end of the day they have equal pageviews. They use the same leaderboard format and sports the exact color scheme. Both seemingly show targeted ads, the main difference though is that G tends to show more "mom and pop ads" while YPN shows more ads from leading brand names.

While my test time period is not too long (a couple of weeks), the same pattern emerges day in and day out: I get significantly more CTR from Google at the rate of 10:1 compared to YPN. So for example, my CTR with G is 10% while my CTR with YPN is only 1% (my Google CTR on my homepage always exceeds double digit). So at the end of the day, even if YPN pays more per click (about $1 more than what G averages per click), at the end of the day, I get more revenues from G.

From this, I can only surmise that G has better targeting altogether, even if the two shows targeted ads. It seems G has the capability to show ads that are targeted to the page AND ads that are likely to get clicks. Whereas Y only stops at showing targeted ads.

Do you guys think G uses historical performance of the site as to which ads get more clicks? I suppose the fact that my site has been with Adsense since June 2003 may have something to do with it, that they already know what works on my site.



 2:24 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

This may not be a valid comparison, because of the difference in popularity of the sites and the length of time you have been running ads.

We don't use Yahoo's scheme (not at the moment, anyway) but our observations of Adsense are that over a long period of time (months) the CTR settles down - initially it is up and down, but becomes more consistent. Some new and/or less popular pages at established websites perform in a similar manner to your description of Yahoo ads.

This suggests the possibility that your observations *may* be due to the characteristics of the sites/pages concerned rather than differences in the two schemes. To make comparisons you have to factor out other variables, like website size and length of participation in the scheme.

Tropical Island

 2:33 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

AdSense has a much larger AdWords client base - especially those that have opted for content.

That in itself will affect targeting.


 2:49 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

*may* be due to the characteristics of the sites/pages concerned rather than differences in the two schemes. To make comparisons you have to factor out other variables, like website size and length of participation in the scheme.

I am running them on the homepage of my main site - both on ONE site. I am not comparing them from one website to another because that would be comparing apples to oranges. This test is based on the homepage of a single site where both show up, rotated via the ad serving software. At the end of the day, they register almost equal number of pageviews.

Given that both are contextual text ads, I was expecting them to perform on roughly similar basis. I was not expecting a significant discrepancy in terms of click through rate. Both are targeted well-- ads that are trying to reach my main market (it's not as if G is showing ads for red widgets while Y is showing green widgets -- both are showing yellow widgets). In fact, I was happier with YPN ads because they show ads from big companies that are targeting my main audience as against Adsense.

Apparently, my users want "crappy" ads compared to "sophisticated" ads :o)


 3:24 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the clarification as to which stats you are comparing.

So, you are comparing Google and Yahoo ads alternately on the same page? I didn't register that fact because I thought it was against Google's T&C (even though you aren't displaying them simultaneously) (?).

The point still holds that it may be an unfair comparison. If Google is long-established and Yahoo new on this site, Google has had chance to optimise each page and Yahoo not. One way to factor that out is to reverse the experiment, and try serving Google ads on the Yahoo site.

However, as I've said, I'm not sure whether that is allowed under the T&C, or even whether publicising the CTRs for comparison is allowed.


 3:42 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

1 - Serving both is allowed as long as you do not serve them simultaneously (they don't show up in the page at the same time). And you don't have any other Google ad units in the page. This I cleared with G, as well as confirmations from various posts here.

2 - The smaller site where I now have YPN used to be an exclusive Adsense site. Meaning G was previously served in that site until I remove all of them and replaced with Y. No point in doing what you suggested. In fact, I am not including the performance of YPN on the smaller site on this thread. This thread is not about this, but rather how the two perform side by side - same conditions, same target audience, etc.

BTW - the site in question (my main site) has been around since 1999, tops in its main high traffic keyword and the homepage alone gets a lot of pageviews in the day

ps. I am not divulging any CTR or any info here. The numbers are illustrations, but the ratio is accurate (as well as the fact that my G gets double digit CTR on the homepage)


 3:53 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the further clarification and info about the serving of ads.

Although the 'conditions' are close, I still don't think they are the same, because of the much shorter length of time that Yahoo has had to optimise for that page. That was the reason for suggesting the reverse-experiment on the smaller site. As it stands, your experiment is weighted in favour of Google.


 4:21 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

Might it be that people like GOOGLE ads and are more willing to click on them? I set up some sort of "alternate ads" (on pages where AdSense is not included) with a structure similar to AdSense ones and the CTR was similar to 0...


 4:41 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

With the smaller site, traffic is much smaller so I want to do it in a bigger site. More pageviews, more traffic, more established. Plus - the same thing holds true: G would have had longer chance to optimize for that page because the smaller site also used to show Adsense.

It is a fact that G will have had a longer time to optimize for any website given that it's been around 2 years longer than YPN. Your argument seems to imply that YPN will always have lower CTR for all pages compared to G because it has shorter time to optimize the pages. That there is actually no point in comparing the two because one came ahead of the other.

However, for purposes of maximizing revenues, I want to be able to really get some data on how the two fare in order to make the decision as to which to eventually put on the site (e.g. scale down on Adsense and use YPN or continue with the status quo which is Adsense).


 5:21 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

If the smaller site used to show Adsense then, yes I agree, the reverse experiment doesn't completely factor out the extra time Google has had to optimise the site. Both sites give Google an advantage.

I wasn't trying to imply, though, that this means Yahoo's CTR would always be lower (though that might be a corollary of Tropical Island's point about the Adwords base). My thought was that 2 weeks doesn't seem like a long enough time for the CTR to reach an optimal level (but that is based on our observation of how long it takes Google CTRs to settle down).


 5:23 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

As I mentioned, that site's homepage has been showing Adsense ads since June 2003 -- so CTR has DEFINITELY settled down.


 5:25 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

I just finished a month-long test comparing YPN versus AdSense on one of my sites, and YPN definitely has some targeting issues, which results in a *much* lower CTR. AdSense is very targeted while YPN is more general or "theme" ads.


 6:31 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

"As I mentioned, that site's homepage has been showing Adsense ads since June 2003 -- so CTR has DEFINITELY settled down"

We're definitely having a communication problem here!

I realise you've been showing Google Adsense for a long time, and I realise that your Adsense CTR has settled down. My point was that it seems you have only been showing Yahoo ads on this site for 2 weeks, so if you want truly comparative stats where 'conditions are the same' you need to give Yahoo ads long enough so that their CTR has time to settle down as well. 2 weeks seems a very short period of time to allow this to happen, even for a busy page.


 7:36 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yes we are having communication problems. Most of your questions would not have been asked if you only read my post well :o)

I don't know about your idea of "settling down" here. YPN's ads are:

- targeted (it's not as if they are not showing correct ads for the page)
- CTR has been very consistent (consistently low, that is) from the very first day to today. It's not as if the first day was marked by a high CTR and it slowly decreasing to what you would say its "normal rate"
- visitors are used to seeing that type, color and shape of ads on the page; it's not a novelty factor (save for the "Ads by Yahoo" as compared to "Ads by Google")

Actually, just by looking at the YPN ads, you'd say they are perfect for the page. Yes, they are site-themed which I do not mind given that this is the homepage which by its very nature shows the various topics that the site contains (this is a multi-topic website).


 9:50 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

There is at least one possibility.

You say that the YPN ads are well known brand names, while the Google ads are more generic, mom and pop ish.

I can't find a study on it at the moment, but I believe I've read that users are less likely to click on ads when they think they are already familiar with the product,store, etc.

Thus the more generic ads may appeal to users who think they may find something new.

But this is of course an outright guess.


 10:50 pm on Sep 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

"Most of your questions would not have been asked if you only read my post well :o)"

O, Mea Culpa,
In Acapulca,
If only I'd read ya
Every letter,
My attempts to help yer
Would've been so much better


 2:04 am on Sep 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have not tried YPN but did do an extensive test of Overture a year or so ago and have also experimented with ContextWeb. Neither one comes close to Google in narrowly targeting the content of each page in a large, multi-topic site. ContextWeb paid more per click than Google but CTR was so much higher with Google that there was really no contest. Overture really was out to lunch, showing "themed" ads with very low CTR and EPC.

As for "mom-and-pop" ads, what seems to get lost in this forum sometimes is that detractors, competitors and parasites latch onto pages about, say, GM's latest horrible product to a greater extent than the product's manufacturer sometimes. A GM ad probably wouldn't draw all that well but one by an after-market supplier, a fix-it-yourself publisher or personal injury lawyer seeking consumers with tire tracks down their back may do very well indeed with an AdSense ad. This kind of advertiser is perfectly suited to the back-of-the-book ad format and at the moment, Google has cornered this market.

For the reasons cited above, although ronburk's comments are pretty much on target, I would quibble with the notion that publishers should consciously target their content to the advertisers -- since you don't really know what potential advertisers are out there.

Who's the target then? How about the reader? Providing timely, easy-to-read, accurate, even crusading content that puts your reader's interests first is a formula that works just about every time. Call 'em as you see 'em and let the clicks fall where they may.


 6:18 am on Sep 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think the way these companies format their ads also create some differences, albeit subtle, and increases the chances of folks clicking one over the other.

On a business website that I came across using leaderboard formats, consider these headlines:

YPN: Mastercard ... (a Mastercard Businesscard ad)
Adsense: Internet Business Ideas (an ad by Verisign)

Just not too sure with YPN's love of the three dots "..." which I often see in their leaderboards. The incomplete headline just seems to convey incomplete thought, thus possibly not captivating enough for users like me. It seems to me (that or I am in desperate need of a shut-eye) that the ad really wants me to read the line below the heading, which is an additional work that I am not in the condition to do. An ad headline has to grab me immediately -- then and only then do I read the supporting statements below.

Unlike Adsense's ad title that already contains everything that can grab you (or not).

Just a thought.


 1:31 am on Sep 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

Those big brands are getting a good value for the money without even the clickthru. It's helping them brand. If you have regular visitors to a site, they will tend to click only when they see a new advertiser. Looks like variety is helping Google a lot.

If Overture/YPN wants to compete, they need to lower the minimum bid and a bunch of other stuff, it seems.


 6:11 pm on Sep 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just put the YPN ads up, we will see how it goes. So far, I am not impressed with the targetting, as the relevance of the ads I am seeing seems marginal at best and the "..." in nearly every ad is annoying and confusing for the user. Will test it for a few days, but so far it seems like AdSense is better.

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