Yahoo recently launched, in beta anyways, their answer to Google's Adsense program. Its called Yahoo Publisher Network and it functions in much the same way as Google's Adsense with only few differences.
These programs work by analyzing your content and then checking their library of hundreds of thousands (dare I say millions?) of ads for ones that closely match contextually. In both cases you can give them little hints to help them in their quest. Yahoo has a feature called Ad Targetting which basically allows you to categorize your sites, and Google has a non-public feature called Google Hints which you're only supposed to use with permission but which allows you to feed keywords directly to the Adsense code. For more on the technology in general please see the Google Adsense Review.
I tested Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN) on a site that normally runs 3 Adsense units per page, a top leaderboard, a rectangle within the content, and a bottom leaderboard. I did this test by siphoning off 10% of the page views and sending them to YPN instead of Adsense. I should note that you cannot serve a YPN ad on the same page as an Adsense ad as that is againt network terms. So if you run more than one ad per page you cannot simply setup YPN as a default for Adsense or vice versa as not all units will default on the same page views. To run both you must devise a system that sets all units on the page to one network or another. I used a random number and a conditional statement, but there are many ways to do this.
The most noticeable thing with Yahoo was the targeting, it was atrocious. The ads were just barely related to my content, or not at all. It even got worse when I used their Ad Targetting categorization feature. As you can expect with poorly targeted ads, my CTR (click-through-rate) did not even compare with Adsense. However eCPM (effective CPM, the earnings per 1000 page views on average) was near what I made with Adsense. This is because Yahoo's earnings per click were incredibly high. This is likely because Yahoo does not as of yet allow advertisers to specify different payout rates for network sites as Google does. With Google an advertiser can pay one rate for ads that show on search results and another, usually much lower rate, for ads that show on websites. Yahoo also has a higher minimum CPC (cost-per-click).
It is now early 2007 and YPN is still in beta, much to the joy of Google I'm sure. They have continually failed to get their act together. For whatever reason YPN decided not to do their own geotargeting based filtering and mandated that publishers each come up with their own solution. Publishers who did not were canned, myself included. If you want to use YPN it is a must to implement a geotargeting script.
For more on the problems YPN has faced in their beta please see the following blog posts:
Overall the top leaderboard did slightly worse with Yahoo and had a really bad CTR. The content-sandwiched rectangle did quite well with an eCPM as high as 4x greater than what I got with adsense. The bottom leaderboard did almost nothing. Yahoo does not currently have CPM ads, Google does, and these CPM ads can really bring up the pay rate of the below the scroll units, so that is likely why Yahoo did not provide good income for my bottom leaderboard. The revenue for the top leaderboard was likely slower simply as a result of the lower CTR, but it was only slightly lower because of the higher earnings per click.
The rectangle is the really interesting unit. Rectangles historically have the higher CTR, so by coupling a unit that got a high CTR with Yahoo's high paying yet somewhat untargeted ads I managed to still make a good amount, much more than I was making with Google.
Overall I think I'll stick with Adsense on my test site, the gains in the box unit did not outweigh the losses in the other two, but I could definitely see Yahoo being better on some sites with perhaps only a box unit in use. Also, if Yahoo improves their targeting without lowering their payouts then it'll be an easy decision to switch.
Yahoo's reports are updated daily, which lags behinds Adsense's almost real-time reporting. Yahoo does however allow up to 4 units per page, compared to Adsense's 3. Yahoo does not offer an equivalent to Google's Adlinks units yet though. For payment Yahoo's terms are net 45, meaning 45 days after the close of the month you get paid, this certainly lags behind Google.
Other than the issues already mentioned the programs are about identical. Both allow you to change ad unit colors, both allow you to block domains you do not want advertising on your site, both do not allow adult/illegal content, both have a minimum payment of $100.
Yahoo's program is still in beta, so we can hope eventually that they improve their targeting, until then its definitely worth a try for most webmasters, you just might make more than you do with Google. Competition is always good though, and if Google and Yahoo end up competing for our pageviews then we'll be the true winners, so even if you don't end up using Yahoo their presence in the market is definitely a good thing.
Click here to visit Yahoo Publisher Network.
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