My impressions (mostly very positive) about Chitika's ad-based revenue generation program from the publisher and visitor points of view.
Published: May 10 2006
After Google disabled my AdSense account (which was re-enabled at a later date) I decided to try other ads programs. Rather than trying yet another contextual ads program, which would be most likely inferior to Google AdSense or just Google for various programs, I decided to take a shortcut and see what ad programs are used by successful legitimate content providers. After all, rather than wasting my time trying a new program (each trial taking probably a month or two), I'd rather use a proven choice. I went to several of my favorite blogs and sites, which get tons of traffic and checked what ads do they have. Most of them had Google AdSense and another program of which I've never heard before that moment, it was Chitika.
So I decided to check it out. First of all I was pleasantly surprised that it was running on mod_perl (http://perl.apache.org/), the technology that I've co-developed and written a thick tome about, and which is used by companies that must deal with an insane amount of traffic (e.g. http://ticketmaster.com/, http://mailchannels.com, etc.).
The concept of chitika ads system is quite different from Google's Adsense - rather than using contextual analysis to choose what ads to deliver, chitika gives the power to the publisher - you choose which ads you want to appear on your site. That means a lot to website visitors - now rather than hoping that the contextual ads provider will place relevant ads, with chitika a publisher gets the user to see *only* the relevant ads - and if chitika doesn't find any suitable ads, a publisher can tell chitika what alternative ad to serve (e.g. Google AdSense) as a fallback. This fits perfectly my photography section of the site, where visitors enjoying my photographs are very likely to get excited and want to buy a digital camera - so that section of the site serves digital camera ads.
Here is an example of an ad unit that will serve only digital cameras:
And this one should show you only notebooks:
The next one should show video games:
And this one just any best deals:
You get the idea :)
Chitika gives even more power to product reviewers, because with chitika you can not only specify a category or keywords to match, you can specify the exact name of the product you want to show up. So for example if your blog entry/article talks about "GeForce 6800 video card", chitika's eMiniMalls will serve the deals on that specific product. That's the best you can hope if you want users to generate a revenue for you. Moreover, users benefit here again, since they don't have to go and compare prices, since chitika has already suggested a the best deal. Granted, at the moment chitika doesn't cover all the vendors so I can see that there are better deals out there, but with time more and more vendors will sell their products through chitika and the deal will get better and better.
Another advantage is that chitika uses the visitors' location information (based on their IP address), so if a visitor is coming to your site from France -- eMiniMalls will serve them deals from the french vendors and when they are coming from US, US-specific deal ads will be placed.
Finally if visitors aren't happy with the suggested product in the deal ad - they can search for a different product without leaving your site. Your visitors benefit from having the deals search without needing to go elsewhere and you as publisher benefit from earning the revenue from a product that you didn't place originally on your site. And in the worst case, if a visitor didn't find anything they wanted to buy - they are still on your website, so most likely they may generate clicks from other pages in a different context. You really don't want to lose users of your site to clicks, that bring no revenue.
And I also need to mention that in the case where your content is irrelevant to any goods, you can still cater to current trends. For example if I write about SPAM, my audience is most likely technically inclined and they are likely to be interested in technical gadgets, so I've chosen to advertise technical gadgets on the sections of my site which don't have suitable content for direct targeting.
The only cons I can see at the moment is that if a visitor is coming from a country where chitika has no local vendors, that visitor won't be able to generate any revenue for you, because chitika has no vendor agreements there and it fairly won't show ads that the visitors can't benefit from. So rather than misleading the visitors sending them to vendors that won't ship to those countries, chitika provides an "alternative link" feature, so that you can fill the empty space with something else. Hopefully with time Chitika will cover most countries and this will no longer be an issue.
And of course if your content is irrelevant to any available products, then you have less chances to have users click on the ads. In that case you need to figure out what audience your site caters for and serve product ads that will hopefully satisfy the desires of your visitors. Still you have a much higher degree of control with chitika, compared to most other available programs that don't place contextual ads, like Google AdSense does.
Other than making income from product clicks, you can also make even more income via referrals. You just add a link like https://chitika.com/mm_overview.php, (replacing my id 'myarc' with yours). You can also choose from a variety of banners. The cool thing is that rather paying a one time referral fee, they will pay 10% of what the referrals earn over a period of 12 months. So if you register using my id, Chitika will have to pay 10% extra to me. You do not lose money by signing via this link, but help me to make a little bit of revenue.
Don't forget that any links to
/support and top level pages
/mm_overview.php) can carry your id. So for
example you can refer visitors to Chitika's blog as: http://chitika.com/blog/
(adjust the userid to yours) and if they later decide to join, you
still get the referral program benefits.
Apparently it's perfectly fine to have both Chitika and AdSense ads on the same page, as long as Chitika is used in non-contextual mode. By default, the eMiniMalls code is set to be non-contextual.
AdSense also requires that publishers do not add other internet search services to sites displaying the "AdSense for Search" box, however I've enquired Google AdSense support and they said that it's OK to use Chitika's search in conjunction with Google AdSense Search. Here is their reply to my question:
From: "Google AdSense"
To: "Stas Bekman" Subject: Re: [#56929788] Other Message-ID: <#firstname.lastname@example.org> Hello Stas, I apologize for the delay in my response. Please know that you are welcome to use Chitika for search on your site. IF you have any additional questions, please feel free to reply to this message. Sincerely, Kassidee The Google AdSense Team [...] Original Message Follows: ------------------------ From: Stas Bekman Subject: Re: [#56929788] Other Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 14:43:34 -0700 Hi Kassidee Google AdSense wrote: > Hello Stas, > > Thank you for your email. According to our program policies, Chitika ads > may be displayed on the same page as Google ads on your site. > > In general, AdSense program policy does not permit Google ads to be > published on the same page as other contextually-targeted ads. You can > review this, and all Google AdSense program policies, at > https://www.google.com/adsense/policies . I've read those pages. I was asking specifically about the search feature - Can I use Chitika search in the ad feature or can I not? Their search is very different from Google's search. So I'm a bit confused. https://www.google.com/support/adsense/bin/topic.py?topic=144 doesn't answer this question. Thank you.
So it's all good.
to resurrect your AdSense account
Leger's AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Tracker
Things to Do to Improve Your Site's Google Page
Fox's Dominating Adsense Review
is talking about Chitika (http://www.jensense.com/archives/2005/10/everyone_is_tal.html)