50,000 Publishers!

First of all, please allow us to thank all our wonderful publishers. As of 11:23AM EST on June 2nd 2009, Chitika crossed the 50,000 publisher mark. We really appreciate each and every one of you, and thank you for supporting us in our quest to make Internet ads better for everyone – advertisers, publishers, and readers.

On a side note, in the wonderful game of cricket, when a batsman crosses the 50 mark (called “the half century”), the game stops and the batsman raises his bat (sort of like one of our local Red Sox sluggers giving a post-home run curtain call). Some more cool Chitika stats for data lovers:

  • Since the launch of Chitika | Premium last May (about 13 months ago), the Chitika network has more than doubled (an almost 170% increase) from around 18,000 pubs to today’s momentous 50,000+
  • The growth has been 100% organic mostly with word of mouth and referrals. <rant>We are the world’s biggest Internet company that has NOT yet been covered by Techcrunch — even though we power ads for most of the companies that ARE covered by Techcrunch </rant>
  • A key driver for the growth is that with Chitika Premium, Chitika can run on any type of website (Chitika old-timers will remember a time when Chitika used to be about product-oriented sites only). We are like the AFLAC of online advertising – you add Chitika to supplement your website revenue (sort of like what AFLAC does for insurance)
  • Last but not the least, the HUGE new focus on “Respect the User“. The Chitika ads show up only when the user really really wants them (See our 3 Commandments)

None of this would have been possible without our wonderful publishers, and that brings us to part 2 of this post: I would absolutely LOVE to hear your feedback on how we can make the service better. We always strive to come up with new and innovative ways to please publishers and readers, but you are the ones who see our ads in action on your site day in and day out.  Please use the comments box below — or if you are reading this on chitika.com, the feedback box at the bottom right of the page — and let us know what we can do for you. I’m sure there’s something out there that no advertising network in the world does that you want — and we want to be the network to bring it to you!

Yes, Chitika is Hiring!


By: Alden DoRosario

CTO, Chitika Inc.

Since May 2008, the new Chitika | Premium service has been on a tear — growing 10-20% monthly to now sport the 5th largest pool of search advertising in the world. To accommodate this explosive growth, Chitika is hiring some key positions at our Marlborough, Massachusetts offices and is also opening a new San Francisco sales office. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please do send his/her resume to alden [at] chitika [dot] com or drop me a tweet @adorosario

Here are some of the positions that are open with links to more details. All positions are in-house full-time at our Marlborough, Massachusetts office (except the San Francisco sales position)

  • Director of Marketing
  • Sales Representatives – Publisher Recruitment (multiple positions)
  • Software Engineer (multiple positions)
  • Sales Representatives – San Francisco (multiple positions)

Please note: These are all current positions with approved budgets. Hiring for these positions is immediate. To apply, please send your resume to alden [at] chitika [dot] com or drop me a tweet @adorosario

Chitika is hiring !

 By: Alden DoRosario

Yeah — Chitika is growing and we have a bunch of positions open at our Marlborough, Massachusetts offices. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please do send his/her resume to alden [at] chitika [dot] com or drop me a tweet @adorosario Here are some of the positions that are open with links to more details. All positions are in-house full-time at our Marlborough, Massachusetts office.

  • Web developer
  • Social Marketer/Twitterer
  • Account Manager – Publisher Side
  • Sales Representatives – Publisher Recruitment (multiple positions)
  • Sales Representatives – Ad Sales (multiple positions)
  • Software engineer (multiple positions)

Please note: These are all current positions with approved budgets. Hiring for these positions is immediate. To apply, please send your resume to alden [at] chitika [dot] com or drop me a tweet @adorosario

Chitika Network Stats – Sandwiched Between Ask and AOL


By: Alden DoRosario

CTO, Chitika Inc.

Its Friday evening and the big bad boss has left the building. So I get to steal some time for my favorite passtime – data analysis. Here are some stats from across the Chitika network. Hats off to the Chitika publishers .. Executive Summary:

  1. Just crossed the 30,000 mark of approved publishers [This was a huge surprise — since just a month ago, we were at 26,000]
  2. We now serve more sponsored search ads than ask.com making us the “5th Search Engine” [This is of course an estimate. According to Comscore, ask.com serves around 300M. We did about 370M in July. AOL probably did around 790M].
  3. The Chitika | Premium network is growing at around 25% month-over-month since April. [If this rate continues, we should be able to cross AOL by around December]

Publisher Growth

A nice suprise in the analysis was that the publisher growth seems to be accelerating since we launched Chitika | Premium in April. Why is this a surprise ? Because usually the summer months are the slowest months — yet the growth is very healthy and strong.  

Chitika | Premium Trend

Since April, the number of sponsored search ads (these are the type of ads you see when you type a keyword in google) seems to be growing at a healthy 25% month-over-month clip. That is good news all around here as more and more large publishers are coming into the Chitika | Premium fold.  

Some Technical Details

  1. This entire comparison is based on queries entered by humans in the search engines. This is not some contextual stuff or artificially generated ad impression numbers. These are real sponsored search ads like the ones you see at the right of the page when you type a query in google.
  2. A nice new trend is that larger publishers (from the Comscore 250) are also coming on board the Chitika | Premium network [This is exciting because till around 2007, Chitika was mostly mid-size publishers]
  3. A big part of the growth is due to the fact that we now serve ads across all types of sites. Its no longer only “product oriented” sites. [In fact, finance and health are now big drivers at Chitika]

If you’ve read till here, you probably love data as much as I do 🙂 .. Drop me an email (alden [at] chitika [dot] com) or comment below if you have any questions. Or drop me a tweet.

Chitika | Premium for Ad Networks


By: Alden DoRosario

CTO, Chitika Inc.

Over the last couple of weeks, a host of ad networks have begun using Chitika | Premium within their own advertising inventory; some small, some much, much larger (Think: Comscore Top-50 type). This post is about the dynamics of using Chitika | Premium in your own ad network. [Due to the sensitivity of each ad network’s business model, I cannot ‘name any names’ in this blog post] Please Note: If you don’t own or work for an ad network, you might want to stop reading 🙂  

What is Chitika | Premium? Chitika | Premium is a behaviorally-targeted ad unit that shows text ads from a diverse set of advertisers. Here are some features of this unit:

  • Large diverse set of inventory. There are advertisers for pretty much everything under the sun (from “Batman” to “baseball” to even “Britney Spears”)
  • Very highly targeted: Ads are targeted to user behavior (specially search behavior). Due to this, the CTR is high (much, much higher than regular banner AND text ads)
  • Clean content: The format is aesthetically pleasing and clean, so your users find this appealing (there is none of the flashing stuff that will make your publishers mad!)

Why would I use Chitika | Premium? One word: Backfill. Also…

  • No channel conflict (there is a good chance you and Chitika are not going after the same advertisers. And if this happens to be the case, Chitika has the systems to exclude your advertisers)
  • We only take the inventory we can deliver on, so there is no inventory wasted. If we can’t deliver, we redirect back to your ad server.

How does the implementation work? The concept is simple: You use the Chitika | Premium ad unit for parts of your inventory. If we have a behavioral profile on this user, we show the unit. If not, we redirect back to your ad server so that the next campaign in line can run.

What Ad servers are supported? At this time, we have tested this with Doubleclick, 24/7 Realmedia’s OAS and Openads/Openx/phpAdsNew . If your ad server is not on this list, contact us and we should be able to make it work (our engineers are smart and have gallons of coffee at their disposal!)

Who to Contact? If you are an ad network and this sounds interesting to you, please contact Jeff Sable (jeff [at] chitika [dot] com) OR call 866-441-7203 and select option 1.

Summary of Recent Changes at Chitika

In light of the recent blog post by our CEO, Venkat Kolluri, I thought I’d add some more breakdown to that blog post.

What happened in the marketplace? 2008 brought a shift in the marketplace and our advertisers are now paying out on different models, as you can see from the diagram above. Lets take an example of what exactly happened here:

  • In 2007: An advertiser (like say “Best Buy” or “Circuit City”) had no problems paying 20-50 cents CPC to get a click from a Publisher (say X). As long as enough of those clicks converted to sales at their end, these advertisers were happy.
  • In 2008: The shopping/retail marketplace changed given the tough economic climate in the United States. Now, every advertiser is coming to the table is DEMANDING 2+% conversion rates. In other words, of the 100 clicks sent by Publisher X, atleast 2 should convert into sales.

What is Chitika doing about this ? To adapt to the new marketplace, Chitika took a couple of steps: 1. Launched Chitika | Premium: This new unit is designed to take advantage of your search engine traffic and pays on a CPC basis. The good thing about this is: Since search engine traffic is high converting, advertisers are happy. Also, since the ads are targeted to the exact queries being typed by users, the content is very good and the CTR is excellent. As you can imagine, users getting good search engine traffic are seeing excellent results on this unit. 2. Launched the Chitika Graphic Ads program: So what happens to traffic that is not from search engines ? Our analysis has shown that these users hardly click on ads. So showing CPC ads to such users (e.g. people who read your blog regularly but never clicks on ads) is a waste of advertising inventory. For such publishers, we implemented a “yield optimization” system to show graphic ads. The beauty of this is that this yield optimization has actually resulted in better results for some of our publishers (specially the ones who used to not get too many clicks before). 3. Launched Direct Ad Sales Initiatives (like AdPro) — This allows the publisher to collect direct revenue from advertisers that might be interested in their site. Stay tuned for more information on this program soon.

Who Will Benefit From these changes ? 1. Publishers with good search engine traffic: The Chitika | Premium unit is working out great for our publishers with good search engine traffic. Such publishers are benefitting from targeted CPC text ads in a competitive marketplace. And on the advertiser side, this creates good conversion rates. This matching of publisher to advertiser is creating a nice health marketplace for all parties involved. 2. Publishers with very high traffic — but who were not getting clicks in the old system. These publishers are now seeing their yields optimized by the chitika system intelligently switching between premium ads and graphic ads. 3. Publishers with good content/brand name sites: These publishers will really benefit from the new tools like AdPro that Chitika is starting to roll out.

Who Will NOT Benefit From these changes ? Any publisher who does not get significant traffic from search engines. For such publishers, we have made available two options: a. If you have a high conversion rate (meaning that your clicks convert into sales for the advertisers) you will be successful with the CPA ads. b. If you have a high amount of traffic (whether it converts or not) you can benefit from our CPM Graphic Ads program. Publishers who got at least 1000 total impressions during June 2nd-8th 2008, should have got a detailed analysis report from me (Alden DoRosario, CTO) with customized recommendations. This should show key metrics for your traffic along with helpful links and recommendation tips. If you didn’t get this email, checkout the generic version in this blog post. By Alden DoRosario, CTO Chitika, Inc.

Chitika Analysis Report: Top Performer Stats + Optimization Tips


By: Alden DoRosario

CTO, Chitika Inc.

As a publisher, one often wonders how you stand relative to other publishers on the Internet (specially the high performing publishers). What are you doing right (or wrong) ? This is an analysis of 50 high-performing Chitika publishers (i.e. publishers with good traffic and monetization strategies). I hope you find this data useful AND actionable. [This analysis was done for a 7 day period between 2nd-8th June 2008].

Please Note: If you had significant traffic during 2nd-8th June 2008 with Chitika, you should be getting a customized analysis report in your mail soon. Stay Tuned.

Traffic Metrics [ PS: While there are a ton of factors that go into your traffic, we analyzed what we feel are the Top 3 factors]

Key Metric Why this matters Chitika Top Performer Averages
US Traffic (I.e. How much of your total traffic came from US) The US market is the most developed and lucrative market for advertising revenue. 56.88%
US Search Engine Traffic (i.e. How much of your US traffic came from search engines) Searchers Equal Clickers/Buyers. Search engine traffic monetizes the most and converts the best for advertisers. 59.87%
US Search Engine Traffic CTR (i.e. For the traffic that came from search engines, what was the CTR) Location Location Location – Ad placement decides whether visitors click on the ads 1.64%

So what should you do about this ?


Recommendation Why this matters Useful Links
SEO Optimizing your site for SEO attracts lucrative search engine traffic http://seobook.com/, http://www.seomoz.org/blog
Traffic High traffic sites gain from incoming links and also benefit from a “Rich Get Richer” principle. http://www.problogger.net/
Placement Moving your ads into high heat zones leads to more clicks http://crazyegg.com/ (Heat maps), http://www.jensense.com/ (A/B Testing)
US Traffic Follow the money http://spyfu.com/
Chitika | Premium Chitika | Premium has been shown to work great on sites that get good search engine traffic Chitika | Premium Code

Did I miss something? Continue the conversation or add your own tips in the comments below.


Top 5 Things You Can Learn From Michael Jordan About Running Your Blog

Everybody knows about his achievements, but what really differentiated Michael Jordan was his work ethic and his killer attitude. Here are 5 habits of his Airness — and how it applies to blogging. 

1. The Playoffs Are Way More Important Than the Regular Season

When it came to big games — Michael Jordan delivered (6 championship rings to be precise!). And that is what made him so great. When it comes to blogging, the championship game is “the scoop”. Its that piece of news or story you have that is completely unique — and nobody else has it. If you get the scoop, you get instant growth in readership — and you become a magnet for future scoops. Its not easy (Hey, who said winning championships was easy?), but it can be done.

2. The Last 2 Minutes Are More Important Than the First 46

In “crunch time”, Jordan would always demand the ball. When a big story is in play (e.g. “Paris Hilton in Jail”, “Google Buys Doubleclick” or whatever is “big” in your world of blogging), are you ready to demand the ball? What new perspecitives do you bring to the table? Are you adding to the story, or just reporting what Seth Godin, Robert Scoble or some other A-lister is saying?

3. Bring It — Everyday

Michael Jordan’s work ethic — on a daily basis — was legendary. He practiced hard and had a rigorous daily training schedule. What does this mean to you as a blogger ? Get into a rhythm. Get into what Problogger calls his “daily rhythm“. Ask yourself this question: what will get my readers back to my blog today? Most blog readers have attention deficit disorder, so keeping your blog fresh and vibrant is paramount.

4. Be Market Smart

Jordan wasn’t the only one to win a bunch of championship rings — but he was the man when it came to market savviness. He knew how to play the media and play the hearts of the TV-viewing public. As a blogger, you must build the relationships that elevate your status as a blogger. Why is this important? Because “Power attracts Power“. As you elevate your status as a blogger, you will notice more and more powerful entities attracted towards you (think: Michael Arrington of TechCrunch)

5. Make your teammates better

MJ was awesome when it came to getting the best out of his teammates; in some cases, they even made clutch 4th quarter shots to win championships instead of him. For you as a blogger, this is all about your community. They are your team — get them engaged. Get them rooting for you. And most of all: Show them the love. Make your readers famous. Show them some link love. Comments are open. Please feel free to add your own two cents. Posted by Alden DoRosario (alden [at] chitika [dot] com)

This post was inspired by Problogger’s Group Writing Project sponsored by Chitika.

Top 5 Mistakes Made When Naming Your Website or Company

Good thing your parents didn’t name you Urhines or Toolio. For the more fortunate among us, here are the Top 5 tips to keep in mind when you name your next website or business. Who am I to talk? I’ve made most of these mistakes — and lived through the pain.

1. Registering an extension other than .com

There are a lot of people out there who think that .com is the Internet. To make matters worse, lots of applications work better with .com domain names (e.g. Firefox appends www and .com to a domain name when you type something and hit Control-Enter). Moreover, over the long term, your brand will automatically be associated with the .com version. Here are some other things to remember:

  • .net: Registering a .net is probably marginally acceptable. But you are setting yourself up for a painful purchase of the corresponding .com name if you become rich and famous in the future.
  • .us, .info: This is completely unacceptable if you are building a long term business. Don’t skimp on the $3. Most people associate these domains with spam (since 99% of .info domains are spam).

2. Not giving yourself the chance to stand out

Give yourself the chance to differentiate yourself and rule your category or niche. Even though a generic name like buy.com might help in the short term, it does make it difficult to make it memorable over the long term. Imagine if Amazon had called itself InternetShopping.com? Or if Google had called itself search.com (Would it have dominated advertising then? How does “Ads by Search.com” sound?)

3. Hosting your blog or website on yourname.freeservice.com

Most people dont expect to get rich and famous when they start a blog. But give yourself the chance. All it costs is $5/month to host it on your own domain. And you’ll know within a few months whether you will hit it big or not. Also, as you are bootstapping your blog, its difficult for your users to take you seriously when you yourself are not willing to invest $5 in a domain name. To make matters worse, once you do go down the free path, coming out of it is really tough. Updating links for SEO, making your users update their RSS feeds — the list of things is a nightmare.

4. Making your name so obscure, nobody has a clue what it means

It’s nice party talk to explain to people how your company name means “Dancing Gazelles” in the African Zulu language. Problem is: Two seconds later, they forget the name. That’s not a nice thing the next time they need to refer your website or service to a prospective customer. At Chitika, we initially fell into this category. Luckily over time, our phonetic resemblance to chiquita, the well-known banana company, actually worked in our favor — as people always remembered the brand.

5. Forgetting to register international versions (and other variations)

As soon as you see your service gaining momentum, dont forget to register international variation of your domain. Yeah — its tough to initially shell out hundreds of dollars to register domains for all countries and variations (like .org). But when you see momentum growing, dont skimp — and dont forget. The day you get your first big PR buzz or New York Times mention, it will be too late (yeah — the domainers will beat you to it!) Comments are open. Please feel free to add your own two cents — serious or otherwise (this example, anyone?)

Some More Light Reading:

Posted by Alden DoRosario (alden [at] chitika [dot] com) This post was inspired by Problogger’s Group Writing Project sponsored by Chitika.

What’s with the name Chitika?

Nothing in Chitika’s history has caused more intrigue than its name. From being lovingly labeled as “peddlers of produce” to giving a 1-hour phone presentation with the other side looking at the wrong domain, we’ve had our share of domain fun. Read on for some interesting stories. There are definitely some lessons to be learned the next time you name your website or startup company.

So what does Chitika mean anyway?

The year is 2003 and Internet startups are dropping like hot potatoes. There we were (two geeks!) sitting at Wendys’ envisioning a company built around the concept of “Data Mining for Business Intelligence“. We brainstormed for hours on a name (essentially all variations of the word Digimine — cause the coolest company in our eyes at that time was Dr. Usama Fayyad’s Digimine). However, it’s tough to name your company when you don’t have a finished product or service. So in the end, Chitika co-founder Dr. Venkat Kolluri came up with a novel solution: Let’s solve people’s problems “in a snap”. He then digs into his South Indian roots and came up with the word “Chitika” — which in his native language Telugu means “In a Snap“. When you are starting off a new website or company and have nothing to show off yet — just piggy back off vague concepts (e.g. Chitika, Amazon, Accenture, etc)

We were told, “CHANGE THE NAME.”

Over the years as Chitika grew as a company, we had numerous people advising us to change the name (The logic ranging from “Hey, its so tough to remember” to “It rhymes with something dirty“). One person though stuck to her guns. Chitika advisory board member Meredith Hanrahan, CMO of salary.com, had a simple logic: Its tough to remember — but once somebody remembers it, they will never forget it.

It’s the Google Age, dude. How does the name even matter?

Well — that’s somewhat true. Google has significantly reduced the need to have a name people can remember. But there are some things that we have learnt along the way as to why the name matters.

  • Branding: Over the long run, there is nothing better than to have a service associated with your company name. There can be hundreds of companies selling cola — but they will all be considered as coke variants. So give yourself this chance. Rather than naming your company Acme Networks, build a brand.
  • Marketing: Having a weird name like Chitika really opens up the door for sweet marketing ideas. For example, at the last career fair our company attended, we handed out bananas as take-aways. Why bananas ? Cause half the non-techie world associates us with Chiquita — the banana producing company. So why not — lets play off that.

Over the life span of your website or company, your name is sure to cause much intrigue and pain. What matters most though is how well you leverage your name to meet your business goals. We are Chitika — and we are sticking to our bananas! Comments are open .. please feel free to add your own domain or name stories. Posted by Alden DoRosario (alden [at] chitika [dot] com) This post was inspired by Jeremy Wright’s (b5 Media) up-skirt post for the Chitika BlogBash.