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!

The 3 Commandments of Website Advertising

Rule 1 – Only show ads WHEN the user really wants it

Or: Thou shalt never annoy thy visitors

As you know, the Chitika | Premium units only show up when Chitika is sure about user intent (because we know what search term the user used to find you). For all of your regular users who are simply browsing your site, the intent is much lower. In these cases, the Chitika ad does not show, and you are not blasting another ad into their face. Due to this, you are not annoying your users with yet another ad unit. 

Rule 2 – Tell your user WHY they’re seeing this ad

Or: Thou shalt respect thy visitors’ experience

As you can see from the example below, the user keywords are highlighted in gold yellow. This is to explain to the user that the ad is about what he is looking for (Psychobabble Joe says: Since the age of 2, the human brain has been taught to pay attention to that specific color of yellow). When you respect your visitors’ feelings and intent like that, they are more likely to look at the ad and read its contents (and, of course, click on it). 

Rule 3 – Only show users WHAT they want to see

Or: Thou shalt give thy visitors what they want — in a way they want it

Chitika | Premium ad units have been designed to be hyper targeted, as the ads are almost always completely targeted to the exact keyword the user typed in the search engine. And in the new Mega Unit, ads flow naturally from top to bottom, rather than left to right. “Why is that,” you ask? Its because for the last 10 years, the Internet has worked very hard to train people to read its pages from top to bottom, not left to right. With the Mega-Unit, people’s tendency to read in that fashion helps your second and third ads get almost as much attention as the first.

Put all these three reasons together and you as a publisher/website owner will get from your visitors what you really want — i.e. clicks. More clicks equal more revenue and everybody is happy. By giving your visitors what they want in an ad unit, they’ll give you what you want in return! Isn’t sharing nice? You can get the code for the mega unit here or signup if you are not already a Chitika publisher.

Introducing the New Chitika MEGA-Unit: 4x More Clicks/Revenue

Hey everyone – I want to introduce the newest addition to the Chitika | Premium lineup – the 550×250 MEGA-Unit.  Across our network right now, the MEGA-Unit’s CTR is 4 times higher than our other Premium units – so you can see why we are excited about it!  I want to answer some important questions about it here on the blog:

What is the MEGA-Unit?

It’s our newest Chitika | Premium unit, and it’s really BIG!  Take a look.

Why should you use this?

Across the board, our new MEGA-Unit is adding a massive increase in clicks and revenue:

  • AskDaveTaylor.com increased his Chitika earnings from $85/month to $2000/month by adding the new MEGA-Unit to his site (Dave talks about this in greater detail on his site).
  • ArticleAlley.com added the new MEGA-Unit and reports that “The result was a massive 721% increase in income –  without any noticeable knock on effect to our other income providers.”  – Adrian from ArticleAlley.com
  • Couponmom.com added the MEGA-Unit to just 1 of her pages, and immediately doubled her eCPM and revenue.

How do I get it?

If you have a Chitika account, you can get the unit by clicking here, then choosing the 550×250 “MEGA-Unit” from the drop-down. If you don’t have a Chitika account, click here to sign up.

Where should I place the MEGA-Unit on my site?

We are seeing it work best placed directly above or below the main content.  For example, you can see where ArticleAlley.com put it on this page (scroll to bottom of article). Try the new Chitika | Premium MEGA-Unit now! What do you think about this?  Leave us a comment below!

Important Change to Google AdSense Alternate Ads

Are you using Google AdSense as an alternate ad to display when a Chitika ad cannot display (for example – in non-supported countries, or for non-search traffic, etc.)?  If not, then you do not need to even bother reading this. However, if you are using AdSense as an alternate ad in a Chitika ad, then you will need to make a quick change to your alternate ad setup. Google changed the way AdSense is served and it now MUST be on a page with proper HTML coding. HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO MAKE SURE YOUR ADSENSE ALTERNATE AD SERVES CORRECTLY:

  1. Open the .HTML file that contains your AdSense code with Notepad or any other text editor.
  2. Place <html><head></head><body> before your AdSense code and </body></html> after the code – for example:
    <html><head></head><body>
    
    <!--ADSENSE CODE GOES HERE -->
    
    </body></html>

This will ensure that your AdSense alternate URL will display properly.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us directly, leave a comment below, or post in our forums.

Why advertising will not kill Twitter

Just like anything, Twitter is hated among some people purely for the reason that so many others love it. The human psychology of Twitter is that it’s easier to love something someone hates and vice versa. But Twitter actually plays on the human nature of people in many interesting ways, and this is what makes it hard to avoid.

I was once a Twitter “non-believer”, SHOCKED? I know – but it’s true, you can blame the month of dead silence coming from the Official Chitika Twitter account on boring ol’ me before I was shown the Twit-light – not to be confused with the teen-girl phenomenon Twilight, of course. Simply put, how else could you directly listen, in real time to, or connect, with someone you may have otherwise never seen or heard a word from ever in your lifetime? Twitter. It’s almost as if you took a super-telescope and pointed it around the world, into your customers, users, publishers, heroes and even idols computer screens where they are typing their very thoughts, options and actions. Simply put again, Twitter directly connects you to a world ultimately unreachable & unseen.

Let Twitter play to your EGO Don’t stand behind the super-telescope forever. Get out there and talk. Meet people, talk to people.. because they want to talk to you. Once you start getting followers, RT’s, @’s and direct messages- you will feel very relevant in the Tworld. And unlike Facebook, MySpace, etc., this never gets boring. Why? There is always a larger audience, access to more people and their lives, stories, opinions, friends & followers without trying or having to friend request them. It’s more reachable than other social networks, so it will be less likely to lose your interest. And because Twitter cleverly plays into personal ego, it would be hard for someone to leave. This emotional connection will keep it afloat for a very long time, and this is why advertising will not kill Twitter…

Twitter and advertising What gives Twitter an edge over Facebook and Myspace is right now, it’s the only of its kind. Twitter also has a dominant number of people who use Twitter for business reasons because it brings great value. So the question is not whether advertising will kill Twitter (because thats impossible) but how much it will be affected. I do not see a domino-effect of dropped users just because of ads, but I do see many being annoyed about it. But even then, will users really be able to give up the on-going benefits? We already know that Twitter captures an emotional involvement to people, and right now, the only content on someone’s Twitter page is info all about them. So advertising could either cause a personal invasion to users, which could alter the way people feel about Twitter or use it, or they could value the benefits of the system and move on. Nothing in life is free. Who could really blame Twitter for falling into the human nature of survival? How can someone criticize something they use for free for wanting due-financial credit? So my answer is, no. But that’s just me… What are your thoughts about advertising on Twitter? -Karla Escolas – Chitika, Inc.

Follow Karla on Twitter! @KarlaChitika

More on Twitter: Advertising on Twitter, by Dan Ruby

Would advertising kill Twitter? If not done properly, absolutely.

Microblogging behemoth Twitter has seen a massive increase in popularity lately – partly due to the much-ballyhoed Ashton Kutcher vs. Larry King and CNN race to be the first to one million users, partly due to Oprah the Queen of Everything making her debut, and partly because more and more people are realizing that Twitter is awesome and fun. They’re also realizing that, yes, they do care what you had for breakfast while you were on vacation in Omaha. Under all of these media microscopes, the elephant in the room is impossible to miss – how does Twitter go ahead and become as good at making money as it is at making trivial yet interesting conversations?

Can Twitter lift the money whale?

Looking back at the beginning of Twitter, it was a tool made popular by the edgy, hip South by Southwest crowd. Following in the footsteps of those who went before – MySpace, Facebook, and the lot – it took a while before the hipsters were joined by businesses trying to sell to them. Suddenly, in the past year or two, Twitter has become the favored golden child of the Interwebs, replacing Facebook, who replaced MySpace (and thus MySpace begat Virb, and Virb begat Friendster, and I begat an aspirin and a lie-down).

The question now becomes, does Twitter actually have a chance to take all this success and all these millions of users and turn them into what every business venture truly needs: profit? Popular wisdom says that, when it comes to monetizing boatloads of users on a website, you have two choices: charge people to use the service, or drop a ton of ads on the site. Both of these strategies scare the heck out of me in regards to Twitter, and either could spell the beginning of the end of the site’s relevance if done wrong.

Consider pay-to-use. There’s no way Twitter could ever charge regular users without completely decimating their user-base, particularly when fifty new “Free Twitter” services would be standing by, flush with venture capital funding, ready to aggressively steal all of Twitter’s disenfranchised Tweeples. Celebrities would also fly the coop (more bird references, har har); the major Twittering celebrities are arguably more valuable to Twitter than Twitter is to them, so why would they pay for the privilege of lending their name, credibility, and fame to a service that’s charging them?

The idea of having businesses pay to use Twitter has been bandied about before. This, in my opinion, is the best possible way of bringing pay-to-play to the Twittersphere. Businesses small and large have begun making incredible use of Twitter – look at the success of Zappos, Mimobot and JetBlue (two biggies, one smaller company, all making creative and successful use of Twitter). Given Twitter’s astronomical growth and influence, would these and other companies be willing to pay a monthly fee in order to have access to this large, trendsetting audience? Absolutely.

The other monetization method, almost as old as graphical web browsers, is online advertising. Sure, it makes sense to those of us who serve ads online for a living – why wouldn’t we want a 30 or 50 or however many million user pool to advertise to? But again, the pressing question is how one does it. Some say (and I, for one, agree) that the demise of MySpace as a network worthy of being taken seriously can be directly tied to its transformation from legitimate social network to massive conglomeration of ads with your name and birthday in the middle of them. Facebook, too, has badly tarnished its reputation with its attempts to serve ads to its users – just look at stories from late 2007 and the revolt against their “social advertising” attempts.

It’s truly sad to see both of those sites in such disarray simply because they wanted to actually make money at their businesses. MySpace and Facebook both once held the position Twitter now finds itself in. Once the ads come, the South by Southwest-attending trendy core of users migrates to the next big thing, feeling betrayed by the free service they’ve been using and enjoying for years (and, to be honest, they’ve been conditioned to expect to be free of both charge and advertisements). So what can Twitter do to prevent itself from suffering such a fate?

Innovate.

While Facebook’s “social advertising” was an unmitigated disaster, they had the right idea – take what you do best, and make it your twist on traditional advertising. No banner ads. No contextual text ads. No pop-ups (for God’s sake, no pop-ups). Take the social interactions that drive your service’s popularity and craft advertisements that fit into that shoe. Twitter could do this – Twitter users could have a checkbox in their profile that allows Twitter’s ad partners to Tweet ads to them occasionally, based on keywords taken from the Twitter user’s Tweets over a certain period of time. Unobtrusive to the Twitterer, as it’s a part of their regularly scheduled program, well targeted, and with great potential to include advertisers’ Twitter names.

In the end, the most important thing is that Twitter monetizes. This isn’t 1998, and the venture community won’t value a service without some method of its making money. It’s up to Twitter to decide how to do that without alienating its user base and turning itself into another fallen social media giant. Twitter needs to ask itself a few questions before proceeding: is being the next MySpace so bad (after all, they got a ton of money from Google in exchange for their advertising problems)? How much credibility are they willing to sacrifice for cash, if any? And, perhaps most importantly, how influential are the Twitter first-movers, and how much damage would Twitter suffer by seeing them leave?

You can follow the author or Chitika on Twitter at @DanielRuby or @Chitika

Expert tips from JenSense at Chitika’s SearchAppalooza

Jennifer Slegg of JenSense.com was one of four star panelists who judged a search application contest sponsored by Chitika at SES NY, Chitika|SearchAppalooza. The video below captures her contribution as a contextual advertising expert, critiquing the app developers on how well they were able to create search app’s that have what it takes to stand out in today’s competitive market for creative tools. Click here to see the video, or watch below: Big thanks to Jennifer Slegg for her participation in this successful event! Not using Chitika to earn revenue from your website yet? Click here to sign up now.

“I can’t see my Chitika Premium ads!”

If you find yourself silently thinking or very loudly shouting the above statement then we’re here to help. The good news is, your ads are probably working perfectly on your site – you just can’t see them; this is actually normal, and I’ll tell you why. Chitika Premium ads work differently from traditional advertisements on your website. It will not just camp out on your site displaying an ad all the time (which can be annoying to your visitors), because the wise people here at Chitika decided that approach to displaying ads was actually not all that smart. So we decided to do it differently.

The Premium Approach Premium ads will only appear on your site to a visitor that clicks through to your website from a search engine. Why? Because we believe that targeting their search query and showing an ad related to that will result in a higher CTR and we don’t want you to feel like you are annoying your regular visitors with ads (this is especially important for forum owners).

How to test your ads It’s very easy to check out how the ad actually displays on your site by adding #chitikatest=keyword to the end of your URL in your browser’s address bar (for example – www.yourdomain.com#chitikatest=doctor). Refresh the page, and you will now see how the Chitika | Premium ad looks on your site for whatever keyword you used in the test (in the example, we used “doctor”). You won’t see exactly what your visitors will see in the ad unit because for them it’s targeted to their search query, remember? 🙂

Still have questions? No problem, comment below so I can help. If, after using the test tool to view the Premium ad on your site, you still cannot see it or are experiencing issues, you can receive assistance from our experts in support. To submit a ticket to support, click here.

Winners of the SES NY 09 SearchAppalooza contests

Once again, Chitika managed to uphold their reputation for thinking outside-the-box by putting one of our Chitika-ites in an owl costume at SES NY 09. He was featured in video interviews filmed by me, @KarlaChitika during the conference (which will be featured on the blog very soon), as well as put a smile on everyone’s face who came to the Chitika booth. SearchAppalooza Mania! Tuesday afternoon many gathered in the Grand Ballroom for our much anticipated SearchAppalooza ‘Search Apps Contest’ where 5 finalists presented their apps to Jennifer Slegg (CEO Jensense.com), Larry Cornett (VP Search Yahoo!), Rob Griffin (SVP Search Marketing MediaContacts), and Don Dodge (Business Development Emerging Business Team Microsoft Corporation). All of the apps were really great. If I were judging it would have been a very difficult decision, but the judges (who are clearly more thourough than I am) found some flaws and a winner was closen rather fast. The winner of the “Kick-ass Search App Contest” was:

Tom Wilde of: Everyzing.com

He received a Kindle2 sponsored by Yahoo! The coolest thing about Tom’s app was how it created a way to take, otherwise unsearchable, video content and convert it into searchable text. This could ultimately make way for a whole new outlook and marketing perspective centered around search content in video. Amazing! **The SearchAppalooza video will also be featured on the blog early next week- so be on the lookout for that, which features all the presentations from the app finalists. Twitterers also had the chance to participate by Tweeting their favorite app finalist to be in the running for a Kindle2 sponsored by Chitika. That winner was:

Alex Winton, @doctoroak

And lastly, Chitika hosted their near-legendary, 3rd-Annual “Cookie Eating Contest” at the end of SearchAppalooza to win an HP 1000 Netbook. Eleven contestants gathered to eat as many Oreo (double-stuffed) cookies as they could in 2 minutes. There was a tie! 12 cookies ate by two people (who would of thought)- so they then challenged eachother to a Oreo face-off. In the end, 18 Oreos was consumed by our winner! You can watch it all go down in our video here:

Chitika Team off to SES New York

It’s Monday morning and most of the Chitika team is packing up to head off to New York for SES New York. So what’s on their agenda?

To keep up with the Chitika team while they’re on the move you can follow team members on Twitter:

Chitika on Twitter

It’s Not Too Late to Enter the Kindle2 Contest!

Go check out the finalists for the SearchAppalooza contest and click the “Tweet this to Vote” button to voice your opinion and enter the Kindle2 Contest!

Hooty the Search Owl

Some have been asking what Hooty the Search Owl will look like. I mean there will be so many 6’4″ owls at SES New York it’s clearly important that you know which Frisbee loving owl knows the way to a free beer tonight.