CHITIKA PREMIUM SECRETS 2009 STRATEGIES FOR TOP CHITIKA REVENUES By Joel Comm www.JoelComm.com TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION........................................................................................ 3 1. WHAT IS CHITIKA PREMIUM? ............................................................ 6 2. OPTIMIZING CHITIKA PREMIUM — EARNING FROM YOUR MOST VALUABLE USERS ................................................................................... 10 2.1 Choosing The Right Format ............................................................... 10 2.2 Choosing The Location ...................................................................... 11 3. CREATING ALTERNATES — EARNING FROM YOUR REGULAR USERS . 14 3.1 To Alternate Or Not To Alternate ........................................................ 15 3.2 Using A CPC System As Your Alternate ................................................ 16 3.3 Using An Affiliate Ad As Your Alternate ................................................ 17 3.4 Using CPM Ads As Your Alternates ...................................................... 19 3.5 Choosing Your Strategy .................................................................... 20 4. SPLITTING YOUR USERS: REGULAR USERS VERSUS NEW USERS ..... 21 3.1 Different Users, Different Content ...................................................... 21 3.2 Customizing Your Search Box To Bring Up Chitika ................................. 23 3.3 Choosing Your Keywords ................................................................... 26 5. CAN CHITIKA WORK WITH SOCIAL MEDIA? ..................................... 27 5.1 Tell Them To Search......................................................................... 28 5.2 Talk About SEO ............................................................................... 28 CONCLUSION.......................................................................................... 29 INTRODUCTION When Chitika brought out its eMiniMalls, I thought they were great. I loved the tabs. I loved the images. I loved the amount of information they were able to squeeze into each unit. And I certainly loved the revenues. Chitika didn’t replace AdSense units across all my sites — I haven’t come across anything that can do that yet — but on the pages that talked about products, they did very well and provided a nice additional income. On those sites, I found it very useful to mix my ad systems so that I was making money with AdSense, with affiliate units, with CPM banners and with Chitika’s eMiniMalls too. But eMiniMalls weren’t perfect. On pages that didn’t talk about products, the units were largely ignored. I tended only to use them on product pages. And it turns out that advertisers weren’t completely happy with them either. Even though they were generating plenty of clicks, those clicks weren’t producing large numbers of sales. So the advertisers told Chitika that they wanted more. They told Chitika that they didn’t just want clickthroughs of at least 2 percent; they wanted conversion rates of at least 2 percent. Now, that’s some tall order. Chitika has no control over what users do once they’ve clicked the ad. It’s not the ad system’s job to persuade users to buy. All a good ad system can do is serve ads that match users’ needs and make the units look appealing. Chitika’s eMiniMalls were doing that very well. But faced with the loss of advertisers unhappy at paying for leads that didn’t convert, Chitika was forced to do a little re-thinking. And the company came up with a unique solution. It decided to show its ads only to a fraction of a website’s users: those who reached the site through a search engine; and those who are based in the United States or Canada. If you live in the United States or Canada and enter a keyword into Google or any other search engine, click the link and reach a page with Chitika’s code, you’ll see Chitika’s ads. If you enter the URL directly into the browser bar, click a link to reach the site, or if you’re not in the United States or Canada, you’ll see… nothing. Well, you might see an alternate ad but you won’t see an ad unit from Chitika. That’s revolutionary. Until Chitika launched these new “Premium” ads, all advertising systems worked on the principle that every good user saw the ads. The ads themselves might vary depending on their location — Google practices geolocation, noting the user’s IP address and serving ads for local businesses and in local languages; and Chitika isn’t the first service to cut out entirely users in some low-earning locations — but how you reached the site has never mattered before. Now it does. And it makes sense. When a user types a URL directly into a browser, he’s looking for a particular type of content and he knows that that website can deliver it. He’s familiar enough with the content and the layout of the site to know where the ads will be on the page, and he’s probably become blind to them. He might click occasionally but a user who reaches a site directly is likely to be satisfied with what he finds on the page. If he hadn’t been satisfied with the page in the past, he wouldn’t have come back. Users who reach a site through a search engine though are looking for information but don’t know where to find it. They don’t know whether your website is the best source of that information… or whether the site offered by your advertiser can interest them too. There’s a good chance then that having reached your site, the user will click on an ad targeted to his keyword. After all, if your content hasn’t completely satisfied him, he’s going to want to keep searching. It’s easier to do that by clicking a link than by turning back to the search engine and starting again. And that’s pretty much what happened. According to Chitika, publishers who used optimized Premium units together with AdSense reported earnings as much as 25 percent higher than those who used AdSense alone. The ads themselves are different to the old eMiniMalls units. They no longer contain the reviews and different shopping sources for products. They look more like AdSense units, but with small decorative pictures and a search tab so that users can continue searching. They also tell the user which phrase he or she searched for, so that the ads look more like search results than… well, ads. That’s a neat bit of optimization. Most importantly of all, Chitika’s new Premium units cover many more topics than the old eMiniMalls. Because the ads they serve are a direct response to whatever phrase was entered into the search engine, the inventory isn’t restricted to products. That means they’re now good for every publisher to use, not just owners of review sites and product pages. In this report, I’m going to explain how to make the most of Chitika’s Premium ad units. I’ll start by explaining the principle behind the new units. When Chitika created the units, they tried to follow three commandments. Understand those commandments, and you’ll have a good idea of what the company is trying to do — and what you need to do to make the most of them. I’ll then talk about formatting. Just like any ad system, even though Premium ads are contextualized, the size you choose and where you put them always has a huge effect on the results you see. I’ll explain which formats have delivered the best results and how to use them — but mostly I’ll talk about some of the special issues that Chitika’s Premium units raise. I’ll then discuss alternates. Because your Chitika ads are only going to be seen by a fraction of your users, what you show everyone else is going to be as important as what you serve your American and Canadian viewers. I’ll reveal your three options and explain how to decide which is the best from you. Targeting those Chitika viewers is going to be vital as well, so I’ll also talk about the importance of search engine optimization, and about delivering different kinds of content to different types of users. And finally, I’ll briefly mention a couple of ways that you can combine Chitika Premium with social media. You can get signed up with Chitika quickly and easily. The first thing you’ll want to do is click here to get started. Once you applied for your account, read on. Let’s start though by looking at what Chitika Premium is all about. 1. WHAT IS CHITIKA PREMIUM? Fig. 1.1 Chitika Premium is “Search Targeted Advertising”… whatever that is. Chitika Premium is a completely new kind of advertising system. The main principle is to show targeted ads only to those people most likely to respond to them. Although they’re cost-per-click (CPC) ads — ads that only pay when a user clicks the link the ad contains — Chitika’s targeting makes them very different to other kinds of online advertising. When CPC ads first became available, advertisers loved them. Until then, advertisers been paying on a cost-per-mille (CPM) basis, handing over a set amount for every thousand impressions their ad generated. While they could be sure that the fee they were paying was putting their ad in front of a thousand people, they had no way of knowing how many of those thousand people were really interested in their products. In fact, advertisers knew that most of those impressions were being served to people with absolutely no interest in their product at all and who had barely even seen their ad — and yet they still had to pay for them. Cost-per-click ads meant that they only needed to pay when someone actually clicked the ad to read more. If they showed their ad to a thousand people and no one clicked, they got that exposure for nothing. They also got no income but at least they hadn’t paid for it. If someone clicked the ad though, that was a pretty good sign that they were interested. A lead like that was worth paying for. Unless it wasn’t. Just because someone clicks an ad doesn’t mean that they’ll actually buy something. Whether a lead converts has always depended on a number of factors: it depends on the quality of the seller’s site; it depends on his sales message; it depends on the seller’s ability to create trust; and it depends too on the quality of the traffic sent to the seller by the publisher — and, of course, it depends on the quality of the product. I’m always talking about the importance of optimization to encourage ad clicks — and I’ll continue to talk about it in this report too — but for advertisers, the quality of the clicks their ads receive is at least as important as the number of clicks they receive. Advertisers won’t want to pay $1 for each lead if only one in 100 of them buys… and spends less than $100. Google has known about this problem for a long time. That’s why it introduced Smart Pricing to its AdSense system. Publishers who send traffic that converts are rewarded with a higher cost-per-click than publishers with low conversion rates. The result is that a site with lots of ad clicks and a high clickthrough rate can still earn less money than a site with fewer clicks if more of those clicks convert into paying customers. But that’s difficult to implement. You have to be able to measure what the user does when he reaches the advertiser’s site and know what the advertiser wants the lead to do. No one is quite certain how Google does this, and it’s no surprise then that Chitika has chosen a more direct route: it cuts out those users least likely to become customers. That reduces the chances that the advertiser will pay for an ad that’s not going to bring him a solid lead. So Chitika only serves its ads to users from the United States and Canada (although it has also been experimenting with users in the United Kingdom too.) That ensures that advertisers are only pitching their products in places where they can actually make sales. But Chitika also only shows ads to people who have reached the site through a search engine. That doesn’t just mean that the ads are being seen by people looking for specific information; it also means that Chitika is able to use those search terms to serve very specific, targeted ads. Chitika sums up its approach with three rules: Rule 1 - Only show ads when the user really wants it. According to Chitika’s blog, this means that Premium units are only served when the company is sure of user intent and knows what the user is looking for: “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.” In fact, that’s not true. Chitika also allows you to place an alternate ad in the same position as the Premium unit — and that’s something you should certainly use. The truth is that Chitika doesn’t really care about annoying users with another ad unit; it just cares about annoying its advertisers by charging them for an ad click that doesn’t convert. If some other advertiser wants to pay someone else though, that’s fine by them — and it should be fine by you too. Rule 2 - Tell your users why they're seeing the ad. This is a smart move. Search for a keyword on a page and it will appear highlighted. Chitika has copied this approach by placing a line at the top of each ad unit that says “You searched for” followed by the search term in a highlighted yellow. The yellow draws the eye and suggests to the user that the following links contain responses to his search. That’s the sort of thing that’s likely to result in clicks. Chitika might like to portray this approach as “respecting” the visitor’s feelings by explaining why you’re serving him this content but it’s really just a neat way of drawing attention to the ads. Rule 3 - Only show users what they want to see This is simply Chitika’s way of saying that they deliver targeted ads. Instead of matching the ads to the keywords on a page of content though, they match them to the keywords entered in the search engine used to reach the page — a much more accurate way of assessing user intention. The effect of all this has been impressive. Chitika now has over 50,000 publishers. Its inventory is much broader than the product- based ads previously served by its eMiniMalls units. And the clickthrough rates are at least as good as its most effective old-style ads, the Recommended Product Units. But for publishers, it’s always vital to remember how Chitika’s Premium units work. Because Chitika is creaming off your most valuable users for its own advertisers, you’ll be left with a large rump of users many of whom are still valuable too. As you’re optimizing your Chitika units, you’ll also have to consider how you’re going monetize those users as well. In the next section, we’ll begin by looking at how to optimize your Chitika Premium ads. 2. OPTIMIZING CHITIKA PREMIUM — EARNING FROM YOUR MOST VALUABLE USERS One of the benefits of Chitika’s old eMiniMalls was that they looked so good. You couldn’t miss them when you saw them on a page and you couldn’t help but want to press the tabs when you did see them. (Actually, that might have been one of the things annoying advertisers: the ads might have created curiosity without generating a desire to buy. The first doesn’t always lead to the second.) Chitika’s Premium ads don’t look as innovative as the eMiniMalls units but they are still attractive, eye-catching and, most importantly, flexible enough to be adapted to any website. 2.1 Choosing The Right Format Fig. 2.1 Just some of Chitika’s formats. Note the highlighted search term and the little image next to the ad. Very eyecatching. Chitika currently offers around 24 different formats of Premium units, including two “MEGA-units” of 550 x 250 pixels and 500 x 250 pixels. That makes it easy to find at least one unit that will fit into the best position on your Web page. The usual criteria apply: ads that are above the fold — visible without scrolling — tend to perform the best, and embedding units into content so that users can’t miss them often delivers good results too. The MEGA-units are said to Testing Your Ads work particularly well embedded into a column of Want to see what your Chitika Premium content. They might break ads look like on your site without having to click through a search engine? the reader’s flow but they’re absolutely unmissable. Just add “#chitikatest=keyword” to the end of the URL. It also pays to match the colors of the ad unit with the So if you wanted to see what ads someone searching for “DVDs” would see color scheme of your on your site just surf to website. www.yourdomain.com#chitikatest=DVDs. Simple. Chitika allows publishers to change the colors of the title color, text and URL of the ad link. Make the title color the same as the color of your page’s sub- headings, the text color the same as the color of your content and the ad link… blue. Ad links should always be blue; it’s what users expect. You can also set the font of both the ad title and the text with these lines of code: ch_font_title = "Arial"; ch_font_text = "Arial"; Again, make the fonts match the fonts on your site. And you can use this line to make sure that the advertiser’s page opens in a new window or tab, keeping your users on your site: ch_target = "_blank"; That’s the easy bit. 2.2 Choosing The Location A little tougher is choosing the location. I don’t mean the location on the page — that’s simple enough. Chitika recommends placing horizontal ads directly beneath the article title. For other locations — such as embedding the unit into text or in sidebars — it’s pretty clear where on the page the different formats fit best. When you have a choice of two different ad types for the same slot, testing each option for a week or so will always tell you which delivers the best results. And you don’t even have to worry about using little tricks to draw readers’ eyes towards the ads. That old technique of putting images next to the ad units — the technique that AdSense banned because it was too effective — gets a new lease of life on Chitika Premium units. The ads come with little images next to them (and, of course, the search term is highlighted in yellow too.) So it doesn’t really matter too much what lies immediately next to your Chitika Premium unit; people are going to see it. The challenge I’m talking about is the pages on which you should include Chitika’s code. Usually, you want to make sure that your ad code is included on as many pages as possible. The more pages that show ads, the more chances you’ve got of winning revenue. Most ad systems demand that a page contains a certain amount of content but as long as you keep within those limits, you generally want to put your ad code right across your site. That might not be true of Chitika’s Premium ads. Remember, these units are only going to be seen on pages reached from a search engine. You can expect then that those pages that rank highest in search engines for their keywords will deliver more Chitika ad revenue than those with low rankings. For your top ranked pages then, Chitika is a must. According to Karla Escolas, a Marketing Manager at Chitika, publishers should be placing the code on their top five search pages at the very least. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore lower-ranked pages. In fact, the position of a page in the search results alone isn’t enough to predict the success of a Chitika unit on that page. It’s perfectly possible that you could have one page that ranked high for one search term and another page that ranked low for a different term. But if the low-ranking page is associated with a popular search term then it may well be receiving more search traffic overall. For example, let’s say you have a Web page that ranked in the top five search results for “Bill Murray.” If that ranking was enough to give you 10 percent of the 1,000 daily searches for “Bill Murray” (or however many searches his name receives), you’d be serving that page to 100 searchers every day. But if you ranked in the top 50 for “Angelina Jolie” and won 1 percent of the… say, 15,000 daily searches that she won, you’d be picking up 150 users every day, even though that page had a lower search engine ranking. A better guide to the most effective pages for Chitika then will be the stats in your Web analytics that tell you the total amount of the page’s traffic that comes from search engines. Any decent stats tool should be able to provide that information. The more of the page’s traffic that comes from search engines, the better you can expect that page to perform with Chitika Premium. But if the traffic that doesn’t come from search engines only sees an alternate ad, surely it doesn’t matter which pages contain Chitika’s code? You can place the code on all the pages: searchers will click the Premium unit; other browsers will click on the alternate unit. But that assumes that an ad unit works as well when it’s an alternate as it does when the code is pasted directly onto the page. I’m not sure that’s always the case. In practice, I suspect the results may vary depending on the keywords and depending too on the advertising system you’re using as your alternate. Chitika says that Google can contextualize an ad unit based on the page on which it appears. So you can paste your AdSense code onto an empty page and when the unit appears on your Web page, you’ll get the same ads as always. I think that’s something to keep an eye on. You might find that replacing a regular AdSense unit with a Chitika Premium unit containing an AdSense alternate results in most of your users seeing ads that are less well-targeted than they used to be. As I say, I’m not certain that’s the case but for pages with low rates of search traffic, that’s something you should check. Keep a record of your clickthrough rates and revenues for those pages for a week. Place your Chitika Premium code on those pages with your old ad code as an alternate, and compare the results. If you’re finding that the alternate ads aren’t as well-targeted and generate fewer clicks — and that the clicks on the Chitika units don’t compensate for that lost revenue — then only use Chitika units on the pages with the most search traffic. In theory, you should do this testing for each one of the pages on which you’re considering using Chitika. But test a few of the pages with relatively little search traffic and it should quickly become clear how you can expect Chitika to perform — and what percentage of search traffic you need to compensate for any loss of performance in your regular ads. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to find that your alternate ads perform as well as they did when the code was pasted directly onto the page, then you can feel free to put Chitika everywhere and enjoy the extra search money. And don’t forget too, that while Chitika Premium units only appear to search traffic, the ads do appear to those users throughout the site, not just on the entry page. So even pages with low amounts of direct search traffic according to your stats can still win revenue from Chitika if a searcher clicks through to them using your internal links. Choosing the right format for your ads and optimizing your units should be pretty straightforward. The units are eyecatching enough to win views and clicks even if your optimization isn’t perfect, and all the familiar placement rules apply. In the next chapter, I’ll look at an issue that’s no less important that optimization: your choice of alternate ads. 3. CREATING ALTERNATES — EARNING FROM YOUR REGULAR USERS Chitika’s Premium units might be generating some fantastic results. But they’re only generating those results for a fraction of your users — your most valuable ones. For everyone else — and that’s likely to be most of your users — it’s as though Chitika was never there. That makes the ads you show all those users vital. Even on a site with lots of search traffic you could still find that most of your ad revenue is coming from your other advertising systems. The Chitika ads might pay more per click — and many publishers have found that they perform at least as well as AdSense — and they might be the best way to monetize one sub-group of users, but as long as that group is small, your choice of alternate ads is going to be vital. 3.1 To Alternate Or Not To Alternate The principles on which Chitika built its Premium units suggest that there’s a value to be had by not showing alternate ads. When a user returns to a site he’s already visited or looks at it from a location outside the US or Canada, he can see fewer ads. According to Chitika that means the user is going to be less annoyed and receive a more enjoyable experience interrupted by fewer ads. I don’t believe a word of it. If a user hasn’t reached your site through a search engine, there’s a good chance that they’ve returned to it. That does suggest that they they enjoyed it the first time, even if they reached it after finding it through a search engine in the first place and saw an “annoying” Chitika ad. And besides, as much as I want my users to enjoy themselves, I want them to pay for that enjoyment too. Chitika’s argument in favor of folding ads away from some users is an argument in favor of not earning with ads at all — and that’s not going to benefit anyone. I can’t see any situation in which I would give up prime ad real estate on a commercial website, and I don’t recommend that you do that either. The line you’ll need to include in your Chitika code to make sure that there’s always an ad unit in that spot is: ch_alternate_ad_url = "INSERT URL HERE"; To create the URL you’ll need to upload a page to your website that contains the following code: <html><head></head><body> <!--AD CODE --> </body></html> replacing “<!--AD CODE -->” with the code for your ad unit. Note that the page has to contain proper HTML. You have to include all of those tags otherwise some ad systems — including Google’s AdSense — will not be able to read the ad code and will not serve the ad unit. So what kind of ad should you put there? You’ve really got three choices: another CPC system, such as AdSense; a Cost-Per-Action (CPA) system, such as an affiliate ad; or a CPM ad. 3.2 Using A CPC System As Your Alternate Fig. 3.1 www.washing-machine-wizard.com embeds an AdSense unit into its text. Want to show an ad like this to your non-Chitika traffic? I’ve pointed out that Chitika’s Premium ads are cost-per-click. You only get paid if a user clicks on the ad. Using another CPC ad as your alternate then is a like-for-like swap. Usually, that means using Google’s AdSense system. AdSense has long been the market leader in CPC advertising. It’s got a giant inventory, a contextualization engine that does a fantastic job of matching ads to content, and while there are other CPC systems out there, I’ve yet to find anything as reliable or as profitable. But bear in mind that you’ll probably already have Google AdSense units on your page. Even Chitika recommends that the best way to optimize your Premium units is to place an AdSense unit at the top of the page, followed by the article title, then a Premium unit directly beneath that title. If you replace that Premium unit with another AdSense unit then, you’re just going to be giving your users more of the same. Again, that’s fine. Google does allow publishers to place more than one unit on a page, and placing multiple AdSense units on a page is often a good strategy. It increases the odds that a user will click on at least one of them. But it’s also a good idea to vary the kinds of ads you put on your site. In general, a well balanced site should have income from ad clicks, income from affiliate sales and income from CPM ads that earn a little money from every single user. If you already have a couple of other CPC units on the page then, you might want to think about rebalancing your revenue streams by using either an affiliate unit or a CPM ad. 3.3 Using An Affiliate Ad As Your Alternate Fig. 3.2 Join the Amazon sales team. And that often means using an affiliate ad. These pay a commission for each sale. You won’t get paid for the click alone; the user has to actually buy something before you get paid. But the payments are usually much higher than you can expect to receive from a CPC click even if the number of payments you receive is always much lower. The best way to get the most out of affiliate ads is to actively recommend the products in them. So a publisher could write a post about a Photoshop technique, show Chitika ads to users searching for “red-eye removal” or whatever the post is about, and use an Amazon ad for a Photoshop book that the publisher mentions in the article as the alternate. That would give a different kind of revenue stream, but there is a problem with this approach. Remember, you’ve already lost a large chunk of your most valuable users — Internet searchers based in the United States and Canada. That just leaves American and Canadian returning users (or those who clicked a link to reach your site) as the only people who will buy from Amazon.com or any other store in North America. If you don’t have many of those kinds of users, you’re going to make very few affiliate sales. You can increase your chances of winning affiliate sales in a number of ways. Pushing the affiliate product hard is always a good strategy and may help to convert some of your returning users — they’ve already shown that they trust you — but you can also link to digital products that can be bought anywhere, or use stores such as Amazon.co.uk that appeal to the largest number of your remaining users. 3.4 Using CPM Ads As Your Alternates Fig. 3.3 You have to be big to use BrightRoll as an alternate. Not as big as Gwen Stefani, but still big. Affiliate ads are a risk. You’ll only get paid if someone actually buys and as you’re not showing the ads to all the people most likely to buy, there’s a good chance that your conversion rate will be particularly low when you’re using Chitika Premium units. CPM ads have the advantage of making sure that everyone pays… although you’ll only be receiving a tiny amount for each user. That’s why, in general, CPM ads are the most effective on sites with lots of traffic. When you’re using Chitika Premium, that’s going to mean lots of traffic from outside the US or Canada and which doesn’t reach your site through search engines. There are plenty of places to find CPM ads. Google sometimes tosses some in with its AdSense inventory — although you have no control of when they do that — but you can also try ValueClick (www.valueclickmedia.com), AdsDAQ (www.adsdaq.com) or MorningFalls (www.morningfalls.com). And if you want to make sure that you’re putting a CPM video ad in that slot though, you can take a look at BrightRoll (www.brightroll.com). You will need to serve a minimum of 3 million video views a month though, so it’s only really suitable for fairly big sites. 3.5 Choosing Your Strategy So you’ve got three choices for your alternate ads. Which should you choose? There’s no one answer. By taking the most valuable users for itself, Chitika requires that publishers have a good understanding of who exactly is looking at their site. It means that you’ll have to spend time poring over your stats, looking in particular at where your users are coming from, what percentage of them are coming from outside North America, and how they’re reaching your pages. The most effective alternate ad strategy will depend on the other ads already on your page and on your users too. Those conditions are all too specific to produce one definitive strategy. You’ll have to experiment and test. But there are general guidelines that you can follow as you’re planning your testing: • If you already have two AdSense units on the page, you’ll probably find it best to use a CPM or affiliate unit as your alternate rather than toss in a third AdSense unit. • If Chitika is still leaving you with lots of North American users or your content allows you to recommend digital products, use an affiliate ad as your alternate. • If you have lots of traffic from around the world, try using a CPM ad. None of these guidelines is definitive. You’ll need to test them and compare results. But they should help you to choose the best strategies for your site. There is however one rule you should always follow when choosing alternates: You must make the alternate ad the same format as the unit it replaces. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, so many sites have ads that look great when they’re displaying Chitika units and slightly off when they’re showing an alternate ad because the publisher didn’t choose a unit that was exactly the same size. That’s particularly an issue when you’re using one of Chitika’s MEGA-units. Few other ad systems have units that size so do make sure that your alternate ad still makes your content look good. Chitika’s Premium ads really do make a whole new set of demands on publishers. In the next chapter, I’m going to look a little more closely at what those demands mean in practice. 4. SPLITTING YOUR USERS: REGULAR USERS VERSUS NEW USERS I spend a lot of time checking my stats. I check my AdSense channels to see which ads and positions are performing best. I check my page views to see how the traffic is flowing, identify my best sources and note which types of content my users most want to read. Until now though, I haven’t usually checked which countries my users are coming from. The list of countries you can get in your server logs have always been a bit like the manual that comes with a new car. You’re sure it’s got interesting information in it, you’re certain that if you were to read it carefully you’d discover a secret way to get more out of your asset… but really, who does ever read these things? If you’re going to make the most of Chitika’s Premium units, you’re going to need to read those parts of your users stats very, very closely. You’ll need to know which countries your users are in, how many of them are reaching your site from search engines, which keywords they’re using to find your site and — if you really want to make the most of your Chitika units — what you can do to increase the flows of the kinds of users that Chikita likes the most. That’s what I’m going to explore in this chapter. 4.1 Different Users, Different Content The first thing you’ll need to do is divide your users into two. You’ll need to divide them into regular users and new users — and you’ll need to prepare content for each of them. That’s because there is a difference between the kind of content that grabs new readers and the kind of content that interests returning users. You know that the headline of an article is important. You know too that the first paragraph of an article is important. When a new readers looks at one of your Web pages, he only glances at it for a second. If the headline looks interesting, he’ll start reading. If the first paragraph sparks his curiosity. He’ll continue reading. And if the article as a whole is interesting, he’ll click through to other pages, subscribe to your RSS feed and come back in the future. To capture a new reader, you have to be able to deliver hard-hitting beginnings that pull browsers in and force them to read on. You have to persuade them that you’ve got content they’re going to enjoy and find useful. Returning users though are a lot more forgiving. They already know what sort of content you deliver. They know they’ll find it informative and entertaining, and they know they can trust you to deliver what they want. Of course, all content has to be good. Your pages always have to entertain and inform, but the content you serve to new users also has to persuade them — from the very first line — that what they’re looking at is worth reading. That’s why so many websites throw in the occasional list post. They’ll publish articles with titles like “12 Ways To Win The Lottery” and “52 Things You Never Knew About The Lakers.” Those articles won’t contain the most informative or the most original content on the website. But they will be among the most attractive, the ones that get the most links, the most votes on Digg and the most traffic. They bring in new readers. They offer them content that’s enjoyable and easy to digest. And they encourage many of those new users to come back. But even these articles have to be found before they can bring in those new readers — which is why publishers also create articles stuffed with keywords. There’s nothing wrong with that tactic when you’re optimizing your site for search engines. But keyword-rich pages often suffer in the reading. To attract the attention of the search engine robots, the same term has to be repeated frequently. That makes for pretty dull text — the kind of reading that robots like but people don’t. To make as much money as possible with Chitika Premium, you’re going to need plenty of search-engine and new-user friendly pages scattered throughout your site. You don’t want to overdo it. Too many list posts can make for a shallow-looking website, and too many keyword-rich articles make a site look spammy. But they can function as useful entry points for search engine traffic — and profitable locations for Chitika units. The remainder of the site though can make the most of the fact that your users will already know who you are and understand what you have to offer. Those articles can be relaxed, friendly and familiar. They’ll appeal to your returning users, the people who will visit frequently enough to give you a chance of picking up AdSense clicks — and the people most likely to give you affiliate sales. Because they’re returning users who didn’t reach your site from a search engine though, they won’t be giving you Chitika clicks. But even if you plan your content creation so that one article in ten, for example, is optimized for search engines and filled with high- paying, high-ranking keywords, your Chitika units would still only be visible to those people who had spotted your site in search results. (And only some of them.) There is a way though, to make Chitika visible to all North American visitors on all of your pages. 4.2 Customizing Your Search Box To Bring Up Chitika I’ve always been a little doubtful about the value of putting a search box on a website. Sure, when you’ve got a lot of content, it’s useful for your visitors. It means they don’t have to browse page after page to find interesting content and it makes it more likely that they’ll stay on your site for longer, giving you more opportunities to show ads. And if you’re using a search box supplied by Google, you’ll get a cut of any ad clicks generated in the results. In practice though, I haven’t found that to be too useful. Maybe it can work for other sites, but while those search clicks have brought in a little money for me, they’re nothing compared to the revenues I’ve seen from well-optimized AdSense units. The ability to customize searches to sites within a network — such as my own sites or those of a partner as well — could be quite helpful too. But I wouldn’t want to depend on income from a search box to finance a website. Chitika though does gives those Google Custom Search boxes a whole new use. Put a Custom Search Box on your site and when a North American user uses search to click through to another page Fig. 4.1 A Custom Search box at Washing-Machine- on your site that carries Chitika’s code, Wizard.com. they’ll get to see a Premium unit. And having searched once, they’ll then see Premium units on every page they visit. Done carefully, that can make a huge difference. You’re no longer dependent on search traffic to win your Chitika clicks. With a Custom Search box it’s possible to monetize even your regular users with Chitika. There is just one catch: you’ll have to encourage your users to make use of those search boxes. That might be a little tricky. One of the reasons that search revenues tend to be fairly low is that only a small fraction of users will use the search box. They have to know what they’re looking for and they have to know too that what they want is available on the site. More usually, if a user can’t find the content he wants quickly, he’ll click an internal link or two. And if he still can’t find it, hasn’t been tempted by an ad and has to search to find what he wants, he’ll go back to Google. To ensure that your regular users navigate with the search box on your site — and bring up Chitika’s ads on every page they look at — you’ll need to encourage them to search without going back to Google. Fortunately, that’s not too difficult to do — especially if you actually give them the keywords. Try placing a short piece of text near the search box, informing your readers that they can find more articles with similar content on your site. So if you had a website about gardening, a sentence like this directly beneath or above the Custom Search box should be enough to do the trick: “Looking for more articles about gardening? Search for ‘gardening’ here.” Ideally, each page on which that text appeared would also target a particular keyword. So instead of telling your users to search generally for “gardening” you could tell them to search for more articles about weeding or fertilizer: “Looking for more articles about weeding? Search for ‘weeding’ here.” That single sentence would tell users that there is more content available, let them know what they have to do to find it — and as soon as they searched, it would activate the Chitika Premium units for users who would not otherwise have seen them. Clearly though, to make use of this method, you should be putting your Chitika code on at least the most important pages that contain those keywords. One of the complaints that Chitika’s people make about the way that publishers are using Premium units is that publishers aren’t placing them on enough pages. If you’re going to use a Custom Search box to turn your regular users into search users, you might well have to put them on a lot more pages than even the five top search results that Chitika recommends. You’ll need to put them on at least the top search pages for each of your main keywords. 4.3 Choosing Your Keywords And those keywords are going to be crucial. They’re also going to force you to make some of the toughest decisions about how you’re going to optimize your Chitika units. Keywording is always difficult — which is why most publishers tend to take the easy route. When you’re uploading content regularly, you don’t want to think too hard about the keywords for every article you upload. You want to keep an eye on your search engine rankings. You want to keep an eye on your AdSense earnings. But mostly, you want to keep both eyes on your content. Create good content, and people will find you. Place AdSense on your site, and Google’s inventory and contextualization engine are so broad and effective that you should find yourself serving ads that generate clicks. You’ll just have to optimize the units to make sure that those units are seen. Chitika demands that you do a little more though. Because Chitika’s ads are so effective when placed in front of their target audience (publishers have reported increase revenues of around 25 percent higher than pages with AdSense alone), you’ll want to make sure that the keywords those ads target are high-earners. That’s going to take some balancing — and a lot of testing. You won’t know which keywords are the most valuable, so you’ll need to test a number of them and make comparisons. So a publisher with a website about carpets would want to create pages that target keywords like “Persian rugs,” “deep pile” and “acrylic carpets.” He’d need to look at the percentage of users who visit those pages as a result of clicking through from a search engine. He’d need to look at the clickthrough rate. And he’d need to look at the eCPM — the amount of money actually earned on average for every thousand impressions. That would tell him which of those keywords are actually bringing in the most revenue — and which types of pages he should be creating more often. In targeting search engine traffic, Chitika has made life very easy for its programmers. When you know the keywords that users are looking for, it’s not hard at all to bring up targeted ads. But you can’t help feeling that Chitika is missing a trick. Search engine traffic is always going to be important, but these days social media traffic is vital too. In the next chapter, I’m going to take a quick look at some ways you might be able to profit from users visiting your site from a social media site. 5. CAN CHITIKA WORK WITH SOCIAL MEDIA? I’m a huge fan of social media. I love the fact that I can use Twitter to turn users into a community, talk to my customers and build trust. It’s an amazing form of marketing. One that’s viral, effective and a huge amount of fun too. Whether your ultimate goal is to persuade people to pay you for your services, buy your products or just drop by your ad-supported website, a carefully created Twitter stream, LinkedIn account and even Facebook account can all be hugely effective branding tools and traffic drivers. And neither of those things — alone — is going to earn you a penny from Chitika. Because Chitika only pays for search traffic, even if you were to set up a Twitterfeed — a kind of RSS feed that tells your Twitter followers when you’ve posted new content — you wouldn’t get a penny for any of that traffic from Premium units. Because those users — loyal readers of your tweets and content — didn’t come through a search engine, Chitika won’t know what to serve them so it won’t serve them anything. I think that’s a huge waste but there’s not a huge amount that you can do about it… except for a couple of small things. 5.1 Tell Them To Search The most obvious is to tell your friends and followers to use the Custom Search box. That’s not a bad idea anyway. If you’ve got a site that’s been around for a while, then you’ve probably got tons of old content that rarely, if ever, get an airing. That’s a shame. If you can put those pages in front of users, you’ll put ads in front of them too, and make some money with no extra effort. Write occasional tweets that tell people about the treasures that they can find digging around on your site and you should create enough curiosity to inspire them to spark up your Chitika ads. You can do that by simply inviting them to search: “Try searching for ‘weed-whackers’ on my site at mysite.com. There’s some classic content there for all enthusiastic weed- whackers.” Or you could box a little more cleverly and use the tweet to generate curiosity: “Wow. Searched for ‘weed-whackers’ on my site at mysite.com and found a great article I’d forgotten I’d even written.” Toss a tweet like that into your timeline every now and then, and you should give your Chitika income occasional boosts. 5.2 Talk About SEO Encouraging people to search your site should be pretty simple but if you want to be really subtle, you can write occasional tweets about search engine optimization. This is really only going to feel natural if you tweet about website publishing anyway. If that is part of your repertoire though, then mentioning how your optimization efforts are going and tossing in links to the search results at Google so that users can click through — then click the link — could give you a few more Chitika ad clicks too. On the whole though, social media and Chitika are not the most natural partners. Chitika tries to make money out of new users while social media is a way of turning regular users into a community of loyal users. Perhaps the best strategy then might be to work backwards. Chitika gives you an added incentive to focus on your search engine optimization. It means that rewards for bringing in new users are higher than they’ve ever been. You won’t just get a chance to show your site to new users. You’ll also get a chance to show those new users one of the Web’s most effective — and most selective — ad units. If you’re going to spend extra time looking for more search traffic then, be sure to add a Twitter widget, or a LinkedIn or Facebook button to your site so that you can stay in touch with those new visitors. (Twitter offers a bunch of widgets at Twitter.com/widgets that are easy to install and which put your tweets on your website.) You’ll give those new visitors a reason to click through to your community site, follow you… and keep in touch. CONCLUSION I’m not an expert on search engine optimization. There are plenty of people around who spend all day every day doing nothing but counting keywords, measuring pagerank and drumming up links. When it comes to pushing a site up the search results, I’m happy to listen to the experts. And it’s those experts who are likely to benefit most from Chitika’s Premium units. Publishers who understand SEO, whose sites have high page rankings and which have a high percentage of traffic from Google, Yahoo! and Bing are always going to be the ones who make the largest sums from Chitika Premium. You can argue then that the most effective strategy to follow when implementing these units is to focus on your SEO, and try to bring in as many of the users Chitika wants as possible. That’s a good strategy to follow anyway though. Publishers should always be keeping an eye on their search positions and ensuring that they have pages that appear high in search results for their main keywords. They should either be doing that themselves by learning about SEO and putting those strategies in place — or by paying someone else to do it for them. Chitika now provides an added incentive to do that, but the free traffic that comes in from search engines should always have been incentive enough. In this report, I’ve tried to talk about some of the other methods that publishers can use to make the most out of Premium units. I explained the principles behind the units, and I discussed what Chitika is trying to do and why they’re doing it. It is possible to argue that Chitika is being selfish in stealing away all the best users for itself and leaving only the lower value visitors for other advertising systems. But they are paying a premium for those visitors so while the money you receive from your other ads might be lower than usual, most publishers have found that the extra payments they now receive from their North American search traffic more than make up for those losses. I also described some basic optimization strategies that publishers can implement to make the most of their ads and ensure that visitors see them — and don’t see them as ads. Those are very simple. Chitika provides a wide range of different formats that fit just about every position on your page. While you might be faced with a choice of two or three different formats for a particular position, the difference in results is likely to be minimal and easy to measure. In practice, you should find that the same principles that apply to any CPC-based ad model deliver the best results: put the ads above the fold, embed them into content and format them to look like content, and you’ll win the most clicks. Chitika’s decision to highlight the search terms and add neat little pictures to the text makes that even easier. The choice of alternates is much trickier but no less important. That’s why I devoted an entire section of the report to the guidelines that can help you to decide which kinds of ads to show to the users that Chitika leaves behind. And I also discussed what Chitika’s strategy of only earning from search engine traffic means for publishers. That’s vital. Until now, I suspect that few publishers have really thought a great deal about what their readers are looking for and what they expect to find on the site. We’re all probably guilty of assuming that if someone has reached our website it’s because they’re looking for the kind of content we deliver, whether that’s tips on patio-building or articles about orc-bashing. But there are differences between the visitors who reach your site for the first time and the users who come back again and again because they trust your content and know you can deliver. I talked about those differences and I revealed one strategy that you can use to serve Chitika ads even to regular users who might enjoy your vintage articles. And finally, I discussed a few ways in which you can use social media to increase your Chitika earnings. Chitika and social media might not be natural partners but the community you can build on sites like Twitter is so valuable that it’s a shame to waste it. If you’re using Twitter — and you should be — then you should also be looking for ways to turn that community into Chitika clicks. But I don’t expect everyone to use all of the strategies outlined in this report. There are lots of different ways to earn money from your websites and only a limited amount of time to do it. Spend hours thinking about ways to encourage your Twitter followers to click your Custom Search box and that’s time you’re not spending creating new content, negotiating affiliate deals or just enjoying Internet publishing. The strategies I’ve outlined here will help you to make the most of Chitika Premium units. You can choose which to implement and decide which will suit your site the best. In practice, I suspect that most publishers will find that it pays to create a balanced strategy that makes the most of each of their ad systems. That will usually mean: • Paying more attention than usual to search engine traffic. You might well already feel incentivized to bring in plenty of search traffic but knowing that those kinds of users are now more valuable than ever should drive publishers to check their pageranks and their keywords more frequently. That’s no bad thing. • Adding a Custom Search box — and encouraging readers to use it. Most sites add a search box as an extra function for their users and as a way to pull up old content. Chitika turns Google’s Custom Search boxes into genuine money-spinners — but only if you push your visitors into using them. • Using AdSense alternates. Although you can use just about any kind of ad as an alternate for your non-North American search engine traffic, AdSense is an effective and reliable like-for-like swap. It makes a good — and very simple — place to start for most publishers. • Checking stats. You should be doing this anyway as well, of course, but when you implement a new ad system, keeping an eye on the results and your implementation strategies is more important than ever. In particular, you’ll want to make sure that the techniques you’re using to increase your Chitika earnings aren’t lowering the earnings from your other ads so much that you’re earning less overall. I don’t think that’s going to happen though. In fact, I think you should find that because you’re now making more money from your most valuable users, your site will be more profitable. And as an added benefit, because you’ll be spending more time looking at your search engine rankings, you’ll also be picking up more traffic and more regular visitors too. None of that will happen though until you sign up, add the code and start optimizing! If you haven’t already done it, get signed up for Chitika Premium now! Here Are Two More Resources To Help Increase Your Online Income. 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