A Look Back at YPN After 2 Years

The Yahoo! Publisher Network has been in beta for almost 2 years now – the initial announcement was made on August 2th, 2005. I thought this would be a good time to reflect on my experiences with the program so far.

I have been with YPN since the start and have had my ups and downs with them. When I first started using them the revenues were not as good as they were with AdSense. Then in spring of 2006, I noticed that the income started getting a lot better – YPN was actually paying out better then AdSense. I’m not sure what changed, but things were great for a while. I was getting checks bigger than I ever was with AdSense. For a few months it was really good and I had most of my contextual ads with Yahoo. But then it started trailing off, and AdSense once again took over as my main contextual ad source. I try Yahoo again every now and then, but it has been worse than AdSense for over a year now.

The one consistent problem seems to be with targeting. Yahoo ads have never seemed as relevant as AdSense ads. Yahoo does have an ad Targeting feature. This lets you target your ads to 20 categories with 109 subcategories, but these categories seem way too broad. For example, they have an “Automotive” category with subcategories of “Aircraft”, “Automotive Resources”, “Automotive Services”, “Boats”, “Commercial Vehicles”, “Military Vehicles”, “Motorcycles”, “Parts and Accessories”, “Passenger Vehicles”, “Powersport Vehicles”, “RVs” and “Trailers”. Now, if you run a Ferrari enthusiasts site, these general categories are useless. You want only ads about Ferraris but these broad categories will give me ads about all types of cars.

Contextual ads work best when they are laser targeted. If I write a page about blue widgets in Toledo, I want to see ads about blue widgets in Toledo. I don’t want ads about credit cards in Toledo, or purple widgets. The great thing about contextual ads is that they can target exactly what the visitor is interested in at the time, and that causes them to click. Yahoo’s ads seem to miss the mark in this area. I’m not sure if there problems are technological, in that they just don’t do a good job matching, or if they just don’t have enough ad inventory to make good matches. Either way, they need to get this fixed.

Reading through the Digital Point YPN forum, it seems like I am not alone in this assessment of Yahoo. Almost all publishers seem to be saying they now earn more with AdSense than YPN.The common complaint is that YPN’s CTR is horrible compared to AdSense. When clicks do come, they seem to pay more than an average AdSense click, but there just aren’t enough clicks to make it worthwhile. This is due to the poor targeting.

I’m still hoping that things will improve with Yahoo and that they will once again start to have income levels similar to or better than AdSense. I think Google needs some serious competitors in this space to keep them in check.

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