Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN) vs Google AdSenseAdSense has been the King of contextual advertising for awhile. But, before AdSense, there was Overture…which was acquired and rebranded by Yahoo some time back as Yahoo Publisher Network. I was approved for the program a couple years ago, but haven’t done much other than toy with it from time to time. Recently, I had occasion to pull AdSense off a bunch of my sites for awhile, and I decided to give YPN a closer look. It doesn’t completely suck, however, it doesn’t match up well with AdSense, either…at least not on my sites and in my content niches. I find this sad…since competition is generally a great driving force, and MSN seems to be…well, who the heck knows what they are doing with contextual advertising from a publisher side? Anyway…regarding YPN, here are my observations:

  1. The pay is pretty good…at least on a per-click basis. I saw much higher payouts per click than I’ve seen with AdSense on the same sites in the last couple years (frankly, AdSense’s payout rate…at least on my sites…is pretty poor). I saw clicks paying many times higher with YPN. This seems to be good news…and if you’re on a site that pulls ads that compel folks to click on them, you can do well.
  2. But…their ad targeting is not impressive. I’m sure there are categories where YPN has a good inventory of ads, but they are clearly FAR behind AdSense once you get outside certain topics. AdSense does a really nice job of finding some level of relevancy…although there can be a “settling in” effect while they hone in on the target (this can take a little time). YPN doesn’t appear to have a broad enough base of advertisers….or else their targeting technology just doesn’t work as well. Even though I don’t care for the way AdSense targets some things, and I find their workaround confusing and frustrating…YPN is even more limited. They have just 20 major categories for ad targeting, and maybe 100 subcategories…which means that you’re pretty much screwed if none of those categories apply to your site. I tried experimenting with the targeting there…but couldn’t get any good results at all.
  3. No AdLinks-type ad format. In my experience, AdSense’s AdLinks can work as well or better than any of the other AdSense formats. In addition, they tuck in very neatly to a variety of web page designs. For some odd reason, YPN has not taken it upon themselves to include this ad format in their inventory. The closest thing is the venerable “ad banner” format, which at 468×60, is generally considered to be the most subject of all formats to “ad blindness”.
  4. Cannot appear on the same page as AdSense. This is one that really baffles me. Google has already said it’s OK with them, as long as YPN ads would have a distinctive look so they weren’t confused with AdSense ads. It’s clearly a limiting factor to the growth of their own program (i.e., less advertisers and publishers both)…so why hold people at bay? I don’t understand the logic here one bit.
  5. Sluggish/lame stats reporting. In my experience, AdSense updates about every half hour…so you can easily track how your ads are performing thru the day. This can be very helpful for immediate feedback when you’re tweaking formats, etc. And the AdSense data is always delivered with channel info right away. With YPN, the updates seem to be more like every 3 hrs or so….and you have NO access to channel data until the next day…so you’re always running blind for the current day.

Frankly, I have no explanation why #2 isn’t trying harder. The only thing I can figure is that it’s not a priority for them to grow the program…and they’ve decided to just tread water until they have a better vision…whereas AdWords/AdSense is Google’s bread and butter. AdSense continues to experiment and innovate…which is good, because I don’t see any other companies forcing their hand on this.

I had one decent day out of the 6 or 7 days in this test period. The rest of the days are simply embarrassingly bad…and it’s no surprise when I visit the pages and see the crappy ads they’re putting out there.

How about a dramatic statistic? The same site…two different days of the same week…one day with AdSense, one with YPN. Similar traffic. Exact same page positions for the ads. AdSense pulled over 13 TIMES AS MANY CLICKS as did YPN ads (and this isn’t a freaky statistical fluke…we’re talking about hundreds of clicks being pulled by AdSense). Yes, they paid relatively poorly in comparison with YPN per click…but I’d need a whole lot more clicks to compete…and YPN doesn’t show the quality of ads needed to compel anyone to express interest.

Again, I’m sure there are people in targeted niches that will have a different story. But while I will be continuing to use YPN, but I’ve had to head back to AdSense with my more productive sites…YPN’s poor performance is simply costing me too much money.