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My ideal ad network

© February 2006 Anthony Lawrence

Google tells us at A look inside Google AdSense: The experimental approach that they really do work to maximize earnings:

One of our responsibilities on the AdSense engineering team is to
ensure that you always receive the most relevant and valuable ads
on your site.

Makes sense, right? Increasing relevance and value benefits everyone: readers, advertisers, publishers and of course Google itself.

Well, as usual, I have my own opinions on that. I certainly agree that an ad network like Google is in a good position to determine what ads works best. So why not expand on that? Here's how I'd like an ad network to work:

As you may know, publishers like me put ads on our pages by including a bit of Javascript. You can "View Source" to see what it looks like. We put in this Javascript every place we want to run an ad, specifying ad size, orientation, colors and so on. Simple enough, but why not do it differently?

How about we start off with code that identifies us to the ad network and gives defaults like "no image ads" etc. It would be very nice if we could also give some hints about page content (I had a post here that mentioned string theory and Adsense ran ads about guitars!). The ad network of course would be free to ignore our positive and negative suggestions: a person hoping to attract high paying "mesothelioma" ads wouldn't be able to do that just by including that keyword in the suggestion area, though perhaps negative keywords would be more apt to be honored.

OK, so now the ad network has the basics of what it needs from us. Now instead of putting in code that runs ads, let us instead put in what I'll call "opportunity blocks": a snippet that says in effect: "here's a spot where you can run skyscraper ad if you want to. You should align it left, using the 'div' tags I give you here, and you can basically do whatever you think is best". Then later on we'd give them more opportunity blocks and so on. The ad network could choose to fill in the block or not fill it in, dependent upon their best judgement of what would be best. We could be as general or as specific as we felt we needed to be as to colors, size, etc.

For example, an opportunity block might look something like this:

<!--Opportunity Block
mydivstart='div style="float:$alignset; width:$widthsetpx;
height:$heightsetpx; padding:1em;"'
my divstop='</div>'

Now here's the real interesting part: suppose it wasn't Google or YPN that did this at all. Suppose instead it's a third party service, a service that watches and analyzes and judges millions of pages. You as a web publisher feed it your page, and it responds back with its best layout : maybe it's Google ads for this page, YPN for that, and it fills in your opportunity blocks appropriately. You pay them some percentage of your revenue or maybe its the other way around. Of course you would have controls (don't run xyz's ads, no porn, no banners etc.) on both a global and "opportunity block" level.

This would be a "Meta Ad Network", possibly not providing any ads of its own but drawing always from the players like Google and YPN. I can't think of any reason why Google and the others wouldn't like this too: it doesn't hurt them in any way.

Such a service would likely be of real interest to bloggers and web site publishers who just don't want to deal with the nitty-gritty of ad optimization. Let someone else do it, and apply the benefit of both their expertise and their statistical analysis.

It would have to be fast, and it would have to be good. But many web sites have sub-optimal earnings simply because they lack the time and perhaps even the interest in becoming expert at advertising methods and tactics. A service like this could likely improve their earnings enough to justify their fees and then some.

Sound like a good idea to you? Well, if you steal it and turn it into the next billion dollar idea, please remember where you got it and at least give me a free account, OK? Thanks.. if I were younger and had more energy I'd pitch this to a VC firm, but I'm not going to do that. Nothing stopping someone else, though.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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-> My ideal ad network


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Thu Feb 16 15:12:39 2006: 1648   BigDumbDinosaur

I had a post here that mentioned string theory and Adsense ran ads about guitars!

That little gaffe clearly demonstrates the limits of computer "intelligence," eh? Perhaps Adsense should be renamed to Adnonsense.

Fri Feb 17 18:25:46 2006: 1658   TonyLawrence

Well, actually they are usually pretty good. And I would not be a bit surprised if they come back for re-analysis if they see that the ads aren't working at all. I've seen pages that displayed inappropriate ads change later on.. Google isn't dumb..

Sat Dec 1 20:03:46 2007: 3285   TonyLawrence

Komli does something similar to what I described here. I tried them out, but did not like the results at all: junky and irrelevant ads, lousy reporting and lousy tech support. I dumped them very quickly.


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