Contextual ads are the up and coming easy money right now. Just about any page on a topic anywhere close to being monetized is running AdSense. From Nasdaq.com to Shirley's personal page about crochet. It seems just about every serious webmaster is dipping his fingers into the contextual pie.
Very soon, Google will not be the only contextual game on the block. Yahoo's Publisher Network is due to launch this year, and new competition is popping up almost daily. I will be reviewing the most viable options to determine the real performers.
Chitika have a couple of contextual products, but they'll tell you right up front that their eMiniMalls product is their best offering. I was rather intrigued by this ad unit, it is interactive with tabs for prices, revews, blogs, and search. It is only available for products, but I had a few sites on which to run a test.
Kanoodle BrightAds are still carving out their spot in the contextual market. They come right out and admit that Google wipes the floor with them, when it comes to laser focused niche relevancy, and I like that. Nothing beats honesty, and I've given these guys a try just to see what happens. They offer a 50% revenue split. Their COO mentioned a cookie-drop program for their behavioral network that got my interest as well.
Google's Adsense as most already know, is where the serious money is. With the largest ppc ad inventory available for contextual, and the best relevancy thus far, Google is the king of the contextual hill. Many AdSense publishers dislike Google's secretive stance on revenue split, and communication with support has been poor in my experience. Partners doing thousands of dollars in business every month deserve more than form letter responses. Overall, publishers generally seem to be happy, but grumblings here and there indicate loyalty to the Google machine may be wearing thin.
Yahoo! Publisher Network will hopefully launch very soon. You can submit an email address to be notified when this service goes live. Many publishers are very eagerly awaiting it.
Quigo Adsonar has had quite the buzz since before they launched. Though their product is contextual, your site must fit into one of the following categories: Travel, Cars, Wedding, Education, Sports and Health. Of course, this is very limiting. Quigo's USP is lower level publishers won't earn as much per click as bigger names and brand sites. This means even more earnings for the larger sites. An interesting dynamic, but most independent webmasters may not be impressed. Yaron Galai, Co-Founder of Quigo said to expect several more categories available to publishers in the near future. Though it may be a while before they have a fully featured product, this is one company to watch.
ContextWeb is another solid solution, especially for dynamic sites that have many pageviews that are unique. Rather than crawl a site and already have the data for what ads to serve, ContextWeb's backend spiders the page immediately within 20 milliseconds of the visitor pageview. The most relevant ads are then served up to the page. For sites that aren't crawled well by Google's AdSense bot, this could be a great solution. I'll be trying contextweb out on at least one site, and will update my findings here.
Chitika has a traditional contextual product, as well as a new product called eMiniMalls. This is a unique offering, and Chitika seem to indicate earnings have much more potential here, so we'll focus on it for now. The eMiniMall is a contextual ad, but it represents a product and contains more info than a traditional ad. On the left of the ad unit, it lists different vendors, their prices for the product and vendor ratings. To the right the ad it has up to five interactive tabs for the user to mouse-over for more info. The tabs can include a description, reviews, links to blogs and more items. Publishers don't get paid for clicks on these tabs, but the ability to interact with the ad should increase paid CTR. Chitika eMiniMalls Full Review