eMiniMalls from Chitika - Review
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.
I signed up at their site, and was approved in less than 4 hours. I went to their site to grab my ad code, and looked through my passwords. I realized I hadn't recorded one, and went back to their acceptance email. I had received login info, and ad code in the registration email. Hmmm, that's interesting. I logged in to see the most sparse looking advertising interface I can remember. I'm sure I've seen worse, but not in this millenium. The main menu consists of Home, My Account and Logout. My Account has two more options, Reports and Edit Your Information. Well, ok, it's just the tracking system. No problem, let's see how this puppy fares.
At the time of joining, they had 2 ad sizes, leaderboard and small rectangle. They are sized at 728x90 and 180x150. The big one was too large for most of my test sites unless the ad was to become part of the template, which worked ok on one domain. The small one is easier to place, but didn't fit as well as I like. My contact did mention they had a new ad size coming out soon, and he would let me know once it was available. Here are examples of the first two ads, I have resized the mondo one to fit on this page:
I placed these ads as seamlessly as I could. I was pleased with the look on one site, the others were acceptable. The ad units are slick and the tabs were almost fun to mouseover. I didn't like Chitika's shameless self promotion built into the ads, there were already other ways to click on the ad without getting paid. (Blogs, for example.)
The first day was a half day, and checking stats the next morning I noticed the ads were not clicked AT ALL. It seems impressions were being undercounted as well. I contacted my rep, and he supplied me with the ad code for the new size of 468x180, which was a much better fit for a couple of the sites. We agreed on a 24 hour trial run with the new format in place.
You can see this is an uglier ad unit, which has a huge embossed frame. Why they didn't use the nice, thin black frame as with their other ad sizes is beyond me. The product image is animated, it zooms in on the product, which is a nice eye-catching touch.
Full Day of Testing
Ok, ads have been up half a day, Chitika have had ample time to spider and determine relevance. I cruised around the sites and watched the ads load. Half the time they were slow, very slow. I started looking closely at the targeting, and noticed it was off. For a page about accounting software, backup software ads were shown. On the backup software pages, generic ads were shown. There were many examples of this, on all domains.They clearly had targeting problems, as I could see proper inventory on the wrong urls. I contacted my rep, and he informed me that their system tagged urls with 3 "concepts" and rotated through them. So, different software apps were showing on different software app pages.
He disabled this feature on my account, and the targeting did get better. But the same ad would show repeatedly. For example, they had several different ads for various games. However, throughout the gaming urls, the same ad was shown over and over.
The rep also commented that they were working on a new solution for hosting the ads. Ok, great, but that doesn't help me now. So, on this first full day of testing, the ads are slow, and it has taken some tweaking on their part to get the relevance at least close.
At the end of this test, I have a whopping .005 CTR. That's right, half a percent. I confess, I did not run on a ton of domains, and I only ran ads for a couple of days. However, I have run AdSense on these domains for quite some time, and anything below 10 % CTR sucks. Less than 5% is not acceptable.
My impression counts were about half what they should be according to Chitika's stats. Slow or non-loading of ads seems to have been the culprit. Earnings per click were better than AdSense at well over a dollar. Unfortunately, this nowhere near makes up for the lack of clicks. I feel confident that this was a solid test, and I know I don't need to work with eMiniMalls for now.
Verdict - Beta Offering at Best
I want to make sure I point out that these guys were super nice to work with, and I think they did the best they could with what they had. But at the end of the day, the bottom line is just that - the bottom line. Ads were slow to serve. Relevance was off, and once corrected variety was nil. EPC was solid, but that only counts when you get enough C for your EPC. I'll consider running another test some time in the future, but for now, these guys have some work to do.