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Today’s ad serving post on– what WASN’T said

I saw 52 comments on my guest post today on This was one of the longest posts I’ve done. And I’m pleasantly surprised by the feedback there– only one hater, who tried to broadbrush all affiliate bloggers as folks who actually don’t make any money, but exist to prey on noobs. And even that person came around to note that not all affiliate marketers are scammers.
The folks who left comments were from broad walks of life– from running a site for chiropractors (charging up to $550 CPM rates– that is not a typo), to a work at home mom, to affiliate managers, to our buddy Daehee who coached the team that won the Google Online Marketing Challenge last year. There were the typical range of comments from folks who don’t know what PPC stands for, folks who noticed how long the post was, to folks who got some value.
But the most interesting thing is not one of these comments, but what WASN’T said. I didn’t see anyone from the ad networks or any ad serving engineers post comments. The truth about scrubbing is something that large affiliates keep to themselves. Same is true for ad networks that employ a form of “boost” to favor low performing ads on the network– great for the advertiser, but a penalty paid for by publishers who make less money. We could spend hours on the tricks that are employed by ad networks, in a sort of Mason’s handshake for the uninitiated. Do most ad networks scrub? Yes. Is this a legitimate practice? Yes. But do most ad and affiliate networks also scrub in unethical ways? Yes.
A lot of affiliates were asking about a more in-depth post on scrubbing. Rather than go into all the ways– which is something I couldn’t do, because there are so many that I don’t know, too– it’s better to just say that you should look at your earnings. So what if they take 30% out? Perhaps they are paying you 50% more per lead so it backs out better than the other offer. Sure, you could ask that the advertiser place your pixel on the page– close to their pixel (since position on page matters). And you could get your AM to swear that you aren’t getting scrubbed– yeah, the check is in the mail.
So the answer? Just look at eCPM. Don’t worry about payouts (that’s a sucker play) or other metrics. Understand that CTR x eCPC = eCPM. And with CTR holding equal, then you want maximum eCPC, which is the payout times the conversion rate. So if the conversion rates are the same for an offer across two networks, you’d take the one that has the higher payout. But often the same campaigns sending traffic to the same offer page will convert differently between networks. Scrubbing is not the only reason, but the primary one. So choose according to what makes you the most– run a primary network for the offer, but reserve a small portion to run on the other network, so you can check for discrepancies between the two. If you have a lot of traffic, it’s only smart to do that.
I believe that smarter pubs will join LeaderClicks. If you believe that eCPM is the true measure of earnings, then sign up. If you think that lead payout or eCPC is what to shop for, then join another network. We’ll be releasing a series of tools to let you rotate ads between us and the other guys to keep us honest. Or write your own script– it will only take you 20 minutes. Most of the networks who run social inventory are absolutely fleecing publishers. I won’t mention names, but these folks know who they are and what margins are set for the street payouts. We could play that game, too, but think that in the long run (and in internet time, that’s 6 months), the market will eventually figure it out. I want to be ready for that shake-out now— I want publishers to ask the right questions of their ad networks, so they can make informed choices about who really does pay better– not who says they pay better.
I am 16 years old and though I enjoy a decent standard of living, you won’t see me renting office space on Madison Avenue, hiring a bunch of empty suits, or holding contests with glamorous prizes— these are all things for show that actually eat into both network profits and publisher payouts. The pie must add up to 100%, so you do the math on how that dollar of gross revenue is allocated. We have a small team of less than 20 people, primarily engineers who work on ad serving, plus a few analysts. We’re self-funded, but have more money than the average start-up, since we’ve made a fair bit doing affiliate marketing ourselves. I’d like to think that this gives us a better understanding of the publisher point of view.
In a future post, I’ll talk about some of the things that our ad server does, such as Dynamic Social Ads, where we personalize ads on the fly based on user profile information. And there are cool statistical techniques where we match offers against groups of people with common traits. We could go on and on crowing about how we have “proprietary” black box voodoo magic Google SocialAdFriendPageRank secret sauce– but really, it’s just about who pays you more money, pays on time, and is fun to work with.
So sign up for our social ad network (or if you have other inventory, that’s fine, too), use promo code “HARRISONSENTME” and I’ll send you a free LeaderClicks T-shirt when you do at least $100 in earnings. Oh, and the shirts are PIMP!

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