IPL is back and so am I

In case you're wondering where I've been for the past month or so, you're finally going to get an answer. I've obviously been busy with college. I had my 1st Minors in February-end. After that, I've been busy with Maffick and Technosearch work. After a very busy month that included 3 trips back home to Delhi separated by a very small time span, I'm finally free enough to update my blog. My current whereabouts? I'm in Delhi till 22nd March. Now that I'm at home, I get to watch Television more often and the hottest thing on TV these days is the 3rd edition of the IPL, which started on 12th March.

The latest edition of the IPL, has everything nice from the previous editions and some improvisations in addition to everything. One of the nice things from the last season that has continued is the Vodafone Zoozoo ads. The strategic time out, which was introduced last year has been modified. Instead of one 7.5 minute time out, there are two 2.5 minute time-outs now- one decided by the batting team and the other by the bowling team. 5 new venues, Cuttack, Nagpur, Vishakhapatnam, Ahmedabad and Dharamsala in addition to the 8 previous venues have been added in this season. The very popular IPL Horn/Trumpet is being used in this season as well. This year, its a slightly different horn that's played.

IPL is getting bigger every year. YouTube is the exclusive worldwide online video partner and you can watch live streaming of all matches with a 5 minute delay on http://youtube.com/ipl. Recently, Airtel was the streaming sponsor for a match and was offering free, automatic 2Mbps upgrade for Airtel broadband users on the IPL youtube channel to enhance the streaming experience 🙂 . The IPL 2010 matches are being featured in theaters too. You can watch all the matches, except the ones that are being played in your city ad-free in some cinema halls near you. This a really smart move and is something I had been waiting for. Watching a cricket match in a multiplex is a really nice experience. I'll be watching the Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challenger's Bangalore clash tonight at a multiplex 🙂 .

Another highlight of the IPL 2010 season was the debut of the Mongoose MMi3 bat designed specially for T20 cricket. The bat was unleashed on 19th March 2010 in the CSK vs DD clash. Mathew Hayden used the bat in the match and scored 93 off 43 balls.

The Mongoose MMi3 Bat

The Mongoose MMi3 Bat
The Mongoose MMi3 Bat

The mongoose MMi3 bat is a specially designed T20 bat. The blade is 33% shorter than a conventional bat and the handle is 43% longer. The bat claims to provide 20% more power and 15% more bat speed and gives the batsman an advantage. Mathew Hayden did play some nice, powerful strokes with his Mongoose MMi3 but it would be intersting to see the response the bat gets. People are gonna be skeptical before using this bat but I feel this really is going to gain popularity among other players.

This edition of the IPL is shaping up quite differently as far as the results are concerned which is expected looking at the nature of the T20 game. Personally, I'm supporting Mumbai Indians ever since the first season and hope they perform better than they did in the last 2 seasons.

PayPerPost v4.0

PayPerPost

Payperpost was one of the first blog advertising networks based on the sponsored post model. A lot of blog advertising networks have followed the path laid by PayPerPost but nothing has been as big as PPP. Izea's other advertising network SocialSpark gets close to PayPerPost but is not as big as PPP was in pre-RankSpank days. Izea recently launched PayPerPost v4.0 which aims to help PPP regain its position.

PayPerPost lost popularity after the RankSpank incidents and a better search-engine friendly advertising network was due to come. People might have thought that SocialSpark will be Izea's main focus but the launch of PayPerPost v4.0 has proved that PayPerPost will live and Izea will not shut-down its most popular service.

PayPerPost

PayPerPost v4.0 has many new features making it a great improvement to PPP v3. It has a nice clean interface for bloggers. Bloggers set their own blog prices and the advertiser no longer sets the prices. Advertisers get to control every aspect of their opportunities. They can hand-pick bloggers and manually approve their posts. Bloggers also have an option to limit themselves to posts with nofollow links.

PPP v4.0 is ready to come out of its alpha stage. The response from bloggers has been great. They are currently looking for advertisers who want toAdvertise On Blogs. Izea always takes good care of its advertisers and hence keeps its clients happy. So I expect a lot of advertisers to sign up on PayPerPost v4.0 to promote their website or service. PayPerPost v4.0 is going to be big.

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Split test your Adsense ads

Split testing (also known as A/B testing) your ads is a great way to determine which ad format is best for your website. Regular visitors of my blog would've noticed (if you don't use ABP) that the ad at the top of the sidebar is sometimes a large ractangle (336x280) and sometimes a rectangle (300x250). Well, this is a part of a split test I've been conducting for some time. This post will explain how you can split test your Adsense ads.

First of all you need to create two similar Adsense units like a 338x280 and a 300x250 unit or a 160x90 or a 160x600 unit and a 120x600 unit. You may also create two units of the same size with a different layout or format. This depends on what aspect you want to test. Create a separate channel for both these units for the purpose of tracking their individual stats.

Now comes the main part, implementing the split test code. There are many methods to implement the split test code. All of these use conditional statements along with some function to generate a random number. I'll give two popular methods to split test Adsense ads. Both more or less work on the same principle.

The Javascript Method

This is the basic syntax of the split test using Javascript-

<script type="text/javascript">
var random_number = Math.random();
if (random_number < .5){
<! Add first ad code below>

}
else {

<! Add second ad code here>

}
</script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"></script>

Note that it is against the Adsense program policies to edit the ad code. I thought this method was against the Adsense policies when I started writing this post. But then I came across this post on the Adsense blog which mentions that they talked to their policy folks and they've given permission to publishers to edit the ad code for A/B testing purposes.

As I've mentioned, I used to think that the Javascript method was against the Adsense program policies so I decided to use some other method. This method was the PHP method.

The PHP Method

This method doesn't insert any bit of code between the ad code. So naturally there is no question of it being against the Adsense program policy. Note that your server needs to support PHP for this method to work. If you are using WordPress, your host definitely supports PHP(duh!). This is the code for the split test using PHP

<?php $splitIt = rand()&1; echo "<!-- $splitIt -->"; ?>
<?php if ($splitIt == 0) { ?>

<! Insert 1st ad code>

<?php } ?>

<?php if ($splitIt == 1) { ?>

<! Insert 2nd ad code>

<?php } ?>

Using both these methods both the ads will show up almost 50% of the times the ad is shown. You can now compare the performance of both the ad units and decide which one you want to use. You can also further split test the better performing ad with another ad.

My Results

I've been conducting a split test between 338x280 and 300x250 rectangles for quite some time now. The result of the test was mixed. The 300x250 unit and 338x280 unit both have good CTRs but the 300x250 unit has a slightly better CTR. But what attracts me towards the 338x280 unit is that at a decent CTR it gives a much higher CPC which effectively leads to better earnings than the 300x250 unit. I need some more time before which I can decide which size is the best for my blog.

Note that different websites show different results on split testing. The best way to know which format is the best for your site is to split test ad units. I'll update this post once I get a concrete result of my split testing experiment.

SocialSpark Review-For Advertisers

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review. Its completely based on my recent experience of being a SocialSpark advertiser.

I recently held a contest on my blog. I publicized it through a SocialSpark cost-per-click(CPC) opportunity. So here I am, ready with a review of SocialSpark from the point of view of an advertiser who's looking to create some buzz.

I signed up as a SocialSpark advertiser just to look around and to create a spark (a free opportunity). One bright sunny day (according to PST) I got an email from Izea that they were giving away $100 credit to advetisers for free to try out CPC opportunities without any obligations. They just mentioned in the email that you needed to send an email to Joe Vaughn, Director of Sales, Izea. I did so immediately. Three days later, Joe replied saying that the funds had been credited to my account.

I logged in and checked my account to verify that the balance was $100. Now it was time to create an opportunity. I filled up everything, set the payout and budget and reached the final step where I found a catch. The minimum amount you need to spend on an opportunity is $100. SocialSpark also charges a fees of $10 for opportunity creation. This meant that I needed to spend $10. I got a bit double minded at that time. I made the following calculations-

Minimum cost per click=$0.25
Budget=$100
Number of valid clicks=400
Number of invalid clicks=600(max)

This meant I was going to get about 1000 impressions from the campaign which would earn me much less than $10 through Google Adsense. I would be getting traffic indirectly as a result of the CPC opportunity but maybe it wasn't worth spending $10. So I wrote an email to Joe Vaughn asking him whether I needed to pay the $10 for opportunity creation. He replied in three days saying that the extra $10 had been added. That reply was a bit unexpected( I had slight expectations of something like this happening which is why I wrote to Joe in the first place). This meant that there really was no catch(clarification for dummies) and I had found something other than FOSS that is actually free in the true meaning of it. Here's my review of different parts of the SocialSpark advertiser experience-

Opportunity creation

Creating the opportunity was a great experience. The level of customizations offered was impressive. The minimum cost per click they offer is $0.25 which is also reasonable. I selected to include only blogs that had more than 100 visitors a day which was a reasonable requirement and could filter out those blogs which are created for the sole purpose of earning a quick buck. I was very satisfied after creating an opportunity. The opportunity was then sent to the SocialSpark team for approval which I must say was quick.

Tracking the campaign

Now that I had created the opportunity, I headed straight to the marketplace to check if it was there. Since it was the most recent opportunity that had been created, it was right at the top of the list of opportunities. Then I checked what CPC they were offering to bloggers. It was $0.13. That meant that SocialSpark was paying bloggers around 50% of what they charged me. I did expect them to keep their share but I feel 12 cents on 25 cents was a bit unfair. Some advertisers might think that this is something that bloggers need to bother about but it equally affects the advertisers as not many people are willing to take an opportunity at $0.13 per click. I monitored the opportunity for a few days and seeing that just 5 people had taken the opportunity, I increased the CPC to $0.50 per on my side. Note that I'm telling about different features of the advertiser admin panel along with my experiences like you can change the payout whenever you want to.

The number of participants of the campaign increased a bit in the next few days so did the number of invalid clicks. I had got no valid clicks for the first few days. Later, slowly valid clicks started getting registered. I expected that to happen as the number of participants in my contest started increasing at a good rate. This rate increased exponentially and my balance was finished in no time.

Quality of clicks

Every click on a CPC link is checked by Click Forensics before being called a valid click. My experiences as a blogger have been bitter and I absolutely hate the system they use to check the clicks. I've been in situations when I've got 30 to 40 clicks on a CPC link and all were called invalid. I refuse to believe that not even one click was valid. From an advertiser's point of view, it great. As I've mentioned, for a few days I didn't get a single valid click. This might seem to be good for advertisers but bloggers are also a part of the system. Any blogger would prefer Adsense or any other CPC network over SocialSpark's CPC opportunities. The advertisers may enjoy the number of invalid clicks but the number of people taking CPC opportunities is bound to decrease eventually.

Overall the quality of clicks was good and I was able to get many participants for my contest. Some of them came through posts and a good share came through twitter. Facebook proved that it is just another useless social network and generated no valid clicks. SocialSpark CPC opportunities are a good way to generate some buzz, but it definitely needs some changes like making the click validity checking system a bit lenient. I would've given it a rating of 6.5/10 but the great customer support for advertisers and the fact that they don't believe in the *Conditions Apply way, SocialSpark gets a rating of 7.5/10.

My view is a neutral view but a person who's purely an advertiser would have given a better rating. I personally want that there should be something more for bloggers and they should be treated equally.