CafePress Bows Tag-based Ad Targeting

CafePress, an online marketplace for T-shirts, calendars and other products emblazoned with designs submitted by users and independent artists, has added tag-based targeting capabilities to ads in its affiliate program.

“Tagging,” or adding key words and phrases to identify content, has caught on with bloggers and publishers seeking to make content more easily categorized by search engines, especially blog-centric ones like Technorati. Tags are also a popular way of organizing content on images sites like Flickr and bookmark-sharing sites like del.icio.us. The process has been both hailed as the next phase of search, and derided for the lack of structure and coordination of tags among publishers and users.

Using CafePress TopicAds, Webmasters and bloggers can choose to have ads for CafePress products targeted based upon the tags on their content. When a visitor comes to a page, the CafePress servers analyze the tags on the page, rank them by relevancy and timeliness of the topic, and serve the most appropriate ad, according to Maheesh Jain, CafePress co-founder and VP of business development.

“We have a product catalog of over 25 million items. In aggregating that large of a catalog, we’ve been able to essentially get great designs and products around every sort of topic you can imagine,” Jain told ClickZ News. “It became apparent to us that there was an opportunity to create a service that would allow site owners and bloggers to display those products that were most relevant to their site and generate revenue from it.”

Publishers need to copy and paste a line of HTML to their site or blog, and then begin tagging content to see ads targeted against that content. They may choose to enroll in a “kid-friendly” version of the program, which restricts ads with adult-oriented topics or language. CafePress does not sell products with explicit images.

The merchandise creators tag the products on their end, which is important for ads to remain timely, so CafePress does not have to keep up with tagging the more than 1 million new products submitted each week, Jain said. When there are no ads to serve against a site’s tags, the ads will default to run-of-network ads for the most popular items.

In most cases, publishers receive a 20-percent revenue share on all sales made via ads from their site. Because ads are more relevant, conversion is expected to be higher with TopicAds than with past CafePress affiliate ads, which were static ads chosen by the site owner, Jain said. Because the ads are image-based, timely, and targeted, the program stacks up favorably against text-based contextual ads like Google’s AdSense, he added.

Most of the sites in CafePress’ affiliate program are blogs. Many bloggers are drawn to CafePress for its timely and often irreverent products, and the allure of supporting independent artists, according to Jain.

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