Review: AdVolcano advertising network
The following is a paid review
Summary: Great idea but the website & interface needs work
AdVolcano is a brand-new advertising provider for both advertisers and publishers, similar to the AdSense + AdWords combination. However, they take quite a different approach to the subject, one that can apparently eliminate click fraud.
The service is based around the concept of selling adverts on a website on a cost per term (CPT) model, instead of the more traditional cost per click model employed by Google and others. Under CPT you “rent” advertising space on others’ websites for a period of time, in the same manner as billboards and classified ads. This eliminates click fraud as clicks are worthless. It also carries the benefit that you know where your advertisements are going to be running at all times which means no more accidental visits to a spammy scraper site only to see your ads plastered all over it.
You can see a full summary of the model and it’s advantages & disadvantages from their How It Works section.
I thought I’d test-drive the service by offering up some advertising space this site, so the first thing I did was create an account. The registration form was a little daunting, but quite straightforward. I wasn’t given the option to not specify a state though (I live in the UK) which was quite frustrating. It means my contact details are now wrong. Their database also appeared to truncate my 2nd address line so my cheques will now be sent to “Phoenix Bu, Ripon, Alaska, United Kingdom”.
Onwards and upwards, the next step is to add my website (name, URL, description & category) and after that I have to add a new “Publishing Point”. There’s no glossary or help on the site so I don’t really know what a Publishing Point is, but I’m a smart kinda guy so I’m guessing that means a spot on my site where I can put ads. I’m asked to give it a name, and an example is “Top nav: run-of-website”. I guess I’m supposed to state a location and its prevalence throughout the site, so I could do “Top banner: all the spammy pages”. Again, no directions on this. I’m also asked for a short description and the number of ads to display.
Step 3 is a new “publishing point product”. These are basically durations with prices. The examples given are “1 week ad” (so I put in a duration of 7 days” with an example rate of $10. I’m guessing this means they suggest that 7 days of ad space should cost $10 (or $10/day?) but there are no guidelines other than that as to what you should be pricing your ads at. I have no idea what people are prepared to pay, but I know I want more than 10 bucks for this privilege so I priced it at $50/7 days (I think, but it could have been $50/day – the field “Rate” could really mean either the day rate or for the entire “product”). Error! I pressed the “Add” button and was greeted with a big fat Unable to connect to the ColdFusion MX Search service. message. After I hit the back button the point seemed to go through okay though, so I clicked “Done” to be returned back to my dashboard.
Looking at my website listed in the dashboard I noticed a link to “Ad Code” and realised I needed some JS to put on my site. The script was this:
As you can see it consists of some CSS for the ads (I presume), the standard JS script stuf and an “Advertise Here” link. Notice that link to AdVolcano isn’t placed in by JS, it an anchor tag. Way to scrape some link-love, guys.
The result of this can be seen in the top of my sidebar on the right.
After my less-than-impressive experience with selling ads, I decided run through the ad buying experience. I didn’t go past entering my card details so this might not be the full story.
First off, from the account section it’s difficult to see where to go to buy ads. The large “Buy Ads” button seen on the rest of the site is replaced by “My Ads”. I clicked it and was given just a summary of my ads (ie. nothing) with no links to buy new ones. I then noticed a grey-on-grey footer link to “Buy Ads” and clicked that, which seemed to take me to the right place.
I’m then presented with a straight list of publishers, with no search or narrowing criteria. Perhaps they expect the majority of business to come from the “Advertise Here” links on people’s sites, but a better interface would have been nice. I see my blog at #3 (woo!) so I go to place an ad on my own blog. I see a thumbnail of my site (quite a recent one) and I choose a publishing point. One the next page I’m asked to choose a product ($50 for 7 days – awesome!) and I compose my standard Google-like text ad. Fab – although every time I pressed a key in the Headline and Text boxes I got a JS error in my console, but never mind.
I should also mention the other issues I had with the site. I created a second publishing point to remind me of the experience while writing this review, and found myself unable to delete it afterwards. Quite frustrating, but never mind, I thought I’d just edit the name of the point to something like “IGNORE: UNABLE TO DELETE”, only to be created with another ColdFusion error, only this time it didn’t even save my changes. The last niggle I have so far is that in my account details it lists my “AV Commission Rate” at 0.25%. I’m sure the revenue share was listed somewhere as 75% to the publisher so I’m guessing that’s supposed to read “AV Commission Rate: 25%”. Looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen to me.
The idea looks good. I really like the model, and depending on how it pans out on my site it could be a really good earner. Also I’m yet to see the ad format but given that the service is non-contextual it stands a good chance of being compatible with Google’s AdSense, even with the newer restrictive policy. The website also claims to provide a personal service to advertisers, offering to plan your next campaign free of charge with a no-strings money back guarantee. I have to say I’m impressed with the offer – but I’m wary of how long it will last.
Where AdVolcano is really let down is by the state of their website. The structure and flow is confusing, with nearly zero help or guidance in what you’re supposed to be doing. There is even very little information about the service in general – I would expect a lot more reading matter than merely the “How It Works” section, which is pretty much the only page with real information on the service. The whole site is generally unfinished, with many parts of the account section broken or producing warnings. The request for this review mentioned that “We haven’t taken our product to market yet so our marketplace is pretty bare” but frankly that’s not really an excuse for the service being broken. Asking me to review an unfinished website is pretty insulting really, because no-one likes being frustrated. The site is live, I could sign up without incident, the site should be finished – especially if you’re soliciting buzz from bloggers.
I’m definitely going to keep my eye on AdVolcano as a revenue source in the future – once they get their site together, that is.