Ad Targeting Is Hard

Editor’s note: Benjy Weinberger is the engineering site lead for foursquare’s San Francisco office. He previously worked on infrastructure and revenue engineering at Twitter, and before that on search and ad engineering at Google for eight years.

Microsoft recently announced that it’s taking a huge $6.2 Billion writedown over the failed aQuantive acquisition. This news, and the scrutiny of Facebook’s business model following their IPO drama, show that, in online advertising, it’s all about the targeting.

As this Reuters analysis explains, there’s so much online advertising space that merely putting billboards up all over the internet is no longer a lucrative business. Meanwhile, Google AdWords remains phenomenally successful, generating over $36B in revenue in 2011. The key difference? targeting. Google’s sophisticated ad-targeting algorithms greatly increase the relevance to the user, and therefore the likelihood of the user clicking on an ad. This is what makes AdWords so much more effective than banner ads.

So why isn’t everyone just improving their targeting? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Ad targeting is a difficult artificial intelligence (AI) problem, and while you may not agree that it’s a worthy one, it does require a lot of technical heavy lifting. Here’s why (…) Leer más “Ad Targeting Is Hard”

PageRank explained, without math (really)

PageRank is a precious resource

The real lesson: PageRank is precious. Don’t waste it. You can steer PageRank around, just like you can pour water through pipes. Smart site architecture sends PageRank (authority) where you need it.

You want as much PageRank as possible flowing to your most important pages. The more links you have on every page of your site, the less of this resource you’ll have getting to those pages, and the less you can control it.
Links leak PageRank

If you’re a client, or a 10Things client, you’ve heard me say “you’re leaking pagerank” more than once. Now it should make a little sense. Links ‘leak’ Pagerank – they draw away some of the authority of a page, leaving less authority to ‘flow’ to other linked pages.

So link wisely, and consolidate links whenever possible. For example:

* Say you have a blog, and a monthly archive list on the right-hand side of every page that extends back to 2008. That’s almost 36 links on every page. Instead combine 2008 and 2009 into a single link for each year. Then list all posts for the relevant year on the target page. You just reduced 24 links to 2 links instead. That’s a lot of closed leaks.
* Combine your ‘privacy’, ‘terms of use’ and other legal links into a single ‘legal’. That’ll turn three more links you’ve got on ever page into just one.

So remember: Home page is a bucket. Like water, PageRank is a limited resource. You control the pipes. Be smart about it.


by ian

Whenever I try to explain the concept of true Pagerank – not the fake number you see in the Google Toolbar – I find myself going into all sorts of metaphorical gymnastics. PageRank is like a tree… no, it’s like a fountain… no, wait, an electrical grid… or is it a squid…?

At long last, I’ve hit on a metaphor that works. It requires pipe, water, and some goldfish.

Stay with me… Leer más “PageRank explained, without math (really)”