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Clickbank, The Adsense Killer?

Feb 8, 2008
Much has been written about the demise of Google's AdSense of late, but the advertising behemoth still seems to go from strength to strength, despite competition from Yahoo! and Microsoft and despite many webmasters' dissatisfaction at how Google run their program and their labyrinthine Terms of Service (ToS) conditons. Yet sites like Celtnet are now providing contextual ads, search systems and RSS feed ads based on ClickBank products that can potentially bring webmasters and bloggers much higher incomes than if they were using AdSense.

Many have pointed towards ClickBank as a possible 'Adsense Killer', but are they correct in this appraisal? On the face of it, probably not... AdSense and ClickBank work very differently. AdSense is very much a marketing tool, designed from the ground up as a way of displaying advertisements on your website that are matched to your website's content by Google itself. As such it's a powerful tool in that you get the ads in return for some of the real estate of your web pages. Each time someone clicks on an ad that you display money is credited into your AdSense account. Adsense is therefore a PPC (pay per click) system. Google spends considerable time and effort working out what your web pages are about so that they can appropriately match their ads to your content.

ClickBank works more like a brokerage house. Their aim is to put the vendors of electronic products in touch with affiliates who will promote those products. They handle the relationship and manage the sales. This is the major problem of ClickBank in that it's geared towards managing the affiliate-vendor relationship. It's not geared towards the selling of products. If you wish to promote a product supported by ClickBank then you have to go to the vendor's website and either use their affiliate tools (if they have them) or you have to create sales pages and sales blurb based on the information you can find about the product.

You can then either create a sales page or you can create ads that resemble those delivered by AdSense for your own site. This is laborious, but can be done. But once you have those ads, things are still different. As an affiliate (though you are selling the vendor's product you are actually, in effect, an affiliate of ClickBank) it doesn't matter how many people click on your ad... you only make money when a product is sold. Admittedly, you could be making $40 or more on a single sale whilst you may only be making pennies from an AdSense click. So, if you have enough traffic ClickBank-based ads could be very lucrative. But you still have to create those ads yourself.

This is where a number of third party systems come in. They take the ClickBank product feed, dump it into a databese and create AdSense-like contextual ads based around the ClickBank product database. But there's one major problem to this approach, in that many of the product descriptions and titles in the datafeed that ClickBank make available to all are designed to attract affiliates and not to directly sell the products themselves. In effect, the majority of the descriptions provided tell you how good the product is for an affiliate marketer to promote, rather than how good it is for someone to buy (and why they should buy it).

One of the main sites in this arena is the Celtnet ClickBank Marketplace. Here each product is checked and the product descriptions and product titles are annotated by hand. Each product is also backed by an image either of the product itself or of the sales website. These are all loaded into a database which is searchable. This makes the system one of the most versatile for any affiliate looking for ClickBank products to promote, as it's sales rather than affilaite centred. And the extended description means that you can better look for the type of product you wish to promote.

Even better, the site provides tools so that you can create your own AdSense-like contextual ads based on the new descriptions and titles. Simple tools allow ad blocks to be built. These can be configured in terms of appearance, like AdSense ads and the content can be specified in terms of the section of ClickBank you wish them to appear from or based on any keywords you specify. Thus you can make the ads as specific to your site or web page as you need. The ads are all served dynamically and change on every refresh. Each time ClickBank updates its product feed the database and therefor your ads are also updated.

As a new feature image-based ads are now offered. These are AdSense-like contextual ads but they give the product/website image as well as titles and text. As research has shown that image-based ads can be more effective than plain ads this could be a real boon for your website.

You can also get an RSS feed of ads, allowing you to mix Google AdSense and ClickBank ads on the same page. Moreover, the search technology that runs the Celtnet site is also available for your own website so you cna offer your visitors the chance to search ClickBank, but using the more comprehensive descriptions offered by Celtnet.

Best of all, this technology is offered free to everyone and you embed your own ClickBank nickname into the search system and the ad feeds so you make the money on any sales generated. For now, this has to rank as one of the best AdSense-lookalikes for ClickBank products currently available.

So, is ClickBank the AdSense killer? Not yet, perhaps... But with websites such as Celtnet working on offering AdSense alternatives pre-loaded with ClickBank products real alternatives to AdSense are emerging (and these products don't have restrictive ToSes and don't dictate how many ad units you can use). Indeed, a recent small-scale comparison of AdSense and ClickBank contextual ads run by the Celtnet website revealed that the ClickBank ads out-performed AdSense ads by a factor of 2:1 in terms of income generation.
About the Author
Dyfed Lloyd-Evans is the webmaster of the Celtnet website and developer of the Celtnet ClickBank Marketplace. He offers Free ClickBank search and Contextual Ads Code to all as part of this site. A small percentage of the sales generated from these ads go to help support his 'Help Stefan' campaign for Liberian refugees in Senegal.
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