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Google’s Top Secret Advertising Network

written by John Chow on November 28, 2006


Almost everyone knows Google owns the AdSense network. Google AdSense has been credited with bringing the Internet back to life after the dot com burst of 2001. Some people may even know about AdSense for domain. This is Google’s network for handling advertising for large domain name holders. Recently, Google started a new ad network but is not telling anyone about it – the Google Display Advertising Network.

The Google Display Advertising Network was created so Google can go after Fortune 1000 companies, which buy advertising to build a brand more than to sell a product. Google already dominates text and CPC ads so going after display and video ads is the next logical step. Google offers display and video ads to AdSense publishers on CPC and CPM format already. However, the formation of the Display Advertising Network is a clear signal that Google really want to push this forward.

How do you join the Google Display Advertising Network? You can’t. Google won’t even acknowledge it exists. You won’t find anything written about it in any of Google’s web properties. The only way to get into the display network is if Google invites you, which is how I found out about it.

Google has been hand-selecting sites (no word on how many sites has been chosen) that they want to put in front of Fortune 1000 companies. The goal being to sell these big companies display and video ads at a very high CPM – unlike the AdSense network, the display network is 100% CPM based.

While Google won’t tell normal AdSense publishers what the revenue split on their account is, they are much more open with the display network. As a matter fact, every display network members negotiates a flat CPM rate with Google. The contracts are one year long and publishers have to guarantee Google that they will provide a minimum amount of ad inventory each month. Publishers can serve more than the minimum amount and still receive the same CPM rate for the overage.

Reporting by the display network is currently via weekly emails from Google. The information is extremely limited. The only information shown is your weekly ad impressions and page views. Take that ad impression figure, multiply it by your CPM rate and you’ll have how much you made.

I am not allowed to reveal CPM or any financial data of the Google Display Advertising Network. However, I can tell you that the 300×250 display network ad running on The TechZone is my most profitable Google ad.

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Ed November 28, 2006 at 2:35 am

Interesting information and I agree with you, its simple logic that Google wants to go behind those powerhouse as they are the kings on online advertising. Congrats on yet another invitation from G and thanks for your always knowledgeable input on what seems to work and what doesn’t.


siong1987 November 28, 2006 at 2:46 am

This information is really interesting. But, I am still not eligible to join into the Display network. John, you are right. Only those “big” companies can have such chance.

StrangeProgress November 28, 2006 at 2:57 am

Cool – the more advertising options the better, as some advertising types work better on some sites, while others tank.

HMTKSteve November 28, 2006 at 3:34 am

Very interesting, I hope they don’t give you the boot for talking about it!

Amrit Hallan November 28, 2006 at 6:52 am

Well John. Congratulations, not for being invited by Google, but for running successful websites that generate so much traffic, and also for publishing so much quality content, non-stop :-).

Tony November 28, 2006 at 6:53 am

“The contracts are one year long”
Isn’t that ‘forever’ in Internet time?

Lawrence November 28, 2006 at 2:05 pm

What does CPM stand for?

Tony November 28, 2006 at 4:06 pm

CPM – Cost Per 1000 (impressions). M is a roman thousand.

Other useful terms to know are: CPA – Cost Per Action (click) and CPC – Cost Per Conversion (such as making a purchase)

All are different systems for figuring out just how much money is involved with ads.

Com November 28, 2006 at 4:44 pm

This secret advertisers group isn’t the Adsense Premium program?

Jonathan Dingman November 28, 2006 at 5:01 pm

What is your source for this information? I am very interested to know where it came from….

John Chow November 28, 2006 at 5:09 pm

Com – No this is not the AdSense Premium program. That has been around since AdSense started.

Jonathan – I am the source. Google invited me to join back in September. It “officially” started on Oct 1st.

David Mackey November 28, 2006 at 7:00 pm

Wow. Thats pretty cool. Congratulations.

Eliza November 29, 2006 at 4:49 am

Wasn’t sure how to add this to your comments section, however I was just reading at problogger and it appears your site was mentioned. :)

Kris Karkoski November 29, 2006 at 8:49 am

[...] As first reported by John Chow and since reported by Darren Rowse, Google has a top secret advertising program called Google Display Advertising Network. [...]

Mr Juggles November 29, 2006 at 10:34 am

How does the revenue/CPM compare to what you can get from ad networks like Valueclick or

dino November 29, 2006 at 11:06 am

So who’s doing this graphical ad placement now? Is this something Yahoo or ValueClick does?

Jonathan Dingman November 29, 2006 at 12:06 pm

John: Ah I see, thank you.

mark November 29, 2006 at 12:21 pm

i dont see a 300×250 display add on thetechzone right now (3:19pm ET 11/29/06), i see text ad. maybe that’s because it’s not 100% display network. i thought google made the display ads compete with the text-based CPC ads in the adrank algo in order to determine which monetizing the best – and that the websites/publishers had not say in terms of what format of ad was displayed.

Elias Kai November 29, 2006 at 12:37 pm

Invites you ? Let me guess, I think this outdoor or Display advertising network would be connected to your mobile Garmin or anything electronic display on your car, once you pass by a certain IP zone or Mobile cell Umbrella network, you will get some cool ads pushed to you as your local pizzeria or local hotels, nightclubs and events.

Add to this display system that it can work on any car front and back glasses, so anyone who passes by you can see the displayed Ads instead of people sitting inside the car.

Cool Google, but that’s another idea that flies far away from my hand unless you call me to tell you more.

John Chow November 29, 2006 at 12:40 pm

Mr Juggles – It kills Valueclick or

mark – When there is no display or video ads to show, Google shows a normal AdSense ad. However I still get my contracted CPM for it – even if the AdSense ad is CPC.

Fake Rake November 29, 2006 at 1:29 pm

Just had to clarify something from an earlier comment here that no one else had corrected yet:

Other useful terms to know are: CPA – Cost Per Action (click) and CPC – Cost Per Conversion (such as making a purchase)

You have those backwards. Cost Per Action means the user doing something like filling out a form or making a purchase, and CPC is Cost Per Click, a la Adsense.

snake November 29, 2006 at 7:26 pm

who’s right?
cpc = cost per click
cpa = cost per acquisition

or what the OP said?

and don’t you need permission from GM to use the Corvette in this manner?

John Chow November 29, 2006 at 8:14 pm

CPC = Cost Per Click
CPA = Cost Per Action

And I do have permission to use the Corvette. That photo was supplied to me by GM Media Relations.

Ari November 30, 2006 at 8:04 am

Interesting story John. I have written a follow-up on my blog having had some direct experience with Google back in Q1 when Google was conducting research into various publisher ad servers. Ours was one of the products they were looking at and they were in the build or buy mode. It would make sense that by now they would be in a beta stage implementation of a network model.

Kristin Choi November 30, 2006 at 10:31 am

Why is it more economically profitable for you than Valueclick or Are they just giving you more of the advertisers pie?

Yayoi November 30, 2006 at 10:46 am

“Google offers display and video ads to AdSense publishers on CPC and CPM format already”

They do? I didn’t realize that. I don’t understand how this is any different then.

Philipp Lenssen November 30, 2006 at 3:38 pm

John Battelle received this when he asked Google about a new Display Advertising Network:

“We are not testing or developing a new ad network. The existing display advertising network has been available for over 2 years, and most recently we introduced click-to-play video ads. We are always exploring ways to offer advertisers and publishers more flexibility and control over ad inventory.”

Chris Zaharias November 30, 2006 at 3:42 pm

John – I second Kristin Choi’s question – are you saying that from a competitive standpoint it will hurt Valueclick and, or that Google’s ad network is actually, currently making you much more money from your inventory than those two companies can?

AdsBay December 5, 2006 at 3:54 am

Congratulations for the personal invitation, you must be raking in some good advertising revenue!

Andy December 26, 2006 at 10:53 pm

I have been follwing this story closely simply because acceptance would raise my rev. greatly – will Google ever make this public?

Ismu Surizan January 3, 2007 at 10:33 pm

Congrats! more traffic … more money …
i’m still struggling with traffic right now … it’s really the hardest part :(

DM January 7, 2007 at 8:21 am

Extremely interesting, I’m guessing that Google is only letting top 25,000 Alexa sites or so in on this? I’m curious if they would allow any arcade gaming sites etc, in on this, or if it is targeted to a more business aspect/market.


thyme January 8, 2007 at 9:07 am

Hello folks,

Wondering as we begin to join an ad network, which one is the best for a site generating 1/2 million impressions a month?

thanks, thyme

Michael Zhao May 13, 2009 at 11:12 am

Common man! Read some of John’s archive post…they have a lot of pointer and hints in whether to diversify your is best or not…but common sense has to set in at some point that you should put as many different type of ad networks as you can!

Michael Zhao’s last blog post: Time…is not on any bodies side.

Meg January 15, 2007 at 1:10 am

“In his November article Google’s Top Secret Advertising Network, John Chow indicates that display advertising is already in it’s early stages in the US, not via their traditional CPC (cost per click), but via CPM (cost per thousand impressions)”

Jeff January 16, 2007 at 3:18 am

Wow. Real marketing type of displays rather than advertising a specific product… Its more like the big ass billboards with the Coca Cola logo on it then!!!

HMTKSteve January 16, 2007 at 4:08 am

Has anything more come about in regards to this?

John Chow January 16, 2007 at 11:39 am

It’s still top secret and still invite only.

Michael Zhao May 13, 2009 at 11:09 am

Ahh-HAA! The secret is no more!

Michael Zhao’s last blog post: Time…is not on any bodies side.