I`ve personally found the content network to be a load of garbage. Lots of money spent for little or no return. The problem is not really the concept (good in theory), but that there are many sites that are spammy/have no point and only truly exist to make money off of Google AdSense (people who put up Google ads to make money per click). Google doesn`t have stringent enough quality guidelines for who they let into their "content network", so much of these funds go wasted. Look into a website called www.metricsdirect.com. They do cheap targeted marketing through xango.com (some obnoxious program that loads of people subscribe to - they show your targeted ads to these customers in return for the customers getting to play games for free, be forum members, etc.). Metrics Direct is kind of confusing and not very straightforward to set up, but when I`ve had questions, they`ve been very helpful and quick to respond.
Anyhoo, with Adsense, the ad is placed through a combination of CTR (clickthrough ratio) and payment (rather than Yahoo`s straightforward bidding process). The higher your CTR and PPC limit, the higher your position. Logically, it makes sense; a fantastic, compelling little ad gets (hypothetically) clicked on 5% of the time and costs .20 per click, but a rubbish ad gets clicked on 1/2% of the time and garners $2/click. They both make Google the same amount of money ($0.01/per view) and are therefore direct competitors for ad space.
My personal experience? If you have the time to babysit an ad throughout the day, bid high during the wee hours (the CTR effect only seems to last from midnight-midnight 24-hour cycle, so any positive CTR effect observed will have to start over from scratch the next day). In the wee hours, (first thing when you get to work - for me, 7am before everyone else`s business day starts) bump up your max ppc to more than you are comfortable with. If your top limit is $1/click, try $1.50/click for the first few hours, possibly until lunch. At this time, bid down to someplace below in your comfort zone.
Why all the fiddling/tampering? It seems like ads that are on the second page don`t garner as high a CTR as the ads on the first page. Whereas people might click on frontpage ads 3% of the time, they only click on second-third page ads 1% of the time. You`ll be able to coast off of your high CTR (but make sure to lower the bid in the middle of the day! Otherwise you will have the same place but pay more) for the rest of the evening. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I agree with Gwendolyn. Stay away from the Content Network. There are more than a few people who`ve figure out they can make a killing through click-fraud and you`re paying the bill...
As far as bidding, you can bid low and when space opens up, Google will automatically insert your ad. That one has worked for me if I wasn`t in a huge hurry get a ton of traffic.
Also, be cautious of the "Estimated Ad Positions" - I know they are only "estimated", but I`ve notice they always seem to estimate too highly (perhaps giving us false hope, so that we might increase the maximum ppc towards our holy grail). If the estimated ad position says position 4-6, I`m 7-10. It says 7-10 and I`m 11-15. Whether we have a great CTR ad or a mediocre one, the cost-based "Estimated Ad Position" always seems inaccurate unless you bid very highly into the 1-3 position range.
Estimated ad position for whom? Apparently someone with a 50%.
MSN Adcenter is ok, but the slow and boorish interface at the beginning (maybe it has changed in the past several months - I don`t know) has kept me from keeping tabs on it too much.
**Warning - I just checked out the charges from Metrics Direct for the last month - buyer beware! This was a great source of targeted traffic previously, but they have gone down the drain - quickly. I received an email a month or two ago from them indicating that they were merging with a different company, that we were going to get 60% more exposure with their new network, etc etc etc. We were excited for the new possibilities. Now I see that money was being taken out of our account at a faster and faster rate for fewer and fewer conversions. We`re sorely disappointed and have pulled the plug faster than you can say "rip-off".
I hope that others will read this thread and will not have to learn this expensive lesson.
I agree, in some cases content is great. You can select which sites you want to include in your content media buy. I would take the time to go through and see if there are sites that match your target. This is what we do for our clients. Good luck!
PS - Yahoo does not offer day parting.