Cafepress.com recently launched TopicAds, a service that allows you to show topic specific Cafepress designs on your web site or blog. The ads are semi-contextual and allow you to choose design topics to show on your site. So if you enter into the code “immigration”, then all designs that are tagged by Cafepress shopkeepers with the word “immigration” will show on your site. It seems that only the top 30 or so from the Cafepress marketplace are circulated through the TopicAds. You can select from a few different sizes of ads and change the colors to fit into your site design.
TopicAds are great to use on any web site and especially blogs or forums. They are really easy to setup and require no maintenance. Here is a sample of a topic ad with the keyword “mother’s day”
I use TopicAds on a few of my sites and they do convert. The cookies are 30 days and you make 20% of each sale. I have found the average commission for an affiliate sale is about $4-$6 (about the same amount if it was your own product for sale from Cafepress, but all you had to do was post a TopicAd). While I am a fan of the idea of TopicAds there are a few things that bother me. The topic ads just show a design and there is nothing to suggest that design might be available on a product. Clickthroughs would probably increase significantly if they had rollovers that showed the design on a product, or had flash animation to show it on different products, or somewhere outside the design box it had a link that said “Show this design on a t-shirt”. I am glad the TopicAds show the design but it needs to go a step further and let people know what the heck are those designs for.
Another issue with the TopicAds is that sometimes people tag their images incorrectly. While this is not a huge issue to some, it can be a disaster for those who are putting a TopicAd on a childrens site, or or other sites that have users sensitive about their beliefs (ie. religious). Some Cafepress users have reported putting TopicAds on their Christian site only to see very anti-christian / inappropriate humor about Jesus. This can result in a variety of issues for a web master. Other folks who have complained about mis-tagged images are those who are posting Pro-Bush TopicAds and then end up seeing a bunch of anti-bush designs. These types of issues are bound to happen and should definitely stop you from using TopicAds but it is good to beaware of the possibility of designs that are “opposite” of your sites purpose.
One thing that I have been doing with TopicAds is changing my ads every month or so to the hot topic or upcoming holiday. So if you were to put up TopicAds today you might tag them with “immigration” or “mother’s day”. The only problem with this is that you have to update the tags in the code every few weeks or once a month to keep up with the trends.