After posting a not-so-detailed FAQ and still seeing many 'frequently asked and answered questions' pop up in the forums I decided to film a sequel but make it better this time.
So... Welcome to the new Unofficial Co-op FAQ. It's filled out nicely but I know there's a few holes left to fill. I was planning to launch it once 100% done but with my birthday coming up this Friday and being very busy launching OsCommerce shops (will ask you to beta test/review later) I might not get this entirely done soon but I didn't want to keep this valuable information hidden any longer!
FAQ User Guide
Browse the FAQ sections on the left to find your answer. If you can't find it after reading here and in the DP forums then please go ahead and start a new thread. Valid questions from there will eventually be answered here as well (I think I covered 80% now, will get the remaining 19% up over the next week or so) if not already done so. I will try and get this indexed so the Blogger Search bar works as well.
Please Don't PM Me Or E-mail Me Or Leave Comments Here With Questions About Installing The Co-op!
If you do then I will ignore you! I'm in no position to provide consultation on this. I can but I don't want to quite frankly. If you're stuck with the Co-op then by all means post in the forums and/or contact the pro's listed here on the left.
You May Post Comments Here when they are of a supplemental nature. If you feel I didn't cover a subject 100% then please add your hints and tips to the appropriate posts. They might even make it into the next update.
If you want to link to this FAQ in your sig for instance, that would be great! Each post has a permalink at the bottom as well so you can easily paste links in the forums to the appropriate sections. Maybe Josh is willing to build a co-op-faq-it-you-moron.com site :D You have my permission!
I've made no effort whasoever to make this look nice. I'm more a functionality guy than a design talent. If you hate the looks then please gently poke SEbasic in the back and he will show off his skills. I'm crap at it and shall not waste my time on frigging about with the template more than I already did. Thanks Anthony for the lay-out tips, I have implemented those (partly).
PS. Do sign up future Co-op accounts with the very cool button* top left! It will do something magical! ;)
*Some respect here please, it's my very first CSS accomplishment!
I'd like to abuse this opportunity to shamelessly plug some thoughts:
Allan from sagecroft.co.uk keeps a detailed weekly blog on his progress in using the Co-op for his goals. As of today Allan is in his 9th week using Digital Point's most powerful free tool. Record time indexing is one of the major bonusses of the Ad Network according to his latest blog entry. Allan is also trying to get direct affiliate hits from banners he uses in the Co-op Network.
On sagecroft.co.uk Allan also reports a sad (and funny at the same time) Co-op incident where someone copied part of his site and signed up for the Co-op to reap the rewards. Irony is that the thief used Allan's referal URL so it didn't take long for the content-thief to be spotted by Allan himsef. Not sure whether he's banned now or not.
By using the Co-op in his SEO strategy he managed to improve ranking for his targeted phrase in 6 weeks from MSN 3+4 to 1+2, Yahoo 8+9 to 9+10 ( 1 notch down :'( ) and Google 6 to 4+5. Nothing earth-shattering one could say but do realize that improving from spot 3 to 1 yields a far greater traffic increase than jumping from 1000th rank to entry number 30!
What If You Want To Add Co-op To More Than One Site?
That's fine! Great idea because the bigger the network, the wider the spread of our ads. However, there are some rules you have to follow:
You can only have one account per domain! This means you can not sign up again with a subdomain or a subfolder as your Base-URL.
You need one account for each domain! After signing up your second/third/fourth/etc. website in new accounts you can consolidate (see Ad Management) all into one Master account for ease of inventory management.
Mostly by means of his own genius but also with input from the forum, Shawn is still coming up with new idea to make this Network the ultimate way of free advertising (and keep the copy-cats miles behind). Now the new servers are fact, he has some more processing power to play with which will be put to good use for us members and his free tools.
Some stuff that was mentioned in the forums and we might well see implemented in the not so distant future:
The statistics have now been implemented. Go into your account and scroll down to your Pool of Advertisements. To the left of the 'Update Weight' drop-down menus you will find three links. One for deleting the ad, one enabling/disabling it and now also 'Stats'. Clicking it will bring up a pop-up window with a graph of the impressions this ad has received across the network.
It's almost unnecessary to ask yourself this because Shawn has a great reputation, not just in the DP forums. You can trust he wrote a fair program so if you did everything according to the TOS and guidelines plus it all validated and you didn;t forget to enable the ads, you can be confident you will start reaping the rewards soon.
Network Stats! Go into your account and scroll down to your Pool of Advertisements. To the left of the 'Update Weight' drop-down menus you will find three links for each ad. One for deleting the ad, one enabling/disabling it and now also 'Stats'. Clicking it will bring up a pop-up window with a graph of the impressions this ad has received across the network.
Server Logs / Website Stats package. Check your logs for unusual referrers. Check'em out and you are likely to find Co-op ads somewhere on that page. Refresh a few times and you will see the Co-op in place. Your ads were there and will be back! If you don;t have any good stats reports, check out the free statcounter.com scripts.
Backlinks. MSN and Yahoo are the likely ones to first pick up on the new links. Run a link:yourdomain.com search in Yahoo and look for 'odd ones' you didn't know were linking to you. Again, click them and find the Co-op ads. Your ad was there when Slurp came by. The same works for MSN, just search link:www.yourdomain.com and find the usual suspects. Google will eventually report them as well. But where it just takes days for Yahoo & MSN, Google can take weeks before publicly acknowledging the ads and their new links to your pages.
Tracking URLs. If you're a real sceptic, or want to track conversion of your new ad campaign you can set up tracking urls and verify it's working for you this way. Link your ads to yourdomain.com?source=coop and write a script that takes this variable and e-mail yourself for instance.
Ranking. As explained in the intro, this network has the added bonus of passing link popularity. Based on this fact you are likely to see a better ranking for the targeted pages/phrases over time. Some have reported radical changes overnight yet others have yet to see (after months) a noticable impact.
If you can not work this out from the guidelines, FAQ and discussions then don't worry, there's help at hand for you. It might cost you a bit to get help from these fine talented people but being in the Co-op will surely pay off for you as well so any money paid to these pro's is money well spent. Some with even be up for a deal where you hand over some of your precious weight...
Please be as specific as you can when contacting the people below. In order to quickly determine whether their skill-base and experience meets your needs for this program, they will need to know at least all or part of the following:
The platform your site is hosted on (Apache/IIS etc.).
The Operating System your host is running (Linux/FreeBSD etc.).
They might need FTP access (username/password) to your site.
They are likely to need access to your Co-op account.
Further requirements like rates can be discussed by contacting them directly.
Flawebworks, also from the DP forums, has offered help as well. She can be contacted via this page where she can negogiate a deal to get a PHP based (Perl with a bit more effort) Co-op installation working smoothly. Flawebworks can also help out with 'Co-op Friendly' website hosting.
If you're based in the UK/Europe then for ease of communication it might be a good idea to contact Weirfire. Being a professional webdesigner with appropriate knowledge of PHP and server access etc. he will be able to get the Co-op up and running on your PHP based website in no-time. You can contact him here.
Crazyhorse, a Google AdSense content partner, is also based on 'this' side of the Atlantic and can be contacted via his forums on mediaplace dot nl about installation help. He can help out with HTML based sites, PHP pages installation and setup on the phpbb forum software. If your Dutch is better than English, dan kan Rik/Crazyhorse je in het Nederlands helpen met de installatie.
As of the beginning of March '05 there are over a 100 sites banned from the Co-op because of failure to comply with the Official Terms Of Service. As Shawn recently put it:
... Google has been more aggressive with bad neighborhood penalties. Which is why people within the co-op are quick to be banned permanently (there are over 100 site bans applied as of right now). Anyone failing to follow the TOS exactly does not get a warning, they are simply gone (along with every other site they are associated with). Better to err on the side of caution in my opinion.
All ads are reviewed by human eye and brains before going live to protect the interest of all. Landing pages with malicious content or practices like drive-by installations have no place in this network. Plus the pages that are showing our ads are also scrutinized so cloaking, hiding ads, and unwanted content like illegal porn are not associated with this network. Owners of these sites will be booted out without warning. If you are not in control of your site's content then you are a risk to the network so please, don't sign up.
As outlined in Weight & Issues, your weight is calculated from 4 variables. Increase any or a combination of these four to increase the weight in order to expand your advertising campaign.
Increasing pages is pretty straight forward. However, many people think they can pull a fast one by installing some syndication script or feed of some sort and expect to get away with it. But unless you add something in the mix, Google will catch you and simply through these not-so-unique pages out if its index again, bringing your weight down to where you were to begin with.
Some people actually buy websites to put co-op ads on. Other buy adspace from websites and install the co-op script. Those are all fine and help spread our ads. If you can't afford these strategies you can just make new quality pages as you did building your site to where it is now.
Also increasing your weight is when your Base URL gets a higher Google PageRank. Unlike what many people believe, the only way to get higher PR is to get more links to your pages - Base URL specifically. So go out on a link acquisition campaign and your PR might go up a notch over the next few weeks.
You get a weight bonus when you refer people to the Network. You get 10% worth of their weight so the more adspace they bring in, the better for you. Spamming your referral URL will get you booted out though so please make sure you spread the word in an ethical way.
To find out your referral code, log in to your account and see on the right hand side where it says Referrals How to receive weight bonuses. Click the link and spread the word!
# Of Ads:
The easiest way of increasing your weight is by increasing the number of ads displayed on your pages. How to create up to 5 ads per page is explained here. More than 5 is technically possible but you won't be rewarded for the excess.
The weight calculation algorithm also takes into account ad impressions your site is giving. This means that if you have a very popular site, but with just a few pages, you still will be rewarded.
PageRank is taken into account to try and algorithmically determine quality sites. Two sites that are identical in all ways except one is PR7 and one is PR1 will have a huge difference in the weight given to their ads.
Don't use nofollow. You'll have about 1/3rd the weight you would have with out using nofollow. Nofollow is for those worried about geting penalized by the search engines for being in the co-op.
Here are the checks you should do yourself to verify what the reason of your weight flux is. These apply to boh people who see BIG drops as well as those who don't revalidate anymore or where weight is 0 now.
- You have read the FAQs and understand how weight is calculated. In particular how it uses the API which often presents different results than Google's public results for the site: command. - When you got the e-mail about your ads being taken out of rotation, you verified that the ads were on the page mentioned in that e-mail. - You verified that all pages within your Base URL have ads showing and all show the same number of ads. - You tried revalidating manually in your account with an API key that you are sure has queries left. - You have verified with an API query (for instance via the Keyword Tracker) that you actually have pages in the Google index. - You are sure you have the latest Ad Network script code running on your pages. - You are sure your server still allows remote file connections so the script can communicate with the ad server. - You have verified that the ad .txt cache file is still writable (CHMOD 777). - You have checked the forums to see there isn't one of the notorious Google updates going on which, if it is, might well be the cause of flux. - You have checked the source code (CTRL + U in FireFox) of one of your pages that displays ads and verified that the output HTML isn't broken. - You have searched the forums for other possible answers already given to people in similar situations. - You checked your referrals and are sure it's not down to one of them loosing weight or abandoning the network.
If you can tick all the above and it's still not working then there's one last thing you can do yourself prior to asking for help. That is waiting for 24-72 hours. Manually revalidate after that period and 9 out of 10 times we see the weight back up. If not, then by all means go ahead and ask here.
At the moment, but not for long, there is a cap on your weight so large sites won't be flooding the network with ads. This explains why your weight is 'stuck' at 40,499 or 80,999 etc. There's a different cap for each Base URL PR. Increasing your pagecount won't increase your weight in such a case so them extra ads you serve for others are a 'bonus' to the network. Increasing the number of ads (up to five) does increase your weight because the cap is applied before the number of ads are taken into the equation. Referrals can also take you up higher in weight. You could try and increase your PR to take you over the treshold and increase your weight that way as well.
Shawn has confirmed that the cap will be removed soon after he "comes up with a good logarithmic scale for it".
Weight fluctuates almost daily. Even without building new pages or deleting old pages from your site, Google has a mind of its own in deciding which of your pages to include in its index today and which not.
Always visually verify ads are still live on your pages before requesting support!
The #1 Reason Of BIG Drops.
Almost every time when people reported big weight drops in the forums it was down to the more strict content filters. As explained in Part 2, Google has become a lot more anal about what to include and what not. They want to serve quality results to the people using their search engine.
In recent months, Google has been on a razzia, cleaning out their closet in which they are keeping over 8 billion pages.
What they kicked out of their index:
Low content pages
Crap pages with nonsense
So you were shocked to see your weight dropped to 0. Then when you checked Google's public site: stats you found a lot of Supplemental Results. You don't understand why the page count dropped because you just installed this very nice Amazon feed script which gave you about 20K new pages instantly. Or you published a Wikipedia clone, a DMOZ based directory or something else not-so-unique.
Think about it from Google's perspective for a second. Is it really necessary to have your pages in their index? People can find the DMOZ directory on another few hundred clones. They can find Amazon products on... Amazon! They can find Widipedia on Wikipedia's website or mirrors. Why should your pages get indexed? So they decided to boot these duplicate/very-similar content pages out and your weight, which relied on these being in the index, dropped significantly.
Other reasons why Google decided to not include your pages anymore can be that your pages are too similar to eachother. I remember investigating one instance where the site owner had unique content on many pages and still got condemnded to the index-exit.
What I found was that the template of the site didn't allow for much variation when compared page-by-page. If you can relate to the following, then that's your problem. And not just for your weight!
This site had a big left hand navigation menu. A large header. A content rich right hand features menu and a content rich footer. In the middle of all that was the 'body content'. Only this body content differed from page to page. Copy and paste the raw text into Word and you can do some basic maths. Top, left, right and bottom stay the same sitewide and only a small percentage changes in the middle. This is what I believe made Google think these pages weren't all that interesting. Google couldn't differentiate between the pages! See this illustration and it should be clear:
8 out of 9 is the exact same on each page. The solution is to cut down on the static parts. Cut down on the footer, make sure the right hand feature menu is dynamic, tone down on the header's text content etc.
Make sure the body content makes up the bigger part of each page so Google has something unique to read.
Other Reasons Why It Might Have Dropped
The API can be a source of trouble as well. As explained here, when you run out of API queries, it returns 'ads not found' and your weight drops to 0 and ads are taken out of the rotation.
The spot check validation bot might have stumbled on a page without the ads. It checks all files within the Base URL that are in the Google index, including an attempt to read in PDF files, Word Docs etc. You will have to exclude these in the robots.txt or move them to a folder outside the Base URL tree to avoid this. To get it up straight away before solving the underlying issue permanently, you can simply revalidate and hope the bot doesn't pick the same page. Now you're back up where you were until the next visit.
It could be that the validation bot couldn't access your site at the time of the spot check. If you were performing maintenance or your server was down, you cab get booted out temporarily. Revalidate and you should be back up.
It can also be that the behind-the-scenes PR has dropped without it being reflected in the toolbar.
Sometimes, hosts update their software and cause the scripts to fail working. The ad netwrok file relies on some file access functions which aren;t supported by all hosts. If they updated/upgraded and changed their policies regarding these functions, your ads might stop showing and you loose your weight.
The network is still evolving and the script need updating from time to time to support the latest features. If you missed the update notification e-mails that are being sent out automatically then you might find errors on your pages and your own ads taken out of rotation until you update your scripts.
It can also be that Google is in the middle of one of their notorious 'updates'. During these periods (which can last for weeks on end) they seem to be altering the page count they have for sites and then rolling back to the previous one and so foth. If the API took this count from one of the datacentres in flux then your weight will drop.
One of the most frequently asked questions in the forums is how it can be that someone's weight dropped whilst they are sure their page count went up. Even when Base URL PR stayed the same.
The answer lies in the source of your data. Google's public stats link those returned by a link: command or site: search are unreliable at most. For verifying your weight they are useless.
The Co-op system uses the API to query Google's database of webpages. The API tends to return results substantially different from the public results.
So you are sure you added 10 pages to your site and even confirmed an increase with the site: command. Doesn't mean a thing. You should do the site: command in an API query to see what the Co-op system sees. Sign up for the Digital Point Keyword Tracker; it tracks page count and back links as well.
At the end of 2004 Google tightened their Duplicate Content (or Crap Content) filters resulting in many not-so-content-rich or very-similar pages being dropped from the index. In the public stats they are often listed as 'Supplemental Results' with just the URL as the title and no description. The cached version of those pages often showed a date in 1969. These are good signs that Google doesn't like your pages. They just aren't unique enough or they lack in quality. Many syndication script or feeds like Amazon affiliate shops got booted out of the index, simply because they don't provide anything new.
So when you say that you increased the number of pages, think twice. Did you actually increase the useful content on your site? I bet you didn't. Even if you did, you can trust Shawn in coding a fair system. When you do see a drop, blame Google for unpredictable behaviour; not Shawn's code.
Weight in the Co-op is the result of a mathematical equation where the number of pages on which you provide adspace to the Network is multiplied with the number (up to 5) of ads you run per page. The Google API Pagerank for your Base URL is another variable in the equation. This basically another multiplier.
The 4th variable is referrals. You get a bonus for referring people into the Network.
The actual number of weight doesn't mean much. You can't say "I have x weight so I'll get y number of ads."It's pretty abstract. As explained in the introduction, you basically get back what you give so forget about the weight, calculate the predicted number of ads you get back by counting how many ads you are showing on your pages.
After a few weeks of monitoring you will get a feel of how much of your weight will result into how many ads. See under 'Verifying It Works' about how to collect stats.
A quick Goolge search shows how obsessed people are with their Co-op weight:
After installing the necessary files you have to validate your account.
Visual Validation - Confirm everything is working yourself first! Remember, ads have to be on each and every page within your Base URL that is (or might get) in the Google index. So browse over these pages in your favourite browser and confirm the ads are working. Make sure they aren't hard-coded in there so refresh the same page a few times and confirm the ads rotate.
The second stage of the visual validation is to go to google.com and do the following search:
Click a dozen of the results and verify the ads are there. This is pretty the much the way the automatic validation bot will verify you still have the ads everywhere.
When all is fine, you can go on to step 2. Otherwise; check out the Trouble Shooting section.
Automatic Validation - Log into your account and find the following bit of text:
Click the Validate/Calculate Weight Now button. This sends the validator round to your site. If all went well, it should validate on you are assigned the weight you deserve. If there are problems, the system will tell you on which URL it couldn't find the ads on. Go there yourself and rectify the situation. See Trouble Shooting if the ads are there. Sporadically the system will try the validate a page that isn't even yours. Again, see Trouble Shooting for more info.
Google API Key
Without a Google API key, the system will validate your pages by doing spot checks every now and then. If you do enter your own API key into the Account Settings then you can validate as often (up to your query limit of 1000) as you like. Useful for instance when you just added a boatload of pages and want instant weight recalculation without having to wait for the bot to drop by. The API key, however, is a source for many of the issues mentioned under Trouble Shooting. Main reason being this query limit. If you use the same key for say the DP Keyword Tracker and other tools it might well be that you are out of queries for that day. Clicking the 'validate now' link will then result in ads not found and a whopping 0 weight, so...
If You Use The API, Make Sure You Have Plenty Of Queries Left!
If this did get you into trouble... Don't freak out and cry in the forums! The API key is re-set every 24 hours so just wait one day and hit the validate now button.
Rgeimer posted his JSP Co-op code in the forums here. Go to his website here for an install guide. The source code is here. Please note this requires Java 1.4.x or later. Tested with Tomcat 5, but should work with other app servers as well.
Follow these instructions to get the ads showing on PHP based websites. You will need FTP access and the ability to change file permissions on your server. It would be handy if you have a template or fheader/footer file in which you can display the ads. Otherwise you will have to copy and paste it into all pages within the Base URL tree.
To change the ad type from banner to text or text to image banner etc. see here in Part 1.
As of early April you can now have all the formatting done for you in the Setup Instructions part of your account. It now features a drop-down to select the number of ads to be displayed (1 to 5) and it has a form element to choose your favourite method of separation. It defaults to which will vertially align the ads. Other popular options are , , , and other characters. Note the single space before and after the | and / etc. All ads are now displayed by a single "echo $ad_network;" line. Some people prepend this with a line of text like this:
Sorry for the line formatting - Blogger is a nightmare in that regard!
Don't forget to follow the rest of the official instructions - especially setting the .txt file as being writable!
Please read the official setup guides carefully. Choose the appropriate platform:
vBulletin 2.x and vBulletin 3.x forums, phpBB 2.x forums, Movable Type blogs, Blogger* based blogs and any site that supports PHP (there are how-to instructions for each). *Blogger Note: Blogger blogs have some special requirements at this point. They must be published via FTP/SFTP (rather than xxxx.blogspot.com) and must be running on an Apache web server that allows mod_rewrite with PHP installed.
All other platforms don't get full support, however, there are successful rewrites available from the forums so you can run this network on ASP, Coldfusion, CGI, HTML and JSP pages as well. See links above for more specific info.
A couple of mistakes often made:
Ads have to be on all pages within the Base URL that are spidered by Google. The validation bot will even look in indexed Word Docs, PDFs and other file types. Use your robots.txt file to exclude these from Googlebot's spidering sessions or move these files outside the Base URL tree.
Make sure you select the correct Ad Type for your sites from the drop-down menu on the setup instructions page. This gets often overlooked and people end up with the standard table based text banner ads where they wanted anchor text only ads for instance. See the picture below for a visual hint. You can empty the network_ads.txt cache at any time after swapping ad type to get rid of the old type ads you had previously.
The ad_network_ads_xxx.txt file has to have the correct file permissions assigned to it. It has to be writable so CHMOD it 777. Forget this and the script can't cache the ads locally. Some FTP programs seem to give problems with this. FileZilla has always worked perfect for me. This file has to be in the the same directory as the main script file!
There are several ways to go about using this Ad Network. Here are some thought provoking ideas about it.
As described in Part 2, there are some small risks involved in running ads that pass link popularity. Linking out to bad neighbourhoods can get yuo in deep troubles. You have to take this into consideration when setting up the ads.
If you have just one site, there's not much flexibility for you. In order to get the maximum weight you will have to publish ads on as many pages on this domain as possible.
If you own multiple sites however, there are ways to 'safeguard' those that mean most to you. Let's say you have a few blogs for fun, a forum for fun/educational purposes and an e-commerce site that pays your bills. You could run the Co-op on all of them get a massive weight to play with. You could, however, protect your 'money site' from the potential pitfalls mentioned earlier and exclude it from publishing ads. You could run the ads on blog A, blog B, forum C but have all ads you create aim to e-commerce site D.
Some people believe that reciprocal linking isn't as valuable as it used to be. By participating with multiple websites in the Co-op you can avoid reciprocal links by showing ads on site 1 but aiming your ads to site 2 only. This way site 2 will get one-way links.
It can also happen that you will start publishing foreign ads or ads with content that doesn't go very well with the content of your site. When you know your site attracts a critical crowd of picky visitors, you might want to decide against running the ads on that site. Tact, intergrity and credibility are probably worth more to you than the extra bit of weight which you can spend on ads.
In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
How does this apply to me?
When you install the script that automatically displays the ads, you will get ads published on your site over which you don't have direct control. Each ad and its link is reviewed by a dedicated human volunteer and their standars are very high but you will have to accept the fact that ultimately, you are responsible for you website's content yet by joining the Co-op Network you give up full control of this content.
Worst Case Scenarios:
A spammer signs up with a dodgy ad and slips the tight reviewers' nets. Your page gets crawled while linking to this dodgy website. You get punished for linking to a bad neighbourhood and Google (and others) might decide to ban/penalize your website.
A spammer (or someone without malicious intent) signs up and submits a perfectly legit ad. It gets approved but at a later stage the person running the site decides to change the landing page. It could now become a dodgy page and you might be linking to it at some point.
Luckily, the network has an active community behind it and an dozens of the hundreds of participants are actively (voluntarily) policing the network by clicking and reviewing the ads they see on their pages. Lemons are reported promptly in the forums. This greatly reduces the chance of a bad ad being out there for too long.
The installation code needs updating every now then due to the evolving nature of the Network and its functionality. If you don't keep up with the (sporadic) updates, your site might fail validation and your weight will be reset to zero. This means you are still displaying (working but non-validating) ads to others but getting nothing back in return.
The very first stage in setting up your Ad Network participation is showing other people's ads on your site. To do this, you will have to have made a decision on which ad format you want to display and how many ads you want to serve up at a time.
Anchor Text Only ads are nice and small, inobtrusive to the rest of your content. You could put it under a header saying 'Sponsored Links' or something similar. You can format these the way you want as well. Some put them in the footer with hyphens between each ad. Others choose a verticle alignment in their navigation menu.
Remember that the more ads you show (up to 5 per page count towards your weight) the more weight you get. Like for like, remember?
Text Banners take up more space but are more user friendly because of the description below it. Some people think of this as free dynamic content which could have positive effects for their ranking.
Graphic Banners are more prominent which can be good and bad. It also ads to the page load time more than the text based ads do.
During the very first stage you install the necessary ad server access script on your website. This dynamically pulls ads from the server's database into a cache file on your website. The individual weight of each participant determines the chance of their ad being displayed. Then, each time a page of yours is requested, the script pulls the ads from this cache file and displays it in the browser.
From the moment you create an ad in your account and after it has been approved by a human reviewer, it can take up to 100 hours for the ad to be displayed to its full potential on the other websites.
You can create a limited number of ads (20 at the time of writing) and assign a user-defined amount of available weight to it. See Ad Management for more info. This way you can decide which ads should get more exposure than others. Writing multiple ads also allows for testing which one converts best and allows you to target multiple key phrases for their possible link popularity. See Pre-installation Thoughts for advertising strategies.
As explained in the official FAQ under #6, currently the system can serve 468x60 graphic banners, 468x60 text based banners or a simple text based ad. For the text banners, you can control the background color of the banner so you can blend them in nicely with your current layout.
Examples of ads:
Text Banner (or Image Banner)
Sample Ad This is how an ad would look that is served up on the co-op ad network.
Ads have to comply with the official Advertisement Quality Guidelines, which amongst other directions, prohibit ads with adult, pharmaceutical or gambling content or landing pages.
So firstly, you get to choose what sort of ads you want to display on your pages and also the quantity. You can have (and get credit for) up to five of your prefered type (anchor text only, text banner or image banner) on each page.
Secondly, after confirmation (automatic validation) that the ads are showing on all your pages within your Base URL, you may write ads in your account which after manual reviewer approval will show on other people's pages.
Read more on Advertisements and Ad Inventory management in FAQ Category #6, Managing Ads.
As with all co-operative efforts, it's the combined effort that counts. It's all about the 1+1 = 3 idea.
First of all, all participants need to make adspace available on their website. You decide whether you offer space site-wide (all pages within yourdomain.com and subfolders) or limited to just a folder (all pages within yourdomain.com/folder/subfolder/ and deeper subfolders). This domain is called your 'Base URL' and this is the URL that you sign up with.
The network is based on a like-for-like principle. The more you give the more you receive. You can think of the combined adspace being one big 'pool' which grows in volume the more people participate. Once you have provided adspace to this pool you can take an equivalent proportion back, i.e. you get ads on other people's adspace.
Basically, when you give say 200 pages with 5 links on each page to the ad pool, you will automatically get roughly a thousand (200 x 5) ads back. What you give to the network is converted in a numerical value, referred to as 'Co-op Weight'. You can spend this weight on available adspace from the pool.
But it's not based on quantity only.
Quality is what the network takes pride in. To reward quality, Base URLs with a higher Google PR get more weight back for their adspace. Higher PR pages have more links aiming at them so 1) they are likely to rank higher thus getting more traffic from the search engines resulting in more ad impressions and 2) more links could mean more direct traffic as well resulting in more ad impressions. This is why a PR8 Base URL yields more weight than a PR2 Base URL providing the same number of pages. Note: for ease of calculation and standardization, only the PR of the Base URL is factored in.
In short: The more adspace you offer and the higher the PR of your Base URL, the more weight you get which you can subsequently spend on advertisements.
The more participants, the larger the spread of your ads, potentially reaching a larger audience. This could also help with the Link Popularity mentioned in the Introduction, it is believed that links from a range of unique domains/IP addresses yields more 'popularity' than the same number of links from just a few domains.