Your Action Plan To Generate Great Results on the Google Adwords Content Network
By Joseph Kerschbaum
Over the past two years, the depth of reporting and the ability to manage
performance proactively within Google AdWords have greatly improved.
By taking advantage of this increased targeting, you can gain exposure to
specific audiences that might not know of your website’s existence, but
stand to benefit greatly from your products and services.
The first step toward creating an effective strategy is to understand how
contextual advertising works.
Content network ads are not search ads. In the content network,
there is no actual search involved. To determine the sites on which
your ads will appear, Google reviews the keywords in each ad group
while assigning a theme to each group. Google also determines the
themes of each website in the content network. Your ad group
theme is matched to websites with a similar theme or content, and
this is where your ads appear.
An important distinction between search and content ads is
the level of traffic (exposure) involved. Content network ads appear
all across the Web, on thousands of websites, where search
ads are specific to user keyword queries on Google search results.
As such, it’s vital to focus on your ROI within the content network.
That includes making sure your ads appear alongside the
most relevant content, on the most relevant websites. The tactics
that follow are geared toward helping you manage and optimize
your contextual advertising to make your life easier and your PPC
efforts more successful.
Keep search and content network campaigns separate.
This tactic will help you better manage and optimize your content
network performance without affecting your search network
results (and vice versa). Separating the two distribution channels
allows more control over each and a better measurement of ROI.
Broaden your keyword selection. Best practices dictate, on the
search network, you want to target specific terms that are highly
targeted and relevant to your audience — stray from general
phrases. But on the content ad network, broad terms can help
Google determine the theme of your keywords. For example, if
your product is organic Columbian coffee, you might want to add
the broad term “coffee” into one of your ad groups to enhance your
ad exposure. Remember that Google derives a theme from your
keywords on the content network; your ads are not distributed by
Write ads specifically for the content network. User intent for
the search network is very different than for the content network.
On the search network, someone is searching specifically for what
you have to offer, even if they don’t yet know of your website. On
the content network, users are viewing content related to your offer,
but they are not actively searching for your specific website. Keep
this in mind when writing ads for the content network.
When writing an ad for the content network, shy away from
questions that draw the eye and entice the user. For example, in a
search ad you may use the headline, “Looking for Hiking Shoes?”
This is applicable because the user (if they queried your keyword)
is likely searching for hiking shoes. However, since the user is not
actively looking for your product or service on the content network,
a headline such as “Hiking Shoes at Great Prices” is a better fit.
Much like search ads, make your content network ads benefit driven
by giving users multiple reasons to click. Include a call-to action
in order to set up the conversion. Include phrases like, “Get
a free quote,” or “Register now,” or anything relevant to the action
you want the user to take when they land on your site.
Optimize for conversion rate, not click-through rate (CTR). Due
to the widespread distribution of content network ads (resulting
in more traffic per ad) and the fact that users don’t look for your
specific product or service, your CTR on the content network will be abysmal when compared to the search network. And that’s okay.
Your main objective should be conversion rate and cost-per conversion.
This puts the burden of opportunity on your landing
pages. Test various elements to find what appeals best to the content
network crowd. These might vary from your search advertising
landing pages, so make sure to optimize different pages tied to
your varied campaigns.
Experiment with multiple ad formats. Within the content network,
test various ad formats including those that utilize text,
images and video. Pay close attention to those formats that
appeal best to your target audience and continue to optimize within
Know where your ads appear. As mentioned previously, the data
provided to AdWords clients are now granular. Not only can you
track the domains on which your ads appear, but you can also
drill down to those URLs within a given site that drive the most
traffic. Acquire this data by running a Placement Performance Report
within Google AdWords.
When you run a Placement Performance, you might initially be
overwhelmed by the amount of data. After all, there will be hundreds
or thousands of URLs listed. Sort the report by number of
clicks and remove any sites that don’t generate any clicks. This
number could be rather large, so this will make the report much
Exclude sites that convert poorly. Once you know where your
ads are showing, you can remove poorly-converting sites by using
the site exclusion tool within AdWords. This will help increase your
conversion rate and lower your cost-per-conversion.
Target best performing sites. You also can derive what sites work
best for your campaign from the Placement Performance Report.
Using the site targeting tools within AdWords, adjust bids directly
for these specific sites — giving you more control to generate even
Watch ad positions closely. Ad position in the content network
is sensitive. Most sites display three or four content ads at once. So,
if your ad is ranked in the fifth or sixth position, within any specific
ad group, your ad isn’t showing as much as possible. This is hard
to gauge but a good rule of thumb is if you’re in position three or
lower you may not gain as many impressions as possible.
Bid changes within the content network are also sensitive. Keep
in mind that even small bid changes, say five or 10 cents, can have
a big impact on performance. Closely monitor the bid adjustments
you make in the content network.
Utilizing these tactics will help you gain your footing on the
Google content network. Remember, user intent is very different
from search; focus on your conversion rate, and remove sites that
aren’t generating a positive ROI to keep the process manageable
About the Author: Joseph Kerschbaum is a member of the PPC Hero team, a blog that
discusses PPC strategy, as well as SEO Boy, a blog that focuses on SEO
strategy — but with a heroic flare. Joseph is a senior paid search
marketing consultant for Hanapin Marketing, a Search Engine
Marketing/Web Development firm based in Bloomington, Ind.