Google has long offered ads that show up on its search engine results. But they also offer ads on blogs and information sites, known as “the Content Network.”
When Google first launched the AdWords Content Network the advertiser had very little control over how or where the ads were shown. Many early users of the Content Network had lackluster performance and stayed away from it.
Fortunately, over the last few years Google has substantially improved the Content Network, adding controls (such as the ability to opt-out of specific sites) and better reporting so advertisers can now run effective, profitable campaigns on the Content Network.
The Content Network is a great place to be if you want exposure on the web. Google states that their Content Network reaches 80% of global internet users. That’s a lot of sites with ads. With so many sites displaying ads, it is prudent for you as an advertiser to make sure you do your homework to ensure your ads are displayed on appropriate sites and that the advertising is effective.
Many advertisers do extremely well on the Content Network. If you are new to the Content Network, here are a few guidelines to help your experience be a positive one.
1. Don’t treat the Content Network the same as the search network
The two are completely different animals and the audience you’ll be reaching is in a completely different mindset.
In search networks, ads that mimic back the search query usually do well. In search networks, searchers are on a specific quest. They are searching for a particular item or service. The most relevant ad that attracts their attention gets the click.
In contrast, Content Network searchers are not looking for your goods. You have to distract the reader from the article and get them interested in your goods. Think “impulse buys” like bright colored candy bars in the checkout lane. The Content Network equivalent would be the “Punch the Monkey” ads.
2. Always run your content ads in a separate campaign
Do not mix content and search networks in the same campaign. The two need completely different ads, keywords, bidding strategy, and management.
3. Content ads need to grab the reader’s attention
Don’t take the ads from your search network and dump them in a content campaign. Ads that work in search networks don’t always work in the Content Network. If you really want to maximize your success on the Content Network you will write ads specifically for the Content Network to address the different mindset of the reader.
Your Content Network ad needs to stand out and draw the reader in more strongly than an ad on the search network (where they are actively searching for your services). Mention special offers, strong calls to action, and combine ads with effective landing pages for maximum performance.
Another way to draw the eye in the Content Network is to use different ad formats. The Content Network allows a variety of ad formats including traditional text ads, image ads and video ads. Experiment with the different formats and see if one type works better for you. Remember, your goal is to distract readers and pull them into your ad.
4. Content Network calls for a different campaign management style
With the Content Network think about setting up many adgroups with very few keywords in each adgroup. When we say few we mean few — less than ten. Frequently our adgroups have only 1-3 closely related keywords in them. In the Content Network you don’t get feedback based on keywords, so creating very small focused themed adgroups creates a way where you can get feedback. This technique is frequently referred to as the “Cast Your Net” management style — you use many individual broader themed keyword groups to cast a net to find sites that work for you.
5. Don’t forget negative keywords
Negative keywords are a way of filtering when your keywords are shown. If you tell Google that a certain word is a negative, Google won’t show your ad if that term is present. We’ve all heard horror stories of luggage ads showing up on news sites talking about plane crashes or similar bad matches. Be smart: brainstorm words that might be associated with your keywords in an adverse way and negate them.
6. Track performance on individual sites and exclude non-performers
In Google’s Content Network, the Placement Performance Report is your best friend (or you can get a snapshot from the “Networks” tab of the Campaigns screen). This report shows performance statistics for your ads on the different sites where the ads are being shown. The transparency of the Content Network improved dramatically when Google added this report. Learn to monitor the report frequently. Eliminate sites that are not performing well.
Content Network — Different, but effective
If you have only run ads on the search network, expect to see differences on the Content Network. For example, you’ll likely get lower click rates and less traffic in the Content Network than in the search network. This makes sense if you remember that people coming through you on the Content Network were NOT searching for your product. Your ad wet their appetite and compelled them to click.
A prudent way to start when transitioning to the Content Network is to start with a small budget until you get feedback on which sites are converting. As you learn which sites perform best for you, you can add more money.
Don’t be afraid to try the Content Network. If you follow the tips above and close monitor the Placement Performance Report to give you feedback, you too can run profitable campaigns on the Content Network.