The Google Content Network
The Search Network (google.com.au, google.com) & the partner network (ask.com, aol etc) get most of the airtime in the SEM game. But there’s a third network that you ned to master to get the most out of your pay per click advertising: The Google Content Network
Rather than showing text ads next to the search results, for example on google.com.au, the content ads show up next to relevant content on ‘other sites’ around the internet. Which other sites? Well there are millions of them. Blogs, social media sites, portals, directories, newspaper sites even next to emails in gmail that contain (what Google thinks) are relevant words.
Can this be useful to you? You bet! Let’s count the ways:
- Many Google advertisers don’t use the content network at all, most of those that do often do so by mistake (the default setting is to show your search ads across the content network). This means that only a fraction of advertisers are using this powerful medium to it’s full potential & yet Google makes about 50% of it’s revenue from these ads!
- You can display more than just text ads. Image ads are available in a wide range of sizes (just be sure to get the size right) & again hardly any advertisers use these! Many of those square, rectangle, skyscraper & even plain old banner ads you see on sites like myspace, facebook & others are put there by google advertisers (& it’s very easy to setup). You can also test animated ads, video ads & gadget ads (look out for a huge increase in these in 2009)
- You don’t have to rely on Google to figure out which sites are relevant for your ads – you can specify a list of sites that you choose. Better yet, you can specify the content that needs to be on those sites before your ads show (by choosing a short list of keywords). So you might place ads on facebook that only appear when the phrases “weight loss” or “lose weight” are used on a page… nobody else gets to see your ad, so it’s still fairly targeted. You might even write those ads to make a special offer just to facebook users & send them to a facebook specific landing page… just an idea
- It’s generally cheaper than the Search Network (but not always). Text ads are generally 50-80% cheaper on the content network. Image ads might be a little cheaper, but usually not by a lot.
- You can split test ads just as you do on the search network. Yep, even the image ads. For example, you’re about to launch a new billboard campaign for the first time (or an insert in a local paper, or a poster in your physical store) & your graphic designer gives you 4 styles to choose from. Which one’s the best? Not which is your favourite, but which will get the highest ROI for your marketing dollar? Run 4 image ads for a couple of weeks, letting Google do the hard work of showing them evenly across the web. Sit back & choose the winner!
- Choose the pricing model that you prefer. You can choose either cost per click (CPC) or cost per thousand impressions (CPM)
- You can use the very useful (ok essential) placement performance report to find out which sites are working & which ones get lots of impressions but no clicks – better yet manage based on conversions not just clicks (hint: you can easily stop showing ads on these sites in just a few clicks). Read my post on how to run the placement performance report.
- You can drill down to specific areas within large sites. myspace & about.com are both huge sites. Instead of running your ads across the whole site, you can choose which niche you want to target,
- Negative Keywords are just as important in Content but use them wisely. You’ll probably want to edit the list of negative keywords you’re using on Search & cut this down a bit – otherwise you can severely limit the number of impressions you’ll get.
- You can be a lot more creative in the cross selling opportunities your product or service gives you. It would be nearly impossible to advertise say a site selling whiteboards by bidding on terms like ‘small business office’ on search. There’s just too much competition & the lack of relevance between the keyword & the ad would really hurt your Quality Score for that term. On content – if your ad is good enough – those ads will be shown to a much wider audience.
- The Content Network is great for affiliate marketing! Very few affiliates are using this avenue effectively – especially image ads – giving you amazing opportunities to dominate your chosen niche.
- Often the more creative (even salesy) ads will work very well, more than might be the case on Search. Experiment with your copy, ham it up, tone it down – see what works in your market
Convinced? Ok, so how do you set this up?
First – always (always!) use a different campaign to your search targeted ads (in fact you’ll want separate campaigns for your content text ads & image ads, but more on that another day).
Feel free to use AdWords Editor to create a copy of your existing search campaign – but check:
- Delete all keyword bids. It’s only the AdGroup bid that counts on content. Start with bids about 70-80% of the search bids & test from there.
- Edit your list of negative keywords – you’ll want some, but not too many.
- Consider rearranging your groups of keywords – you want enough keywords in a group so that Google can work out what you’re selling, but not so many that they become irrelevant to the ad itself (hint: Shelley Ellis tells us that google will only look at the first 50 keywords in a group – so don’t bother having more than that). I find that 5-15 phrase are usually best
- There are mixed opinions about this… but I believe it’s best to delete your broad & exact match keywords from your group & just leave the phrase match keywords. Why? Well on content, phrase & exact are going to be basically the same thing – it’s the phrase that will be used on a page of content. And whilst the broad match type will get you more impressions it should be tested & used with caution. It will greatly increase the scope of your campaign, but probably not the relevance. Watch that cost per conversion number carefully!
- check your geo-targeting settings. As with search I’m a firm believer in (starting off at least) just targeting one country per campaign. Maybe for you it’s the States, or Australia or just Ireland. But test your ‘most likely to succeed’ country first, then expand to others.
- consider adding a 2nd campaign with image ads sooner rather than later – lots of low-hanging fruit out there!
Any of this not make sense to you? Would a video of me setting up campaigns for the content network make this easier to understand? Drop me a line & I’ll see what WebSavvy can do to help.
Good luck out there!