Advertising On The Google Content Network

The most common mistake Google AdWords advertisers make is assuming that Google’s search network and Google’s content network are the same. In reality, the two are very different. Below is a checklist of how one should go about settings up a content network campaign.

Getting Started

A content network campaign should be set up separately from a search network campaign for a number of reasons:

You’ll be reaching your target audience at a different stage of the buying cycle.

You’ll be targeting prospects using various types of ads types/formats.

Quality of traffic generated through the content network is different.

Your optimization strategy is rather limited and otherwise is very different from a search network campaign.

You should have a separate budget for a content campaign.

Content network ads are theme-based, versus search network ads, which are keyword-based.

Step 1

To understand why the content network works differently from the search network, think about how Google’s spiders crawl all those websites on the Internet. In order for Google to figure out what your website is all about, it has to scan pages and pick up keywords that you’ve used on your site. Then, using proprietary algorithms, Google takes into account all other factors that it had picked up about your website and makes an educated guess on the theme of your web page.

Knowing that, think about a way to match the expectations of Google’s spiders to your content network setup. Brainstorm some themes that are relevant to what you have to offer.

For example, if Practical eCommerce were to establish a content campaign it might explore the following themes:

  • Internet marketing
  • Ecommerce
  • Shopping carts
  • Web development
  • Pay-per-click
  • Search engine optimization
  • Search engine marketing
  • Web analytics
  • Internet resources

Note all of those themes are very broad and are targeting an audience that might find Practical eCommerce useful.

Step 2

Once you’ve hammered out the themes you would like to target, it’s time to build your campaigns. Here’s an example of how a “pay-per-click” Ad Group could be set up:

Content Ad Group: Pay-Per-Click

Keywords: pay per click, payperclick, ppc, pay per click advertising, pay per click management, pay per click services, search engine, seo, search engine optimization, ctr, cpc, pay per click firm, pay-per-click, internet marketing, advertise, Google, Yahoo!, ad words

To develop that list, I first poked around Wordtracker for some top keywords. Then, I identified keywords that are likely to be mentioned on the page that talk about “pay per click.” I would recommend 15-25 keywords in any given Ad Group and I’d recommend that you forget about match types.

As you build out your Ad Groups, don’t worry about repetition or using broad terms. Feel free to use the broadest possible keywords and repeat keywords if necessary.

Step 3

Think about ad copy and ad formats. In order to kick your campaign performance into overdrive, develop ads in all allowed formats. These include text ads, image ads and, if resources permit, video ads and widget ads.

More information can be found at Google AdWords.

You’ll be reaching your target audience while they are peacefully browsing around the web and not necessarily looking to sign up, buy or download anything. Make sure your ad is creative, catchy, but at the same time pre-qualifies your users and seems in line with their interests.

Step 4

Figure out the following settings for your campaigns:

  • Daily budget
  • Geo-targeting settings
  • Language
  • Content network distribution
  • Content bids: Set your content bids lower than your search bids (I usually start them off 25 percent lower but there are no rules)

Ready to launch!

Step 5

Once you’ve ran your campaigns for at least 2-3 weeks, you should start exploring some of the optimization strategies:

Excluding Sites

Run “Placement Performance” reports and select all websites that have not generated any conversions. Don’t worry about clicks, CTRs or impressions. Conversions are the only metric that matters. Exclude all those websites by going to the “Tools” section in Google AdWords. By excluding those sites you’re ensuring that those ads will no longer be displayed on the sites that have not produced conversions for your campaign.

Negative Keywords

Consider adding negative keywords to your content campaigns to disqualify any sites mentioning those words. For example, if an advertiser is a car dealer there is no reason for his/her ads to be displayed on the sites that talk about car parts, car manuals, or repairs. Hence, you would add “repairs,” “manuals,” and “parts” as your negative keywords.


Don’t forget about reviewing performance metrics of the ads you’re running and adjusting those as needed.

Greg Laptevsky
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