An Introduction To Content Targeting

We’ve spent virtually this entire year on buying paid search through the engines and now it’s time to dive into some of the other products that they offer for marketers. As a search marketer, you’ll be able to tap into some very powerful tools and ad inventory sources that can help supplement and compliment your current paid search efforts.

One of the more successful non-search triggered products that the engines offer is content targeting. The major search engines have shown a very good track record for developing marketing services and have made partnerships with millions of publisher sites across the web. These publishers drop a snippet of code on their sites which acts as a “smart ad box.” It’s smart because every time the page loads, the engine code scans the page and determines the context of what is being displayed and then matches up advertiser ads that are relevant to this content.

Here’s a classic “java” example from Google AdWords:

Google Content

In relation to paid search, historically, these ads have tended to perform a bit less effectively as your most highly targeted keywords. But, really, it’s hard to find any advertising that can target users as well as paid search. That said, there are some clear benefits to using content targeting such as:

  • The ability to reach users who don’t know your product or service. They don’t know to search for you, therefore you wouldn’t be able to reach them on a search triggered ad.
  • Scalability. Paid search is a pull medium which means that it requires user action (i.e. a query input on a search engine) to trigger an ad impression. Eventually, no matter how popular the keyword, you will run out of search ad opportunities. With content ads on literally millions of web pages, you’ll most likely run out of budget before running out of inventory.
  • High levels of transparency and measurability similar to that of search.
  • Everything is in one place. Results and metrics side by side with your paid search efforts.

The big opportunity here really is scale. At last check, Google was serving around 17 billion search engine results pages per month in the U.S., whereas the Google content network was serving 6 billion ads a day worldwide. And because the number of websites serving search engine content ads is growing a lot faster than the number of searches on, the number of ad impressions on sites will certainly provide more ad inventory for marketers in the future.

Some other things to consider with running on content inventory are:

  • More than just text ads. You can use flash, image and video ads with many sites.
  • Pricing. You can buy either CPC or choose CPM (cost per thousand) or CPA (cost per acquisition) models.
  • You can now see how your content targeted ads drive your users to search on your terms and convert via paid search ads. Basically, you’re moving users down the market funnel instead of just catching them with paid search.

This is just an intro into content targeting. Next week, we’ll walk through step-by-step on how to take advantage of this powerful search engine advertising product.

PPC Academy is a comprehensive, one-year search advertising course from beginning to end. Starting with the basics, PPC Academy progressively explores all of the varied facets of paid search, and the tactics needed to succeed and become an advanced paid search marketer.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | PPC Academy


About The Author: has been a search marketer since 2003 with a focus on SEM technology. As a media technologist fluent in the use of leading industry systems, Josh stays abreast of cutting edge digital marketing and measurement tools to maximize the effect of digital media on business goals. He has a deep passion to monitor the constantly evolving intersection between marketing and technology. You can follow him on Twitter at @mediatechguy.

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  • szetela

    Nice article, Josh (and sorry I missed seeing you at SMX). People interested in more info re: AdWords Display Network best practices might enjoy my free downloadable book on the topic:

  • jamesoppenheim

    You’re 100% right, Josh. Thanks for the great post to raise awareness about the benefits of content targeting. Content targeting can deliver scale – lots of it – particularly when compared with other targeting methods, and is also cookie-free and privacy-friendly. I’m James from semantic targeting solution provider Peer39, and we’re improving ROI for advertisers and increasing CTRs and CPMs for Supply-Side Platforms and publishers.

  • Josh Dreller

    Definitely check out David Szetela’s very comprehensive (and free downloadable) book on this subject!

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