Five Quick Tips For Success On Google’s Content Network

According to Google’s recent quarterly earnings report, the company earns about 34% of its revenue from AdSense, placing contextual ads on its content network partner websites. This proportion has stayed steady year over year. It certainly reflects overall growth, but some might be surprised at how conservative the pace is.

One of the reasons for this is that Google has continued to implement measures for quality control in the network. This overall improvement in the offering available to advertisers is made up of four pillars:

  • Continued proactive click fraud filtering
  • Smart pricing, which automatically lowers the prices on clicks from sources that do not typically perform well for advertisers
  • Improved ease of use in the interface to allow advertisers to access reporting breakdowns so they can catch trouble spots more readily
  • New specific targeting features that allow advertisers to fine-tune campaigns and generate better conversions from content.

There are three ways to advertise on the content network:

Keyword-targeted campaigns. Here, advertisers specify keywords and ads are placed based on the keywords in ad groups. This was the first version of content targeting that Google rolled out, and it’s also called “automatic matching.” Based on keywords in your ad groups and other relevant cues, Google’s ad serving system tries to serve the most relevant ads in the ad units accepted by AdSense publishers.

Placement-targeted campaigns. With this type of targeting, also known as managed placements, advertisers specify specific sites they want to advertise on and the ads are placed just on those sites. To a degree, there’s still an opaque auction but advertisers are much more in control. You may find that many advertisers focus in on the same high-quality sites so don’t be surprised if you need to bid significantly higher to see clicks.

Enhanced campaigns. With this type of advertising, advertisers specify both site(s) and keywords and ads are triggered if keywords are found in content on the site(s) specified.

If you’re not advertising on the content network, you should be. And if you are, here are five quick tips to get the most out of your content campaigns.

Separate search and content campaigns. Algorithms on the search side and the content side work very differently. On the search side, Google attempts to match keywords in your account to queries users are searching for. On the content side, Google’s semantic technology tries to match the intent of the advertiser with the potential intent of the reader. For simplicity’s sake this could be called a “theme,” but it’s no doubt multi-faceted. It’s based not only on the keywords placed in your account, but on past behavior patterns across many other accounts and websites. The fact that Google has so much data to help their system fine-tune targeting is precisely why content channel has been increasingly robust for many advertisers.

This makes it important to create separate campaigns for your search and your content advertising. Separate accounts make it easier for each type of advertising to “do its thing” and find the most relevant ads for your account.

Focus on tightly themed groups. With content network campaigns, choose terms that will allow Google to adequately determine a theme for your campaigns. In content campaigns, it makes sense to be very specific (just as it does on the search side). In many cases, it makes sense to have more ad groups with fewer terms than fewer ad groups with lots of keywords. Our content campaigns are very specific and tend to perform well with about ten keywords per ad group. Here’s example, with a group of keywords organized around the theme of teaching in Thailand:

  • Teach Thailand
  • Teaching jobs Thailand
  • Teach English Thailand
  • Teaching English Thailand
  • Teaching Thailand
  • Teaching job Thailand
  • Teaching English Bangkok
  • Teach English Bangkok
  • Teaching jobs Bangkok
  • Teach Bangkok
  • Teaching Bangkok

Create separate ad copy. People who are searching have very different motivation than people who are “consuming” content, so it makes sense to gear ads to different types of intent. If you’re advertising a product for sale, it’s important to take the buy cycle into consideration when creating ad copy. Many people who see content ads are typically at an earlier stage in the consideration cycle, so ads geared to the awareness and information search stages are usually the most effective.

With higher consideration products, it may make sense to create awareness and draw people in with information (geared to information search stage) rather than jumping right into very specific product details and “buy now” calls to actions (typically associated with alternative evaluation and purchase decision buy stages). For example, for a well-known management consulting firm seeking awareness, this inexpensive ad might appear in content related to financial controls, human resources, and other corporate management topics:

Is Downsizing the Answer?
Consider these 7 cost-cutting tips
before laying off staff. Free PDF.

A year later, when it comes time for a prospect to consider JKLMN Partners among several prospective vendors for high-ticket services, the ad which created a connection earlier may give JKLMN Partners a serious edge. What’s better, the cost per PDF download may compare very favorably to other business development channels.

If you’re gunning for a mass consumer audience, there is more incentive to draw attention to your ad with catchier messaging. Unlike search ads, which are relatively effective in any case due to the user’s intent, you’ll find content volume may suffer unless you tweak offers and headlines. Catchier ads can be effective as people are not actively looking for what you’re “selling” when they come across your ad in the content of a website. Catchy ads also tie in nicely to the awareness stage of the buy cycle.

Understand your audience and tailor ads to them. This relates specifically to enhanced targeting. If you’re going to advertise in a specific place, gear your ad copy to the audience of the specific place you’re advertising. For example, advertising that geared towards someone watching a YouTube video will be very different than advertising that appears on a site like

Also, take into consideration the demographic profiles of users of the sites you’re targeting. Ads will be very different if you’re targeting the as opposed to a children’s website.

Create different landing pages for content and search. Try different landing pages. With one of our clients, we had more success with whitepaper downloads on the content side than the search side. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different offers on the search and content sides of your advertising campaigns.

So, just because the wide reach of the content targeting program reminds you of the old days of display, are you relegated to “spray and pray?” No way. Take advantage of the targeting opportunities that are bringing today’s contextual advertising into a new era of customization and accountability.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdSense | Paid Search Column


About The Author: was recently voted the 2013 Most influential SEM. She is the Vice President of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media where she focuses on search engine marketing strategy, landing page optimization (LPO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

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  • MarketingJamie

    Thanks for this great post. (

  • Nicholas Kemp

    Love this post! I have tried several of these tips in the past and had great success. It is a lot of work, separate ad copy focused ad groups etc but the results are worth it. You have reminded me of some imortant fundamentals.



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