When you think about the search buying cycle, you often start with a user’s keyword search. However, that’s not the entire buying cycle funnel. The first steps in the buying cycle are awareness and interest. It’s difficult to generate awareness in search as someone has to first know about a product or service before they can search for it.
Traditionally, the awareness cycle has taken place through CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) buys on the traditional ad networks, or via ad buys on a specific site. However, it is possible to accomplish many of these buys through Google’s AdWords program. If you use content network best practices, you can optimize these buys based upon campaign metrics once you set your goals.
CPM targeting often works best with image or video ads. This will create graphical awareness, and one of your top metrics will be video play thorough rates. In generating interest, you are trying to measure engagement and interest, not necessarily direct ROI. That measurement comes later in the buying cycle.
Let’s examine the traditional CPM buys and see how you can accomplish both the buy, and potentially better targeting via doing these buys from Google. We’ll start with the broadest CPM targeting and get more specific as we move along the possibilities.
Run of network
One of the most common buys in the CPM world is the cheap Run of Network ads. These ads show up on any publisher sites within the network without much control from the ad buyer. Within AdWords, this used to be the traditional content network which was paid for via the cost per click model.
With the new targeting, you can buy keywords on a CPM basis. Previously, keywords were always sold on a CPC basis; however, the new AdWords feature lets you buy keywords at CPM pricing.
With the introduction of keywords + placements, there is an additional campaign setting that let’s you set where your ads will show. In the above image, if you choose ‘Relevant pages only on the placements I target’; your ad will only be displayed on the placement sites you choose which we will walk through in a moment. If you choose ‘Relevant pages across the entire network’; then your ad will be displayed on any site where the content’s theme matches the keywords in your ad group.
This is useful for the launch of a broad interest product when you want to generate global interest. Don’t forget that you can use geographic targeting with all CPM ads to narrow down the locations where your ads are showing.
Buying keywords on a CPM basis is the way to reach the largest audience who are viewing articles based upon your keyword selection. This is akin to buying Run of Category within an entire network.
Note that bids for CPM keywords are at the ad group level. You can’t change your bid per keyword. If you have different sets of keywords that you would like to CPM bid, you will have to make a different ad group per set of keywords.
Run of site
Using Google’s placement campaigns, one can show an ad throughout a single site, or set of websites.
Within the AdWords interface, you can search for sites within the content network where you’d like to show your ads. This is the very straightforward placement targeting (originally called site targeting) that Google launched in June of 2005.
Image: Placement targeting tool for finding sites.
The nicest thing about placement targeting is that you can bid CPM per each website where your ad is showing. Adjusting CPM bids based upon actions is very useful. If there is a site that is generating a much higher click through rate, video play rate, or even conversion rate – you can adjust your CPMs based upon what you are willing to pay for those actions.
Run of category within a site
When sites are quite large, you might not wish to buy across an entire website. Google has been working with publishers to narrow down the targeting within individual website. You can now buy an ad in just the business section of the Wall Street Journal. This helps to narrow down the audience that is seeing your ad.
As you peruse the possible sites where you’d like to show your ad, focus on the sites which show you exactly where your ad will appear. On some sites you can choose just the ‘business section’. In others you can choose ‘the upper left ad unit in the business section’.
Image: Placement targets within NYTimes.com.
This targeting is excellent when trying to gain awareness based upon the type of people who visit particular types of sites. For instance, you might buy a run of site on Forbes, yet only buy the business section of the New York Times.
Based upon your audience, it will be most useful to mix and match the types of targeting and ad buys for your products.
You can also use Google’s Ad Planner to learn more about the demographics of individual sites.
Run of site when it matches your keywords
Do you want your ad to show on the New York Times website, but don’t want your ad to show unless someone is looking at a travel-related article? This type of targeting is available via the placements + keywords feature.
First, choose the sites where you want your ad to appear. Next, navigate to the ad group and put in specific keywords. What this will do is only show your ad on those websites when the theme of your keywords matches the theme of the article being viewed.
This is an excellent way to buy CPM on specific sites that house your target audience, but still maintaining some control over exactly when your ad is shown.
Run of category within a site when it matches your keywords
Think that title is long enough? That’s because Google’s targeting has become very accurate in some conditions. First, a publisher has to be part of the content network and have sectional placements within the content network.
In the image above that shows the placements on nytimes.com, we can see twenty-two different places where our ad can be placed. That targeting can further be refined by adding keywords to an ad group. These ads will only be shown in the chosen placement on the site if the article also matches the keywords you’ve chosen for that ad group.
This is fantastic CPM targeting. While it might not be quite as specific as Yahoo’s behavioral ad buys; it’s the best available in an open bidding, self-serve, easy-to-measure marketplace.
Even more options
As with most AdWords buys, there is additional filtering you can add to the above ad buys. You can choose to have your ad only displayed at certain times of day, and placements respect your location targeting options.
Often when buying CPM from a network or individual site you have to commit to thousands of dollars before they will run your ad, and it can take a significant amount of time dealing with hundreds of different sites. When using AdWords placement targeting, you can choose what you are willing to pay, and how much you wish to spend on those displays and take care of the details in a very time efficient manner.
In some cases, this will not be a substitute for other types of CPM buys. You can not buy any behavioral ads through AdWords, and not all publishers are part of Google’s content network. In addition, CPA networks operate very differently, and Google does not have a true CPA network model.
If you are experimenting with CPM buys, want conversion metrics, or have a small budget; AdWords placement buys are one of the best starting points. These campaigns will give you the metrics and information necessarily to make smart decisions about your ads performance across a variety of sites.
Before buying CPM from Google, make sure you understand your targeting options. Finding the best targeted options that fit within your budget might take some time; but the metrics can be worth the effort.
CPM still has a place in a CPC world – the key is understanding how to utilize it properly.
Brad Geddes is the founder of bgTheory.com, a company dedicated to educating, training, and consulting with businesses to maximize marketing effectiveness and budgets, a blogger at eWhisper.net, and a frequent conference speaker. The Paid Search column appears weekly at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.