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Pulling PPC Levers: Content Networks

by: on | Prominent Placement

In addition to having their pay-per-click ads appear in the search engine results, advertisers may also choose to have their ads appear on content sites (non-search sites -- regular web pages).  These sites range from the well-known (The New York Times, Business Week, CNN), to vertical sites on narrow topics, to blogs. In the past, the search engines' content networks haven't always performed well.  If you think about the mindset of someone browsing the web and reading content on a particular topic, it's very different from the mindset of someone using a search engine.  The latter is quite likely to click on a relevant ad, and even convert (fill out a form or make a purchase) on the websites.  The former is less likely.  While reading an article on fiber optic cables, if someone sees a PPC ad from a fiber optic cable manufacturer, she may be curious enough to click the ad and visit the site.  But she's probably less likely to convert than someone who is actively searching for "fiber optic cables." That said, the search engines have improved their content networks greatly to provide advertisers with more control over where their ads appear and better reporting data.  There are options for how your ads can be displayed (examples below from Google):

  • Contextual Targeting:  Google displays your ads on web pages with content relevant to your keywords.  So if you're bidding on "fiber optic cables," they may place your ad on a CNN.com article on that topic.
  • Placement Targeting:  You may select which websites on which you'd like your ad to appear.
  • Both:  Google will select contextually-relevant web pages, but your ad will only appear if the site's on your list of selected sites.
Text ads can be placed in the content network from your current AdWords account.  It's a good idea to set up a mirrored campaign from your search campaign, however.  You'll probably want to keep your bids lower on the content network to account for the lower propensity of visitors to convert. Note that you may also run image ads and video ads, and in addition to paying on a cost per click basis, there are also cost per thousand impression options and cost per acquisition models.  More info on Google's content network. Content networks can be complex, but they're worth testing, particularly if your goal is to increase impressions and reach new markets.

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