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    Lately I’ve been toying more and more with the content network on Google Adwords. It has the ability to draw a much larger level of traffic than the typical search network in most situations. Granted, conversions on this traffic vary extraordinarily, but still. If you can make it convert, it’s golden.

    So What is the Content Network Used For?
    Well, it can be used for just about anything. But the real strength of it is that it can promote things with low search volumes. You’ve probably seen things like ringtones, “crush offers”, and then more common things like dating or weight loss. The first two(ringtones and crushes) have low search volume compared to the number of leads that are ran per day. This is a result of the content network.

    Getting Impressions in the First Place
    One of the bigger problems with the content network is getting impressions in the first place. This is pretty simple normally. Either your keywords are too specific and not getting impressions, or you’re not bidding enough. Too many people hear about others getting $0.25-$0.35 clicks, and decide starting their bid off at $0.60 is acceptable. It’s not. You need to raise your bid up in the first place, bite the bullet on the clicks, then lower the bids down later.

    Keeping the Impressions Coming
    A lot of the problems within the content network come from people treating it like it’s the same as advertising on search. They fine tune ads, keywords, and landing pages. That’s not the case with content network. There’s a lot of sites out there that either have botched templates that make the adsense not visible, or put it at the absolute bottom of the page. The entire content network game is about CTR. Every day your ads run, get a “placement report” that includes the URLs where the ads ran. Find ones that have a lot of impressions, and a low CTR, and remove them. That way, your CTR for the ad/keyword will stay up.

    It’s also a good idea to target any high performers in a new campaign, targeted to that site and keyword. That way, you should dominate the impressions for that site for as cheap as possible.

    CTR, Image Ads, and Deterimining when an Image Ad is Appropriate
    Ok. So let’s start off trying to understand how Google ranks content network ads. So the two variables that essentially come into play are the bids and the CTR on the given keywords. So let’s reduce the CPC to CPM basis(the easiest way for Google to measure which ad to display.
    If an ad has a .10 CTR, that means 1 out of every 1000 views clicks the ad. So if the bid as at $1.00, the CPM is at $1.00
    Now let’s say that ad has a competitor with an ad with a 0.05 CTR, and a $2.00 bid. The two ads should roughly equal eachother in impressions.

    So that’s all fantastic for text ads. But image ads create a new level of complexity. Let’s say there’s 4 text ads that could be put into a given location. CTRs for them are 0.05%, 0.06%, 0.07%, and 0.07%. That adds up to an overall 0.25% CTR for the entire ad box. Right there, you have your goal CTR to hit with your image ad. If you can’t quite do it, you’ll still get impressions. But hitting that number lets you completely dominate your given keywords.

    AdGroups: Don’t be Lazy
    Ok. So a lot of people also get lazy creating content network campaigns because you no longer get the bolded words for an exact match on the search. They’ll put all their keywords into one or two groups. No. Don’t do it.
    Not only does each set of keywords have a different chance of getting clicked different just based off the interest of the consumer, but chances are your tighter words will show up on the same page more than once. So if that particular location has a badass CTR, you don’t want it getting dragged down by all the other keywords in the group(your CTR with each keyword affects to a certain degree the entire adgroup and campaign). By maintaining tight groups, you end up savoring that good CTR in the certain locations.

    Image Ads: 90% of the Battle is Getting Attention
    Image ads can be dirt cheap clicks, and incredible in terms of CTR. But you need the person to see it. Some of the ads I’ve seen dominating certain sites are ugly as sin. But people see them. And click them. That drives the cost of clicks WAY down. Here are a couple examples of ones running for crush offers. I always look at those closely as very few people search for them, and it’s more of hitting the proper demographic and getting the ad to get attention. None of the keywords really influence it. So the ads have to be clever(no, I don’t really run crush offers by the way)
    Funny Crush Banner
    (really, I swear I didn’t edit this banner)
    Get the idea?

    Making the Content Network Convert Over
    This alone is the reason I don’t run content network as much as I’d like to(I’m working on it). So far I’ve figured out the sale approach needs to be different. You need to not only tell them WHY they need the product, but you need to explain what the product actually is. And a lot of these people were pretty passively interested in it to begin with, so too much text will scare them away. Bullet points with a line or two of text explaining underneath is a good way to handle the situation and get them to click on through.

    If anyone’s got any questions, drop em in the comments and I’ll figure out the answer and do a follow up post.


    PS: You’ll notice that ads4dough has more or less been giving the commanding control of the banners here. For those of you that know Smaxor, he owns and runs the network. For those of you that don’t, he’s a longtime affiliate(and blackhat SEO). So far, it’s looking like he’s got an awesome setup for affiliates tired of the tracking and trust bullshit associated with most networks. Just thought I’d explain ;)

    16 Responses to “Making the Content Network Work for You”

    1. Justin Dupre says:

      Excellent tips for those new to PPC. Those image ads are getting ridiculous though.

    2. groneg says:

      fantastic post… i had no idea about CTR needing to better than the total of the ctr of the other ads in an adblock.

      You mentioned that this was for image ads but I’m assuming the same formula is used for regular old text ads in a placement campaign

    3. Konrad says:

      Nice overview. You sure on those ad text CTR # though? .25% overall would mean that an ad in the box gets clicked more than once every single time. You probably have to take the average/mean instead.

    4. Konrad says:

      Nevermind, you’re right.

    5. Justin Chelf says:

      Woo, was konrad wrong… amazing :p

    6. Content Network says:

      [...] Making the Content Network Work for You : Slightly Shady SEO SEO Standards [...]

    7. SEOShadow says:

      I’ve only ever had limited success with the content network. It’s just so much harder to convert.

      Fair play if you’ve made a profit out of it though. Takes some demon work on the pre-sell!

    8. moves says:

      Great Post man! I’m about to launch a campaign on the content network in a few hours. Thanks for the tips!

    9. Mike says:

      When you talk about the ctr on image ads are you refering to the CPC model or the cpm model of paying for them?

      I’ve had no success getting image ads to show much with CPC. CPM works sometimes but its really odd. I’ll get ads approved and then jump my CPM bid to $40 just to see if it works and I’ll get no impressions.

      Called Adwords and of course they say a lot of factors go into which ads actually show up. But if an ad is approved and your bidding $40 CPM there is no way someone bidding CPC should have their ad showing above yours.

    10. Marketing Minefield says:

      Great post. I’ve always avoided using the content network in the past – it’s definitely more of a challenge than search – but may give it a go in future.

    11. ImagesAndWords says:

      Yeah the content network can really be awesome. I was thinking of writing up a post on WF or on my blog on how to better target your content adgroups (and as a result, increase conversion).

      A n00b mistake is to use the same keywords from search in content. Avoid longtails and keep your lists tight and to the point. And of course – supplement with lots of negatives ;)

    12. /b/ says:

      since you pointed out the ads4dough ads in this post, i should point out the blatant misspelling on the 468-pixel banners.

      “a NEWORK made for affiliates by affiliates”


    13. Monty's Mega Marketing says:

      Golden. I wish I had seen this a week ago. My CTR would be better.

    14. Hot Links To Beat The Heat | This Month In SEO - 8/08 | TheVanBlog | Van SEO Design says:

      [...] Making the Content Network Work for You [...]

    15. adwords strategy says:

      Everyone seems to admit the traffic doesn’t convert well. Why? One, the user isn’t actively searching, just passively browsing. Two, traffic is coming from Adsense websites that are artibage or don’t care about quality (they just want the money). They use tricks like putting images over ads or making them look like navigation. It fools people into clicking the ads.

      So sure, you can a click for a few cents. But if it doesn’t convert, what good is it?

    16. Liam says:

      Not everyone is doing the arbitrage thing. And not all of that traffic is garbage, by far. You can get dirt cheap clicks off of Myspace / YT / etc and they WILL convert. One way to do it is to use offers you can peg to a very specific demographic and filter out or lower the bids dramatically on everyone you DON’T likely want.

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