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Best Practices for Google Content Targeting

  |  February 3, 2009   |  Comments

Strategies for media planners to make best use of Google's content targeting.

The lines between search marketing and online media have been blurring for some time. This is especially true with the Google AdSense network. It's basically a huge ad network where content sites run ads for Google.

In a Google search program, this is also known as content targeting. Even though you manage these ads through the Google interface and they're often targeted by keywords that don't show up in search listings, they show up in Web sites, just like online media.

A debate recently popped up in our agency about whether Google content ads, banners, and click-to-play videos managed by our search term could also be managed by our online media campaign managers as part of a media buy.

Online media campaign managers should be able to manage these ads too, because -- to reiterate -- ads running in the Google content network aren't in search results. The ads are on regular Web sites and can be targeted on a site-by-site basis.

Just in case any of you get asked to do this, I asked Amy Clarkson, one of my agency's search specialists, to document some strategies for making best use of content targeting in Google. Here they are:

Run a Separate Campaign for Content

  • Don't duplicate your search campaigns. Select the top performing search keywords, then build out relevant ad groups.

  • Don't use more than 50 keywords in a content ad group. (The sweet spot for a content ad group is between 25 and 50 keywords).

  • Set lower bids on these terms than your search campaign because content clicks typically convert at a lower rate.

Bid on Your Best Performing Terms, Not All of Them

  • Don't waste your budget! When generating your daily, weekly, or monthly keyword reports, look to sort them by cost and conversions. Then launch your best performing terms into the content network.

  • Prior to lowering bids on certain terms or jumping ahead to pause them, make sure you have sufficient data to make that decision. One term may not convert in one week, while the following week it could perform well.

Consider Using Placement Targeting

Placement targeting for your content campaign is where an advertiser can pick and choose relevant sites for their ads to appear on the content network.

  • Here, narrow down the sites based on topics such as category, demographic, or by simply entering the URLs in which you would like to advertise. If those URLs are part of the Google content network, you're all set!

  • Remember: with content network placement targeting, you're attracting those audience members who are already interested in, and searching, the topics of your business.

Generate a Placement Performance Report

A Google placement performance report for your content campaign enables you to search through the content sites in which your ads appear. If the site isn't relevant, costs too much, or doesn't convert -- don't use it.

  • Utilize the "site and category exclusion" tool within the AdWords interface to prevent your ads from being displayed on certain sites. This will exclude sites where you don't want your ads to show.

  • Placement performance reports can only help improve your content campaign by allowing you to optimize your positions and placements and improve your ROI (define).

  • Performing sites in your content campaign can help to inform traditional display buys you do on those sites -- it's a great network for media testing.

  • Consider using image ads, video ads, and banner ads. These must occupy all space you've selected to use; the ad must appear right-side up and can only present itself as one ad (you can't have multiple ads within that space).

Sort Keywords Into Closely Related Ad Groups

Google content looks at all (or many) of the keywords in an ad group in order to determine the general theme.

  • The content network looks at multiple keywords when deciding where to place ads. Adding keywords can actually decrease impressions. An ad group with just the keyword "GMAT" will show up anywhere that mentions that word. An ad group with "GMAT," "GMAT practice test," and "GMAT practice exam" as keywords, however, will give more context to make decisions, and show up on more relevant, and fewer Web sites.

  • Use duplicate keywords in multiple ad groups. On search, this will cause only the one that is bid higher to appear. On content, Google will use the other keywords to determine which is more relevant. So having an ad group with "software" and "software store," and another ad group with "software" and "software reviews" will ensure that the appropriate ads display on Web sites that sell software and review software, but not on Web sites that sell or review other products.

Online media planners shouldn't overlook Google as a possible network. It's so much more then search! And to Amy, thanks for the great advice!


Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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