Over the years Google’s content network has built up a bad rap in some circles. Advertisers were concerned about the proliferation of made-for-AdSense sites, a rise in click fraud, and a lack of detailed reporting options. In 2007 Google responded, introducing a series of enhancements designed to benefit the advertiser, consumer and publisher experiences. Those efforts are now paying off, as many advertisers contacted by ClickZ say they’ve seen improved results over the past six months.
Key enhancements include placement targeting, performance reports, and new ad units on Google’s search, content, and mobile networks. Google also shrank the clickable area of AdSense ads to limit accidental clicks.
“We continue to innovate and now offer more controls that allow advertisers to see exactly where their ads have run on the Google Content Network and using Google Analytics what their audience was doing at the moment their ads were viewed,” said Google spokesperson Daniel Rubin.
Placement targeting means advertisers and their agencies get to determine what sites their ads will appear on, and where on the sites their ads will run. These can be bought on a cost-per-click or a cost-per-impression basis. Advertisers can also target Internet users geographically and demographically.
Starting last May, advertisers gained access to detailed reports detailing where the ads ran and how they performed. That provided a degree of transparency that was previously missing.
“For the longest time, in past years the content network was a giant cloud, everything was in aggregate,” Tim Kauffold, director of business development at Oneupweb, told ClickZ.
SEM firms, burned by their early experiences, have been slow to return to AdSense. “The network was so problematic six months ago and beyond,” said Craig Danuloff, president and founder of Commerce360. “What we started to do was make it prove its way back.”
Once Google began focusing more on quality, SEM firms, for the most part, noticed significant changes. “We are typically conservative getting out in the AdSense network,” said Kauffold. “We have seen a lot of improvement… The transparency is much more there, we’ve got much more actionable data.”
Some firms still find it difficult to pin the success of their clients’ campaigns on enhancements to AdSense. “It is extremely difficult to isolate the effects of these changes on our clients’ campaign performance. Sites within the AdSense network are constantly changing, and we regularly optimize our clients’ bids, ad copy, and site exclusions,” said David Sprinkle, paid search manager at Acronym Media. “As such, it’s difficult to attribute improvements to our clients’ conversion rates and CPAs back to any single factor.”
But Sprinkle did say the increased reporting functionality has improved the success of Acronym’s client campaigns. It “allows for greater visibility into the performance of individual sites,” he said.
SEM firms say Google’s getting better at weeding out low quality sites created exclusively to run AdSense ads. Some of that improvement can be attributed to an early February policy update by Google to ban domains under five days old from the network.
Since the introduction of AdSense, the network has expanded from text ads to include video, widget-like Gadget Ads, and mobile ads. “No matter what the advertising objective… advertisers using the Content Network can reach users where they are, in moments that are relevant and useful to them,” said Google’s Rubin.