If you’re like many marketers, you’ve had limited success with the Google content network. Given the improvements Google’s made over the last year, you may want to give the content network another look, particularly if you’ve been running Google content campaigns using the same campaign structure used in your search campaign. That method may not represent the right strategy and implementation to capture the interest of a content user.
In my last column, I examined some recent changes to the Google content system involving display advertising. But most of you don’t have graphical media (ad creative) handy, nor do you have the resources or the inclination to produce the banners needed to run display media in Google’s or another’s network. If you want to leverage high levels of incremental visibility, clicks, and content, your primary option is good old text links, served contextually. If you’re lucky, you can even justify your increased keyword-targeted spending by managing your campaign to the same ROI (define) metrics used for your search campaign.
Google’s AdSense provides huge additional reach, but the conversion rate on contextual traffic is often dramatically lower on the content networks than from pure search. Even with separate campaigns and Google’s smart pricing algorithms supposedly bringing things into line, taking effective advantage of the content network is often challenging. Growing a campaign and extracting additional profitable clicks from the keyword-targeted media ecosystem are never easy, but after your pure search campaign has gone through several iterations of expansion and tuning, the only way (other than fighting a bidding war and raising bids while ROI drops) is to expand the campaign by trying (or retrying) content targeting.
Content is not search. So if you’ve tested and continue to use the same campaign structure for content that works well in search, you may be missing huge opportunities. To maximize reach and opportunity you need to treat content differently because:
- Consumers who are surfing aren’t searching. Ads are incidental to the content being consumed. Thus, there’s no search scent to craft ads around. The surfers aren’t looking for a keyword and scanning the page the way they do in a SERP (define). Consumers aren’t as likely to be in the final stages of the buying cycle, so the ad copy that works in search may not be the optimal ad copy for content-driven advertising. Try different ads in a contextual environment to retune your campaign.
- Contextual advertising is targeted at the AdGroup level, not keyword level. This means your account structure may not be optimal. Certain combinations of keywords within AdGroups may work particularly well or appeal to the Google targeting engine.
- Google gives content ads a different Quality Score. So any changes you make to improve perceived relevance of the ads in a contextual environment helps lower costs and increase click volume simultaneously.
- You can create different mixes of AdGroups with similar keyword and creative to capture a greater number of impressions due to the AdGroup-targeting feature in Google. For example, you can add keywords, combine them, add synonyms, create phrases, and change match types (although Broad Match may deliver the greatest impression volume). There’s actually a firm, AdMetrica, that specializes in creating lots of iterations of a Google content campaign to garner additional volume. You can do initial testing of this concept yourself.
- Your landing page, which was tested and tuned for the search visitor, may not have the optimal mix of information for a visitor from a contextual ad. Consider what a browser might want to learn compared to a shopper closer to making a decision.
- You can apply segmentation modeling to the new contextual tests just as you would with search. For example, perhaps one way to get your metrics into compliance with your targets (cost per lead, cost per order, return on advertising spending, ROI, or other success metric) is to do a day-parting analysis in conjunction with a geo-segmentation analysis. Nearly all the same segmentation tools used in search exist for content ads.
- You can consider site targeting along with all the above methods. Some of the sites in Google’s network have high volumes and, in conjunction with the above methods, you may be able to tune your campaigns to generate the visibility, traffic, and profit you need.
Search inventory is so precious and scarce that we all get a little myopic, focusing our marketing and optimization efforts exclusively on the SERP. However, growing one’s business exclusively on search is a game of diminishing marginal returns after a few years. To stimulate your customer’s demand instead of simply harvesting it, consider the content network. It’s changed a lot recently, and every indication is it will continue to change. Content is keyword-targeted, which is something we’re all used to. We just need to work at getting contextual advertising to work harder for us.
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