Managing the Content Network in Google and Bing

Ah, the display (a.k.a. content) network. If you’re like me you have a love/hate relationship with it. While it can increase your leads, it also has the potential to spend a lot of money VERY quickly on irrelevant clicks. However, even though the display network in Google has the potential to cause you headaches, they at least provided you with the reporting tools you needed to effectively manage your accounts. Back in April, Erin did a great job of explaining how to effectively manage your Adwords content campaigns within the interface.

I had previously taken a two-pronged approach to managing the content network in Adwords. The first using the interface as Erin described. However, I also used to run a Placement Performance report, though as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, this report no longer exists. This is an issue for me, because though the interface is user-friendly, the exclusions that you make are on a domain level. But we regularly found that because there are multiple pages to any one site (domain), not all pages were ineffective. By running the report I was able to fine-tune my exclusions, and save the interface analysis for my bulk changes when it was clear that a site was just too expensive, or had a consistent cost per acquisition that couldn’t be reduced. Alas, this report is gone, so I can only recommend that for the time being you keep your date ranges wide so you don’t accidentally cut out a domain that maybe just had an expensive day or week.

In Erin’s post she also discusses how to manage Yahoo Search Partners, but that will soon be irrelevant. Sow what does the future hold with the merger? Right now we aren’t sure, but it certainly looks like Bing is positioning themselves to accommodate an expanded content network, and they’ve added a few tools and reports to help advertisers along the way.

First and foremost, Bing has said that we asked for, and now have more control. The merger means that the Yahoo and Bing search partners will be one, so the first thing they’ve addressed is the amount of control advertisers have when deciding where our ads will be displayed. So, if you are in the US or Canada, you will be able to choose from:

  • All Bing/Yahoo! search networks and syndicated search partners
  • Only Bing and Yahoo! search syndicated partners
  • Only Bing and Yahoo! sites

It’s important to mention here the following disclaimer:

However, please take note that there is a gap between when this functionality will appear in the adCenter user interface and when your adCenter ads will populate across both networks.  We expect the Yahoo! ad serving transition to adCenter to begin in mid-October and last approximately two weeks.  If you are an existing Yahoo! advertiser you will still need to manage your Yahoo! Search Marketing account until ad serving fully transitions to adCenter in late October.

So how do you update the settings for existing campaigns? Unlike Google where you set the distribution on the campaign level, in Bing you will set it on the ad group level. Within the interface, click on the campaign then ad group that you wan to modify, and under the Settings link you will be able to edit your ad distribution selection. If you are using the desktop tool, you can also modify your distribution selection, but you are currently limited to only two choices: Search Network or Content Network. I wasn’t able to find a specific date on when the desktop tool will be updated to include the new choices we have, so for the time being to be sure you are only advertising in the segments you want, I would recommend using the interface, even though it is tedious to click on each ad group individually.

So now that the additional distribution choices exist, Bing has also created two new reports that will help advertisers manage their accounts. When logged into your account in the interface, under the reports tab you can choose Website Placement Performance and Publisher Performance.

Website Placement Report

This report is similar to Google’s old Placement Performance report, and you are given Campaign and Ad Group names along with the metrics for each URL where your ads were shown.

After you’ve run the website placement report, you can then go into the interface, and add website exclusions to help reduce irrelevant sites from showing your ads. This will in turn help you manage your spend, and allocate your money to more appropriate sites where you have a better ROI.

Publisher Performance Report

This report is also similar to the Placement Performance report in Google, because it also shows you the sites where your ads appear. I find it interesting that this report gives you data for both Search and Content ad groups. The placement performance report in Adwords is used for the content network only, so it will be interesting to see how, if at all, this report changes as the content network expands after the merger.

So how can you be sure that you are managing the content network effectively? Whether in Adwords or adCenter, you first need to be organized. In Google, keep your search and content campaigns separate. If you’re going to try your hand at image ads, make a new campaign for those too. In adCenter, you will want to follow the same organization, and keep your search, search partners, and content ad groups separate. By dividing the distribution you will have a better idea of the actual results of each campaign or ad group, and you will be able to optimize more efficiently. This will also enable you to keep your keywords more tightly themed and write more impactful, relevant ads since you are breaking the campaigns and ad groups out already.

No one knows exactly what the merger will bring, but as long as Bing continues to expand their interface and desktop tools, it hopefully won’t be too painful. At the end of the day it’s our responsibility to know what is working in our accounts and what isn’t, so we will help keep you informed as more information is released about product enhancements!