Why Fix What Isn't Broken on the Google Content Network?

The Google AdWords Content Network is vast and wide-reaching. If you harness this distribution channel properly, it can be a great source for traffic, leads and revenue. Recently, I discussed how to enhance your content network performance by removing poorly performing sites. Today, I will discuss how to optimize your content network performance by expanding your reach and visibility.

First of all, we have to remember that the Google Search Network and the Google Content Network are completely different. And they should be treated differently too. A tactic that is often employed to boost your overall performance is to separate your Search and Content distribution into different campaigns.

Why separate Search and Content? Since the user intent within these distribution channels are very different, what performs best will be vastly different. Ad texts that perform well for the Search Network may not work well for the Content Network, and vice versa. Also, separating the two distribution channels also allows for faster, more thorough reporting as well.

I have a caveat to this strategy, of course. I was managing an AdWords account that was doing very well on the Content Network. At the time, I had Search and Content running in the same campaign. My AdWords Customer Representative suggested that I separate the two distribution channels in order to optimize my performance. However, since the Content Network was doing great, I didn’t want to fix what wasn’t broken.

My AdWords Rep and I created a new, optimized Content Network campaign. However, since I wanted to boost my click and lead volume, I asked why we couldn’t leave my current Content Network campaign alone and launch this new campaign for additional traffic. She agreed and didn’t see why we couldn’t do this (again, why fix what wasn’t broken?). Basically, I left my current campaign alone (with Search and Content together) and launched a new Content-only campaign.

However, I didn’t want to cannibalize my current Content Network performance. My newly optimized campaign had re-organized my keyword groups. Therefore, different themes could be established for these keyword groups and my ads would appear on new, targeted sites (in theory). FYI, there approximately 594 themes on the Content Network.

What do I mean by themes? The way your ads are distributed on the Google Content Network is that AdWords will determine an overall theme to the keywords within an ad group. Google then matches this theme to relevant websites. Your ads are not distributed by keyword within the Content Network, but rather by keyword theme. So, if you re-organize/optimize your ad group structure, your themes can also shift.

Results? It worked! My pre-existing campaign was not effected. And my new Content Network campaign slowly gained traction. My ads began to appear on new sites that worked very well. I then began to optimize my Content Network campaign accordingly.

Since I keep talking about optimizing my Content Network campaign… here is a quick bonus tip on the “Five Commandments of Content Network Optimization” (as decreed by Dave Szetela):

  1. Run your content campaigns separately from your search campaigns.
  2. Separate content campaigns into small ad groups — each with, ideally, 20 to 40 keywords — and never more than 50.
  3. Don’t bother using different match types — e.g. phrase and exact match in Google. Match type is ignored by the content matching algorithms.
  4. Don’t bother with separate bid prices for each keyword — these too are ignored, and the search engines operate based on the ad group’s default bid. Use negative keywords to help the algorithms “figure out” sub-categories of content network site pages where your ads should not appear.
  5. Create ads and keyword lists that, taken together, will match a particular theme or category.

In summary, separate your Search and Content Network distribution if you need to optimize your performance. However, if your current structure is performing well, launching a newly structured Content-focused campaign for additional traffic and leads can be very beneficial.