Google’s content network can be a little mysterious, but you shouldn’t let it scare you. For those of you new to the Adwords and/or PPC scene, the Google content network is a great way to help expand your reach beyond just traditional search results. Before you dive in, know that the content network will dramatically increase your impressions, which can often lead to an overall decrease in CTR and typically a much lower conversion rate. As a best practice, always break out your content campaigns separate from search campaigns so you can keep better tabs on what is happening and control the performance.

There are three different approaches you can take on the content network:

  1. You choose the keywords you want to target and from there, Google determines a general “theme” and decides what websites and pages match your “theme.”
  2. Instead of keywords, you simply choose websites that you feel are relevant for your message. To make this a little easier, Google has developed the Placement Tool, which you can find on your “Reporting and Tools” tab in AdWords.
  3. Combination of both keywords and managed placements to help you appear on relevant websites and pages.

Jessica has already put together additional details on how to set up content network campaigns as well as why to use them, so today I want to go a little deeper and discuss some of the other tools and options to help get the most out of your campaign.

First and foremost, just like you manage keyword bids in your search campaigns, you need to make regular adjustments in your content campaigns. You can again control the bids but know that you won’t get performance data at the keyword level, just for the ad group, which makes it a little more challenging. Beyond keyword bids, with the content network you also are given the option to exclude certain sites that are either irrelevant or are not performing as you would like them to. This could be a site that has run up a high spend without converting or maybe it has only converted once or twice but at a cost per lead that is three times your goal. As content network campaigns are high volume, they can very quickly rack up a lot of spend if you aren’t keeping a close eye on them. We have already put together more detail on content exclusions in Google or Yahoo, along with some recent updates on the MSN content network as well.

Once you have a good understanding of your performance, as well as are managing your exclusions on a regular basis, there are some additional tools you can tap into to help get the most out of your content campaigns. The first takes your exclusions to the next level and is appropriately called the “Site and Category Exclusion” tool.

To access, click on the  “Reporting and Tools” tab in AdWords, and then scroll down to more tools. You will be taken to a page with many different tools (and if you haven’t been to this page before, it is about time you check out all of the different options!) and there you can choose the Site and Category Exclusion option.

The first step is to choose a campaign. One note before you get started, the settings you choose in this section apply to only the campaign selected. You will need to make sure you review the data for each individual campaign in order to see the best overall results. Once you choose a campaign, the first tab is going to list all of the exclusions you already have for that campaign. This is another place you can add in a bunch at once if you already know certain sites you don’t want to appear on.

The second tab is called “Topics” and here is where you can control if there are certain topics you don’t want to be associated with. Be sure you update the date range at the bottom before you start checking or un-checking topics to exclude, as you might be surprised where a bulk of your traffic and/or conversions are coming from. For instance, based on that campaign I have running, I would have maybe checked “Crime, police & emergency” as sites that to me seemed irrelevant and I did not want to appear on. Upon looking at the data though, I actually have a 0.08% CTR and a 28.57% conversion rate in that topic. While the traffic is very low, it seems that the few sites that I am appearing on, actually may be relevant enough to leave it running.

Site and Category Exclusions-Topics

The next tab includes Media types, meaning your ads may appear with online video content. This tab may not be as relevant for most accounts, but it should be noted you do have the option to opt out.

The final tab in this tool is Page Types, and this is one that I have found to be the most helpful in increase my account’s performance. You can see from the data below that I have opted out of Error pages, Parked Domains and Forums for this campaign. I have the time period set for all time so you can see the data I used to make the decision at one point. While Parked Domains were responsible for 64 conversions, the conversion rate was so low and spend high enough that I determined it wasn’t worth spending any additional money in that area. Same thing with Forums, as the cost per conversion was well over $50, which was not helping my average cost per lead. While blocking these didn’t remove all of my irrelevant traffic, it did help to filter out some unwanted placements prior to them spending and in turn helped my performance.

Site and Category Exclusions

Another great tool for the content network, is the Display Conversion Optimizer, which is still in Beta and not yet available in all accounts. I covered this in detail a few weeks ago and have to say the results I am seeing, continue to impress me.

While the content network can seem overwhelming at first, it can be a very successful way to expand your account and continue to see growth. Just be sure you are using the tools available to optimize your campaigns in order to continue to see growth and improvement.