I’ve been managing PPC campaigns for what seems like a really long time.  I work in Google AdWords every day.  But you know what?  I still learn something new every day.  Sometimes this fact is scary.  So, there is this nifty little thing called Google AdSense for Parked Domains.  It’s a way for domain owners to park their unused domains, aim them at Google’s servers and whalah – earn some cash with AdSense ads.  I knew this existed – I’ve even helped clients set up AdSense accounts with the Parked Domains feature.  But that’s just it – when I hear AdSense, I think Content Network. Though let it be known that if you are opted into Google’s Search Partners, your ads can and will show up on Parked Domains (and Error Pages, too)!

In a great post at the Apogee Weblog, Richard discusses how this advertising medium blurs the lines between Search advertising and Contextual advertising. I couldn’t agree more. He points out that in one location, Google comes clean on this stating that parked domains “may include certain highlighted words that act as search queries” – this is how these pages show up as part of the Search Partners network.

The upside to all of this is that you have the controls to report on and block Parked Domains and Error Pages if necessary. Go to the Reports tab and choose to run a Placement Performance report. Don’t be fooled by the description: “View performance data for content network sites where your ad has been shown.” This report will also show you which campaigns and ad groups have been serving ads on Parked Domains and Error Pages via Search Partners. Under Advanced Settings – make sure you choose “Ad Distribution” and “Ad Distribution: with search partners”.

Search Network / Parners Distribution

This report will give you detailed data on how you’re performing not only with Search Partners at large, but specifically for Parked Domains and Error Pages. Review your performance and determine if your money is being well spent. If you are seeing conversions come through Parked Domains and they fall within your CPA goals – assuming the leads are quality, you’re going to be just fine. But if you find that you’re just throwing money away on unqualified traffic, it’s time to take action and exclude your ads from these pages.

Parked Domains for Search Partners

You can exclude Parked Domains and Error Pages at the campaign level. In the new AdWords Beta Interface, you can edit these settings from every ad group (for the campaign as a whole). In the regular interface, find the line that says “Site and Category Exclusions: Edit” within your campaign.

Exclude Parked Domains and Error Pages - Beta Interface

So, let this be a lesson to all AdWords advertisers that you cannot afford to assume that “Search Partners” automatically means visitors from search engines.  Google has bent the rules a bit to include Parked Domains and Error Pages, too.  Review your reports, determine if these pages are performing for your campaign and take action!