Lately, I’ve been writing a series of articles on the Google Content Network. Previously, we have discussed Content Network bidding strategies; how to and why you should separate the Search and Content network distribution; how to use your performance data to create placement targeted campaigns (not written by yours truly); how to locate performance fluctuations; and I’ve also laid out an overall action plan to get better results on the Content Network.

Now, I would like to go one step further in our discussion and talk about some recent tests I’ve been conducting that have helped expand my performance on the Google Content Network.

How the Google Content Network Works

First, let’s discuss how the Google Content Network distributes your PPC ads. In contrast to the Search Network, your Content Network ads are  not triggered by individual keywords. Rather, Google reviews all of the keywords within a given ad group and determines the overall theme/topic of these terms. On the other end, Google has reviewed the content of each site within the AdSense network and determined a theme/topic for each one. When you opt in to the Content Network, the theme/topic of your ad group is matched to the theme/topic of these websites and this is where you ads appear. This is why it’s called the “Content Network.”

We have discussed at length how to optimize your ad groups to the Search Network. They need to be structured so that your keyword groups are highly focused and relevant. However, this strategy was not usually implemented on the Google Content Network.

Why? Since Google determines the overall theme of an ad group, your keyword groups don’t need to be so specific. Your ad groups can be more general due to the nature of this distribution channel.

The New Approach to the Content Work

However, I’ve been working my AdWords Representatives in order to take a new approach to structuring a Content Network campaign. Instead of large ad groups with numerous keywords per group, we went in the opposite direction.

Within my Content Network campaigns, we have been structuring our ad groups so that each contains 10 or fewer keywords. Similar to how a Search Network campaign should be structured. This means within my Content Network campaigns I have numerous ad groups each with only a handful of keywords (10 or less).

So, what is the reason for making this change?

The main reason for switching to this strategy is this: the more ad groups you have within your campaign, the more themes you will create, and this means you’ll be matched to more sites on the Content Network. In general, this method should expand your reach and increase your volume.

Initial Results from This New Method

Here is a quick example of my results. I needed to increase volume for a particular client. We were under our $10 cost-per-lead goal, but we needed more leads. We were optimizing our Search Network campaigns, but needed to boost our Content Network performance as well. So, I worked with my AdWords Rep to create a new, highly targeted Content Network campaign. Here is a quick before and after:


When comparing the 4 weeks prior to the optimization and 4 weeks, all of my stats are up – including my cost-per-lead. This is why this method may not be for everyone. If you restructure your Content Networks in this fashion, there should be more volume but this will also require additional optimization. We increased our leads by 41%, but our cost-per-lead also increased. So, this is where the optimization strategy needs to be implemented.

Optimizing Your Content Network Campaign

By expanding your reach within the Google Content Network, you will absolutely have to utilize these optimization tactics.

Why? When you expand your reach aggressively, you may sometimes reach in the wrong direction. This is the one down side to this strategy: your ads may start appearing on sites that aren’t as relevant or perform as well as possible.

With more specific keyword groupings you can have more control when optimizing your campaign. You can:

  • Run placement performance reports and remove under-performing sites  (websites that aren’t converting) at the campaign level.
  • Optimize your ad texts for each ad group. This gives you greater ability to split test in order to increase your click-through rate and conversion rate.
  • Lower bids at the ad group level. Content bids are managed at the ad group level so this structure will allow you to adjust bids quickly.
  • Have numerous ad groups. If one ad group is not performing well, it may be matching to sites that aren’t highly relevant for your product/service. You can just pause this ad group.

And this is where we are focusing our  current efforts. Yes, we have found new sources of traffic but we need to lower our cost-per-lead, while keeping our lead flow as high as possible.

No, this method isn’t perfect (come on, it’s the Content Network! Nothing is perfect!). Making big changes within the Content Network distribution is risky and will take a lot of time to optimize. And this strategy may not be for everyone; especially if you manage a PPC campaign that has no room for an increased CPL (temporary or not). However, this tactic can significantly increase your impression, click, and lead volume.