Early last week, Google released a whitepaper titled, “CPA Performance Trends on the Google Content Network”.  This whitepaper was based on data pulled from nearly 25,000 AdWords accounts around the world from a 12 month period ending November 2008.  That’s a pretty hefty sum of data!  The purpose of the research?  To answer advertiser-based questions on conversion rates and overall cost-effectiveness of the Content Network.

We found that, for advertisers running on both the search and content networks, ads on the Content Network are likely to be as or more cost-effective than ads on the search network.

I’m a skeptic, and typically swallow self-serving research like this with a grain of salt.  But I have to admit, the prospect of seeing data based on actual AdWords account performance is intriguing.  As you may have guessed, the results of Google’s research is positive and puts the Content Network on a virtual pedestal.  But before I influence your opinions any further, you should review the stats yourself.  I’ve listed some of the highlights below, but you can download the PDF whitepaper yourself for free!

Highlights of Google’s Research

  • Overall, Google found that the Content Network performs with a CPA (cost-per-acquisition) as good or better than Search.
  • AdWords accounts that are on the lower-end of the spending spectrum performed with a better Content CPA than those spending more.  Google postulates that this is likely due to higher-spending advertisers having more success in Search, thus increasing the “overall bar for success.”
  • Surprise, surprise – accounts utilizing Conversion Optimizer or the Site Exclusion tool showed “improved relative conversion rate” on Content compared to the “global median.”
  • The real meat and potatoes?  As of November 2008, the median advertiser utilizing both Search and Content had a Content Network CPA that was 2.6% lower than Search.

Assuming that all of this is correct, I think that’s impressive data!  My own personal experiences haven’t exactly proven this research out.  I have consistently struggled to make Content “work” for me in terms of driving cost-effective conversions.  But perhaps the accounts I’ve managed don’t fall under the “median advertiser” label?

For those of you who have read this whitepaper, I’d be really interested to hear your opinions!  For those of you who haven’t read it – well, get on it!