The Google Content Network can be a great source of ROI, but it can also represent a great risk. The potential for great performance – and the potential for wasted budget – both come as a result of the network’s sheer scope. With such a wide variety of sites available for advertising, marketers can get great reach. But with that reach, of course, comes great potential for placements that you’d rather not have, in the form of sites that are irrelevant to your desired audience or simply not the type of content that you’d like your brand to be associated with.

Because of this potential for irrelevant placements, it is always best to exercise caution on the Google content network, and to be precise with where (and to whom) you allow your ads to be shown.

By its very nature – contextual, rather than keyword-driven placements – the Content Network will generally show lower conversion rates than your keyword-targeted advertising, but this is to be expected. As a result, I have found that the Content Network’s greatest benefit is not as a source of conversions or even high-quality traffic, but as a conduit to find the best possible Placement Targeting options for my clients.

It’s a simple process, really. Start with the Google Placement Performance Report and, based on click-through or conversion data, discern which sites on the network are the best fit for your message. Like anything within the realm of paid search marketing, the nice thing about this tactic is that you won’t be guessing – with the report, you can see precisely which sites are performing at an average rate for your campaign, which sites are the laggards and, most importantly, which are over-performing.

Take this list of high-achievers, and create a Placement Targeted campaign with ad groups for each of your desired sites. Then, assuming that your content campaigns are not performing to the level of your search campaigns, pause your content campaigns. By pausing the content campaigns and focusing your efforts on top performing sites, you will find yourself with a far more manageable campaign – smaller in scope, but sharper in results.

With your placement-targeted ad groups in place, experience tells you that that you will see strong relative click-through and conversion performance – after all, this is the reason that you have selected the sites in the first place. Because of this, use your placement targeting as a place to get aggressive. Don’t be afraid to use seemingly reckless CPM bids. These extremely high bids will result in prime placement on your sites of choice, leading to the arrival of traffic that has proven to be, in general, of a qualified sort.

With bids and sites in place, it becomes the same game that you’ve gotten used to. Fine-tune your ad text to find the best possible traffic and, when you think that you have exhausted all possibilities, tweak punctuation, capitalization, and overall appearance to improve your performance.

Of course, never stand pat. Periodically, reactivate your Content Network campaigns to see if new, beneficial sites are appearing on the AdSense Publisher Network. As they do, continue to add Placement Targeted campaigns, and continue to reap the rewards.