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Monday, January 07, 2008

The AdWords Content Network - Better Than Ever

If you've been in the paid search game for awhile you no doubt have an opinion of the AdWords Content Network. If you haven't used the content network in the past 12 months that opinion probably is something along the lines of "it sucks". I know a few years back, almost without exception, that was my opinion. One of the first things I told folks new to AdWords to do was to make sure they were opted out of the content network.

Fast forward to 2007 - 2008.

The content network works, and it works well. I've been working with an account that throughout 2007 generated a number of conversions both in the search and content networks. While search produced (and continues to produce) more overall volume the content network is producing conversions at 25% of the cost per conversion that I see in the search network and the volume is continuing to increase...without much in the way of additions/changes. I see similar trends across a number of accounts in a number of different industries.

Looking back over 2007 I think there were some significant changes and program additions that took place that are assisting in making the network more effective for AdWords advertisers.

1. A mid year purging of poor performing sites from the content network. Out with the bad, in with the good....or at least slightly better. Many assumed this was timed in order to reduce any potential outcry once Google decided it was time be a little more transparent...which leads to item 2.

2. Transparency for all advertisers via the placement performance report. This new level of transparency allowed all advertisers, not just those with sophisticated tracking, to monitor activity on the content network and filter out poor performing sites.

3. More formats including gadget ads.

4. Overall growth. While I don't have access to Google's internal numbers campaigns I've managed that have a presence in the content network, without the addition of additional keywords, continued to see more impressions (and therefore more clicks & conversions) as 2007 progressed. I'm sure this is not a universal truth and some markets did not see the same but overall my assumption is the content network as a whole grew significantly in 2007.

5. Consistency in pricing. We've all seen major (and sometimes overnight) price increases on the Search Network. I've seen actual CPC's increase %500 in a month on the search network. While I'm sure it could, I've yet to see massive, overnight price increases on the content network.

6. Publishers (AdSense users) got smarter. Generally speaking (exceptions of course) when evaluating the content network sites I've been more and more impressed with ad placement and integration into publisher sites.

7. Higher quality sites are joining the content network. The days of the content network being primarily made of small, relatively unknown sites is over. The list of sites that joined the content network in 2007 is impressive to say the least.

8. Introduction of the content network quality score. Simply put a better ad & user experience leads to more of everything we as advertisers are after; impressions, clicks and sales. More info on the content network quality score here.

9. Better fraudulent click filtering.

10. They changed what counts as a click which helps eliminate accidental or inadvertent clicks.

(yes that's a "10" list but if I see another "top 10/10 reasons blah blah blah" headline in the search blogs I will puke)

If you have been out of the content network for awhile because of poor results in the past now might be the time to give it another go. The AdWords blog has a few helpful posts that talk about making the best use of the content network:

Content Network Tips Part 1
Content Network Tips Part 2
Content Network Tips Part 3

Other content network info that's worth a read:

How to Optimize Your AdWords Content Optimization ~ PPC Hero
How to Optimize A Contextual Search Advertising Campaign ~ Brad Geddes at SEL.
Tips for Success on the Content Network ~ AdWords Help Center
Content Network Strategies ~ Gordon Choi
Monitoring and Optimizing the Content Network ~ MoreVisibility
Experts - Content Advertising ~ David Szetela at SEW.



At 6:32 AM, Anonymous David Szetela said...

Hi Jeremy,

Great post! Two requests:

1. May I reprint the post on my blog ( with full credit and links back to you?

2. Would you consider adding my weekly SEW Content Advertising column to the list of resources at the end of the post? It's at



At 8:39 AM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...

Hi David,

Yes and yes.



At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Kevin Heisler said...

Thanks, Jeremy. I second David's assessment.

We really enjoyed your AdWords review over at Search Engine Watch. Glad Kevin N linked to your blog.

Keep up the excellent cove

best regards,

Kevin Heisler
Executive Editor
Search Engine Watch

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...

Thanks Kevin.

I'm trying to stay a little more active on this blog this year....without just rehashing the same things written elsewhere.

At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Adrian Bold said...

Thank you for this well thought through post Jeremy.

As someone who said 'never again' to the Content Network, I've slowly started re-introducing it to certain campaigns and I'm pleased to see Google making so many improvements. Let's hope it continues.

At 9:00 AM, Blogger jordanmcclements said...

I am not surprised that advertisers are seeing better value form the content network.

Allowing for changes in traffic, since August 2007 earnings from Adsense on my main photo web site have dropped by approx 50% !!

At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Alex Rothaus said...

Excellent Post. I have seen the same increase in quality with my clients. For the first time ever I can actually say that I have a client with a lower cost/conversion in the content network than in the search network. I never thought I would see the day...

Keep up the good posts!

Alex Rothaus

At 7:38 PM, Anonymous An Internet Marketing Blog said...

Excellent information on the content network. I wrote it off a long time ago and am just now trying it again.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...

The features Google announced today for the content network will help improve the network even more. Good stuff!

At 1:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the Edward Llach mentioned (in Content Network Tips 1 - which actually looks more like an ad itself than being any kind of tip), the Eduardo Llach who once ran a company called Cuica?

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...

No idea, I had never heard of Edward Llach and had not noticed that quote until you pointed it out.

And you're right, that's less of a tip and more of a "look how we've improved" post.


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