Still Struggling with the Content Network

Let me tell you about my experience so far with Google’s Content Network.

Of course, when I started out with Adwords in 2002 I made the same mistake everyone makes: leaving the Content Network switched ON for all campaigns. Which got me lots of impressions of course, many clicks even, some (expensive) sales too.

But reading up on Adwords I learned that one should always have separate campaigns for Search and Content Network.

So I did exactly that. I switched off the Content Network for my campaigns and created separate campaigns targeted at just the Content Network. I created some ad groups with my main keywords (the same ones I was using on the search network).
Click through rates for my regular campaigns went way up, so that’s a good thing. But on the content targeted campaigns I got impressions (loads of em), costly clicks too, but almost no sales at all.

So I paused the campaigns and just gave up on the Content Network.

A few years later, when Google introduced site-targeting, I figured I’d try my luck again. So I manually selected some sites I thought would be targeted for our Movie Collector software. A couple of DVD review sites, online DVD shops, home theater sites, etc… This time results were a little better.
I got some sales, but the cost per conversion was way too high, mainly because I had to bid high to even show up on those sites. Conversion rates were terrible, up to the point of paying $100 to get one $40 sale. Not what I had in mind, so I gave up again.

However, a few weeks ago I listened to Perry Marshall‘s “Adwords Expert Series”, a series of interviews with Adwords experts. One of these experts was Shelly Ellis, an expert on Content Targeting.

And Perry’s interview with Shelly contained some interesting eye-openers. Here’s what I learned:

  • Ad groups for the Content Network should have a tightly focused theme, using only a couple of keywords (5 to 10).
  • The keywords should be used to target the theme of the sites you want to be shown on. Often these are completely different from your search network keywords.
  • Make sure your ad matches the audience of the sites and your landing pages matches the ad and the audience.
  • You can use Placement Reports to see where your ads are showing.
  • Use Site Exclusions to remove sites that have low click through rates, or worse, high click-through rates but no conversions.
  • It is possible to use negative keywords to prevent being shown on “bad” sites.
  • Often, the content network may result in “indirect” sales. E.g. people see your ad, maybe multiple times, and then visit your site later by searching Google on your brand name. (which may make it difficult to track results)

So I’m at it again. I have created new campaigns, one for each of our programs, each having several tight ad groups with only a few keywords.
For Movie Collector I am trying to target DVD / Blu-Ray review sites, using just “dvd, dvds, blu-ray, bluray, etc…” as keywords.
For Game Collector I am also targeting review sites, with even tighter ad groups, one per game console (wii, ps3, xbox 360, etc…).

And I am already exclusing lots of sites that are not relevant or just plain bad sites (sites offering cracked software for instance).
The problem is that for Game Collector and Comic Collector, my ads are showing up on over one thousand sites. There’s no way I can manually check em all. I will have to include or exclude them based on performance (clicks, conversion) and it may take a while before I have enough data to do that. In the meantime, I may be loosing money, but hey, information is expensive…

Or use negative keywords to try and exclude them. So far, no success with that yet. For instance, I added “themes”, “hacks” and “wallpapers” as negative keywords to my Game Collector Content campaign and my ads are still showing up on useless “PSP theme” sites.

So far, I am not making money on the content network yet.
Results are promising though. Getting millions of impressions, thousand of clicks and some sign-ups even. But for some reason, the sign-ups don’t convert to sales. At all… Which I find strange. People are interested enough to sign up for our free trial but then none of em buy (FYI: for our search network ads 25% of sign ups end up buying).

But this time, I am not giving up. I will continue to tweak and tune.

I will keep you posted about my progress.

One thought on “Still Struggling with the Content Network

  1. Hi, Alwin. A lot has changed since that conversation with Perry. 🙂 Actually Perry and I had another conversation recently (you can download it free from his facebook fan page – I also wanted you to know that I did a private live training for a group from Nitro marketing in June and July and right now that training can be purchased for $197 at TONS of new information, tips, tricks, tools and resources in the course and PDF’s. Best of Luck! ~Shelley

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